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Gens Julia: Akin to the Immortal Gods


Silver denarius (RRC 458/1, early 47 - 46 BC): CAESAR

Obverse: Head of Venus; Reverse: Aeneas carrying palladium in right hand and Anchises on left shoulder

According to Suetonius, when Caesar was quaestor in ca. 68 BC:

  1. “... he pronounced the customary orations from the rostra in praise of his aunt Julia and his wife Cornelia, who had both died.  In the eulogy of his aunt, he spoke in the following terms of her paternal and maternal ancestry and that of his own father:

  2. ‘The family of my aunt Julia is descended from the kings on her mother’s side and, on her father's side, is akin to the immortal gods.  For:

  3. the Marcii Reges go back to [King] Ancus Marcius; and

  4. the Iulii, the family of which ours is a branch, [go back] to Venus.

  5. Our stock, therefore, has both:

  6. the sanctity of kings, whose power is supreme among mortal men; and

  7. the claim to reverence that attaches to the gods, who hold sway even over kings’”, (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 6:1).

As we shall see (and as indicated by the coin above, which Caesar issued  some two decades later), the gens Julia traced their lineage to the Trojan Aeneas, whom Homer described as the son of Aphrodite (the Greek equivalent of Venus) and Anchises.

Caesar obviously a family occasion, and Caesar would have been addressing an audience among whom many shared his claim on the reverence that attaches to the gods.  However, he was the first member of the family to attain divine status in his own right after his death.  In this page, I explore the steps in this transition that took place during his lifetime: I explore the subsequent steps in the process of deification in my page on divus Julius.

Descent from Aeneas and Ascanius Iulus

Virgil

The Julii traced their ancestral link to Venus through Aeneas, the prince of Troy whom Homer had identified as the son of Aphrodite (her Greek equivalent).  More specifically, the family claimed to belong to the line of Aeneas’ son, whom Virgil designated as:

  1. “The boy Ascanius, surnamed Iulus, who was [previously surnamed] Ilus while the state of Ilium [Troy] existed”, (‘Aeneid’, 1. 267-8).

For Virgil,  this Trojan Ascanius Ilus was Aeneas’ son by Creusa: she had died in the fire that had destroyed Troy, and Aeneas had brought the child with him when he came to Italy (see, for example, ‘Aen’. 2: 597-8 and 2: 789).  As Ross Cowan (referenced below, at pp. 3-4) observed:

  1. “Ascanius, and specifically his [surname], become a sort of weather-vane for the movement of political power: while Troy had power, his [surname] derived from her, but now she is no more, he must move westwards [with his father] and his [surname must] be altered to anticipate his position as [the founder] of the [Roman] gens Iulia.”

Shortly afterwards in Virgil’s narrative, Jupiter comforts Cytherea (Aphrodite/ Venus) by promising that, in time:

  1. “There will be born ... a Trojan Caesar, destined to bound his power with the Ocean [and] his fame with the stars: [he will be surnamed] Iulius, a name handed down from great Iulus”, (‘Aen’, 1. 286-8).

In this passage, I have adapted translation from Ross Cowan, who commented (at p. 5) that, for Virgil, Jupiter (no less) had confirmed the origins of Caesar’s name.  Virgil was writing at the request of the Emperor Augustus (Caesar’s son by adoption) in ca. 26 BC, but, as Rowan observed (at pp. 4-5):

  1. “The unresolved, and perhaps deliberate, ambiguity as to whether [Virgil’s ‘Trojan Caesar’ was] Julius Caesar or Augustus does not directly affect [his claims for the origins and significance] of the name [Iulius] ...”






Death of Ascanius

Diodorus:

  1. “Upon the death of Aeneas his son Ascanius ascended the throne and, after 30 years, founded a settlement on the hill and gave the city the name of Alba after the colour of the sow; for the Latins call what is white alba.  Ascanius also added another name, Longa, which translated means ‘the long’, since the city was narrow in width and of great length. ... [He] made Alba the capital of his kingdom and subdued no small number of the settlements round about; and he became a famous man and died after a reign of 38 years", (‘Library of History’, 7: 5: 6-7)

Diodorus, when Ascanius died”:

  1. “... there arose a division among the people, because two men who were contending  ...for the throne;

  2. Iulius, since he was the [oldest surviving ?] son of Ascanius, maintained that he should succeed his father; while

  3. Silvius, the brother of Ascanius and, furthermore, a son of Aeneas by Lavinia, the daughter of Latinus (whereas Ascanius was a son of Aeneas by his first wife [Creusa], who had been a woman of Ilium] maintained that the kingdom now belonged to him.

