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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: July 2010

4 - Representing imperial religion:


As we have seen, when Roman senators resided in the city their religious practices and authority were circumscribed by the religious and secular authority of the emperor. Symbolically, it is the emperor who stands in front as the individualized representation of piety, with the senators as a group behind him, in their communal role as members of priesthoods. While senators gained new religious status in their magistracies in Rome, they also found a more open outlet for religious expressions in the context of Italy, a comparatively safe backwater where the emperor's presence was less heavily felt. The senators on duty in the provinces, at even further remove from the capital city, may have had yet greater opportunity for independent religious display. In this context the dynamics of center/periphery distinction and the influence of the emperor's increasingly itinerant power may be seen as part of a wider framework. Thinking in terms of these same trends, we may wonder whether the provinces were a more open setting, where senators had greater opportunity for religious display than in Rome, possibly allowing freedom to express potentially subversive religious interests and an independent agenda in religious matters within their area of control. As we will see, however, such a simplistic model cannot contain the multiple contributing factors that came into play with the larger transformation of provinces under imperial rule.