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Earning the Title "Pius"

Contributed by David Verne

As the new emperor of Rome, Antoninus' first order of business was requesting that the Senate deify his deceased father, Hadrian. The Senate was still upset with Hadrian and had just repealed his reform to turn Italy into 4 provinces. They were in no mood to deify the dead emperor, until Antoninus told them that he would resign and leave the throne open unless they deified Hadrian. The Senate eventually agreed to the demands, especially since they didn't want a vacuum of power to break out into civil war. For his dedication to Hadrian, the Senate granted Antoninus the name Pius. [1]

My Take by David Verne
No sane emperor would dare call himself a god while he was alive, but deifying dead rulers or heroes had been a common practice since Alexander the Great. The Cult of the Emperors wasn't like other religions. Praying and offering sacrifices to deifyed emperors wasn't about worshiping a superior being; it was more about showing obedience and loyalty to the Empire. Rome incorporated various religions as long as they supported the Empire's stability; loyalty to the state was preeminent above all. This was the largest reason why Jews and Christians faced distrust that sometimes flared into full scale persecution. Since these religions were monotheistic and were forbidden from taking part in any ceremonies to pagan gods, they refused to participate in the Imperial cult and other ceremonies, which led to them being seen as inherently disloyal to the Empire.

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References

  1. Duncan, Mike (February 28, 2010). 85- Antoninus the Dutiful.

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