Prudentius and the Cult of Divus Augustus

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  • Prudentius and the Cult of Divus AugustusAuthor(s): Duncan FishwickSource: Historia: Zeitschrift fr Alte Geschichte, Bd. 39, H. 4 (1990), pp. 475-486Published by: Franz Steiner VerlagStable URL: .Accessed: 10/10/2014 21:11Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact .Franz Steiner Verlag is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Historia:Zeitschrift fr Alte Geschichte. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • PRUDENTIUS AND THE CULT OF DIVUS AUGUSTUS Hunc morem veterum docili iam aetate secuta posteritas mense atque adytis etflamine et aris Augustum coluit, vitulo placavit et agno, strata ad pulvinar iacuit, responsa poposcit. (Contra Orat. Symm. 1,245-248) The context of the passage is Prudentius' attack on paganism in general, the human failings of the gods and the futility of idolatry.' One after another he passes individual gods in review, exposing them as reprobates and sinners: Saturn (11.42-58), Jupiter (11.59-83), Mercury (11.84-101), Priapus (11.102-115), Hercules (11.116-121), Bacchus (11.122-144), Mars, Venus, Cybele, and the divinities of Republican Rome (11.164-196). Into this rogues gallery Pruden- tius fits a selection of deified imperial personnages: Augustus (11.245-50), Livia (251-270), Hadrian and Antinous (11.271-277). What he has to say on Divus Augustus clearly reflects his own jaundiced perception of the cult as it functioned in the period prior to Theodosius' closure of pagan temples and general prohibition of pagan rites in 391. Yet one can hardly dismiss his verses as sheer fabrication when not only 1.246 but also what he reports of Antinous and his cult, a few lines later, are amply confirmed by other sourses (below, p.13): Quid loquar Antinoum caelesti in sede locatum ... cumque suo in templis vota exaudire marito? (o.c. 271, 277) Notwithstanding the polemical tone, his account is of considerable historical interest for the light it throws on the rites of Divus Augustus under the later Roman empire. I Hunc morem veterem docili iam aetate secuta posteritas mense atque adytis etflamine et aris Augustum coluit (11.245-247) Some of Prudentius' remarks are perfectly clear and require little, if any, commentary. So inured had posterity become to pagan practices that it found 1 For the background to Prudentius' poem see R. Klein, Der Streit um den Victoriaaltar. Die dritte Relatio des Symmachus und die Briefe 17, 18 und 57 des Mailander Bischofs Ambrosius, Darmstadt, 1972; J. F. Mathews, "Symmachus and the Oriental Cults", JRS63 (1973) 175f. with n.4; T. D. Barnes, "The Historical Setting of Prudentius' Contra Symmachum", AJPhil97 (1976) 373-386; S. Doepp, "Prudentius' Gedicht gegen Symmachus. AnlaB und Struktur", JbAC 23 (1980) 65-81; J. Fontaine, "La derniere epopee de la Rome chretienne. Le Contre Symmaque de Prudence", VL 81 (1981) 3-14; J. P. Callu, "Date et genese du premier livre de Prudence Contre Symmaque", REL 59 (1981) 235-259; M. Laurin, "De ara Victoriae virginibus Vestalibus", SDHI 50 (1984) 235-280. Historia, Band XXXIX/4 (1990) K Franz Steiner Verlag Stuttgart This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • 476 DUNCAN FiSHWICK no difficulty in transfering them to the cult of Divus Augustus. The reference to revering Augustus with a month (1.246) harps upon the renaming of Sextilis to Augustus,2 the first day of which had been marked by Octavian's culmina- ting triumph at Alexandria. Similarly flamine recalls the creation under Tibe- rius of a special priesthood, first held by Germanicus, to serve the cult of the new Divus.3 As for adytis, strictly speaking the inner sanctuary of a temple,4 this seems to be a general reference to the numerous temples of Divus Augustus throughout the empire. The choice of the word, which is particularly popular in verse, could be partly for metrical reasons, but one might infer from the reference to the temple of Divus Augustus in 11.249f. that Prudentius is thinking particularly of the place where stood the cult statue of Divus Augu- stus: testantur tituli, produnt consulta senatus Caesareum Jovis ad speciem statuentia templum. Aris seems again a generalization. Apart from the altar in front of every temple of Divus Augustus, however, there were altars in Rome to such Augustan abstractions as Pax, Pietas, Salus and Providentia, not to mention the Ara Numinis Augusti and the numerous altars of the Lares and the Genius Augusti set up at the compita of the 265 viCi.5 Whether Prudentius had these monuments in mind also can hardly be said. II vitulo placavit ac agno (1.247) A major difficulty arises with the second half of 1.247. If we postpone the implication of placavit (below, p. 11), how exactly is one to understand a reference to a calf and lamb? In practice neither is appropriate to what is known of the cult of Divus Augustus. The birthday of Augustus had originally been marked by a sacrifice to Mars, Neptune and Apollo in the Campus Martius ;6 presumably this was an ox as we know from Dio that such was the victim at the yearly festival celebrating the birth of Augustus' grandson C. Caesar (54,8,5). When Augustus was first consecrated divus, his birthday along with those of Tiberius and Livia was marked by the sacrifice of an ox to Jupiter on the Capitol.7 The festival was extended to two days after Gaius dedicated the temple of Divus Augustus and on the second the Arvals made 2 Dated to 8 rather than 27 B. C. by A. B. Bosworth, "Augustus and August; Some Pitfalls of Historical Fiction", HSCP86 (1982) 151-170, especially 164-166. 