Karl Berg

Before the rapid ascent of Christianity, the Roman Imperial Cult functioned as the most universal religion of the Mediterranean world. In nearly every town, city, and province of the Roman Empire, emperors were honored as divine (either during their lifetimes, as more customary in the Greek East, or upon their deaths after their consecratio by the Roman senate). In this way, the cult provided a binding glue for the cohesion of disparate provinces and functioned as an important agent (whether welcomed or not) of Romanisation. 

My research examines the later history of this cult and the challenges which a history of divine rulership posed to both Christian emperors and clergy of the fourth century.  

How did the imperial adoption of Christianity—a monotheistic religion—impact the manner in which emperors were regarded as sancrosanct and even divine? Moreover, did Christian emperors, beginning with Constantine I, actively attempt to retain certain elements of the cult, deemed inseparable from the aura of the imperial identity? 

I hope that, by answering these questions, I will be able to provide deeper insight into a period of profound transition in the Roman world and answer questions still relevant to those concerned with the often-troubled relationship between ruling powers and institutions of faith. 

Beside the Imperial Cult, my research interests include ancient historiography, early Christianity, late Roman Slavery, the Roman Empire’s Eastern Frontier, the rise of Julius Caesar and the principate of Augustus, and Classical and Roman archaeology. I hold an M.A. in Early Christian Studies from the University of Notre Dame (awarded 2022), an M.A. in Classical and Roman Archaeology from Durham University (awarded 2021), and a B.A. in History and German from Hillsdale College (awarded 2018).