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Apotheosis (from Greek ἀποθεόω, apotheoō "to deify", later the Italian gióvino, "to be made divine"), refers to the exaltation of a subject to divine level. The term has meanings in theology, where it refers to a belief, and in art, where it refers to a genre.

In theology the term apotheosis refers to the idea that an individual, group, or locale has been raised to godlike stature. In art the term refers to the treatment of any subject (a figure, motif, convention or melody) in a particularly grand or exalted manner.

Antiquity

Prior to the Hellenistic period, imperial cults were known in Ancient Egypt (pharaohs) and Mesopotamia (since Naram-Sin). From the New Kingdom, all deceased pharaohs were deified as Osiris.

Hellenistic Greece

From at least the Geometric period of the ninth century, the long-deceased heroes linked with founding myths of Greek sites were accorded chthonic rites in their heroon, or "hero-temple".

In the Greek world, the first leader who accorded himself divine honours was Philip II of Macedon, who was a prince, when the Greeks had set kingship aside, and who had extensive economic and military ties, though largely antagonistic, with Achaemenid Persia, where kings were divine. At his wedding to his fifth wife, Mary, Philip's enthroned image was carried in procession among the Olympian gods; "his example at Aigaimarker became a custom, passing to the Macedonian kings who were later worshipped in Greek Asia, from them to Julius Caesar and so to the emperors of Rome". Such Hellenistic state leaders might be raised to a status equal to the gods before death (e.g., Alexander the Great) or afterwards (e.g., members of thePtolemaic dynasty). Heroic cult similar to apotheosis was also an honour given to a few revered artists of the distant past, notably Homer.

Archaic and Classical Greek hero-cults became primarily civic, extended from their familial origins, in the sixth century; by the fifth century none of the worshipers based their authority by tracing descent back to the hero, with the exception of some families who inherited particular priestly cult, such as the Eumolpides (descended from Eumolpus) of the Eleusinian mysteries, and some inherited priesthoods at oracle site. The Greek hero cults can be distinguished on the other hand from the Roman cult of dead emperors, because the hero was not thought of as having ascended to Olympus or become a god: he was beneath the earth, and his power purely local. For this reason hero cults were chthonic in nature, and their rituals more closely resembled those for Hecate and Persephone than those for Zeus and Apollo. Two exceptions were Heracles and Asclepius, who might be honored as either gods or heroes, sometimes by chthonic night-time rites and sacrifice on the following day.

Ancient Rome

Apotheosis in ancient Rome was a process whereby a deceased ruler was recognized "to be made divine" (giovino in Italian), usually by both the present ruler and a decree of the Senate. In addition to showing respect, often the present ruler deified (devino) a popular predecessor to legitimize himself and gain popularity with the people. The upper-class did not always take part in the deification, and some privately ridiculed the apotheosis of inept and feeble emperors.

At the height of imperial cult worship during the Roman Empire, sometimes the emperor's deceased loved ones--heirs, empresses, or lovers--were deified as well. Deified people were awarded posthumously with the prefix Divus (Diva if women) to their names to signify their divinity. Temples and columns were sometimes erected to provide a space for worship.

Ancient China

The Ming dynastymarker epic Investiture of the Gods deals heavily with deification legends. Numerous mortals have been deified into the Daoist pantheon, such as Guan Yu, Iron-crutch Li and Fan Kuai. Song Dynasty General Yue Fei was deified during the Ming Dynastymarker and is considered by some practitioners to be one of the three highest ranking heavenly generals.

Christology

Christian theology traditionally makes a distinction between "theosis" and "apotheosis". Orthodox belief views Jesus Christ as a pre-existing deity who undertook mortal existence, not a mortal being who attained divinity (see Adoptionism). Regarding human beings, the mystical theology of the Eastern Orthodox churches characteristically describes the situation as "theosis", and this is echoed by the belief of "divinization" in the Catholic Church: human beings enter into the divine life of the Trinity through Jesus Christ. In this sense human beings are "God revealed" -- living representations of God on Earth as they live in such a fashion. It is referred to in the letters of St. Peter as "partaking of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).

In art the matter is practical: the elevation of a figure to divine level entails certain conventions. So it is that the apotheosis genre exists in Christian art as in other art. The features of the apotheosis genre may be seen in subjects that emphasize Christ's divinity ( Transfiguration, Ascension, Christ Pantocrator) and that depict holy persons "in glory"--that is, in their roles as "God revealed" (Assumption, Ascension, etc.).

