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The College of Pontiffs ( la, Collegium Pontificum; see ''
collegium A (plural ), or college, was any association in ancient Rome with a legal personality. Such associations could be civil or religious. The word literally means "society", from (‘colleague’). They functioned as social clubs or religious ...
'') was a body of the
ancient Roman In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom (753 BC ...
state whose members were the highest-ranking priests of the
state religion A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whethe ...
. The college consisted of the ''
Pontifex Maximus The (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation w ...
'' and the other ''pontifices'', the ''
Rex Sacrorum In ancient Roman religion, the ''rex sacrorum'' ("king of the sacred", also sometimes ''rex sacrificulus'') was a senatorial priesthood reserved for patricians. Although in the historical era, the ''pontifex maximus The (Latin Latin (, ...
'', the fifteen ''
flamen A (plural ''flamens'' or ''flamines'') was a priest A priest is a religious leader Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacti ...
s'', and the
Vestals In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian ...
. The College of
Pontiff A pontiff (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
s was one of the four major priestly colleges; originally their responsibility was limited to supervising both public and private sacrifices, but as time passed their responsibilities increased. The other colleges were the
augurs An augur was a priest and official in the classical Roman world. His main role was the practice of augury Augury is the practice from ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religiou ...
(who read omens), the ''
quindecimviri sacris faciundis In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is ...
'' ("fifteen men who carry out the rites"), and the
Epulones The (Latin for "feasters"; sing. ''epulo'') arranged feasts and public banquets at Roman festival, festivals and games ''(ludi)''. They constituted one of the four great collegium (ancient Rome), religious corporations (''quattuor amplissima col ...
(who set up feasts at festivals). The title ''
pontifex A pontiff (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
'' comes from the Latin for "bridge builder", a possible allusion to a very early role in placating the gods and spirits associated with the
Tiber River The Tiber (; la, Tiberis; it, Tevere ) is the third-longest river in Italy and the longest in Central Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains The Apennines or Apennine Mountains (; grc-gre, links=no, Ἀπέννινα ὄρη or Ἀπ ...
, for instance. Also, Varro cites this position as meaning "able to do". The ''pontifex maximus'' was the most important member of the college. Until 104 BC, the ''pontifex maximus'' held the sole power in appointing members to the other priesthoods in the college. The flamens were priests in charge of fifteen official cults of Roman religion, each assigned to a particular god. The three major flamens ''(
flamines maiores A was a priest A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the Sacred rite, sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer ...
)'' were the
Flamen Dialis In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in ...
, the high priest of
Jupiter Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the List of Solar System objects by size, largest in the Solar System. It is a gas giant with a mass more than two and a half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined, but ...
; the
Flamen Martialis In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief associated with a particular ethnic group. Ethnic religions are ofte ...
, who cultivated
Mars Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury (planet), Mercury. In English, Mars carries the name of the Mars (mythology), Roman god of war and is often referred to ...
; and the
Flamen Quirinalis In Religion in ancient Rome, ancient Roman religion, the Flamen Quirinalis was the flamen or high priest of the god Quirinus. He was one of the three ''flamines maiores'', third in order of importance after the Flamen Dialis and the Flamen Martiali ...
, devoted to
Quirinus In Roman mythology Roman mythology is the body of myths of ancient Rome as represented in the Latin literature, literature and Roman art, visual arts of the Romans. One of a wide variety of genres of Roman folklore, ''Roman mythology'' may a ...

Quirinus
. The deities cultivated by the twelve ''
flamines minores A was a Glossary of ancient Roman religion#sacerdos, priest of the Religion in ancient Rome, ancient Roman religion who was assigned to one of eighteen deities with official Cult (religion), cults during the Roman Republic. The most important of t ...
'' were
Carmenta In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, ...
,
Ceres Ceres most commonly refers to: * Ceres (dwarf planet) Ceres (; minor-planet designation: 1 Ceres) is the smallest recognized dwarf planet, the closest dwarf planet to the Sun, and the List of notable asteroids, largest object in the main astero ...
,
Falacer Falacer, or more fully ''dīvus pater falacer'', was an ancient Italic god, according to Varro Marcus Terentius Varro (; 116–27 BC) was a Roman polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, ...
,
Flora Flora is all the plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical energy that, through cellular respiration, ca ...
,
Furrina Furrina, also spelled Furina, was an ancient Roman goddess whose function had become obscure by the 1st century BC. Her cult In modern English, a cult is a social group In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or m ...
,
Palatua Palatua was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in the New Testament of the ...
, Pomona, Portunus, Volcanus (Vulcan),
Volturnus The VolturnUS is a floating concrete structure that supports a wind turbine, designed by University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center and deployed by DeepCwind Consortium in 2013. The VolturnUS can support wind turbines in water d ...
, and two whose names are lost. The Vestal Virgins were the only female members of the college. They were in charge of guarding Rome's sacred hearth, keeping the flame burning inside the Temple of Vesta. Around age 6 to 10, girls were chosen for this position and were required to perform the rites and obligations for 30 years, including remaining chaste.


