- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (5 Dec. 1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 052131268X
- ISBN-13: 978-0521312684
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 283,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor Paperback – 5 Dec 1985
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'Simon Price's study of the Roman Imperial cult in Asia Minor is, to my mind, the first wholly successful attempt to blend anthropology with ancient history … It must be said that on the scholarly side Price commands his vast and difficult material flawlessly … But that is the least of its merits. A totally original re-interpretation of the imperial cult in the light of anthropological thought and method, it is the first interpretation that really makes sense of this whole bizarre phenomenon. As a former adherent of the political interpretation of the cult, I have to confess that I felt the scales drop from my eyes when I read Price's book, and for the first time understood why the citizens of the Roman Empire did what they did in worshiping their rulers.' G. W. Bowersock, The New Republic
'While the book is based upon a meticulous study of the surviving evidence for the cult in Asia Minor … likely to satisfy the most demanding empirical researcher, the real excitement and challenge of the book for me lies in its conceptual sophistication and the sustained nature of the argumentatiob … Not a little of its bite comes from Price's effective command of recent anthropological writing.' C. E. V. Nixon, The Liverpool Classical Monthly
'The combination of detailed scholarship in a particular area with insights which will assist anyone's understanding of religion, and of power, in the ancient world, make this an extremely important book.' T. E. J. Wiedemann, The JACT Review
In his study of the Greek cults of the Roman emperor in Asia minor, Simon Price attempts to discover why the Roman Emperor was treated like a god. He contends that ever since the emergence of Christianity within the Roman Empire the problem has been misinterpreted; a Christianizing distinction between religion and politics has led to the cult being considered simply as a form of political honours.
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Price deals specifically with the provinces of Asia Minor. The primary reason is that is where the vast majority of physical evidence pertaining to the subject has been found. And because of the cultural history of the region, the phenomenon of Roman emperor-worship invites comparison to the ruler-worship of the Macedonian successor states, etc. As a result, the study deals primarily with the worship of the living emperor as practiced by the Greek-speaking population of the area and therefore has a lot to do with how the Greeks related to their Roman rulers.
The five-star rating is not meant to imply that the work is flawless or incontestable in its specifics. Rather, it represents the fact that any study of the subject will have to take Price's work into account, and no serious student of Greco-Roman religion should be without it. That said, many of Price's conclusions seem much less radical now than they did twenty years ago. For an example of the next generation of Price's school of thought on the subject, see Ittai Gradel's Emperor Worship and Roman Religion (Oxford Classical Monographs).
The book basically explores the religious context of the Hellenistic world, the rise of the cult of the Goddess Roma, and the relationship of this to the cult of the emperors. Price carefully examines current assumptions and how they may mislead us when looking at the Romans. Personally I found the chapters on architecture and religious imagery quite fascinating.
This is a book that no serious student of the classical world should be without.
Price's book first discusses the presence of the imperial cult in the Greek cities of the Empire, and the history of the cult's development. The imperial cult, which began with the deification of Julius Caesar and Augustus in the years of Augustus' reign, was to have a lasting impact on the role of the Emperor and on the way in which subject cities, particularly those of the Greek east, came to terms with their subjugation. Partly in response, cities deified the Emperor and, on occasion, members of his family, built temples and made statues and busts, all for the greater glory of Rome. The cult became as much a political as a religious phenomenon, another way to imbue civic benefits and patronage. The well-being of cities and their inhabitants became tied to the temples built and sacrifices made to the rulers of the Roman world. In the end, Dr. Price's goal of improving the 'understanding of the relationship of religious ritual and political power' is neatly achieved.
Three centuries after Augustus was uncomfortable with the idea of being deified, his distant successor Diocletian used the mystery and pageantry of the cult to restore power to an Imperiacy which had been dangerously weakened by fifty years of near-anarchy. Yet within another fifty years, Constantine's purported conversion to Xianity would not only result in the abolition of the cult, but the ultimate weakening of the Emperor, this time in favour of the newly-hatched Bishops of the East and West.
While not, perhaps, the most accessible book for a beginning student of ancient history, it will be of interest to anyone with a background in ancient history, or a curiosity about the later years of the Roman Empire, Roman religion and bureaucracy, and early Xianity. Dr. Price has written a very good and very thorough book, which will continue to be an important work in the study of this subject for many years to come.