Cassius Dio (53 .27 .2–3), the Pantheon and the ‘Former Caesar’(ὁ πρότερός Καῖσαρ)

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Lechosław Olszewski



Agrippa’s Pantheon remains the subject of lively debates. A much-discussed passage is found in Cassius Dio’s Roman History (53.27.2-3), which is most often treated as a stand-alone, self-explanatory whole. However, in order to be comprehensible, each text needs a broader range of reference points in order for meaning to be extracted. In this paper, I analyze part of that contextual spectrum (including Dio’s attitude to the so-called imperial cult and the roles played in his narrative by the cults of both Augustus and Caesar), and I argue that we should view his account of the Pantheon with considerable caution. That account contains three different narrative threads: one based on the annalist tradition, but also one which drew on the author’s own experiences, and one that constituted a literary and rhetorical overlay aimed at real- izing the general objectives of the Roman History. In this account, the ‘former Caesar’ has been placed in between twice over: between the author’s historical knowledge and his present circumstances, and between the realms of gods and humans. That imprecise nature of this expression was no accident. I believe the expression was not so much a reference to a specific statue as a figure of speech emphasizing the differ- ence, fundamental from Dio’s perspective, between the incumbent emperor and his deceased predecessor.


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