3 M. W. Hoffman Lewis, The Official Prests of Rome under the Julio-Claudians (Papers and Monographs of the American Academy in Rome 16), Rome, 1955, 77-80; K. Latte, Romische Religionsgeschichte (Handb. d. Altertumswiss. 5,4), Munich, 1960 (19762), 319. 4 Oxford Latin Dictionary 60 s.v. 5 I. Scott Ryberg, Rites of the State Religion in Roman Art (MAAR 22), Rome, 1955, 55-62, 64-75; D. Fishwick, The Imperial Cult in the Latin West(EPRO 108), Leiden 1987, I 1,84ff., 182. 6 Degrassi, InscrIt 13,2; p. 512. 7 G. Henzen, Acta Fratrum Arvalium, Berlin, 1874, xxxvf. (A. D. 35). This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • Prudentius and the Cult of Divus Augustus 477 the additional sacrifice of an ox to Divus Augustus at his new temple by the Palatine.8 The fragmentary evidence of the AFA also shows that the sacrifice of a bos mas to Divus Augustus was performed on other festivals, notably the Augustalia, the consecration of Livia, various imperial days, also extraordi- nary occasions and vows of different kinds.9 Much the same picture is revea- led by the Feriale Duranum, which is itself modelled on the occasions and rites of the Roman calendar.10 Each divus receives a bos mas on his natalis, the birthday of Augustus in particular being marked by the sacrifice of a bos mas to Divus Augustus on September 23.11 There can be no question then that the appropriate sacrificial victim to Augustus was an ox. Nowhere is there any mention of a calf and the only referrence to a lamb in connection with the ruler cult seems to be Virgil's description of the monthly sacrifice of a lamb in Eclogues 1,7f., 43f. These lines bristle with problems and in any case belong to the period before a calendar of imperial anniversaries had become estab- lished,"2 but the text is of interest in attesting the monthly sacrifice of a lamb, apparently directly to Octavian along with the domestic Lares. This is an uncommon, more expensive victim, one that the Arvals, for example, offer to Dea Dia as a culminating rite."3 In light of these difficultities it may be suggested that Prudentius is guilty of a confusion. An undated dupondius of the Divus Augustus Pater series (reign of Tiberius) shows a hexastyle, round temple with an empty niche in the centre on a podium of three steps; a ram (to the right) and a bull (to the left) surmount two high statue bases on pillars at either side.'4 This can hardly have been the temple of Divus Augustus (then under construction), which is shown as gabled and hexastyle on the famous type of Gaius sacrificing'5 and gabled and octostyle upon a podium of four steps on the restored series of Antoninus Pius.'6 It must rather be the round temple of Vesta in the Forum, as originally proposed by H. Dressel.'7 Iconographical evidence in support of this is, in fact, provided by a carved base from Sorrento and a relief from Palermo, both 8 Henzen p. 51 (reversed in A. D. 38). 9 Henzen pp. 49f., 59, 71-74, 84-86, 102, 105, 121. 10 R. 0. Fink, A. S. Hoey, W. F. Snyder, "The Feriale Duranum", YCS 7 (1940) 1-222; J. Helge- land, "Roman Army Religion", ANRW2,16,2 (1978) 1481-1486. 1 "Fer. Dur." (above, note 10) 158f., cf. 191. 12 Fishwick (above, note 5) 77, nn. 33f. 13 Henzen, AFA 24, 28f.; cf. Tibullus 1,1,19-24. 14 H. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, London, 1965, 1, p. 140, no. 142; cf. p. cxxxix; M. Grant, Roman Anniversary Issues, Cambridge, 1950, 34, cf. 91, 123. 15 Mattingly, BMC 1, p. 153, no. 41; cf. cxlvi: A. S. Robertson, Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow, London, 1962, 1, pp. 83, no. 17. See further D. Fishwick, 'Caesareum Jovis ad speciem templum: The Temple of Divus Augustus", forthco- ming. 16 BMC 4, p. 350, no. 2051; cf. p. lxxiii. 17 id, "Numismatische Analekten (I)", Zeitschr. f Numis. 22 (1900), 20-31 at 24ff. