Deification Of Caesar

Topics: Roman Empire, Augustus, Roman Republic Pages: 6 (519 words) Published: January 26, 2015
Deification of Caesar

Transformation, the subject of the poet’s work

The transformation of Caesar into a divine being:
Caesar’s Comet during Games of July 44 BCE in honor of Caesar’s victories

Ovid, Metamorphoses:
“And Venus . . . raised from the body of Caesar the fleeting spirit, Not to be lost in air, but borne aloft
To the bright stars of Heaven. As she bore it,
She felt it burn, released it from her bosom,
And saw it rise, beyond the moon, a comet
Rising, not falling, leaving the long fire
Behind its waake, and gleaming as a star.”

Caesar’s comet’s unusual trajectory

Caesar, a Roman God:

No Greek transplant
A composite of Greek and Roman elements:
Greek:
Euhemerism
Greek cult of heroes
Cult of Alexander the Great
Roman:
List of Accomplishments (Lat. Res Gestae = things done);
Caesar’s extraordinary achievements (conquests of Britain, Egypt, Caucasus, North Africa and more) Caesar’s deeds imitated and surpassed by Octavian Augustus: Intergenerational competition in Roman aristocratic families Roman “myth-making:” Caesar, Aeneas, Romulus

Rome’s imperial mission, divine mandate
Dynastic politcs: legitimizing Augustus as Divi Filius (son of a god)

Caesar recognizes his “son’s” (Augustus) deeds to be superior to his own Augustus, however, refuses to be set above his “father”
Fame will favor Augustus
Caesar’s divine status foreshadows Augustus’ own:

“. . . O gods,
. . .
Far be the day,
Later than our own era, when Augustus
Shall leave the world he rules, ascend to Heaven,
And there, beyond our presence, hear our prayers!”

Roman cultural elements at work here:
Aemulatio (competition, imitation): every generation must strive to be equal to the ancestors, or better (see Hesiod’s “good” Eris) Pietas (dutiful respect for country, gods, family): Augustus ‘ duty toward Caesar:

A) Octavian “avenges” Caesar’s murder = Civil War (against Brutus + Cassius) recycled as model of dutifulness (Pietas); B) Octavian’s final victory over Marc Antony + Cleopatra of Egypt: also recycled in patriotic version: Eastern threat averted, (Roman) order re-established Augustus’ own achievements: end of wars, peace, order, justice The friendly face of totalitarian rule: Augustus’ successor already chosen (“his good wife’s young son”: Tiberius, son of Livia. “All in the family”). No need to vote. The transformation of the Roman state from Republic into a new monarchy is complete.

History in Myth.

Historical events set into mythical framework:
Venus’ lament on her descendant’s (Caesar) assassination Replay of Troy’s fall (Iliad)
Replay of Aeneas’ sufferings (Aeneid)
Tries to hide Caesar as she did with Aeneas

Jove’s answer:
Fate cannot be changed: the 3 sisters’ (Moirai) bronze tablets (Roman law tables) Caesar’s task has been fulfilled (military conquests)
Augustus’ time has come
Rome’s mission: Pax Romana (Roman peace), world empire
Rome’s Manifest Destiny
Epilogue

From the political to the poetic “Empire without End”
The perishable human body vs. imperishable glory:
“The better part of me” will be borne above the stars
(his soul? His poetry? Both?)

Immortality in memory:
“My name will be remembered
Wherever Roman power rules conquered lands”

No metamorphosis necessary for the poet.
The poet as prophet: his words will remain through the centuries He will live through his words

Compare with Hesiod’s gift by the Muses, daugthers of Memory.
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