  4. Indeed, after Aeneas' death, Ascanius had plotted against the life of Silvius; and it was while the latter, as a child, was being reared by certain herdsmen on a mountain (because of this plot) that he came to be called Silvius ... Silvius finally received the vote of the people and gained the throne. Iulius, however, though he lost the supreme power, was made pontifex maximus and became a kind of second king; and from him we are told, was sprung the Julian gens, which exists in Rome even to this day", (‘Library of History’, 7: 5: 8)




The Augustan fasti Capitolini record that Caius Julius Jul(l)us, son of Caius and grandson of Lucius was consul in 482 BC.




Both commentaries cite another fragment of Cato’s ‘Origines’ that is relevant to this discussion: it relates to the phrase:

  1. “That youth [Silvius], ... who leans on a plain spear ...”, (‘Aen’, 6: 760).

According to both S and DS:

  1. “... as Cato says, as soon as [Aeneas] came to Italy, [he] took Lavinia as his wife.  [The first part of what followed again summarises Aeneas’ Italian wars and his death in the last of them.] ... then, Ascanius killed [the Etruscan king], Mezentius, and occupied Lavinium [where Lavinia remained after Aeneas’ death].  Fearing [her step-son’s] designs, the pregnant Lavinia fled to the woods ... and there she gave birth to [the aptly-named] Silvius.  [Some time after], Ascanius ... left Lavinium [under the control of] Lavinia and founded Alba [Longa] for himself.  Then, since he died without children, he left his realm [centred on Alba Longa] to Silvius, who was also called Ascanius.  Subsequently, all the Alban kings were called Silviii from his name”, (adapted from the translation by Timothy Cornell, in T. J. Cornell, referenced below, II: p. 163: Marcus Porcius Cato, fragment F8a).

Thus, Cato had recorded that the Trojan Ascanius Ilus/ Iulus died childless, and that his younger step-brother, Silvius, took over the rule of Alba Longa and became known as Silvius Ascanius.  What we do not know is whether or not Cato had elsewhere recorded him as Silvius Ascanius Iulus.


OGR 15: 4(see the commentary of Simon Northwood, in T. J. Cornell, referenced below, III: p. 61: Aulus Postumius Albinus, fragment F4).

(see the commentary of Simon Northwood, in T. J. Cornell, referenced below, III: p. 61: Aulus Postumius Albinus, fragment F4). As Christopher Smith and Timothy Cornell (in T. J. Cornell, referenced below, p.99) pointed out, the problem here that, according to Cato (above), according to DS ad Aen. 1: 267 (see above):

  1. “... Lucius Julius Caesar writes that, [after Ascanius killed Mezentius], he began to be called Iulus, either as if [he was] iobolos (skilled in archery) or from the first down of his beard,which the Greeks call ioulos and which [appeared] at the time of his victory”.

They suggested that:

  1. “An easy escape from this difficulty is to suppose that, [in the original sources for this infomation]:

  2. Cato derived the name Iulus from *Iovilus; and

  3. Caesar declared Ascanius/ Iulus to be the ancestor of the Julii.”

This would also explain the assertion in Serv. ad Aen. 6, 760 (above) that according to Cato, Ascanius had died childless.  In other words, if this suggestion is accepted, then, in the original sources for this passage:

  1. Cato derived the name Iulus from *Iovilus, and claimed that Ascanius Iulus died childless; while

  2. Caesar derived the name Iulus from iobolos or ioulo, and claimed Ascanius/ Iulus as the ancestor of the Julii.


Vinalia

Simon Northwood (in T. J. Cornell, referenced below, III: p. 61: Aulus Postumius Albinus, fragment F4) argued that the material in line 3 constitutes:

  1. “... an aetiological explanation for the offering of the first wine to Jupiter and Venus on 23rd April.”

Varro glossed this festival as:

  1. Vinalia (from vino): this is a day sacred to Jupiter, not to Venus.  The feast receives considerable attention in Latium.   For, in some places, the vintages were started by the priests as they are, even now, at Rome: for a flamen Dialis (priest of Jupiter) makes an official start of the vintage and, when he has given the order to gather the grapes, he sacrifices a lamb to Jupiter ...”, (‘On the Latin Language’, 6: 1: 16, from the translation by Roland Kent, referenced below).

