Within the empire, there was a contrast between the east and the west. In the former, the Greek deities were firmly established and linked to local gods; in the latter, the Roman pantheon was often adopted and merged with indigenous cults. As the empire expanded, the eastern idea of worshipping kings as gods was transferred to the Roman rulers. However, Augustus thought that the practice of worshipping a living emperor would lead to trouble and encouraged the worship of Roma instead. Nevertheless, the cult of Augustus, often associated with Roma, grew in the west. In the east, worship of living emperors continued.

When Julius Caesar died, he was regarded as having joined the ranks of the gods and was worshipped as the Divine Julius. With the death of Augustus and subsequent emperors, it became common for them to be deified after their deaths. Eventually the worship of the emperor became a loyalty test. Subjects were free to worship as they chose, provided they paid homage to the emperor.

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