Human Gods: More Names

We have come across two more names to add to our list of deified mortals from ancient Rome: Diva Paulina and Divus Valerian II.

Paulina was the wife of Emperor Maximinus Thrax and died in 235 or 236 ce.  We know very little about her. An inscription gives her name and titles as Diva Caecilia Paulina Pia Augusta.  She is given the title of Diva – divine – on Roman coins and is sometimes called thea – goddess – on Greek coins. The title of Pia – pious – might give some indication of her character.  She is favorably, if very briefly, mentioned in the surviving text of the Histories written by Ammianus Marcellinus in the fourth century ce, more than a century after her death. Her husband Maximinus appears to have been rather a bad egg and was executed by his own soldiers after a reign of only three years.

Valerian II was never an emperor, but was in line for the imperial succession. He was given the title of Caesar, at the age of 15 or 16, by his grandfather the Emperor Valerian I. His father was the Emperor Gallienus, son and co-emperor of Valerian I. After his appointment to the position of Caesar, Valerian II was sent to the Illyrian provinces, where he died soon after in suspicious circumstances in 257 or 258 ce. Suspician fell upon his principal administrative advisor, a man whose whose name I shall not mention, who promptly started a revolt against Valerian I, but was quickly suppressed.  Other than his parentage, we know even less about Valerian II than we do about Paulina. He did not have much time to accomplish anything in his short life. An Imperial teenage boy, a sacrificial victim to the murderous intrigues that had infected the ruling class of that era. And yet, he was rememberd afterward.  

Remember that all of the divi and divae are real people, who once walked this earth as mortal human beings. There are stories, whether triumphant, tragic, or trivial, behind their names. Unfortunately, most of the stories have not survived.




Paulina being carried to heaven by a peacock. Auction price in 2013: $750.


Valerian II

Valerian II


A silver antoninianus issued in honor of Valerian II by the mint in Colonia Agrippinensis (Cologne).

Youthful portrait of Valerian II, with reverse showing Valerian being carried to heaven by an eagle. Auction price in 2013: $200.

Published in: on May 21, 2013 at 7:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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Hercules Triumphant

In ancient Athens, Herakles was one of the deities honored on the fourth day of every month. In ancient Rome, surviving Roman calendars indicate two festivals dedicated to Hercules: April 3 to Hercules Victor and December 21 to Hercules. Roman temple dedication dates were also festival days for the Gods and several are known for Hercules: June 4 for Hercules Magnus Custos; August 12 for Hercules Invictus; and August 13 for Hercules Victor. There were many, at least 40, shrines and temples dedicated to Hercules in the city of Rome. The Great Altar, Herculis Invicti Ara Maxima, was dedicated to Hercules. A shrine might just be a sculpture or an altar rather than a building. Literary references and carved inscriptions indicate altars, monuments, or shrines to Hercules Cubans, Hercules Fundanus, Hercules Musarum, Hercules Olivarius, Hercules Pompeianus, Hercules Primagenius, Hercules Sullanus, and Hercules Triumphalis. The last named was simply a statue in the Forum Boarium. Hercules Victor possessed at least two temples under the name of Victor. Temples dedicated to Hercules were usually, if not always, small round buildings in a Greek style.

I propose a new modern cult dedicated to the Triumphant Hercules. The closest Latin version of that name appears to be Hercules Triumphalis, Hercules of the Triumph. The annual festival date shall be, at least provisionally and subject to change, March 6, which happens to be today. Today is the day of Hercules in my private liturgical calendar. This is all somewhat tentative and I do not know how it will develop.

Published in: on March 6, 2012 at 7:39 pm  Comments (1)  
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Human Gods: Divus and Sanctus

The Sacred College of the Cult of the Gods of the Antonine Imperium has issued a decree recognizing the status of divus (divine) and sanctus (holy) for various persons. See the new page at right for the Sacred College for details. In general, the Sacred College accepts the status of divus or its equivalent that was granted to various members of the Ptolemaic dynasty and various Roman emperors by the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is the opinion of the Sacred College that the people so selected may receive the customary honors and rites that are offered to the heroic dead and the honored ancestors. Divus is an ancient title. Sanctus is a new concept, inspired by the usage of this term by the Ekklesia Antinoo.

No one is required to worship these honored persons, but we should remember them. Reflect upon their lives, their accomplishments, successes and failures, triumphs and tragedies.

These persons have been accepted as divus: Alexander the Great, Ptolemy I, Berenike I, Ptolemy II, Arsinoe I, Ptolemy III, Arsinoe II, Ptolemy IV, Cleopatra VII, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Lucius Caesar, Gaius Caesar, Livia Drusilla, Claudius I, Poppaea Sabina, Vespasian, Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Plotina, Matidia I, Marciana, Hadrian, Sabina, Antoninus Pius, Faustina I, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, Faustina II, Pertinax, Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, Severus Alexander, Julia Maesa, Gordian I, Gordian II, Gordian III, Philip I, Philip II, Decius, Valerian, Gallienus, Claudius II, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian, Galerius, Julian.

The title of divus has been granted to the following persons: Marcus Antonius, Aelius Caesar, Mindia Matidia II, Zenobia, Maxentius, Maximinus Daia.

The title of sanctus has been granted to the following persons: Marcus Agrippa, Maecenas, Otho, Caenis, Germana, Herodes Atticus, Lucilla, Flavius Eugenius, Arbogast.

The title of divus has been revoked for the following persons: Constantius I, Jovian, Valentinian I, Valens, Valentinian II.

The following persons have been condemned: Helena, Constantine I, Constantius II, Gratian, Theodosius I.

