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Form: Lat. Consecratio.
The act of placing a human being among the gods, of which the Greeks have an instance as early as Homer, but only in the single case of Leucothea. The oldest notion was that of a bodily removal; then arose the idea of the mortal element being purged away by fire, as in the case of Heracles. There was a kind of deification which consisted in the decreeing of heroic honours to distinguished men after death, which was done from the time of the Peloponnesian War onwards, even in the case of living men (see HEROES). The successors of Alexander the Great, both the Seleucidae and still more the Ptolemies, caused themselves to be worshipped as gods. Of the Romans, whose legend told of the translation of Eneas and Romulus into heaven, Caesar was the first who claimed divine honours, if not by building temples to himself, yet by setting his statue among the gods in every sanctuary at Rome and in the empire, and by having a special flamen assigned to him. The belief in his divinity was confirmed by the comet that shone several months after his death, as long as his funeral games lasted; and under the triumvirate he was formally installed among the deities of Rome, as Divus Iulius, by a decree of the senate and people. His adopted son and successor Octavian persistently declined any offer of public worship, but he accepted the title of Augustus (the consecrated), and allowed his person to be adored in the provinces. On his death the senate decreed divine honours to him under the title of Divus Augustus, the erection of a temple, the founding of special games, and the establishment of a peculiar priesthood. After this, admission to the number of the Divi, as the deified emperors were called, becomes a prerogative of the imperial dignity. It is, however, left dependent on a resolution of the senate moved in honour of the deceased emperor by his successor. Hence it is not every emperor who obtains it, nor does consecration itself always lead to a permanent worship. Empresses too were often consecrated, first Augustus' wife Livia as Diva Augusta, and even other members of the imperial house. The ceremony of Apotheosis used from the time of Augustus was the following. After the passing of the senate's decree a waxen image of the dead, whose body lay hidden below, was exhibited for seven days on an ivory bed of state in the palace, covered with gold-embroidered coverlets; then the bier was borne by knights and senators amidst a brilliant retinue down the Via Sacra to the ancient Forum, where the funeral oration was delivered, and thence to the Campus Martius, where it was deposited in the second of the four stories of a richly decorated funeral pile of pyramid shape. When the magistrates sacred and secular, the knights, lifeguard, and others concerned, had performed the last honours by processions and libations, the pile was set on fire, and as it burned up, an eagle soared from the topmost storey into the sky, a symbol of the ascending soul.
Type: Standard
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