One wonders whether the source of this information (see below) reflected a tradition


The author of the ‘ORG’ does not say that Ascanius himself publicly dedicated and consecrated the wine from the entire vintage to Jove, but we might wonder whether he was reflecting a tradition that Ascanius had been the first  flamen Dialis.  Interestingly, Servius made this suggestion in his commentary on a Virgilian passage in which, as Troy burned and Aeneas was reluctant to escape without her, she held up the baby Iulus to him and, suddenly:

  1. “... from the very top of Iulus’ head there appeared fundere lumen apex (a small point, shedding light) and a flame ... licked his soft hair and browsed around his brow”, (‘Aen’, 2: 683).

‘Apex:  properly, the tip of the woollen cap worn by flamen, which was first used by Ascanius instituted the use of these special priestly caps at Alba Longa


Anne Rogerson (referenced below, at p. 114) observed that:

  1. “Many commentators would now agree that the apex said to have appeared on Ascanius’ head indicates a point of flame, which [Virgil] glossed in the next line as a flamma (flame) ... However, [Servius (‘ad Aen, 2: 683) suggested] that the apex  could also be interpreted ... as the ghostly spike of a flamen’s cap ... , symbolising [Iulus’] future role at Alba Longa.”

She added (at note 46) that, according to Servius , Ascanius instituted the use of these special priestly caps at Alba Longa.

In the commentaries on ‘Aen’, 1: 267, both S and SSD recorded that, by his own admission, Cato had included only those parts of the Romans’ traditional stories of their Trojan origins that could be believed.  Thus, if Cato had been aware of  the tradition that Ascanius had changed his surname from Ilus to Iulus after he had killed Mezentius (and thus became the founder of the gens Iulia), he must have rejected it.  Thus, the likelihood is that S, like DS, should have cited the antiquarian Lucius Julius Caesar as the source of his information on the surnaming of the elder Ascanius.


Augustan Sources


Livy

Livy (who was probably writing in ca. 27 BC) was aware of the separate traditions espoused by Cato and by Lucius Julius Caesar:

“I will not discuss the question of whether the man Iulus, whom the Julian house claim as the founder of their name, was  ... [Ascanius, the older son of Aeneas of his brother Silvius, who later took his name] for, who could speak decisively about a matter of such extreme antiquity ?  In any case, it is generally agreed that this Ascanius (where ever he was born and of whatever mother) was the son of Aeneas, and that his mother (or his stepmother) left him the city of Lavinium, which was for those days a prosperous and wealthy city, with a superabundant population, and built a new city at the foot of the Alban hills ...[that] was called Alba Longa”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 3: 2-3).


Dionysius of Halicarnassus

Dionysius, whose book was published in 7 BC, followed (or, more probably, invented) yet another variant:

  1. “Upon the death of the Ascanius [Aeneas’ oldest son] in the 38 year of his reign, Silvius, his brother, succeeded to the rule ... though not without a contest with one of the sons of Ascanius, [particularly] Iulus, the eldest, who claimed the succession to his father's rule.  The issue was decided by vote of the people, who were influenced chiefly by this consideration, among others: that Silvius' mother was heiress to the kingdom.  [Silvius therefore succeeded her and], instead of the sovereignty, a certain sacred authority and honour was conferred on Iulus.  This prerogative was enjoyed, even to my day, by his posterity, who were called Julii after him.  This house became the greatest and at the same time the most illustrious of any we know of, and  produced the most distinguished commanders, whose virtues were so many proofs of their nobility”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 1: 70: 3-4).

In other words, according to Dionysius, Iulus was the oldest son of Ascanius and grandson of Aeneas.  He never became king of Alba Longa, but he enjoyed ‘a certain sacred authority and honour’ that remained the prerogative of the gens Julia even at the time of writing.


As Andrew Erskine (referenced below, at pp. 21-2) pointed out, Roman aristocratic families often claimed descent for mythical figures, including Greek heroes such as Odysseus (the Mamilii) and Hercules (the Fabii).  Other families besides the Julii claimed Trojan ancestry, but:

  1. “What distinguished the Julii was their claim to be related to Aeneas himself and [thus] to Venus, [the Roman equivalent of Greek Aphrodite, whom Homer had identified as Aeneas’ mother].”

