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This is a list of those notable human beings who were considered deities by themselves or others. The list distinguishes people who claimed divinity or were worshipped as deities during their lifetimes, and examples of individuals who were deified posthumously (hero cult)..

Relevant distinctions

  • Apotheosis means divinization or deification, usually posthumously.
    • Imperial cults are religions in which an Emperor, or a dynasty of emperors (or rulers of another title), are worshiped as demigods or deities.
    • Hero cults involved the deification of selected historical individuals.
    • Personality cults, modern-day versions of Imperial cults most often used by dictatorships.
    • Other contemporary religions with a following larger than one million which deify historical individuals include Tibetan Buddhism (Lamas) and Shinto (Tennos). Although this is controversial as Buddhism technically advocates against any deification.
  • Euhemerism is the historical position that all gods were human, reducing theism to ancestor worship.
  • Ancestor worship involves the elevation of all deceased ancestors to the status of deities. In Ancient Egyptian religion, by the New Kingdom, all deceased (not just pharaohs) were held to become the god Osiris.
  • Culture heroes are gods or demi-gods that may or may not have a historical individual as their nucleus (e.g. Gilgamesh, Fu Xi or Rama).
  • Theosis, Advaita, Unio Mystica is the state of being in perfect union with the Godhead (Brahman) in mysticism.

Imperial cults

Who Image When Notability
Egyptian pharaohs Tutmask.jpg 3050 – 30 BCE Egyptian pharaohs were kings of Ancient Egypt, and were considered by their culture to be gods. Their titles equated them with aspects of the likes of the hawk god Horus, the vulture goddess Nekhbet and the cobra-goddess Wadjet. The Egyptians believed that when their Pharaoh had died, he would continue to lead them in the next life, which is why his burial was grand and completed to perfection, to please him in the next life and ensure his immortality to protect his people.[1][2]
Naram-Sin Stele Naram Sim Louvre Sb4.jpg 2255–2119 BCE The first Mesopotamian king to claim divinity.
Chinese Emperors QinshihuangBW.jpg 221 BCE – 1911 CE Deified as "Son of Heaven" since the Qin Dynasty under Qin Shi Huang.
Roman Emperors JuliusCaesarRimini.jpg 42 BCE –363 CE Following Julius Caesar who in 42 BCE was formally deified as "the Divine Julius" (Divus Iulius), and Caesar Augustus henceforth became Divi filius ("Son of the Divine One"), some (not all) Roman Emperors of the 1st to 4th centuries claimed divinity, including Tiberius 14–37, Caligula 37–41, Claudius 41–54, Hadrian 117–138, Commodus 161–192, Constantine I 306–312, Julian the Apostate 361–363
Japanese emperors Amaterasu cave edit2.jpg 660 BCE – Claimed, at least by some Shintoists, including government officials, to be divine descendants of the goddess Amaterasu. Hirohito, the Showa emperor, repudiated this "false conception" in the Ningen-sengen in 1945.[3]
Natchez rulers Cherokeenationalflag.png 700 The Natchez were a theocracy ruled by "The Great Sun." This ruler has sometimes been deemed a God-king.[4]
The Sailendras Borobudur Northwest View.jpg 700 The Sailendra dynasty of Java were active promoters of Mahayana Buddhism and covered the plains of Central Java with Buddhist monuments, including the world-famous Borobudur.[5]
Dalai Lamas 1st Dalai Lama.jpg 1391- Considered re-incarnations of Avalokiteśvara in Tibetan Buddhism. Panchen Lamas are incarnations of Amitabha Buddha.
Inca Emperors Ataw Wallpa portrait.jpg 1438 The Inca Emperors had a status very similar to that of the Pharaohs of Egypt.
Ismail I of Persia Shah Ismail Hatayi.jpg 1502–1524 Considered an emanation of God by the Safaviya order.
Nepalese monarchs NepalFlag.jpg 1768–2008 Although Nepal was the birthplace of the Buddha, the kings of the Shah dynasty were held to be incarnations of Vishnu.