The title of divus was discontinued after the time of Theodosius I and the Sacred College makes no judgment on the succeeding emperors of Rome and Constantinople, other than to condemn their religious intolerance.

Published in: on April 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm  Comments (7)  
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Private Calendars Part 2

Chaos wins and everything changes. The private liturgical calendar that I had outlined previously has come to its end. The only festival days that I have any intention of observing at the moment are March 21 for Wepwawet and April 16 for Apis. These two specific days are the recommendation of an oracle and might be one time events. Anything else I do this year might be on an entirely random basis, guided by the feel of the moment. Then again, I might have an inspiration and devise a new calendar, or revive the old one. Everything is up for grabs right now. I am adrift in a sea of chaotic ideas and possibilities, like a galactic cloud of sparkling stars in many colors. Should I follow this one, or that one?  I like the structured feel of the Roman calendar, but quite a bit of the Roman calendar is very specific to the city of Rome and to a vanished lifestyle which has little relevance to other locations or to modern life. This is even more so for the Athenian and Egyptian calendars.

I may use statues as a guide. I used to have a fabulous collection of statues, perhaps 80 or 90 pieces. This collection was disposed of a couple of years ago when I ran out of money and almost became a street person. A very close call. The only thing I kept was a replica of the Dancing Faun from the house of that name in Pompeii, which I use as a statue of Faunus. During the last several months I have started a new collection, with figures of Apis, Sobek, Sekhmet, Wepwawet,  Hermes, Pan, Hercules, Poseidon, Amphitrite, and Triton. A statue of Athena is on the way, and I am looking for a Zeus. I was just informed that a Zeus statue that I had ordered is not available until May, if then. Aargh! Back to looking, because I want something right now! So, these would be the deities around whom to design a new calendar. Maybe. I created flat icons for Hekate, Ianus, Antinous, and various associates of Antinous.

Published in: on February 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm  Comments (3)  

Private Calendars and Patron Gods

Even the best preserved of the old calendars of festivals and holy days, those of Athens and Rome, are imperfectly known. These ancient calendars refer to gods that are unknown or very little known today, or to cultural and political events that have no relevance to modern society, or to agricultural cycles that are very limited in their geographic location. It has become common practice for people today to create their own sacred calendars that are more relevant to their own interests and to modern life. I have such a calendar myself, which I have followed for more than a year now. It uses the modern months, based on the Roman solar year. I make no attempt to follow the lunar cycles. Quite often I do not even see the moon from one month to the next, so why should I use the lunar cycles to mark the passage of time. The sacred days marked on my calendar are dedicated to the deities to whom I feel the most linked and connected. At a minimum, the observance of a festival day consists of placing an image of the deity next to the altar, and the offering of a candle and a short prayer or hymn. Sometimes I perform a more elaborate ritual, with candles, flowers, decorations, offerings of food and drink, hymns, litanies, prayers, and meditation. The calendar has worked fairly well so far, but is becoming increasingly unsatisfactory. I am thinking of scrapping the whole thing and starting over.

The deities listed on the calendar are those to whom I have a link of some sort or in whom I have a more than common interest. I don’t really have a patron deity as such, a deity to whom I am intensely devoted, although perhaps I should say that I have a whole circle of patron deities, with varying levels of interest. 

Day 1 to Hekate. I used to think of Hekate as a sort of fringe goddess, limited to magick practitioners, and of little relevance to the world of classical Greece. Then, one evening in the summer of the year 2006, Hekate paid me a little visit and I changed my mind. Oh, yes indeed, I changed my mind! I approach Hekate from a Hesiodic perspective, seeing her as a bright and primeval goddess of sky, earth, and sea.

Day 3 to Athena. An oracle recommended that I approach Athena. This has not progressed very far.

Day 4 to Hermes. Problematic. Sometimes I feel that I should have strong links to Hermes, but sometimes I feel that I have disappointed him somehow.

Day 6 to Hercules. A long time ago I tended to think of Hercules as a muscle bound oaf of perhaps questionable divinity. Then one day, while in a museum gallery of Hercules statues, he made himself known to me in a rather startling fashion, and I have been a devoted admirer of him ever since.   

Day 8 to Poseidon, Amphitrite, and Triton. The trinity of the sea. A strong link, but mysterious and undefined. They stand at a door, or point the way to something, perhaps.    

Day 11 to Sobek. Mighty and ferocious, terrifying in his immensity, but kind and gentle to his own, of whom I am one.

Day 13 to Faunus. The link to Faunus has faded somewhat over time , but still persists.

Day 15 to Zeus Ammon. A weak link, slight and mysterious, but definitely a link.

Day 18 to Pan. A new link developing within the past couple of years.

Day 20 to Sekhmet. Fierce and welcoming. I used to think that I should have a special relationship with Bast, since I love cats, but nothing ever developed. Then one day Sekhmet said “I am here” and Bast said “Go to my sister Sekhmet”. So I went.

Day 22 to Apis.  An oracle recommended that I approach Apis. There is a link here, but weak and undefined. Or perhaps subtle. Sometimes I see Apis as a cosmic entity rather than as an earthly entity. The bull of the cosmos in addition to the bull of the Nile.  

I pay honors to other deities during the course of the year, as circumstances call for. I make offerings to Saturn and Ops in December and to Ianus at the beginning of the year. I once had very string links to Flora but those have largely faded away. I still pay honors to Flora during the Floral Games around May 1. Antinous has his own annual cycle of holy days and I observe most of those. Wepwawet is a new addition to my circle of deities. I have not assigned a monthly day for him yet.

Published in: on January 14, 2011 at 3:15 am  Comments (3)