Book review: Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor

by S. R. F. Price


By beginning the book with a survey of the development of Hellenistic religion and Temple worship, Price eases into the topic of how Roman emperors grew to be worshipped in the same manner. Drawing on literary sources and archaeology, and comparing the rituals of Imperial temples to those of Greek gods, he concludes that the worship of Roman emperors was far from some sham religion meant to honor Asia Minor’s controlling rulers. The emperors of Rome were honestly worshipped as divine.

Price discusses temple construction, the cultural context, and the rituals that were performed. Caesar worship became hopelessly intertwined with public religion, commerce, government, entertainment, and ceremony.

Why is this topic interesting to me? Because the rise of the Imperial Cult mirrored the rise of Christianity, and in Asia minor especially, it must be considered a primary competitor to Christianity. The Book of Revelation provides the most clear Christian response to the Imperial Cult in Asia Minor, severely opposing its abominable worship. While very little is mentioned in Price’s book about Christianity, the Christian scholar will, of course, read the book with the topic of Christian opposition and particularly John’s Apocalypse in the back of his mind.

I’m unaware of any more exhaustive research on this topic, and for that reason, it’s an important book. I did, however, find the writing too dry for easy reading. You will learn, but you will dig hard to do so.

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