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • 478 DUNCAN FISHWICK of which show rites being performed before a seated Vesta; only part of the temple in the background is visible but in both cases a ram and a bull on high bases appear in association with the temple, very much as on the dupondius of Tiberius."8 A third relief, now in the Villa Albani collection, likewise shows Vesta seated before her temple, Vestals and an altar, but is too much restored to serve as a basis for discussion in itself.'9 Why a coin celebrating Divus Augustus should show the temple of Vesta is relatively clear.20 One of the oldest and most revered deities of Rome, Vesta, who had long been Vesta publica p.R.Q., was directly connected with the emperor when he established a shrine of the goddess within his house on the Palatine in 12 B.C. The fasti confirm that the cult centred on a statue and in all probability an altar.2' To a limited extent Augustus re-created the conditions of the regal period in that his own house now became a centre (though not the centre) of the cult of Vesta.22 It may also be, as Instinski has suggested, that the link with Vesta implies that it is the princeps who henceforth assures the etemity of Rome and her empire.23 Certainly he enjoyed an intimate associa- tion with the goddess through the office of Pontifex Maximus, sometimes 18 Dressel, o.c. 28f., Abb. I and 2; cf. Scott Ryberg (above, note 5) 49-53 with figs. 26f. For full discussion see M. Guarducci, "Enea e Vesta", MDAI (R) 78 (1971) 73-118 with Plates 64-69, cf, 63,2. 19 Guarducci 90f., 93, 96. 20 Dressel (above, note 17) 31 suggests a connection with a presumed renovation of Vesta's temple by Augustus towards the close of his reign following a fire (CD 54,24,2). This is clearly inadequate; cf. Guarducci, o.c. 96, n. 86. 21 Fasti Caeretani, 28th April: Feriae) q(uod) e(o) d(ie) sig(num) I Vest(ae) in domo P(alatina) dedic(atum) ... Fasti Praenestini, 28th April: Feriae ex s(enatus) c(onsulto), quod eo die signu]m et [ara]l Vestae in domu Imp. Caesaris Augu[sti po]ntif(icis) max(imi) I dedicatast Quirinio et Valgio co(n)s(uli- bus). For the view that the cult centred on a 'tempietto' constructed on land adjacent to Augustus' house see Guarducci, o.c. (above, note 18); contra D. Fishwick, "A Temple of Vesta on the Palatine?", Festschnft T Kotula, forthcoming. 22 Roscher, Ausfuhrliches Lexikon (1925) 6,242-273 (Wissowa), especially 252f. s.v.; cf. G. Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Romer2(Handb. d. Altertumswiss. 4,5), Munich, 1912, 160f. Wissowa took the view that, just as Vesta had been housed with the Penates of the state in the temple down by the Forum (cf. Tac., Ann. 15,41), so now on the Palatine she is honoured along with the Penates of the Gens lulia (Ovid, Met. 15, 864). The first part of this analogy has been undermined by G. Radke, "Die dei penates und Vesta in Rom", ANRW, 2,17,1 (1981) 343-373 at 352, 361-363, arguing that the Penates were not honoured in the temple of Vesta: the connection between the two derives rather from the circumstance that the Pontifex Maximus had to care for both cults; now that Augustus held the post, this could be given official emphasis. Whether the household gods of Augustus (Vesta and the penates Caesarei: Ovid, lc.) became state gods, as Wissowa held, lies beyond the scope of the present discussion; see id., RuKR277, followed by L. R. Taylor, The Divinity of the Roman Emperor, Middletown, Connecticut, 1931 (1981), 184; P. L. Strack, Untersuchungen zur romischen Reichsprdgung des zweiten Jahrhunderts, Stuttgart, 1931, 73. 23 H. U. Instinski, "Kaiser und Ewigkeit", Hermes 77 (1942) 322. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • Prudentius and the Cult of Divus Augustus 479 referred to as sacerdos Vestae (Ovid, Fasti 5,573; cf. 3,699).24 The close connec tion of the imperial family as a whole with Vesta comes out particularly in the supplications to Vesta which are prescribed in the Ferale Cumanum on imperial holidays.25 It also emerges in the way the position of Livia was made comparable with that of the Vestals, as Grant has shown, and it was as the culmination of a process dating back to 35 B.C. (when she had received sacrosanctitas: CD 49,38,1) that in A.D. 24 Livia was given the right to sit in the midst of the Vestals.26 Hence her inevitable identification with Vesta by Ovid (Ex Ponto 4,13,29), perhaps also on coins.27 At the very least, therefore, the combination of these factors adequately explains the appearance of the temple of Vesta on the Divus Augustus Pater series: why Vesta should be associated with the deified Augustus at all. The link between the coin and the verse of Prudentius is no more than a hypothesis but, if it is sound, what could conceivably have happened is that the bull and the ram (Prudentius calls them vitulus and agnus) came mistaken- ly to be associated with Divus Augustus. Whether the immediate source of Prudentius' misunderstanding was the Divus Augustus Pater issue we do not know. It is more likely, perhaps, that the representation on the coins was the basis of a common misconception, which Prudentius simply repeats. In any event we have seen that these particular victims were not germane to