Complying with the wishes of Asians who were used to an imperial cult, Augustus gave permission for the establishment of an Augustus cult in Nikomedia for the Bithynian province, and in Pergamum for the Asian province, on the condition that the cults would be established jointly with the Roman goddess Dea Roma who already had a cult in Pergamum. These cults were founded for the non-Roman citizens of these provinces. For the Roman citizens living in both of these provinces, the cult of his adoptive father, Divus Julius (Caesar) who had been deified by the decision of the Senate, and the cult of Dea Roma, were to be established in Nikaia and Ephesus.
During the Roman Empire, being a Neokoros (an owner or a warden of an imperial temple) was very prestigious. Ephesus acquired its first imperial temple quite late during the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96). When the neokoroship which they had attained by overcoming many obstacles, was in jeopardy after the death of Emperor Domitian, the Ephesians, thinking they would lose their prestige among their rivals, the Pergamese and the Smyians, dedicated the Temple of Domitian to his father, Vespasian, who had been deified.
Permission for the construction of the second imperial temple in Ephesus was given by Emperor Hadrian. The Ephesians obtained permission when Hadrian came to Ephesus from Athens under the name of Zeus Olympios in 128 A.D. Permission for the construction of the third temple was granted when Caracalla shared the throne with his brother Geta between 211 and 212. In 212, Caracalla killed his brother with his own hands. As mentioned in a letter Caracalla wrote to the Ephesians, he abandoned the idea of building this temple for the benefit of Artemis. The neokoroship which had been thus lost was regained during the reign of Emperor Elagabalus (218-222).
The records of the Roman Senate indicate that permission to build the fourth royal temple in Ephesus was granted during the reign of Emperor Valerian (251-260). The possession of an imperial temple was a matter of great prestige among the cities in the Asian province. Ephesians made every effort and spent a lot of money in order not to lose the Proteia (the first place), especially to Pergamum and Smyrna.
The imperial temples were administered by high priests called Archeireus, who added the name of the city where their temple was located to the beginning of their titles. Even though the temples were owned by the cities, they were respected by every citizen in the province. The exact relationship between the archiereis and the asiarchs who were the chief archiereis in the province is not known. Asiarch may also mean the organizer and the director of semi-religious plays called Koina Asias, which were organized in a different province every four years to honor the emperor. Being an archiereus, above all, was an honorable duty requiring financial sacrifices.
Gladiators and wild animal fights were closely associated with imperial cults and their celebrations. Although the Asians did not like these types of games much, during the Roman Empire, the games gained some popularity among Asians. Rich families in Ephesus, like the Vediuses, established special gladiator schools for these types of games. Inscriptions praising the asiarchs mention that they spent a lot of money on these games. The imperial cult never became a true religion. Its aim was to create and secure unity among the people living within the borders of the Roman Empire without discriminating against language, culture, and religion. The temples of Dea Roma and Divus Julius Caesar are located just to the west of the Odeien of Ephesus, in the middle of a courtyard surrounded by a columned portico.
These small temples had four columns on their eastern facade. Since other structures had been built on them, they are in ruins. Today, only the marble walls of the podiums which exhibit exquisite craftsmanship, and the walls of their foundations are extant. During the year 29 B.C. Emperor Augustus visited Ephesus and gave permission for the construction of two temples that were completed between the years 4 and 14 A.D. One of the temples was dedicated to Dea Roma, the Roman goddess, while the other was dedicated to Divus Julius Caesar, the adoptive father of Octavius Augustus the first emperor of the Roman Empire.
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