Priest of the imperial cult

Augusta Raurica - priest of the imperial cult - drawing Bernard Reymond, Yverdon

“I am a priest of Roma and Augustus, a priest of the imperial cult. This is my way of supporting the emperor and the state and of helping to promote popular enthusiasm for the Roman empire. Of course I am a Roman citizen and come from one of the most influential families in the town; otherwise I could never have attained such a high office as this. Although I appreciate the office, and after all it is beneficial in many ways, it does place a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. And between you and me: financially it is not worth it! First of all, I had to pay a significant sum before I could even take office, and now I have many other expenses. I am, for instance, obliged to cover the costs of municipal construction projects. And that can be really expensive! At the moment I am building public baths – from my own purse I will have you know. But to make sure that passers-by and those who visit the baths know to whom they owe the pleasure, I am having my name “immortalised” in a dedicatory inscription on the building, as is the custom here. Now you will have to excuse me, the gods are waiting”.

The priest is known from an inscription

Augusta Raurica - inscription on a building block reused in the foundations of the Castrum Rauracense (Kaiseraugst). Height: 47 cm; AD 50-250. Photo Roger Bühler

TAVRI F(ilius) ET …



(…) son of Taurus, priest of Roma and Augustus, built

these baths.

A peek into the clothes chest

Over his tunic the priest of the imperial cult is wearing a toga with purple trimming to signify his distinguished office and a woollen coat. Another element that points to his office is the galerus, a leather cap with a wooden apex. Sacrificial utensils such as jugs and bowls were used in religious sacrifices.

Ara pacis fregio lato ovest 2 A

Detail from the “Ara pacis Augustae”, Rome (I), 9 BC. Imperial priests can be seen on the left; the figure on the right is the Emperor Augustus, the highest priest of the state cult. He is shown with his head covered as a sign of respect for the gods.