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Connecting present with a canonized past Neos and Nea for individuals in the Imperial period

Relier le présent au passé canonisé. Neos et nea pour les individus à l’époque impériale
Stefano G. Caneva et Jenny Wallensten
p. 657-722


This article analyzes how the adjective Neos / Nea was used to honour elite individuals of Greek cities in the Imperial period as « new » gods, heroes, or even mortals from the past. Through an analysis of all attested cases, we present the honorands, honouring agents, the honorific titles, the deities and media involved and explore if these titles imply a ritual treatment. A final discussion returns to seminal points : the meaning of the term Neos, the relationship between epithets and heroic honours, and the social hierarchy by which Emperors equated to new gods are contrasted to other individuals honoured as important humans from the Classical past. We conclude that the practice of granting Neos epithets was influenced by the Second Sophistic and responded to socio-political needs of self-representation of the elites.

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Mythical characters in Neos-type epithets
Continental Greece
Peloponnese, Sparta
Cat. I) Chairesion, Nea Penelopeia – Sparta, late 2nd – early 3rd century AD
Cat. II) Aurelia Oppia, Nea Penelopeia and Laodamia – Sparta, Imperial period
Cat. III) Aurelia Herakleia, daugther of M. Aur. Tisamenos and Aurelia Oppia, Other Penelopeia – Sparta, Imperial period
Cat. IV) Claudia Neikippia, Nea Penelope – Sparta, 2nd – 3rd century AD
Peloponnese, Argos
Cat. V) Claudia Philomathia, Nea Hypermestra – Argos, 2nd century AD
Central Greece
Aetolia, Kalydon
Cat. VI) Kalydon (Aetolia), late 2nd/1st BC to 2nd century AD – Leon, Heros and Neos Herakles
Asia Minor
Phrygia, Dorylaion
Cat. VII) Q. Voconius Aelius Stratonikos, Neos Akamas – Dorylaion (Phrygia), 200‑250 AD
Phrygia, Synnada
Cat. VIII) (unknown honorand), Neos Herakles – 3rd century AD
Ionia, Teos
Cat. IX) Maiandrios son of Herakleides, Neos Athamas – Teos (Ionia)
Cat. X) Tiberius Claudius Philistes, Neos Athamas – Teos (Ionia), 1st – 2nd century AD
Other provenances
Egypt, Alexandria
Cat. XI) Dioskoros, Neos Herakles – 2nd / 3rd century AD
Cat. XII) Lucius Septimius, Neos Nestor – early 3rd century AD
Historical figures from the Classical and Hellenistic past in Neos-type epithets
Continental Greece
Peloponnese, Messene
Cat. XIII) Tiberius Claudius Crispianus, Neos Epaminondas – 2nd century AD
Cat. XIV) Tiberius Flavius [Philo]krates, Neos Platon – 2nd / 3rd century AD
Attica, Athens and Eleusis
Cat. XV) Iulius Nikanor, Neos Homeros and Neos Themistokles – Athens, mid-1st century AD
Asia Minor
Aeolis, Mytilene
Cat. XVI) Marcus Pompeius Macrinus, Neos Theophanes – post 138 AD
Ionia, Smyrna ( ?)
Cat. XVII) Kleodemos Flavianus, Neos Sagarites – 125‑138 AD
Pamphylia, Side
Cat. XVIII) Aelius Paion, Neos Homeros – mid-2nd century AD
Unknown provenance
Athens ( ?)
Cat. XIX) Arrian of Nicomedia, Neos Xenophon – 2nd century AD
Historical interpretation
What does Neos actually mean ?
Neoi and heroes : chronology and meaning of the cult of Leon at Kalydon
Emperors as new gods and elite members as new heroes in the Roman East : from social to religious hierarchy

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Comparisons, equations, associations between political figures and gods or heroes were expressed throughout Greek history by means of various discursive, ritual, and iconographic media. In Classical Athens, comedians critically equated Perikles to Zeus for his megalomaniac wrath precipitating all Greece into war and called Aspasia a new Omphale and Deianira, or the Hera of Perikles. The new flourishing tradition of cultic honours addressed to Hellenistic sovereigns and civic leaders, and later to Roman Emperors, activated a variety of ritual and epicletic solutions to express the encounter between human power and the divine sphere. The purpose of decrees establishing such honours was to create new rituals copying and adapting the model of the existing ones and to embed them within the religious life of the communities to commemorate past benefactions and to negotiate future ones. Hellenistic decrees were not concerned – or very rarely, and generally speaking not before the late-Hell...

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Stefano G. Caneva et Jenny Wallensten, « Connecting present with a canonized past Neos and Nea for individuals in the Imperial period »Revue de l’histoire des religions, 4 | 2023, 657-722.

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Stefano G. Caneva et Jenny Wallensten, « Connecting present with a canonized past Neos and Nea for individuals in the Imperial period »Revue de l’histoire des religions [En ligne], 4 | 2023, mis en ligne le 05 janvier 2026, consulté le 26 février 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Stefano G. Caneva

University of Padova

Jenny Wallensten

Swedish Institute at Athens

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