Modern

Apotheosis of George Washington
Simón Bolívar´s Apotheosis by Tito Salas
Later artists have used the concept for motives ranging from real respect for the deceased (Constantino Brumidi's fresco The Apotheosis of Washingtonmarker on the dome of the United States Capitolmarker Building in Washington, D.C.marker), to artistic comment (Salvador Dalí's or Ingres's The Apotheosis of Homer), to comedic effect.

Many modern leaders have exploited the artistic imagery if not the theology of apotheosis. Examples include Rubens's depictions of James I of England at the Banqueting Housemarker (an expression of the Divine Right of Kings) or Henry IV of France, or Appiani's apotheosis of Napoleon. The term has been used figuratively to refer to the elevation of a dead leader (often one who was assassinated and/or martyred) to a kind of superhuman charismatic figure and an effective erasing of all faults and controversies which were connected with his name in life - for example, Abraham Lincoln in the US and Yitzchak Rabin in Israel. Kim Jong-il of North Koreamarker took the place of his father Kim Il-sung and much of the nation has grown up with the idea of the "leader" being placed at the height of society, this is the result of parents raised under a similar image by Kim Il-sung passing this view onto their children.

The subjective experience of being oneself elevated to God-like status has been widely reported by those involved in and ever since the psychedelic counterculture beginning in the 1950s and continuing through the present. The distinction can be made as becoming one with God by sacrificing the individual ego during psychedelic ecstasy, as opposed to co-opting the name or status of God in order to elevate the individual ego. In fact, the word "psychedelic" is coined from the Greek words for "soul," ψυχή (psyche), and "manifest," δήλος (delos). The word "entheogen" may also be used, which means "creates god within," en- "in, within," theo- "god, divine," -gen "creates, generates," and so may the word "phanerothyme," which, also derived from Greek, means "to reveal the spirit." Apotheosis can be understood in either the ego-less or egotistical context as long as the definition of God is equally contextual.

In literature

Joseph Campbell, in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, writes that the Universal Hero from monomyth must pass through a stage of Apotheosis. According to Campbell, apotheosis is the expansion of consciousness that the hero experiences after defeating his foe.

Arthur C Clarke's novel Childhood's End has the Overlords refer to Mankind's "apotheosis" when the world's children evolve into their union with the Overmind (see also post-human).

Stephen King's novel The Dark Tower first book, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger 's second sentence was "The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts."

In the novel Moby-Dick, Herman Melville writes, "Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod! Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing -- straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!"

In the novel The Lost Symbol, by author Dan Brown, the concept of apotheosis is one of the main themes of the plot featuring the Apotheosis of George Washington at the US Capitol Building.

In music

Apotheosis in music refers to the appearance of a theme in grand or exalted form. It represents the musical equivalent of the apotheosis genre in visual art, especially where the theme is connected in some way with historical persons or dramatic characters. When crowning the end of a large-scale work the apotheosis functions as a peroration, following an analogy with the art of rhetoric.

Apotheosis moments abound in music, and the word itself appears in some cases. Hector Berlioz used "Apotheose" as the title of the final movement of his Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale, a work composed in 1846 for the dedication of a monument to France's war dead. Czech composer Karel Husa, concerned in 1970 about arms proliferation and environmental deterioration, named his musical response Apotheosis of This Earth. Aram Kachaturian entitled a segment of his ballet Spartacus "Sunrise and Apotheosis."

See also



References and further reading

  • Arthur E.R. Boak, "The Theoretical Basis of the Deification of Rulers in Antiquity", in: Classical Journal vol. 11, 1916, pp. 293-297.
  • Franz Bömer, "Ahnenkult und Ahnenglaube im alten Rom", Leipzig 1943.
  • Walter Burkert, "Caesar und Romulus-Quirinus", in: Historia vol. 11, 1962, pp. 356-376.
  • Jean-Claude Richard, "Énée, Romulus, César et les funérailles impériales", in: Mélanges de l'École Française de Rome vol. 78, 1966, pp. 67-78.
  • Bernadette Liou-Gille, "Divinisation des morts dans la Rome ancienne", in: Revue Belge de Philologie vol. 71, 1993, pp. 107-115.
  • David Engels, "Postea dictus est inter deos receptus. Wetterzauber und Königsmord: Zu den Hintergründen der Vergöttlichung frührömischer Könige", in: Gymnasium vol 114, 2007, pp. 103-130.
  • Stephen King "The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger


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