the cult of Divus Augustus (above, pp. 477ff.). But neither were they appropriate to the cult of Vesta. As Wissowa pointed out long ago, very little is known of sacrifices to Vesta, though one could assume a priori that at the round temple in the Forum these would have been unbloody offerings that could be thrown into the flames of the hearth.28 It seems clear that animal sacrifices were not offered to Vesta but only the fruits of the earth; celebration of the Vestalia in particular is associated with bread and bakers, who considered this to be the festival of their patron goddess. It is true that an altar is represented on the Palermo and Villa Albani reliefs, perhaps also (by inference) on the Sorrento base;29 but while this could have been used for victims, it would be equally appropriate for offerings of produce - it appears in fact to be heaped with fruits - or for supplications of incense and wine, precisely the offerings prescribed as proper to Vesta in the Feriale Cumanum. 24 Cf. Degrassi, InscrIt p. 279, no. 44; Feriale Cumanum ad 6th March: supplicatio Vesiae, dis pub(licis) P(enatibus)p. R. Q. 25 Ibid. ad 23rd September, 7th October, 16th November, 6th March, 24th May. 26 M. Grant, Aspects of the Principate of Tiberius... (Numismatic Notes and Monographs 116), New York, 1950, 120-122. 27 So Grant. ibid. with n. 218, citing BMC 1, p. 154, no. 45, cf.p. cxlvi. The combination Vesta Augusta in inscriptions (cf. Grant n. 216) does not relate directly to Livia. For discussion see D. Fishwick, "Augustan Gods" in ICLW(above, note 5) II,1 forthcoming. 28 Above, note 22 (1925) 245, 256f.; cf. Guarducci, o.c. 101. 29 Scott Ryberg (above, note 5) 52; Guarducci 95,101. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • 480 DUNCAN FISHWICK Under the circumstances, then, some other explanation must be sought for the figures of the bull and the ram flanking the temple of Vesta. The most convincing solution to date is M. Guarducci's proposal that these sculptured animals are in fact signs of the Zodiac referring to the constellations of Aries (21st March - 20th April) and Taurus (20th April - 19th May)30 - precisely the period when Augustus was busy with arrangements for installing a cult of Vesta on the Palatine.3' Whether the statues of the bull and the ram were actually erected beside the temple in the Forum must remain an open que- stion. It is equally possible that the figures are simply an iconographic conven- tion put there by the engraver as an artistic recollection of an important event; in which case the motif could have been borrowed from an Augustan original, say in Rome, on which the three reliefs, like the coin, were ultimately based (above, p. 478). On any interpretation a connection with Divus Augustus can hardly be entertained when nothing goes to show that the sacrifice of a calf and a lamb had any place in his cult. Whatever the source of his error may have been, Prudentius must be considered simply mistaken or misinformed in this respect.32 III strata ad pulvinar iacuit (1.248) The word pulvinaroriginally meant a cushion placed in front of the cult idol in a temple.33 Since the god was imagined to appear personally at the meal prepared for him, he would need his cushion on which to recline in human fashion beside the table on which offerings were set; hence the developed meaning of pulvinar as a cushioned couch, sometimes called lectus.34 After Cannae, apparently, permanent pulvinaria were set up in most, if not all temples, as the phrase ad omnia pulvinaria suggests.35 The best known use of pulvinaria under the Republic was at a lectisternium, when symbols of the gods - first intertwined branches, later busts - were set on the couches, 30The figures had been earlier explained in terms of the dona ex manubiis dedicated by Augustus in the temple of Vesta and other temples - or linked with the armenta Myronis, the four statues of bulls by Myron which stood in the portico of the Palatine temple of Apollo. See H.-G. Kolbe, "Noch einmal Vesta auf dem Palatin", MDAI(R) 73/74 (1966/67) 99,101,103; Guarducci 104. 31 The actual dedication in domo took place on 28th April, under Taurus; so it is conceivable that the senatorial decree mentioned in the Fasti Praenestini was passed earlier, under Aries; cf. Ovid, Fasti 4,950: .. . sic iusti constituere patres. 32 Mistakes on points of pagan religion are common enough in Christian writers. On their confusion of imperial temples with Capitolia, for instance, see P. Gros, "Remarques sur les fondations urbaines de Narbonnaise et de Cisalpine au debut de l'empire", Quaderni 10, 11, 12 (Atti del Convegno "Studi e prospettive sull'Occidente romano"), Lunensi, 1987, 73-95 at 86f. 33 For the background see RE 12 (1924) 1108-11 (Wisowa); RE 23,2 (1959) 1977f. s.v. (Hug). 34 Oxford Latin Dictionary 1519,1 s.v. pulvinar. 