There have been many instances in history where a ruler, leader, or other type of royal has compared themselves to a god, goddess or other deity. Whether the term was meant loosely or they truly believed they represented a higher power, many religions and cultures have believed in a connection between royalty and deities. In this article, you will encounter a few instances, such as Egyptian pharaohs and Chinese emperors.
Serving as kings during ancient Egyptian times, the pharaoh was considered god. The titles that they held were placed in the same level of esteem as Horus (hawk god) and Nekhbet (vulture goddess). The Egyptians believed that when a pharaoh died, he would continue to lead them in the next life. Because of this, burials for the rulers were elaborate. The people believed that taking embellished measures would please their ruler in the next life, and secure his immortality so that he was able to protect his people after his passing. This practice lasted around between 3050 and 30 BC.
Mesopotamian King Naram-Sin
Some say that Naram-Sin was the first Mesopotamian king to claim divinity, as ‘sin’ was a word used to refer to god. He was the first ruler to be called “King of the Four Quarters”. However, he lived up to his greatness as the Akkadian Empire was at its peak during his rule. He lived from around 2255 to 2119 BC.
Under Qin Shi Huang, the practice of deifying Chinese emperors started during the Qin Dynasty. The rulers were dubbed ‘Son of Heaven.’ This concept was upheld from 221 BC to 1911.
Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of a unified China , beginning his rule in 221 BC. He continued to guide his country until his death in 210 BC when he was 49 years old. Qin Shi Huang is also known in history as being obsessed with obtaining a so-called ‘elixir of life’ that was supposed to make him live forever.
He went on several different quests in an attempt to achieve immortality. Many times, those who claimed they had the elixir deceived him. He also visited Zhifu Island on three occasions because he believed he would learn how to become immortal.
Some Shintoists claimed to have been divine descendants of the goddess Amaterasu. Some government officials also upheld this practice. However, in 1945, the Showa emperor, Hirohiti, rejected what he called a false concept. This belief had been taking place since 660 BC.
After Julius Caesar was in power, he was formally deified as ‘the divine Julius’ (or Divus Iulius) in 42 BC. Caesar Augustus followed his lead and became known as Divi filius (which translates into “Son of the Divine One”). This trend continued with some (but not all) Roman Emperors that ruled from the 1st to 4th centuries. Some of the leaders that claimed divinity included Tiberius (14-37), Caligula (37-41), Hadrain (117-138), and Commodus (161-192).