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Divinities, Priests, and Dedicators at Emona

By Marjeta Šašel Kos

Life in a Roman city, whether in one of the Italian regions or in the provinces, was intrinsically connected with cults, divination, and religion. Proper observance of rituals throughout the year at various festivals and holidays, both public and private, and including various rites of transition, but also during catastrophes or wars, ensured the protection and benevolence of the gods. Votive altars and dedications are in general much less numerous than tombstones, and Emona is no exception to this rule. Although not large, the corpus of its votive monuments does present some interesting features, which deserve a commentary. In view of the scarcity of documentation, it should not cause surprise that during the Baroque age, known for having occasionally abused epigraphy for its own purposes, a few inscriptions may have been falsified to produce more evidence for Roman cults in the territory of Emona (see below), where indeed not very many have come to light to date.

The origins of Emona as a settlement extend back to the Late Bronze Age (the Urnfield cultural group); a cemetery dated to this period was unearthed on the left bank of the Ljubljanica River. An Early Iron Age period settlement has been discovered on Castle Hill, while some remains of a La Tène period settlement and/or a late Republican emporium were excavated on the right bank of the river. When exactly the Roman colony was established at Emona is not entirely clear, but there are strong indications that this happened under Octavian after Actium, and after he had – some years previously – successfully brought to an end his Illyrian Wars (35-33 BC). His policy was a continuation of Caesar’s extension of Cisalpine Gaul and the Romanization of Histria. Caesar had established colonies at Pola and most probably at Tergeste, as well as municipia at Forum Iulii, Aegida, and Parentium; founding a colony at Emona meant an extension of Italy in the direction of Noricum on the one side and Illyricum on the other.

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(H/T History of the Ancient World)

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