35 S. Weinstock, Divus Julius, Oxford, 1971, 284; cf. RG 9,2: privatim etiam et municipatim universi cives unanimiter continenter apud omnia pulvinaria pro valetudine mea supplicaverunt. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • Prudentius and the Cult of Divus Augustus 481 originally placed before the open temples.36 The rite was integral to supplica- tions held at times of national crisis or rejoicing,37 but lectisternia were also held at the Circus, where the images and symbols of the gods, after transporta- tion in the pompa circensis, were placed on view-presumably on a sort of wooden platform called pulvinar (Festus 500L). The term was already associated with Augustus in his lifetime in that the emperor's loge or box at the Circus Maximus was called pulvinar; Augustus mentions the construction of this arrangement in RG 19,1, and other writers confirm that from here he watched the games, sometimes in the company of his wife and children (cf. Suet., Aug. 45,1; Claud. 4,3; ILS 7496,?7287). Whet- her it was attached to the structure where were set the images of the gods or Augustus adapted an existing pulvinar to serve also as a box is unclear:38 in any event the use of the word in connection with the emperor surely hints at his sacralization or superhumanization.39 More to the point for present purpo- ses, the grant of a pulvinar to Caesar is mentioned by Cicero in the same category as temples and altars - as a mark of apotheosis, that is (Phil. 2,110; cf. Suet., Caes. 76,I).4 So, too, Tacitus confirms that the senate decreed a pulvinar along with a temple and priest to the deceased daughter of Poppaea (Ann. 15,23). There can be no question, therefore, that Prudentius refers to the pulvinar of Divus Augustus in exactly the same sense as Pliny mentions the pulvinar of Jupiter in Paneg. 8,1: sed ante pulvinar Iovis optimi maximi adoptio peracta est; cf. Livy 5,52,6; CD 59,9.3.41 Divus Augustus was of course a state god by senatorial decree.42 What Prudentius confirms, then, is that before the simulacrum in the temple of Divus Augustus rested his pulvinar, at which worshippers prostrated themselves. The practice of prostration, if no more than a social gesture for the Persians, was recognized by Greeks and Macedonians as an act appropriate to the cult of the gods.43 In the Roman period it is already present in the older form of supplicatio, at which the prostrate worshipper grasped the feet of the cult idol 36Wissowa, RuKR2421ff.; RE 12, 1111-15 (Wissowa); Latte, RRG2 242-4. 37 J. Marquardt, Romische Staatsvenvaltung, Leipzig, 1885 (1975), 3, 48-51; Weinstock, o.c. 62. 38 For discussion see A. Alf6ldi, Die monarchische Reprasentation im romischen Kaiserreiche, Darmstadt, 1970, 159f.; Weinstock, ibid. with n. 12; P. Veyne, Le Pain et le Cirque, Paris, 1976, 785, n. 482 with refs. The Greek version va6g may be influenced by the fact that pulvinar came to be used by metonymy for templum in literature; cf. Serv., ad Georg. 3,532. See now J. H. Humphrey, Roman Circuses. Arenas for Chariot Racing, London, 1986, 78f., suggesting that Augustus monumentalized an existing structure. 39 Fishwick (above, note 5) 90, n. 50. 40 Contra Alfoldi, o.c. 252, taking pulvinarto refer to Caesar's gilded sella curulis. 41 Cf. Wissowa and Hug (above, note 33) lic., noting further references to the pulvinar of specific gods. 42 Fishwick (above, note 5) 159f. 43 E. Badian, "The Deification of Alexander the Great" in Ancient Macedonian Studies in Honor of Charles F. Edson (Publ. Inst. Balkan Studies 158), Thessaloniki, 1982, 48ff. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • 482 DUNCAN FISHWICK and kissed its hands and feet." In the literary sources it most frequently appears as a sign of divine veneration - in the accounts of Christian mar- tyrdoms in particular prostration before the statues of the gods is a frequent theme. Thus, when Polycarp had confessed he was a Christian, the mob in the amphitheatre shouted out that he was the destroyer of their gods, the one who taught the multitude not to sacrifice or do reverence (ntpoaKovVtv).45 Similarly the proconsul Perennis urged Apollonius to worship and venerate (RtpOCTKD- v6tv) the gods "that all of us worship and venerate (JpoKoKvoO5lcv)'." Again the mob at Alexandria lead Quinta to the temple of the idol and tried to force her to do reverence (7tpoaKuvC!v).47 With these passages can be compared references to the veneration of the emperor's imago, his representation as a man.' Both requirements, prostration before the imperial image and before the statues of the gods, are central to Pliny's testing of the Christiana: [Hi] quoque omnes et imaginem tuam deorumque simulacra venerati sunt et Christo male dixerunt (Epp. ad Trai., 10,96,6).49 Just as with the pulvinar of Divus Augustus, therefore, so the act of full prostration (strata ... iacuit), confirms that the ritual of the cult was identical with that appropriate to the worship of Jupiter and other Olympians. IV responsa poposcit (1.248) First a word on placavit (1.247). The statement that posterity placated or appeased Divus Augustus may partly be a reflection of the idea that the dead needed to be conciliated, otherwise they might show resentment:50 iusto date tura sepulchro et placate caput remarks Lucan of Pompey (Phars. 