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Ephesus Imperial Cult Temples (Dea Roma And Divus Julius Caesar)

Ephesus Imperial Cult Temples

To the east of the prytaneion are two temples standing next to one another . Walls from later times all but obscure the original floor plan. They were prostyle temples in the lonic order. The facades face the south. When Augustus visited Ephesus in 29 BCE, he granted permission to build this neokoros (“temple warden”) temple. It was the first of its kind in Ephesus. One was dedicated to the goddess Roma (Dea Roma), and the other, to Augustus’s adoptive father, the divinized (Divus) Julius Caesar. During the Roman period, it was a great distinction for a city to receive the right to built an imperial “neakoros” temple. Thus , one finds these temples only in the most important cities, such as Ephesus, Pergamon, and Smyrna.

The Romans, who practiced the imperial cult, spread these temples to their provinces Bithynia ( in the city of Nicomedia) and Asia ( in the city of Pergamon). The originator of the cult was Augustus. After these two first “neokoros” imperial temples, Ephesus first received the right to build an imperial temple during the reign of the emperor Domitian(81-96 CE). After Domitian’s erasure from the official record (damnation memoriae), the temple was rededicated to his father, Vespasian.

During the reign of emperor Hadrian(117-138 CE), Ephesus received for the second time the right to have an imperial “neokoros” temple. In 128 CE , while in Athens, Hadrian granted Ephesus the right to use title “Zeus Olympios “. This honor led the Ephesians to build the massive temple called the “Olympieion” in honor of Hadrian. During the reign of Caracalla(211-217 CE), the city was granted the third neokorate (“temple wardenship”), although Caracalla distanced himself from this ; under Elagabalus (218-222 CE), however , this right was restored. The fourth and last neokorate was, indeed, a great honor and carried may advantages , but the imperial cult was not an official religion in the Roman provinces. The intent of the imperial cult was rather, to foster the unity of the various ethnic groups in the Roman empire.