Membership

Membership in the various colleges of priests, including the College of Pontiffs, was usually an honor offered to members of politically powerful or wealthy families. Membership was for life, except for the
Vestal Virgin In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian ...
s whose term was 30 years. In the early Republic, only
patrician Patrician may refer to: * Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage * Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval a ...
s could become priests. However, the ''
Lex Ogulnia The ''lex Ogulnia'' was a Roman law passed in 300 BC. It was a milestone A milestone is a numbered marker placed on a route such as a road, railway, railway line, canal or border, boundary. They can indicate the distance to towns, cities, ...
'' in 300 BC granted the right to become ''pontifices'' and ''augures'' to
plebeian In ancient Rome, the plebeians (also called plebs) were the general body of free Roman citizenship, Roman citizens who were not Patrician (ancient Rome), patricians, as determined by the capite censi, census, or in other words "commoners". Both ...
s. Nevertheless, even in the late Republic it was still believed that the auspices ultimately resided with patrician magistrates, and certain ancient priesthoods: the ''Dialis'', ''Martialis'' and ''Quirinalis flamines'', and the college of the ''Salii'' were never opened to the plebeians. The number of members in the college of pontiffs grew over time. Originally consisting of three members, the number was increased to nine by the third century BC; Sulla increased the number to fifteen; Augustus increased the number even further, perhaps to as many as 25. Until the 3rd century BC, the college elected the ''pontifex maximus'' from their own number. The right of the college to elect their ''own pontifex maximus'' was returned, but the circumstances surrounding this are unclear. This changed again after Sulla, when in response to his reforms, the election of the ''pontifex maximus'' was once again placed in the hands of an assembly of seventeen of the twenty-five tribes. However, the college still controlled which candidates the assembly voted on. During the Empire, the office was publicly elected from the candidates of existing pontiffs, until the Emperors began to automatically assume the title, following
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
’s example. The ''pontifex maximus'' was a powerful political position to hold and the candidates for office were often very active political members of the college. Many, such as Julius Caesar, went on to hold
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...

consul
ships during their time as ''pontifex maximus''. However, after 44 BC the Pontiffs, as with the other official priests of Rome, lost their political influence. Martha Hoffman Lewis could only find four instances where the pontiff's advice was asked: before Augustus' marriage to Livia; in 37 BC when they ordered the removal of the body of one of the proscribed from the Campus; they made expiatory sacrifices on the day the emperor Claudius married Agrippina; and their advice was sought concerning reforms of the discipline of the
haruspices In the religion of ancient Rome, a haruspex (plural haruspices; also called aruspex) was a person trained to practise a form of divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the attem ...
.


Role in the Roman State

During the
Kingdom Kingdom may refer to: Monarchy * A type of monarchy * A realm ruled by: **A king, during the reign of a male monarch **A queen regnant, during the reign of a female monarch Taxonomy * Kingdom (biology), a category in biological taxonomy Arts an ...
of Roman history, the
pontiff A pontiff (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
s were primarily '' concilia'' (advisers) of the kings, but after the expulsion of the last Roman King in 510 BC, the College of Pontiffs became religious advisers to the
Roman Senate
Roman Senate
. As the most important of the four priestly colleges, the college of pontiffs’ duties involved advising the senate on issues pertaining to the gods, the supervision of the calendar and thus the supervision of ceremonies with their specific rituals, and the appeasement of the gods upon the appearance of
prodigies
prodigies
. One of their most important duties was their guardianship of the '' libri pontificales'' (pontifical books). Among these were the ''acta'', ''
indigitamenta In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief associated with a particular ethnic group. Ethnic religions are ofte ...
'' (lists of invocations or names of deities), ''ritualia'', ''commentarii'', ''fasti'', and ''annales'' (yearly records of magistrates and important events). These items were under the sole possession of the college of pontiffs and only they were allowed to consult these items when necessary. The '' Lex Acilia'' bestowed power on the college to manage the calendar. Thus, they determined the days which religious and political meetings could be held, when sacrifices could be offered, votes cast, and senatorial decisions brought forth. The College of Pontiffs came to occupy the
Regia The Regia ("Royal house") was a two-part structure in Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the ear ...

