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1. Imperial Birthday Rituals in Late Antiquity

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Chapter Summary

Scholars examining the relationship between ritual and power in the Roman Empire as well as during the Byzantine era usually focus on the question whether public or court ceremonies were in the service of or simply reflected the predominant political ideology and religious philosophy. Imperial birthday celebrations at Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity constitute representative examples of the various aspects that the dialogue between power and ritual had taken within a longue durée perspective. Greeks and Romans celebrated their birthdays regularly. The dies natalis as well as the dies imperii of the princeps as integral part of the imperial worship had all the necessary ritual elements, sacrifices, public feasts, games, panegyrics, observance of holidays, appropriate to a festival dedicated to the gods. The celebration of the birthday of the Byzantine emperor was a solemn ceremony with evident "secular" overtones.

Keywords: imperial birthday ritual; late antiquity; political ideology; religious philosophy; Roman Empire; zantine era



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