Emperors and the Divine: Rome and its Influence
Symposium at Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies,
University of Helsinki
In the course of history, the divine sphere has often been harnessed to serve the needs of political leaders. Political power has frequently been legitimized as authorized of the divine forces. In pre-modern societies, and especially in the Roman Empire, phenomena that we call religion and politics were closely intertwined, indeed inseparable. This can be perceived at its clearest in the relationship of the Roman emperors to the divine – in their support of different divinities, in their role as the mediators between the divine and humankind, and in their religious policies. The closeness to the divine was a way of legitimization of imperial power.
The purpose of the symposium is to bring together scholars from different disciplines to discuss the mutual problems of the research of Roman emperors – that is, scholars of history, classics, comparative literature, archaeology, comparative religion, Biblical studies, church history and Roman law. The symposium aims at connecting scholars working on the earlier imperial period and late antiquity, research fields that often tend to remain as separate.
The symposium will combine the scholarly discussions on the emperors as the protégés of particular gods, the emperors as the representatives of the divine sphere and even as (more or less) divine beings themselves. One of the aims of the symposium is to discuss the phenomenon of emperors and the divine in a wide-ranging perspective, also bringing Christian material into the larger context of the Roman Empire.
The programme

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