Murat Kılıç

Keywords: Smyrna, Izmir, neokoros, Roman imperial cult, the cult of Tiberius, Livia and Senate, the cult of Zeus Acraeus/Hadrian, the cult of Rome/Caracalla


The origins of the imperial cult in Smyrna date back to the Hellenistic period. It is a fact that political concerns were effective in the generation of such cults. Predicting the super power of the future and proving to be a loyal ally whilst acting in satisfactory behaviors were essential factors. The right preference made between two fighting or contending powers ensured that a city would benefit from various privileges in the future. For example, Symrna, which had established a cult in the city previously on behalf of Stratonice, the mother of Antiochus II of Seleucid dynasty, would do the same by building a temple in the name of the dty of Rome for the first time in Asia in 195 BC, after recognizing the rising power. Later on, while giving permission to the provinces that wanted to establish an imperial cult, the Roman emperors and the Senate would consider first, their relationships with Rome in the past and second, their origins. Smyrna, building its relationships with the Roman state on a solid basis, was granted the title of neokoros three times by the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Hadrianus and Caracalla, respectively. In this essay, the development of the Roman imperial cult in Smyrna is discussed within the historical process outlined above. An attempt has been made to put forth new opinions about the issue by discussing the academicians' evaluations on the imperial cult, which apparently was effectively executed in Smyrna between the first and third centuries AD, with the support of epigraphic and numismatic evidences.