9, 1091f.); cf. Horace, Carm. 2,14,5 . .. non si trecenis .. . places ... Plutona tauris.5 But the gods also needed to be placated: carmine di superi placantur, carmine Manes (Horace, Ep. 2,1,138); tua numina placa (Ovid, Ex Ponto 4,8,23). Used, there- fore, of Divus Augustus, now enrolled among the gods,52 the term placavit 44 Marquardt (above, note 37) 188 with refs; Weinstock (above, note 35) 339, n. 4, understands kneeling rather than full prostration. 45 H. Musurillo, 7he Acts of the Christian Martyrs, Oxford, 1972, no. 1, p. 10, ch. 12. 46 Ibid. no. 7, pp. 92, 94, ch. 13. 47 Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6,41,6. 48 Musurillo, O.c. no. 10, p. 142, ch. 4, 24 (Pionius); no. 21, p. 276, ch. 7 (Dasius: reading rxvF- ct). See in general Alfoldi (above, note 38) o. c. 65-79. 49 D. Fishwick, "'Pliny and the Christians: The Rites ad imaginem prip" AJAH 9 (1984) 123-130. 50 A. D. Nock, "Deification and Julian", JRS47 (1957) 115-123 at 117 with n. 17 (= id., Essays in Religion and the Ancient World [ed. Z. Stewart], Oxford, 1972, 2,836). 51 See further H. W. Plecket, "An Aspect of the Emperor Cult: Imperial Mysteries", HThR 58, 1965, 331-347 at 332, n. 4, citing Menander of Laodicea, De encomiis, p. 414,16 Sp. 52 For the process of consecration see Weinstock (above, note 35) 386-391; S.R.F. Price, "Gods and Emperors: the Greek Language of the Roman Imperial Cult", JHS 104 (1984) 79-95 at 83. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • Prudentius and the Cult of Divus Augustus 483 seems to put him on equal terms with a 'real' god.53 Once appeased and no longer iratus, the dead person or the god would presumably be propitius,S4 that is, well disposed or favourably inclined, merciful." The word can be used of ordinary mortals and, when used of the living emperor, notably in the stereo- typed formula habeas propitium Caesarem and variants, scarcely carries any implication of effective divinity; though the fact that the same word is used of gods, as well as hinting in that direction, could be thought to constitute a divine honour. But there is one use of the word, of particular interest for present purposes, which may imply that the divi were thought to act in a supernatural way. According to the Historia Augusta, Marcus Aurelius was acclamed a propitious god by the Senate and people on his official elevation to the rank of divus: senatus populusque non divisis locis sed una sede propitium deum dixit (Marc. Anton., 18,3). Weinstock adduces evidence to suggest that any new god was acclaimed propitius, clearly an expression of the hope that the deity will be merciful, so if this practice was transferred to the rite of apotheosis, the term would confirm that formally at least any divus could show divine favour.56 Popular belief in the divine efficacy of deified emperors is in fact attested by various categories of evidence.57 What is of particular interest in light of the Prudentius passage is independent testimony to the notion that Divus Augu- stus was open to prayer.58 In Ex Ponto 4,9, written at a time when Augustus was already dead, Ovid says that Augustus, now one with the gods, can hear the poet's prayers and yield to his entreaties (11.127-134). Earlier in Met. 15,869f. he had stated that Augustus, when he leaves earth and goes to heaven, will listen to those who pray to him; and in undertaking to write a poem in the tongue of the uncivilized Getae he says he was aided by the divine power of Divus Augustus (Ex Ponto 4,13,24). One may compare Vergil's anticipation in Octavian's lifetime of the divine powers he will possess on deification and his 53 Nock, o.c. 116f. (Essays 863) cites a formula of A.D. 37 in which the wrath of Jupiter I.O.M., Divus Augustus and all the other immortal gods is invoked on a man who breaks his oath of allegiance to Caligula (CIL 2,172 = ILS 190). 54 RE 23,1 (1957) 822-826 s.v. (Weinstock). 55 Oxford Latin Dictionary 1493 (a) s.v. 56 The idea evidently lies behind Seneca's sneer regarding Divus Claudius: et ut deum orant gwpo0D Et Tou TUXCIV (Apoc., 8, 3). Cf. D. Fishwick, "Templum Divo Claudio Constitutum" in ICLW(above, note 5) 1,2,201f.; id., "Seneca and the temple of Divus Claudius", Britannia 21 (1990) forthcoming. s G. W. Bowersock, "Greek Intellectuals and the Imperial Cult" in W. den Boer (ed.), Le Culte des Sousierains dans l'Empire Romain (Entretiens Fondation Hardt 19), Vandoevres, 1972, 198, emphasizes that this was not the attitude of intellectuals. For the view that the poets best reflect the true beliefs of the time see A. Alfoldi, Die zwei Lorbeerbaume des Augustus (Antiqui- tas 14), Bonn, 1973, 11 with refs, n. 36. 