The Imperial Cult regarded emperors and some members of their families as gods. Emperor-worship was a unifying factor in the Roman Empire and served as imperial propaganda.
The Emperor was treated widely as a divine figure, to whom temples, altars and priesthoods were dedicated. The Imperial cult wasn’t just about religion, it was also about political control. It helped to focus the loyalty of provincials on the emperor at the centre of the empire. In some regions Roman authorities took the initiative in setting it up.
A deceased emperor could be voted a state divinity (divus) by the Senate and elevated as such in an act of apotheosis (transformation into god).
Pictures 1, 2: Emperor Antoninus Pius being elevated to the heavens on the wings of an eagle (eagles were associated with imperial power and Jupiter). Capitol Temple, Roman ruins of Dougga, Tunisia
Picture 3: Base of the Column dedicated to Antoninus Pius in Rome, Italy. The relief shows the apotheosis (transformation into gods) of Antoninus Pius and his wife Faustina. They are being carried into the heavens by a winged, heroically nude figure and also flanked by eagles.
Picture 4: Temple of the divine Hadrian in Ephesus, Turkey
Picture 5, 6: La Maison Carrée, in Nimes, France. This temple was dedicated -or perhaps rededicated- to the two adopted heirs of Emperor Augustus, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, who both died young.