Apotheosis

Apotheosis (ἀπό, from, and. θεός, a god), the deification or the ceremony by which the ancient pagans converted kings, heroes, and other distinguished men into gods. In Rome a decree of the Senate was sufficient to secure to any man divine honors; but in Greece the honor could be conferred only in obedience to the oracle of some god. The following account by Herodian of the apotheosis of the emperor Severus will serve as an illustration of the process: "After the body of the deceased emperor had been- burned with the usual solemnities, they placed an image of wax exactly resembling him on an ivory couch, covered with cloth of gold, at the entrance to the palace. The Senate, in mourning, sat during a great part of the day on the left side of the bed ; the ladies of the highest quality, dressed in white robes, being ranged on the right- side. This lasted seven days; after which the young senators and Roman knights bore the bed of state through the Via Sacra to the Forum, where they set it down between two amphitheaters filled with the young men and maidens of the first families in Rome, singing hymns in praise of the deceased. Afterwards the bed was carried out of the city to the Campus Martius, in the middle of which was erected a kind of square pavilion, filled with combustible matter, and hung round with cloth of gold. Over this edifice were several others, each diminishing and growing smaller towards the top. On the second of these was placed the bed of state, amid a great quantity of aromatics, perfumes, and odoriferous fruits and herbs; after which the knights went in procession round the pile; several chariots also ran around it, their drivers being richly dressed and bearing images of the greatest Roman emperors and generals. This ceremony being ended, the new emperor approached the pile with a torch in his hand, and set fire to it, the spices and other combustibles kindling at once. At the same time they let fly from the top of the building an eagle, which, mounting into the air with a firebrand, was supposed to convey the soul of the deceased emperor to heaven; ,and from that time forward he was ranked among the gods.".

 
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