58 Note that Prudentius later pillories Antinous, whom he represents listening to prayers in temples (1.277). This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • 484 DUNCAN FISHWICK invitation to him even now to be addressed by vows (Georgics 1,24-42).59 Are passages such as these to be taken simply as literary inventions? Prima facie they might indicate a belief that Divus Augustus could hear prayers and give supematural aid: that is they may reflect a religious conviction rather than just poetic licence imitated from Hellenistic models.'V Whether a similar convic- tion may lie behind the mysteries of Divus Augustus at Pergamum can hardly be said,6' but it is conceivable that he was expected to hear the prayers of the mystai and render aid to the worshipper in much the same way as Antinous is stated on an obelisk to have heard prayers and to have helped the sick by sending dreams.62 Antinous too was paid worship in a mystery cult and is said to have healed and prophesied.63 At Pergamum, however, there is no actual mention of prayers and the precise nature of these mysteries is very uncer- tain.f' What is at events clear from the AFA is that until the Flavian period vows were made and paid to Divus Augustus, Diva Augusta and Divus Claudius in company with Jupiter and other gods.65 The probability that Prudentius' words reflect popular belief is also supported by the fact that Divus Marcus Aurelius is reported to have been spontaneously deified by the senate and the people even before his burial and, according to the author of the Vita at least, foretold many things by dreams to men who were themselves thereby enabled to predict events that did come to pass (SHA, Marc. Anton. 18, 3).66 Similarly two years or so after the death of Julian we have a passage from the Epitaphios of Libanius stating that blessings have been asked of him 59 Cf. Taylor (above, note 22) 149f. Similarly Vergil speaks of the beneficial effect of Caesar's star in Eclogues 9, 46-49 and Valerius Maximus says of Caesar: tuas aras tuaque sanctissima templa, dive Iule, veneratus oro, ut propitio ac faventi numine tantorum casus vironum sub tui exempli praesidio ac tutela delitescere patiaris (1,6,13); cf., Suet., Divus Iulius 85; further Livy's description of the apotheosis of Romulus: ... pacem precibus exposcunt uti volens propitius suam semper sospitet progeniem (1,16,3). 60 For a clear case of poetic licence see Ovid's description of the living Germanicus as a god to be propitiated by prayer-lines which Ovid hopes will touch Germanicus' heart: Ex Ponto 4,8,23ff. See in general D. Fishwick, "Prayer and the Living Emperor", Studies in Honour of A.G. McKay, Hamilton, 1990, forthcoming. 61 Plecket (above, note 51) 346f. with n. 65. Nilsson notes that Hellenistic monarchs had been invoked in mysteries: Opuscula selecta . . ., Lund, 1951-60,3, 326. 62 Nock (above, note 50) 120 (= Essays 842), noting a votive offering 'to the new god Antinous' at Claudiopolis in Bithynia; cf. Pleket, ibid See in general J. Beaujeu, La Religion romaine d lApog&e de l'Empire, Paris, 1955, 1, 242-257. 63 Beaujeu, o.c. 251 with n. 1; cf. Origen, Contra Celsum 3,36. 64 Plecket, o.c., 335, n. 15, noting the view of Pouilloux that the mysteries consisted simply in the showing of sacred representations; cf. S.R.F. Price, Rituals and Power. The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor, Cambridge, 1984, 191. 65 Nock (above, note 50) 115f., citing Henzen, AFA 102f. Retrenchment to save expenses seems the best explanation for discontinuance of the practice. See Fishwick, "Liturgy and Ceremonial" in ICLW(above, note 5) Vol. II, 1, forthcoming. For sacrifice to Divus Augustus by Tiberius see Tac., Ann. 4, 52, 3f. 66 J. Bayet, Histoire politique et psychologique de la Religion romaine, Paris, 1957, 190f. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • Prudentius and the Cult of Divus Augustus 485 and prayers answered.67 "To such an extent has he literally ascended to the gods and received a share of their power from them themselves" (Or. 18, 304).68 Two last points may be raised in conclusion. The term poposcit presumably means that the worshipper prayed aloud. This was a feature of prayer in antiquity and is attested in numerous passages in the literary authorities, so much so that silent prayer was inevitably, if unjustifiably, associated with evil intentions.69 Whispered or silent prayers are no means excluded, however, by Prudentius' use of the term, particularly if one had some request to make of Divus Augustus as a familiar and trusted deity. Given that poscere has the further connotation of insistent, repetitive demanding,70 Prudentius must have also wanted to convey the impression of frequent or repeated prayer. In order to make sure that the god heard it