Regia
(the old palace of the kings) during the early Republican Period. They came to replace the religious authority that was once held by the king. A position, the
Rex Sacrorum In ancient Roman religion, the ''rex sacrorum'' ("king of the sacred", also sometimes ''rex sacrificulus'') was a senatorial priesthood reserved for patricians. Although in the historical era, the ''pontifex maximus The (Latin Latin (, ...
, was even created to replace the king for purposes of religious ceremonies. When
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of ...

Christianity
became the official religion of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
,
Pope Leo I Pope Leo I ( 400 – 10 November 461), also known as Leo the Great, was bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of autho ...

Pope Leo I
began using the title Pontifex Maximus around 440 to emphasize the authority of the
Pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...

Pope
. The term "chief priests" in the New Testament (e.g. Mark 15:11) is translated as ''Pontifices'' in the Latin Vulgate and "high priest" as ''Pontifex'' in Hebrews 2:17.


''Pontifex minor''

The pontiffs were assisted by pontifical clerks or scribes ''( scribae)'', a position known in the earlier Republican period as a ''scriba pontificius'' but by the
Augustan
Augustan
period as a ''pontifex minor''. A ''pontifex minor'' assisted at the rite ''(
res divinaIn ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman K ...
)'' for
Juno Juno commonly refers to: *Juno (mythology), the Roman goddess of marriage and queen of the gods *Juno (film), ''Juno'' (film), 2007 Juno may also refer to: Arts, entertainment and media Fictional characters *Juno, in the film ''Jenny, Juno'' *Jun ...
performed each
Kalends The calends or kalends ( la, kalendae) is the first day of every month in the Roman calendar The Roman calendar was the calendar used by the Roman kingdom and Roman Republic, republic. The term often includes the Julian calendar established b ...
, the first day of the month. He took up a position in the
Curia CalabraThe Curia Calabra was a religious station or ''Glossary of ancient Roman religion#templum, templum'' used for the ritual observation of the new moon in ancient Rome. Although its exact location is unclear, it was most likely a roofless enclosure in f ...
, a sacred precinct ''(
templum The vocabulary of ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought unde ...

templum
)'' on the
Capitoline Hill The Capitolium or Capitoline Hill ( ; it, Campidoglio ; la, Mons Capitolinus ), between the Forum Forum (plural forums or fora) may refer to: Common uses * Forum (legal), designated space for public expression in the United States *For ...
, to observe the
new moon In astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses ...

new moon
.Lawrence Richardson, ''A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome'' (
Johns Hopkins University Press The Johns Hopkins University Press (also referred to as JHU Press'' or ''JHUP) is the publishing division of Johns Hopkins University The Johns Hopkins University (Johns Hopkins, Hopkins, or JHU) is a private Private or privates may refer to: ...
, 1992), p. 102.


References


Sources

* Beard, Mary. "Roman Priesthoods", in ''Civilization of the Ancient Mediterranean: Greece and Rome''. 3 vols. New York: Scribner's, 1988. * Dionysius of Halicarnassus, ''Roman Antiquities II''. p. lxxiii. Loeb Classical Library,
Harvard University Press Harvard University Press (HUP) is a publishing house Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the distrib ...
, Cambridge Massachusetts. * Szemler, G.J., ''The Priests of the Republic: A Study of the Interactions between Priesthoods and Magistracies''. Collection Latomus. 127 (1972)


External links


Pontifex maximus and the college of pontiffs
Archived from th

on 2011-03-18. Retrieved on 2013-01-16.

{{DEFAULTSORT:College Of Pontiffs Ancient Roman religious titles