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"Gradel's work is eminently readable.... He impressively handles a wide range of evidence, deftly analyzing epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological data alongside literary testimonia."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review
About the Author
Ittai Gradel is Lecturer in the Department of History, University of Copenhagen.
Following in the footsteps of Simon Price, Gradel undertakes a study of the Roman "imperial cult" on its own terms (i.e. free from the "Christianizing assumptions" that have burdened the subject for much of history). But whereas Price focuses chiefly on the practice of emperor worship in the Greek East, Gradel confines his study to the phenomenon as found in Italy and Rome itself.
Despite long-held assumptions about the essential foreignness of Roman emperor worship, Gradel endeavors to show that the practice is in fact very much in keeping with traditional Roman practice. Moreover, Gradel sees a relationship between certain forms of emperor worship (particularly those analogous to the worship of the paterfamilias in household cult) and the current monarch's public relationship with the Senate and other elites, thereby offering one explanation for why certain practices are associated with "despotic" or "mad" emperors in the histories as written by members of the elite class.
Gradel does make certain statements and assumptions that could use further support or at least further elaboration. And only time will tell to what degree this revisionist view of emperor cult is accepted by classicists in general. But it is a challenging and ambitious work that I hope will encourage further inquiry into the question of emperor worship as a legitimate feature of Roman religion. Highly recommended to anyone interested in this field of study. See also Price's _Ritual & Power_.
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