Initiation into the mysteries of Augustus: the Liberalia and Forum Augustum


Augustus, Roman religion, religious reform, Forum Augustum, initiation, Liberalia

How to Cite

Vukovic, Kresimir. 2020. “Initiation into the Mysteries of Augustus: The Liberalia and Forum Augustum”. In Gremium. Studies in History, Culture and Politics, no. 14 (December), 7-18.


The paper uses the theoretical framework of cultural memory to explain Augustus’ construction of Forum Augustum. The construction of Forum Augustum was a central project in the princeps; programme as it presented his own version of Roman history giving a special place to his family and generals closest to this vision of the ideal Roman. At the same time, the evidence for Augustus’ religious reforms shows a decisive ruler who was very involved with the intricacies of Roman religion. Based on a passage of Dio we are able to see that Augustus also initiated a change in the festival of the Liberalia so that boys transitioning into manhood are inspired to great deeds by seeing his version of the great men of the past in his new Forum. The place had not only a commemorative function but also a prospective one as young men were expected to imitate the glory of their ancestors and hence a special role was given to Gaius and Lucius as principes iuventutis. Finally, the role of ancestors in initiation rites finds parallels in male initiations worldwide and shows Augustus’ clever manipulation of Roman tradition to his own personal ends.


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