Elevation to the status of a god. The term recognizes that some individuals cross the dividing line between human and divine. Ancient Greek religion was disposed to belief in heroes and demigods, and historical figures were sometimes worshiped as gods. Until the end of the republic the Romans accepted only one apotheosis, identifying the god Quirinus with Romulus. The emperor Augustus ordered Julius Caesar recognized as a god and thus began a tradition of deifying emperors.
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In the Greek world, the first leader who accorded himself divine honours was Philip II of Macedon, who was a prince, when the Greeks had set kingship aside, and who had extensive economic and military ties, though largely antagonistic, with Achaemenid Persia, where kings were divine. At his wedding to his fifth wife,Mary. Philip's enthroned image was carried in procession among the Olympian gods; "his example at Aigai became a custom, passing to the Macedonian kings who were later worshipped in Greek Asia, from them to Julius Caesar and so to the emperors of Rome". Such Hellenistic state leaders might be raised to a status equal to the gods before death (e.g., Alexander the Great) or afterwards (e.g., members of the Ptolemaic dynasty). Heroic cult similar to apotheosis was also an honour given to a few revered artists of the distant past, notably Homer.
Archaic and Classical Greek hero-cults became primarily civic, extended from their familial origins, in the sixth century; by the fifth century none of the worshipers based their authority by tracing descent back to the hero, with the exception of some families who inherited particular priestly cult, such as the Eumolpides (descended from Eumolpus) of the Eleusinian mysteries, and some inherited priesthoods at oracle sites. The Greek hero cults can be distinguished on the other hand from the Roman cult of dead emperors, because the hero was not thought of as having ascended to Olympus or become a god: he was beneath the earth, and his power purely local. For this reason hero cults were chthonic in nature, and their rituals more closely resembled those for Hecate and Persephone than those for Zeus and Apollo. Two exceptions were Heracles and Asclepius, who might be honored as either gods or heroes, sometimes by chthonic night-time rites and sacrifice on the following day.
At the height of imperial cult worship during the Roman Empire, sometimes the emperor's deceased loved ones--heirs, empresses, or lovers--were deified as well. Deified people were awarded posthumously with the prefix Divus (Diva if women) to their names to signify their divinity. Temples and columns were sometimes erected to provide a space for worship.
Many modern leaders have exploited the artistic imagery, if not the actual worship, of apotheosis. Examples include Rubens's depictions of James I of England at the Banqueting House (an expression of the Divine Right of Kings) or Henry IV of France, or Appiani's apotheosis of Napoleon. The term has been used figuratively to refer to the elevation of a dead leader (often one who was assassinated and/or martyred) to a kind of superhuman charismatic figure and an effective erasing of all faults and controversies which were connected with his name in life - for example, Abraham Lincoln in the US and Yitzchak Rabin in Israel. Kim Jong-il of North Korea took the place of his father Kim Il-sung and much of the nation has grown up with the idea of the "leader" being placed at the height of society, this is the result of parents raised under a similar image by Kim Il-sung passing this view onto their children.