Monday, September 7, 2020

The worship of Roma and the Imperial cult

In ancient Roman religion, Roma was a female deity who personified the city of Rome and more broadly, the Roman state. She embodied Rome in complex ways and symbolized the ideal woman in society. Roman political and religious ideas were portrayed through Roma in different forms of media such as coins, sculptures and designs on architecture. In Roman art and coinage, she was usually depicted with a military helmet, and often other military equipment, although in the Greek-speaking east she more often wore a mural crown, signifying Rome's status as a loyal protector of Hellenic city-states.  

After the assassination of Julius Caesar, his deification, and the development of the imperial cult, worship of such an individual posed a conflict with Republican values, so deified persons were worshiped jointly with Roma. In provincial Africa, temples to Roma and Augustus have been found at Leptis Magna and Mactar.  Tiberius built a temple to Roma and Augustus in Ostia. A total of six such temples have been documented on the Italian peninsula. 

In Lucan's poem, Pharsalia, the poet identifies Roma and the Res Publica with the revered Roman matrona who Julius Caesar repudiates, ending with his embrace of a mistress in Egypt.

Image: Goddess Roma depicted with crested helmet, marble, from Italy 2nd century CE at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto courtesy of the museum.

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