The Julii had been advertising a connection with Venus since at least 60 years by the time that Caesar made the speech above, as evidenced by a silver denarius (RRC 258/1) issued in 129 BC by Sextus Julius Caesar (praetor of 123 BC): this coin had the head of Roma on the obverse but, on the reverse, Venus drove in a biga and behind her, cupid place a crown on her head.  However, as Erskine pointed out (at p. 21), this might have simple claimed her protection, which would have implied the family’s Trojan origins but  not necessarily their divine descent. 


Venus Genetrix

RRC 258/1

Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 83 and notes 2 and 3) summarised the evidence for Caesar’ attachment to her cult:

  1. “When the Civil War [against Pompey the Great] broke out, [Caesar] propagated anew the tradition of his family.  He spoke about his divine ancestry to his soldiers; and his adversaries called him ‘the descendant of Venus’ among themselves without [needing to mention] his name, which shows how strongly he stressed his claim.”

His adherence to the cult took physical shape in the temple that he built for her in Rome:

  1. Appian recorded that Caesar had vowed this temple before the Battle of Pharsalus (48 BC), which was to be the decisive battle in his civil war:

  2. “[Caesar] erected the temple to Venus [Genetrix], his ancestress, as he had vowed to do when he was about to begin the Battle of Pharsalus, and he laid out ground around the temple ... [as] a forum for the Roman people ... . He placed a beautiful image of Cleopatra by the side of the goddess, which stands there to this day” (‘Civil Wars’, 2:102).

  3. Cassius Dio recorded that, after the last  of the four triumphs that Caesar celebrated in quick succession in 46 BC,(to commemorate his recent victories in Gaul, Egypt, Pontus and Africa), he had dedicated both:

  4. “... the [new] forum called after him ... and the temple to Venus [Genetrix], as the founder of his family and, in their honour, he instituted many contests of all kinds” (‘Roman History’, 43: 22).

An entry in the in the Augustan ‘Fasti’ records that the temple was  dedicated on 26th September, from which we might reasonably assume that the ludi Veneris Genitricis were first held on 26th September 46 BC.  Plutarch described them as follows:

  1. “After the triumphs [of 46 BC], Caesar gave his soldiers large gifts and entertained the people with banquets and spectacles, feasting them all at one time on 20,000 dining-couches, and furnishing spectacles of gladiatorial and naval combats in honour of his daughter Julia, long since dead”  (‘Life of Caesar’, 55:4).

Cassius Dio described the spectacle as follows:

  1. “[Caesar] built a kind of hunting-theatre of wood, which was called an amphitheatre from the fact that it had seats all around without any stage.  In honour of this and of his daughter [Julia], he exhibited combats of wild beasts and gladiators” (‘Roman History’, 43: 22).

Thus, it seems that these inaugural ludi Veneris Genitricis were combined with funerary games that Caesar held for Julia.  John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 184) suggested that;

  1. “To judge from the descriptions [including those above] of their variety and splendour, ... the games must have run well into October.”  

John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 184) suggested that a passage by Nicholaus of Damascus, which relates to the summer of 46 BC, before Octavian left Rome to join Caesar in Spain (see below), probably refers to this first exhibition of the ludi Veneris Genitricis:

  1. “Caesar wished [Octavian] to have the experience of directing the exhibition of theatrical productions (for there were two theatres [in Rome]: the one Roman, over which he himself had charge: and the other Greek).  [Caesar] turned over [the Greek theatre] to the care of [Octavian], who, wishing to exhibit interest and benevolence in the matter, even on the hottest and longest days, never left his post before the end of the play.  The result was that he fell ill, for he was young and unaccustomed to toil” (‘Life of Augustus’, 19).

It seems to me that this “Greek theatre” was probably Cassius Dio’s “hunting-theatre of wood, which was called an amphitheatre” (above). 

Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 91) asserted that:

“... when the ludi Veneris Genitricis were first repeated in 45 BC, they were no longer held on 26th September but from the 20th to the 30th July, and were now called ludi Victoriae Caesaris”.

This was based principally on two pieces of evidence:

  1. the ludi Victoriae Caesaris was celebrated in the imperial period during 20-30 July, while the ludi Veneris Genitricis no longer appeared in the Fasti; and

  2. the first celebration of the renamed games was probably his proposed victory games of July 45 BC, when, as discussed above, Caesar’s image had accompanied an image of Victory.

