Many scholars agree that imperial cults contributed to the mistreatment of Thessalonian Christ-confessors. Some propose that the euangelion of kyrios Jesus, his parousia/epiphany, and the establishment of God’s basileia directly opposed Thessalonian imperial divine honors. The purpose of this article is to determine what role, if any, imperial cults played in the mistreatment of Christ-confessors in Thessalonica. In the process, I present a more up-to-date, contextualized discussion of Julio-Claudian imperial cults in the city. I demonstrate that Thessalonica voluntarily established imperial cults for a select number of Julio-Claudians who benefited the city, the trappings of which consisted of sacrifices, games, priests, images, altars, and two (possibly three) imperial temples/shrines. Thessalonica did not call any Julio-Claudian kyrios. Nor did it refer to every venerated Julio-Claudian as a god. The city reserved that honor for Julius Caesar and Augustus after their deaths and official apotheoses in Rome, as well as for Livia during her lifetime. The most common way that Thessalonica expressed these imperial cults was by embedding them in those of traditional gods, the purpose of which was to legitimate and to articulate the relationship between the gods and the Julio-Claudians: the latter were the earthly vice-regents of the former and mediators of divine blessings. Thus, imperial cults cannot be isolated as the source of mistreatment of Thessalonian Christ-confessors. Rather, Christ-confessors suffered social harassment because their pagan compatriots considered the religious exclusivity of their group as threatening two interconnected pillars of Thessalonica’s society: religion and politics.

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