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Post Mortem Makes a Difference: On a Redescription of Euhemerism and Its Place in the Study of Graeco-Roman Divine Kingship

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AbstractEuhemerus of Messene is one of the most popular ancient theorists of religion. In his now lost work Sacred Inscription he formulated a theory of religion by arguing that the Olympian gods were nothing more than prominent kings that were deified due to their benefactions to mankind. On the other hand, true divinity was to be found in the natural phenomena. However, this theory - known as euhemerism - has been (ab)used in many ways due to the different interpretative agendas of various authors and critics. In this paper I argue that euhemerism needs a new interpretation, a redescription, based primarily on a rereading of the text. In addition, by showing the different usages of the text by Euhemerus’s contemporaries and the early Christian writers, I argue that the connection of his theory with the practice of deification of kings in the Graeco-Roman world should be dismissed and reexamined by taking into account contemporary responses to his work that show that his theory was not meant as a justification for the deification of the Graeco-Roman kings.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa P.O. Box 392, UNISA 0003 Republic of South Africa, Email:


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