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date: 06 December 2022

deus, divuslocked

deus, divuslocked

  • John Scheid


These two words, deriving from the same form (†deiwo-), designate two different types of Roman divinity. A deus (fem. dea, plural divi under the republic) was immortal and had never experienced mortal existence; but a divus—from the beginning of the Principate at least—was a divinity who obtained this status posthumously and by human agency. Although deification is above all a public phenomenon relating to dead emperors and empresses (see ruler-cult), apotheosis existed equally in a private context (Cic.Att. 12. 36. 1; Frei Stolba, JSGU1990, 125 ff.). The Romans believed that the world was full of divinities, living in the skies, on earth, in water, or underground. Some were known and entered into permanent relations with humans, while others did not manifest themselves, although this does not mean that the Romans neglected them: when they needed to invoke all the divinities present in a locality, e.g. for an expiation, these anonymous deities were designated by the title ‘God-or-goddess’ (Sive deus sive dea).


  • Roman Myth and Religion

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