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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

banazir
Apr. 15th, 2004 02:25 am (UTC)
Re: It's all because of rice.
Divine Right was introduced in the Dominate period, but was given its actual power it had later by christianity.

Thanks.
BTW, forgive my ignorance, but did you study history at uni?
I lost track.

Remember that not all emperors were deified, and except Caligula and Domitian and perhaps some few others... (my Roman Lore is a bit rusty today) they were introduced into divinity posthumously by the senate - which was mostly an equivalent of catholic canonization of saints..

Right, and this was the gist of one of my rebuttals to my dad's theory.
(BTW, what's the title of this comment thread about?)

They had 'divine' or 'sacred' or 'augustus' as their titles, but it meant little - their rule was based on law and military power.

Yes, but so were the Chinese emperors'.
Perhaps not in latter Qing or (orthogonally) in Japan, but that's a different story.

That was during the principate, during the dominate for the first time the 'Divine Power' was introduced, as Diocletian told the Senate to shut up, but it gained much more power since Constantine, when the Emperor was backed by the power of One God, instead of just one of a multitude of divine beings (this was, according to some -me included- main reason Constantine embraced christianity as national religion).

I've read theories to this effect, but for me the jury is still out.

Thanks for the summary.

--
Banazir
borgseawolf
Apr. 15th, 2004 02:51 am (UTC)
Re: It's all because of rice.
Thanks.
BTW, forgive my ignorance, but did you study history at uni?


Yes, but only for a year - only ancient period, hence the title of my next post :)

They had 'divine' or 'sacred' or 'augustus' as their titles, but it meant little - their rule was based on law and military power.

Yes, but so were the Chinese emperors'.


As a foundation of their rule, yes. But - didn't the Chinese emperors demand worship from their subjects? And weren't there various quasi-religious, widely recognized rules about opposing them, objecting them etc. (ie. 'You opposed the Emperor! That's a sacrilege!') ?
Early emperors had nothing of the sort. Sure, simple people worshipped them, or people who believed there was a profit in it (it were times when it was easy to worship a stone that fell from the sky, why not a powerful human being?) but the worship didn't automatically correspond to the Right to Rule. And it was not written in law.

(BTW, what's the title of this comment thread about?)
Oh, that's a vague reference to some old theory of mine, that compared types of crops grown in various regions of the world to the prevalent philosophical and social systems in those regions. Basically, it was sorgo=survival, wheat=individual, rice=social. That sort of thing.

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