Posthumous deification

Who Image When Notability
Imhotep ImhotepLouvre.jpg 2600 BCE Ancient Egyptian architect and physician, who two thousand years after his death, was raised to that of a god, becoming the god of medicine and healing.
Queen Dido of Carthage Dido.jpg 814 BCE Founder and first queen of Carthage, after her death, she was deified by her people with the name of Tanit and assimilated to the Great Goddess Astarte (Roman Juno).[6] The cult of Tanit survived Carthage's destruction by the Romans; it was introduced to Rome itself by Emperor Septimius Severus, himself born in North Africa. It was extinguished completely with the Theodosian decrees of the late 4th century.
Homer (hero cult) Homer British Museum.jpg 8th century BCE Venerated at Alexandria by Ptolemy IV Philopator
Romulus and Remus (hero cult) She-wolf suckles Romulus and Remus.jpg 771–717 BCE Founders of Rome, sons of Mars, Romulus served as first king. After his death, Romulus was defined as the god, Quirinus, the divine persona of the Roman people. He is now regarded as a mythological figure, and his name a back-formation from the name Rome, which may ultimately derive from a word for "river". Some scholars, notably Andrea Carandini believe in the historicity of Romulus, in part because of the 1988 discovery of the Murus Romuli on the north slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome.[7]
Gautama Buddha Buddha in Sarnath Museum (Dhammajak Mutra).jpg 563 BCE(?) Believed to be a god by some Mahayana sects, and worshipped as an avatar of Vishnu by some Vaishnavas.
Hephaistion Hephaistion portrait Prado bronze sketch.jpg 356–324 BCE Deified by Alexander the Great
Alexander III of Macedon the Great (hero cult) AlexandreLouvre.jpg 356–323 BC Some believe he implied he was a demigod by actively using the title "Son of AmmonZeus". The title was bestowed upon him by Egyptian priests of the god Ammon at the Oracle of the god at the Siwah oasis in the Libyan Desert.[8]
Jesus of Nazareth Grunewald - christ.jpg ~4 BCE – ~33 CE In Romans 1 St. Paul the Apostle of Tarsus described Jesus as being the Son of God and the Lord. Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria wrote in defence of the divinity of the Holy Spirit, orthodox Christianity adopted his teachings at the First Council of Nicaea in a Synod assembly of bishops in 325 AD called by the Roman emperor Constantine I the Great.The Nicene Creed was formulated rejecting Arianism (one of two major strains of Christian thought) and established Athanasianism (Trinitarianism, the other strain) as "official doctrine."Jesus was declared to be God Incarnate, and is now considered to be God in most Christian views of Jesus, God the So in Trinitarian Christianity.See History of early Christianity and Christology for details.
Simon Magus Death of simon magus.jpg 1st century Considered a god in Simonianism. According to Justin Martyr: "There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, ..."[9]
Antinous Antinous Ecouen Louvre Ma1082 n3.jpg 111–130 Deified by Hadrian. He is the last non-Imperial human to be formally deified in Western Civilization.
Guan Yu Guanyu.jpg 581–618 Guan Yu has been deified as early as the Sui Dynasty and is still popularly worshipped today among the Chinese people variedly as an indigenous Chinese deity, a bodhisattva in Buddhism and a guardian deity in Taoism. He is also held in high esteem in Confucianism. In Hong Kong both police and gangsters consider him to be a divine object of reverence. In certain schools of Taoism and Chinese Buddhism he has been deemed divine or semi-divine status.[10]
Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib Mola Ali.jpg 599–661 According to the Alawite faith, Ali is one member of a trinity corresponding roughly to the Christian Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[11]
Sugawara no Michizane Hyakuninisshu 024.jpg 845–903 Japanese Imperial courtier banished from the capital and deified upon his death to appease his angry spirit. Worshipped as Tenjin, kami of scholarship.
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah AHMosque.jpg 985 Sixth Fatimid Caliph in Egypt, ruling from 996 to 1021. Many of the druze believe he is an incarnation of God and that he will come back as the Mahdi
Majapahit Kings Wringin Lawang, Trowulan.jpg 1293-1597 Javanese rulers of South East Asia's largest ever kingdom, in Indonesia. After death, they were depicted as Hindu gods (see for instance Raden Wijaya).
L. L. Zamenhof 1908-kl-t-zamenhof.jpg 1859–1917 Considered a god by members of the Oomoto religion.
José Rizal RizalStatue.jpg 1861–1896 Deified by some people in the Philippines due to his contributions to the Philippine Revolution.[12][13]
Wallace D. Fard Wallace Fard Muhammad.jpg ~1877 – ~1934 Posthumously (?) deified by Elijah Muhammad . He is also given other titles by the Nation of Islam.[14]
Kanichi Otsuka 1891 Shinreikyo states of its founder "God became one with a human body, appeared among humanity, and founded Shinreikyo."[15]
George Washington Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington.jpg 1732–1799 Worshiped as a kami in Hawaiian Shinto shrines.[16] In the United States Capitol dome, he is also depicted ascending into Heaven and becoming a god, in the famous painting called The Apotheosis of Washington.

