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  • 1 University of Alberta, Canada
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Summary

Augustus' approach to cults of foreign origins has recently undergone much reconsideration. Until the late 20th century, scholars largely regarded the emperor's religious policies as deeply conservative, maintaining that Augustus was mostly preoccupied with the ‘restoration’ of ancient Italian religion and discouraged the worship of foreign gods. In the last three decades, however, scholars have identified a rather different trend, noticing, in fact, Augustus' openness towards the ‘foreign’. In this paper, I explore Augustus' position about ‘foreign’ rites that were highly popular in contemporary Rome, and specifically, the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Egyptian rites, the cult of Mater Magna, and the cult of Apollo (although, as I clarify below, the last one cannot be strictly labeled as ‘foreign’). I offer a survey of ancient literary sources – giving an interpretation of them as comprehensive as possible considering the nature of this contribution – and argue that Augustus was not only receptive of ‘foreign’ practices but was also able to shape the ‘foreign’ to his own advantage and self-promotion, transforming it into a vital feature of the new imperial reality.