However, John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 33) doubted that the games of July 45 BC were victory games.  They further argued (at p. 43) that Caesar had almost certainly celebrated the ludi Veneris Genitricis for the second time shortly after the triumph that he celebrated shortly before 13th October 45 BC for his victory at Munda:

  1. “Caesar’s [Spanish] triumph [of 45 BC] will have taken place ... precisely in the period during which  the games to Venus [Genetrix] had been celebrated in 46 BC, ... [which] presumably began on 26th September and ran at least through to the end of the month and probably into October.” 

They also   observed (at p. 42) that:

  1. “ ... this double connection with triumphal returns of Caesar - in 46 and again in 45 BC .. most probably explains why the festival was transformed into [the ludi Victoria Caesaris, which were celebrated on 20-30 July] under the empire.”

Julius Caesar seems to have been indelibly associated with Temple of Venus Genetrix, even after his death: for example, according to Suetonius:

  1. “When [his] funeral was announced [on 20th March 44 BC], a pyre was erected in the Campus Martius near the tomb of Julia, and a gilded shrine was placed on the rostra, made after the model of the temple of Venus Genetrix” (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 84).

Chapter 4 analyzes the festivals of Lupercalia and Parilia with Neel arguing that the story of the twins came to be reinterpreted under the Late Republic. A key figure of this process was Caesar, who introduced several innovations. Firstly, the introduction of the third group of luperci eliminated the element of rivalry. Secondly, it equates Caesar with the founders of the city. A further similar innovation was the equation of Caesar and Quirinus, whose identification with Romulus comes from the Late Republic. This means that Caesar set the founder of the city as a model, which shows that he considered Romulus to be an acceptable parallel figure.






Divine Honours


Denarius (RRC 480, early 44 BC): CAESAR DICT QVART: M METTIVS

This bust of Caesar is probably the earliest image of a living person on a Roman coin

Even during his lifetime, Caesar began to receive honours that had previously been reserved for the gods.  Thus Appian:

  1. “... Caesar, having ended the civil wars [at the Battle of Pharsalus, against Sextus Pompeius, in 48 BC], hastened to Rome, honoured and feared as no one had ever been before.  All kinds of honours were devised for his gratification without restraint, even such as were divine, by every tribe, by all the provinces, and by the kings in alliance with Rome: sacrifices, games, statues in all the temples and public places” (‘Civil Wars’, 2:106). 

Suetonius  believed that Caesar’s accumulation of excessive honours, including divine honours, ultimately led to his death:

  1. “... [Caesar] abused his power and was justly slain.  For, not only did he accept excessive honours:

  2. -an uninterrupted consulship;

  3. -the dictatorship for life;

  4. -the censorship of public morals;

  5. -... the title Imperator ;

  6. -the epithet ‘Patris patriae’;

  7. -a statue among those of the kings;

  8. -a raised couch in the theatre;

  9. but he also allowed honours to be bestowed on him that were too great for a mortal man:

  10. -a golden throne in the Curia and on the judgement seat;

  11. -a chariot and litter in the procession at the Circus;

  12. -templa, aras, simulacra [temples, altars and statues] beside those of the gods;

  13. -a pulvinar [a cushioned couch for the gods];

  14. -flamen [priest];

  15. -an additional college of the Lupercal;  and

  16. -the calling of one of the months by his name.

  17. In fact, there were no honours that he did not receive or confer at pleasure” (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 76).

Divine Honours and Religious Festivals

Among the most conspicuous of Caesar’s honours were those related to the annual religious festivals of Rome.  Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 286) stressed that: 

  1. “[Two of the honours decreed for Caesar]:

  2. -the golden throne in the theatre with the golden crown on it; and

  3. -the pulvinar with the ivory statue in the Circus [and the chariot that subsequently conveyed it];

  4. differ in appearance but agree in their significance: they were divine honours: no triumphator and no king could have received them.”

Golden Throne and Crown 

Cassius Dio recorded that:

  1. “[The Senate] voted that [Caesar’s] golden chair and his crown set with precious gems and overlaid with gold should be carried into the theatres [during religious festivals] in the same manner as those of the gods”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 6: 3).

According to Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 283):

  1. “The chair was never exhibited while Caesar was alive.  After his death, Octavian tried twice to exhibit it in 44 BC, but was prevented from doing so by [Mark] Antony.”

These two occasions are in the page on Octavian: Divus Julius.