Involuntary deification

Who Image When Notability
Antiochus II Theos AntiochusIIMET.jpg 286–246 BC Seleucid ruler. The younger son of Antiochus I and Stratonice, succeeded his father in 261. He liberated Ephesus, Ionia, Cilicia and Pamphylia from Egyptian domination, and in return for their autonomy the cities of Asia Minor gave him the title Theos ("God").[17]
Hernán Cortés Cortes.jpg 1471–1541 Identified as Quetzalcoatl by Moctezuma II
Jiddu Krishnamurti Jiddu Krishnamurti 01.jpg 1895–1986 Renounced the status of messiah and Maitreya incarnation given him by the Theosophical Society.
Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia Selassie restored.jpg 1892–1975 Among most followers of the Rastafari movement, Haile Selassie is seen as God incarnate, the Black Messiah and "Earth's Rightful Ruler" who will also lead African peoples to freedom. Rastas say that his royal titles (i.e. King of Kings, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and Root of David) were prophesied as belonging to the returned Messiah in Revelation 5:5. Their faith in his divinity first appeared in Jamaica, soon after his 1930 coronation in Addis Ababa.[18] Before his coronation he was called Ras (meaning Prince) Tafari.
Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, Duke of Edinburgh Prince Phillip at NASA 2007.jpg 1921– Considered a god in the village of Yaohnanen, a cargo cult in Vanuatu.[19]
Kumari Bhaktapur Kumari.jpg -? These are little girls who are worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists as the incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga (in Nepal, Taleju). They are picked when they are prepubescent and are worshipped until they reach puberty. Their cult is in South Asian countries, such as Nepal. See Kumari (children)


Who Image When Notability
Antiochus IV Epiphanes Antiokhos IV.jpg 215–164 BCE Seleucid ruler (reigned 175-164); the only Seleucid king to claim divine honors, calling himself Theos Epiphaneus "God Manifest" and Nikephoros "Bringer of Victory." Nearly conquered Ptolemaic Egypt, the primary rival of the Seleucids among the Diadochi states. Famously attempted to impose ancient Greek religion on the Jews by persecution, leading to the Maccabean Revolt; remembered as a major persecutor in Jewish tradition.[17]
Veleda Veleda.jpg 1st century Germanic prophetess considered a deity during her lifetime.
Danila Filippovich DanilaFilippovich.jpg 1700 He believed that he was God and started the Khlysts. (There are various transliterations of his name including Danila Filipov, Danila Filipich, and Daniil Filippovich)[20]
Hong Xiuquan Hong Xiuquan.jpg 1814–1864 Chinese man who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus and thus a son of God. Led the Taiping Rebellion, conquering a large part of China before defeat and suicide.
Father Divine ~1880–1965 Was considered by his followers to be "God in the flesh"[21]
Juanita Peraza (Mita) Juanita Garcia Peraza.jpg 1897 According to the Mita faith, Mita (Peraza) was the incarnation of the Holy Ghost on earth.[22]
Lou de Palingboer 1898–1968 A divorced Dutchman named Louwrens Voorthuijzen who proclaimed himself "Lou the Eel Vendor", this being the translation of his proclaimed name "Lou de Palingboer". He was a figure who mixed marketing European eels with proselytism. His followers also considered him a living God on a mission against evil.[23]
Jim Jones JimJones.jpg 1931–1978 Founder of People's Temple, which started off as an offshoot of a mainstream Protestant sect before becoming a personality cult as time went on.
Yahweh ben Yahweh 1935–2007 He was born as Hulon Mitchell, Jr. and his self-proclaimed name means "God, Son of God." He could have only been deeming himself to be "son of God", not God, but many of his followers clearly deem him to be God Incarnate.[24][25]
Nirmala Srivastava NimialaSrivastava.jpg 1923–2011 Guru and goddess of Sahaja Yoga, has proclaimed herself to be the incarnation of the Holy Ghost (Adi Shakti), claimed that all other incarnations (e.g. Krishna, Christ, etc.) were aspects of her.[26][27]
Jehovah Wanyonyi 1924– "I am the one who created Adam and Eve. I made their bodies and their blood", [...] "I still use human beings by speaking through them, like I spoke through Jesus Christ until he went to Heaven." There are between 120 and a 1000 followers who consider him God.[28][29]
Sathya Sai Baba SathyaSaiBaba.jpg 1926-2011 Hindu guru believed to be a reincarnation of an avatar of Dattatreya by his followers. He alleged that he had the ability to materialize objects, such as jewellery, etc.
Mitsuo Matayoshi MitsuoMatayoshi.jpg 1944– In 1997 he established the World Economic Community Party (世界経済共同体党) based on his conviction that he is the God and Christ.[30]
Claude Vorilhon 1946– Claims to be Maitreya, messenger of the "Elohim" (who are in fact ancient astronauts)
Vissarion Vissarion.jpg 1961– Claims to be Jesus Christ returned, which makes him not "God" but the "word of God"