was thought important, particularly in the Imperial period, to pray in the immediate presence of the idol7' - exactly the situation in which Prudentius portrays the prostrate suppliant before the image of Divus Augustus. Whether written supplications were laid at the foot of his statue we are not told, though the practice is well attested down to late Antiquity. Nor does Prudentius indicate that Divus Augustus actually heard and answered, a result that was by no means a foregone conclusion. Such a capacity on the part of particular types of deities, notably gods of healing or Oriental gods, was recognised by the honorific epithet tRi1co0, which even- tually evolved into a cult title.72 The term occurs rarely in connection with the Roman emperor, and so far not at all in connection with a deified emperor,73 but the popularity of the cult of Divus Augustus and the fervour of devotees certainly suggests he was thought to respond. What form his responsa might have taken is a matter for conjecture. There seems to be no evidence for the pronouncement of oracles by a statue of Divus Augustus or indeed of any other divus,74 but the passage in the Life of Marcus Aurelius (above, p. 484) is clear evidence for the notion of a divus prophesying in dreams, and the 67 Nock (above, note 50) 115, 121-123 (Essays 833, 844 846). For background to Libanius' statement that many cities have set his image beside the images of the gods see Fishwick (above, note 49) 125 f. with n. 28. 68 Cf. Or. 15, 36; 24, 40. For discussion see D. Fishwick, "Ovid and Divus Augustus", CPh 86 (1991), forthcoming. 69 H. S. Versnel, "Religious Mentality in Ancient Prayer" in id. (ed.), Faith, Hope and Worship. Aspects of Religious Mentality in the Ancient World, Leiden, 1981, 25-28. 70 Oxford Latin Dictionary 1409 s.v. 1 and 2; cf. Versnel, o.c. 64 on wearing the gods out with prayer. 71 Versnel, o.c. 30ff. 72 Ibid., 34ff. with bibl., n. 134. 73 An inscription from Aegina refers to an emperor as 'the new Dionysus from the Sun, the god who hears prayer' (Abh. Acad. Berl. 14, 1943,9, n. 7), cited by Nock (above, note 50) 121, n. 46 with refs. (= Essays 843, n. 46); Plecket (above, note 51) 334, n. 14; Versnel, o.c. 36 with n. 145. 74 For the association of imperial statues with signs and wonders see Price (above, note 64) 195ff. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  • 486 DUNCAN FISHWICK common formula ex visu, visu monitus in inscriptions attests to the widespread belief in divine intervention through the medium of dreams and visions.75 Whatever the precise mechanics, responsa poposcit in combination with placa- vit leaves no doubt that Prudentius is imputing a belief in the divine efficacy of Divus Augustus on a par with that of any other god.76 In terms of divinity Divus Augustus is portrayed as a god as 'real' as any of the other deities that Prudentius attacks in his tirade against pagan superstition. Tlhe University of Alberta, Edmonton Duncan Fishwick 75 A. D. Nock, "Studies in the Graeco-Roman Beliefs of the Empire", JHS45 (1925) 84-101 at 95f. (= Essays45 f.); cf. CIL8,18892: Fortunael Aug. sac. M. Herenl nius M.fil. Quir. victorv. eI monitu eius I p.s.d.d. (Thibilis, Numidia). 76 Contra Nock (above, note 50) 117, n. 21 (= Essays 837, n. 21). The outlook behind the verses of Prudentius and the associated evidence given above stands in sharp contrast to the rationalist view of deification as simply a posthumous reward for meritorious conduct in life; cf. Nock, o.c. 121 (= Essays 844) with n. 47, citing Minucius Felix, Oct. 21, 9: qui consecrantur non adfidem numinis sed ad honorem emeritae potestatis. But clearly, in the vast Roman empire, one should expect differing views on the emperor's deification and what it implied. Not everyone was a rationalist theologian. This content downloaded from on Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:11:15 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Contentsp. [475]p. 476p. 477p. 478p. 479p. 480p. 481p. 482p. 483p. 484p. 485p. 486Issue Table of ContentsHistoria: Zeitschrift fr Alte Geschichte, Bd. 39, H. 4 (1990), pp. 385-506Volume InformationFront MatterJustice in Thucydides' Athenian Speeches [pp. 385-400]Thukydides und die Tyrannis [pp. 401-425]Zum Herrschaftsverstndnis Philipps II. von Makedonien [pp. 426-445]The Tribune Sulpicius [pp. 446-460]Die Kanzleireform des Stilicho und das rmische Britannien [pp. 461-474]Prudentius and the Cult of Divus Augustus [pp. 475-486]MiszellenPausanias, Byzantion and the Formation of the Delian League: A Chronological Note [pp. 487-492]Probleme der Datierung des Costoboceneinfalls im Balkanraum unter Marcus Aurelius [pp. 493-498]Cassiodorus as Patricius and ex Patricio [pp. 499-503]A propos du Symbolisme imperial Romain au IVe siecle: Quelques remarques sur le christogramme [pp. 504-506]Back Matter


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