Image at the Ludi Circenses

Cassius Dio also recorded an honour related to the ludi Circenses (chariot races at the circus, held during religious festivals):

  1. “.. the Senate ... decreed ... [first] that an ivory statue of [Caesar] and later that a whole chariot should appear in the procession at the  games in the Circus, together with the statues of the gods.  Another likeness they set up in the Temple of Quirinus with the inscription, ‘To the Invincible God’, and [yet] another on the Capitol beside the former kings of Rome”, (‘Roman History’, 43 :45: 2-3 ).

Cicero made his opinion of this latest honour clear in his letter to Atticus of 26th May 45 BC, in which he responded to what must have been a suggestion by Atticus that he should write a conciliatory letter to Caesar:

  1. “... don't you see that even that famous pupil of Aristotle [Alexander the Great], distinguished for the very best ability and the most perfect conduct, no sooner got the title of king than he became haughty, cruel, and ungovernable?  Well now, do you think that this god of the procession [i.e., Caesar], this messmate of Quirinus, is likely to be gratified by temperate letters such as I should write?”, ( Letter to Atticus, 13: 28).

There is room for discussion about the precise significance of this quotation:

  1. Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 185) suggested that Cicero was alluding here to events that had occurred during the the Parilia: when news of Caesar’s victory at Munda reached Rome in April 45 BC at about the time of the games, they were extended by a day to allow circus games to be held in celebration. (an ancient festival that had come to be associated by Romulus’ foundation of Rome).  Weinstock suggested that Cicero referred to Caesar as “this god of the procession, this messmate of Quirinus” because:

  2. “The games were introduced, as usual, by a procession of the gods from the Capitol to the Circus, among these an ivory statue of Caesar in the company of Romulus-Quirinus.”

  3. Jaclyn Neel (referenced below, 2014, at p. 112) argued that Cicero’s phrase (which is the only surviving evidence for this procession):

  4. “... indicates that Caesar was in the procession, but not necessarily as [Weinstock’s] ‘ivory statue of Caesar in the company of Romulus-Quirinus’. ... Caesar’s statue seems to have a accompanied all processions, and Cicero’s remark is more pointed if it is more general.  His use of ‘contubernalis‘ [messmate]  may also imply that Cicero was purposefully conflating the statue in the procession with Caesar’s statue in Quirinus’ temple [see the quote from Cassius Dio above]:”.

  5. Perhaps with this in mind, John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 34, note 26) suggested:

  6. “Might not a better occasion ... be found in the month [May] in which the letter was written, on the final day of the Floriales, the 3rd May ...?”

Cicero, in another letter to Atticus of July 45 BC, alluded to a similar procession that Atticus must have described to him:

  1. “What a delightful letter!  Though the procession was odious, it is nevertheless not odious [in every respect] ... . The people were splendid not to clap even the figure of Victory owing to its impious neighbour [Caesar]” (Letter to Atticus, 13:44).

Again, there is room for discussion about the precise significance of this quotation:

  1. Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 185 and note 11), who dated Atticus’ letter to 20th or 21st July, suggested that this procession had been held during games in honour of a Caesarian victory at this time (discussed further below).  He assumed that Caesar’s image had accompanied an image of Victory in this procession, to the evident displeasure of the crowd.

  2. However, John Ramsey and Arthur Lewis Licht (referenced below, at p. 33 and note 23) pointed put that a winged statue of Victory probably headed the procession of all the ludi circenses, so:

  3. “Cicero’s comment does not necessitate the the conclusion that the games were ‘victory games’. 

  4. They suggested (at Appendix IV, pp. 185-8) that Cicero might have described the figure of Victory as Caesar’s neighbour simply because it came from a temple near his official residence. Since they dated Atticus’ letter to the 14th July, they further suggested that the incident reported to Cicero had actually occurred at the ludi Apollinares of the previous day.  On this hypothesis (as set out at p. 35):

  5. “... Cicero and Atticus may have identified the crowd’s reaction at the ludi Apollinares as having [demonstrated opposition to Caesar] ... because [he] was being honoured in the procession, which included his ivory statue for only the second time.

In short, it seems clear that, after the victory at Munda,  Caesar’s ivory statue accompanied those of the gods in the processions that preceded games in the circus, the surviving evidence cannot be unequivocally related to specific occasions.

Chariot for Caesar’s Image

Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 285) suggested that the chariot mentioned in the references above from Cassius Dio and Suetonius was first used to transport Caesar’s image in the ludi Romani (games dedicated to Jupiter) in September 44 BC (i.e. after Caesar’s death), when an extra day had been added on 19th September in honour of Caesar.   The circumstances are discussed in the page on divus Julius.