  • Hogue, John Messiahs: The Visions and Prophecies for the Second Coming (1999) Elements Books [[]]

See also


  1. The rulers of Egypt, first the kings and later the pharaohs, were gods as well as men who ruled by divine right. Each king was 'the son of god', who at the point of death became one with his father, to be god in a cosmic Heaven. Christopher Knight, Robert Lomas (August 1, 2001). The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus, 100. Google Print. ISBN 978-1-931412-75-9 (accessed July 13, 2005). Also available in print from Fair Winds.
  2. The king had a superhuman role, being a manifestation of a god or of various deities on earth. The king's principle original title, the Horus name, proclaimed that he was an aspect of one of the chief gods, Horus, a sky god who was depicted as a falcon. Other identifications were added to this one, notably, "Son of Re [the sun god]" and "Perfect God," both introduced during the 4th dynasty (c. 2575–2465 BC), when the great pyramids were constructed. The epithet "Son of Re" placed the king in a close but dependent relation with the leading figure of the pantheon.Merriam-Webster (1999). Encyclopedia of World Religions (Hardcover). Merriam Webster, Incorporated. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0. 
  3. Hirohito's 1945 Declaration in Japanese and English: "The ties between Us and Our people have always stood upon mutual trust and affection. They do not depend upon mere legends and myths. They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine, and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world."
  4. The community leader would be called the Great Sun. Natchez social organization was based on the relationship of community members to the Great Sun. In the 17th century, French explorers and colonists met this leader, who lived in a large house on the top of a platform mound at the site that is now preserved by the State of Mississippi as the Grand Village of the Natchez. The Great Sun enjoyed the status of a living god [1]
  5. "Patrons of Buddhism, the Sailendras during the height of their power in central Java constructed impressive monuments and temple complexes, the best known of which is the Borobudur on the Kedu Plain" (quoted from Hall 1985:109).
  6. Virgil, Aeneid 1.446f, Silius Italicus, Punica 1.81f
  7. Carandini. La nascita di Roma. Dèi, lari, eroi e uomini all'alba di una civiltà (Torino: Einaudi, 1997) and Carandini. Remo e Romolo. Dai rioni dei Quiriti alla città dei Romani (775/750 – 700/675 a. C. circa) (Torino: Einaudi, 2006)
  8. Not the least of the many extraordinary facts about Alexander is that both in his lifetime and after his death he was worshipped as a god, by Greeks and Ancient Macedonians as well as, for example, Egyptians (to whom he was Pharaoh). The episode that led to Callisthenes' death in 327 was connected to this fact. Greeks and Ancient Macedonians believed that formal obeisance should be paid only to gods. So the refusal of his Greek and Macedonian courtiers to pay it to Alexander implied that they, at any rate, did not believe he genuinely was a living god, at least not in the same sense as Zeus or Dionysus were. Alexander, regardless, did nothing to discourage the view that he really was divine. His claim to divine birth, not merely divine descent, was part of a total self-promotional package, which included the striking of silver medallions in India depicting him with the attributes of Zeus. Through sheer force of personality and magnitude of achievement he won over large numbers of ordinary Greeks and Macedonians to share this view of himself, and to act on it by devoting shrines to his cult.Cartledge, Paul (2004). "Alexander the Great". History Today 54: 1. 
  9. Justin Martyr, First Apology Saint Justin Martyr: First Apology (Roberts-Donaldson) Chapter XXVI
  10. "People worship Emperor Guan not merely as a law-protecting heavenly deity, but also as god of war, god of wealth and god of righteousness. They pray to Emperor Guan for many reasons…"403 Forbidden
  11. Encyclopedia Britannica, online edition
