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Hidden Lives, Public PersonaeWomen and Civic Life in the Roman West$
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Emily Hemelrijk

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190251888

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190251888.001.0001

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Civic Priesthoods

Civic Priesthoods

(p.37) Chapter 2 Civic Priesthoods
Hidden Lives, Public Personae

Emily A. Hemelrijk

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses female priesthoods. Excluding priestesses of cults that have misleadingly been called ‘matronal’ or ‘foreign’, it focuses on priestesses of deities of the traditional Graeco-Roman pantheon and on priestesses of the imperial cult. The chapter discusses their spread (geographically and over time), titles (mainly sacerdos and flaminica), social status, election, age, duration of priesthood, priestly duties and qualifications, ritual tasks (such as sacrifice), possible requirements of the priesthood (such as sexual abstinence), motives and honours, costs of their priesthood, and the relation between priesthood and munificence. Almost all priestesses served the cult of female deities (primarily Ceres/the Cereres and Venus) or of the living or deified empresses and, occasionally, other women of the imperial family. As a rule, imperial priestesses were wealthier and of a higher social status than other civic priestesses, while various additions to the priestly titles reveal a hierarchy between female priesthoods.

Keywords:   Roman religion, imperial cult, civic priestesses, sacerdos, flaminica, Ceres, Venus, Vestals, summa honoraria, munificence

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