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p180 Augustales

Unsigned article on p180 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

AUGUSTALES, the name of two classes of priests, one at Rome and the other in the municipia, frequently mentioned in inscriptions.

I. The Augustales at Rome, properly called sodales Augustales, which is the name they always bear in inscriptions, were an order of priests (Augustalium sacerdotium) instituted by Tiberius to attend to the worship of Augustus and the Julia gens. They were chosen by lot from among the principal persons of Rome, and were twenty-one in number, to which were added Tiberius, Drusus, Claudius, and Germanicus, as members of the imperial family (Tacit. I.54). They were also called sacerdotes Augustales (Tacit. Ann. II.83); and sometimes simply Augustales (Tacit. Hist. II.95). Similar priests were appointed to attend to the worship of other emperors after their decease; and we accordingly find in inscriptions mention made of the sodales Flavii, Hadrianales, Aeliani, Antonini, &c. It appears that the flamines Augustales ought to be distinguished from the sodales Augustales. We find that flamines and sacerdotes were appointed, in the lifetime of Augustus, to attend to his worship; but we have the express statements of Suetonius and Dion Cassius that this worship was confined to the provinces, and was not practised in Rome, or in any part of Italy, during the lifetime of Augustus (Tacit. Ann. I.10; Suet. Aug. 52; Dion Cass. LI.20). Women even were appointed priestesses of Augustus, as appears from an inscription in Gruter (320.10): this practice probably took its origin from the appointment of Livia, by a decree of the senate, to be priestess to her deceased husband (Dion Cass. LVI.46). It seems probable that the sodales Augustales were entrusted with the management of the worship; but that the flamines Augustales were the persons who actually offered the sacrifices and performed the other sacred rites. A member of the sodales Augustales was sometimes a flamen also (Orelli, Inscrip. 2366, 2368); and it is not improbable that the flamines were appointed by the sodales.

II. The Augustales in the municipia are supposed by most modern writers, in consequence of the statement of the scholiast on Horace (Sat. II.3.231), to have been a class of priests selected by Augustus from the libertini to attend to the religious rites connected with the worship of the Lares, which that emperor was said to have put up in places where two or more ways met (Orelli, Inscrip. vol. II p197). But A.W. Zumpt, in an excellent essay on this subject, brings forward good reasons for rejecting this opinion. [Cf. Compitalia.] He thinks it much more probable that this order of priests was instituted in the municipia in imitation of the Augustales at Rome, and for the same object, namely, to attend to the worship of Augustus. From the numerous inscriptions in which they are mentioned, we learn the following facts respecting them. They formed a collegium and were appointed by the decuriones, or senate of the municipia. They were generally libertini, which is easily accounted for by the fact, that none but the freeborn (ingenui), could obtain admission into the curia of the municipia; and as there seem to have been many expences connected with the discharge of the duties of the Augustales, the decuriones would not be anxious to obtain this distinction, while the libertini on the contrary, who were generally a wealthy class and were not invested with any honour, would naturally covet it. The Augustales ranked next in dignity to the decuriones; and as they were mostly men of property, they came in course of time to form a middle class between the decuriones and plebs, like the equestrian order at Rome. Thus, in the inscriptions of many municipia, we find the decuriones, Augustales, and plebs, mentioned together as the three classes into which the community was divided. The six principal members of the college were called Seviri, a title which seems to have been imitated from the Seviri in the equestrian order at Rome (Egger, Examen Critique des Historiens anciens de la Vie et du Règne d'Auguste, Paris, 1844, Appendix II, treats of the Augustales; but see especially A.W. Zumpt, De Augustalibus et Seviris Augustalibus Commentatio Epigraphica, Berol. 1846).

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Page updated: 8 Jan 09