Caesar’s Own Temple and Flamines

Cassius Dio completed his list of Caesar’s honours as follows:

  1. “And finally [the Senate] addressed him outright as Jupiter Julius and ordered a temple to be consecrated to him and to his Clementia (clemency), electing [Mark] Antony as their priest like some flamen Dialis” (‘Roman History’, 44: 4).

Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 287) plausibly suggested that Cassius Dio:

  1. “... had conflated two pieces of evidence into one:

  2. -one was concerned with the temple of Clementia Caesaris [which was decreed but apparently never built]; [while]

  3. -the other [was concerned with Caesar] alone as Jupiter Julius, and with his own priest, comparable to the flamen Dialis [and thus putting ‘Jupiter Julius’ on a par with Quirinus, Jupiter, and Mars].”

  4. This second set of honours had probably been decreed very shortly before Caesar’s murder: the temple had not been started and, although Mark Antony had been chosen as the first priest of the imperial cult, he remained to be inaugurated”.

Note that some scholars doubt that these honours, which explicitly acknowledged Caesar’s divinity were decreed during Caesar’s lifetime.  For example,  Michael Koortbojian (referenced below, at p. 34) suggested that Mark Antony must have decreed the flaminate at some time later than the appearance of the comet during the funerary games that Octavian held for Caesar in July 44 BC (described in the page on Octavian: divus Julius).  I have to say that it seems highly unlikely (at least to me) that Mark Antony would have sponsored such a decree and agreed to be the first flamen once he had discovered that Octavian was the potential divi filius.


Read more:

J. Neel, “Early Rome: Myth and Society”, (2017) Hoboken, (NJ) 

J. Neel, “Legendary Rivals: Collegiality and Ambition in the Tales of Early Rome”, (2014) Leiden and Boston

T. J. Cornell (ed.), “The Fragments of the Roman Historians”, (2013) Oxford

R. Cowan, “Scanning Iulus: Prosody, Position and Politics in the Aeneid”, Vergilius, 55 (2009) 3-12

T. M. Banchich et. al. (translators), “Origo Gentis Romanae”, De Imperatoribus Romanis (DIR),(2004), Canisius College, Buffalo, New York

A. Erskine, “Troy Between Greece and Rome”, (2001) Oxford



L. Driediger-Murphy, “Roman Republican Augury: Freedom and Control”, (2019) Oxford

S. M. Goldberg and G.Manuwald (eds and translators), “Fragmentary Republican Latin, Volume I: Ennius: Testimonia: Epic Fragments”, (2018) London

A. Rogerson, “Virgil's Ascanius: Imagining the Future in the Aeneid”, (2017) Cambridge

M. Dillon and L. Garland, “Ancient Rome: Social and Historical Documents from the Early Republic to the Death of Augustus”, (2015, 2nd edition) Oxford and New York)

M. Koortbojian, “The Divinisation of Caesar and Augustus: Precedents, Consequences, Implications” (2013) New York

C. Smith,”Caesar and the History of Early Rome”, in

  1. G. Urso (ed.), “Cesare: Precursore o Visionario?”, (2010) Pisa, at pp. 249–64

E. Badian, “From the Iulii to Caesar”, in

  1. M. Griffin (ed.), “A Companion to Julius Caesar”, (2009) Malden, MA, at pp. 11-2

S. Grebe, “Augustus' Divine Authority and Vergil's ‘Aeneid’, Vergilus, 50 (2004) 35-62)

P. Tansey, “The Inauguration of Lentulus Niger”, American Journal of Philology, 121: 2 (2000) 237-58

R. Stewart, “Public Office in Early Rome: Ritual Procedure and Political Practice”, (1998) Ann Arbor, Michigan

J. Ramsey and A. L. Licht, “The Comet of 44 B.C. and Caesar's Funeral Games”, (1997) Atlanta, Georgia

R. Dobbin, “Julius Caesar in Jupiter's Prophecy, ‘Aeneid’, (Book 1)”, Classical Antiquity, 14:1 (1995) 5-40

T.. Broughton, “The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (III)”, (1986) Atlanta 

S. Weinstock, “Divus Julius”, (1971) Oxford

R. Kent (translator), “Varro: ‘On the Latin Language, 1: 5-7”, (1938) London (Loeb Classical Library No. 333)



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