  14. "The Honorable Elijah Muhammad identified the Master as being the answer to the one that the world had been expecting for the past 2,000 years under the names Messiah, the second coming of Jesus, the Christ, Jehovah, God, and the Son of Man." quoting Elijah Muhammad
  15. "When I sat cross-legged by myself just like the great statue of the Buddha in Nara, I felt that the earth, about the size of a watermelon, was underneath me and I could see the other me walking about on it. I experience the real "me" looking down at the other "me" on this small planet. I was and understood everything on this earth (Shinreikyo History:5). Religious movements home page on the website of the University of Virginia. This entry was written by Jeffrey Hadden.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Harper’s Bible Dictionary, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985
  18. Rastafarians regard Haile Selassie I as God, in part because Marcus Garvey's prophecy – "Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer" – was swiftly followed by the ascension of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia. BBC
  19. "Is Prince Philip an island god?". BBC News. June 10, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2010. 
  20. His teaching of Twelve Commitments stated, "I am God predicted by the prophets; I descended on the earth to save the human souls; there is no God but me. There is no other teaching. Do not seek for it."St. Petersburg State University article(A bit of dispute here as there are sites that indicate he taught any and all Khlysts could mystically become God incarnate through him)
  21. "Father Divine: A General Overview", Timothy Miller, 1999, Retrieved June 6, 2007, "Followers of Father Divine proclaimed him God in the flesh, and for most Americans nothing could have been more ridiculous than a small African-American deity."
  22. Essay in Latin American Issues Volume 13 states she taught that, "when a shooting star moving in the distance suddenly approached her and landed on her forehead, filling the room with light (Cruz). She had become the living incarnation of the Holy Spirit, who at that moment revealed to her the name of God in this new era: 'MITA'" or "Spirit of Life."
  23. De God die Lou heette (Dutch language) "The God that was called Lou" VPRO TV programme.
  24. "He identified himself as the 'grand master of the celestial lodge, the architect of the universe'"Crimelibrary
  25. Miami Herald(October 15, 2001). "the old message of self-esteem has been crowded out by one that elevates their leader to Grand Master of All, the God of the Universe, the Grand Potentate, the Everlasting Father and the persecuted Messiah."
  26. Judith Coney, Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement (1999) p27 "She began her mission of salvation in earnest, establishing a reputation as a faith healer ... Then, on December 2nd 1979, in London, she unequivocally declared her divinity to her followers: '[Today] is the day I declare that I am the One who has to save the humanity. I declare, I am the one who is Adi Shakti, who is the Mother of all the mothers, who is the Primordial Mother, the Shakti, the purest desire of God, who has incarnated on this Earth to give meaning to itself...' Since then, she is most often understood by her followers to be the Devi, the Goddess of Indian mythology, returned to save the world."
  27. ::Sahaja Yoga-Tamil:: Adi Sakthi By Thirumoolar
  28. International Cultic Studies Association (2001). "INTERNATIONAL: Kenya-"God" and 400 Followers Living in Kenya". Cultic Studies Journal 18 (4). 
  29. BBC News (November 12, 2001). "Kenyan 'God' sent Aids as 'punishment'". Retrieved December 29, 2004.
  30. "After the Upper House Election, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi should hand the seat of the Prime Minister to Jesus Matayoshi, the one true God."::: ::: MATAYOSHI

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at List of people who have been considered deities. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.