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Romans and divine right

Yoo-hoo!
celandineb, darana, thanatos_kalos, and all you historians and anthropologists (aspiring ones such as erebrandir and yodge included): I have another question for you.

Did Roman emperors, who paid lip service to their own deification, rule by acknowledged divine right?

Again, I'll have to tell you later, in a running edit, why I ask.
Here's the gist of it: My father and I were having a discussion yesterday about why certain cultures seem to have a more ingrained tolerance for totalitarian rule.1 I conjectured that a long period of feudalism and in particular the principle of the "Mandate of Heaven" tended to foster this culture, whereas cultures that received the yoke later tended to throw it off sooner. It was a case of the damnable old frog-in-a-pot syndrome, I claimed. My dad didn't quite buy it, though.

So, I'm trying to get some real historians' viewpoints to corroborate or refute my hypothesis.

1 Yes, that's typical after-dinner conversation here. Does this surprise you? ;-)

--
Banazîr

Comments

borgseawolf
Apr. 14th, 2004 02:41 am (UTC)
I, on the other hand, know ONLY ancient history :)
Furthermore, the strong tradition of law and of republican institutions would militate against any attempt by any emperor to claim such a thing as a divine mandate for his rule. It was quite a long way into the imperial era before they openly admitted that the republic was dead...

I don't know if that is a 'long way into the imperial era', but by Diocletian (ca. 300 AD) all this was just poppycock and sillytalk. Nobody cared about senate, or the Republic, or the will of people. Thanks to introducing 'divine right' instead of just 'divine descent' (earlier emperors often claimed being descended from gods, but it never meant much), there were fewer assassinations, fewer internal clashes , and overall more peaceful times came for the Rome itself (which was just as well, since there soon came a time to deal with external threats).
And then, of course, came Constantine.
(Julian, my favourite of the emperors, tried to introduce a singular pagan religion throughout the empire to back his divine right to rule, instead of Constantine's christianity, but it was too late by then)
banazir
Apr. 15th, 2004 02:29 am (UTC)
Re: I, on the other hand, know ONLY ancient history :)
I don't know if that is a 'long way into the imperial era', but by Diocletian (ca. 300 AD) all this was just poppycock and sillytalk.
:nod:

Julian, my favourite of the emperors, tried to introduce a singular pagan religion throughout the empire to back his divine right to rule, instead of Constantine's christianity, but it was too late by then)
Interesting.
Reminds me of the recent conflict between the Ra'elian cultists and the Georgia school board, wherein the GA school board wanted to replace the evolutionary science curriculum with a (Christian, nominally Judeo/Christian/Muslim) creationist one. "We believe in creation too!" said the Ra'elians, and the church who sponsored the bill backpedaled long and hard to distance themselves.

--
Banazir

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