Pontifex maximusThe high priests of ancient Roman religion Roman Religion and Mythology / Lexicon
The Pontifex maximus was the leader of the pontifical college (collegium pontificum), the highest priestly order in the Roman state religion.
One member of the pontifical college was co-opted by the college as the leader, hence the title pontifex maximus. Initially only one of the three flamines maiores could be pontifex maximus, but towards the end of the Roman Republic the rules were changed. After 104 BCE the pontifex maximus was elected in a sort of limited popular elections between candidates acceptable to the college, and all the pontifices were eligible. The title was held for life.
The pontifex maximus had taken over many religious duties from the rex sacrorum who had inherited them from the kings. Among these duties were the administration of the Roman calendar and the clock. Until the arrival of the first reliable sundial the time of day was announced by the herald of the pontifex maximus at midday and evening, based on observations of the sun from the steps of the Curia Hostilia in the Comitium.
The official residence of the pontifex maximus was the Domus Publica in the Forum Romanum, and his religious duties was carried out from the Regia. The Vestal Virgins sorted under the pontifex maximus.
The last to hold the title of pontifex maximus under the Roman Republic were Julius Caesar (62-44 BCE) and M. Aemilius Lepidus (44-12 BCE). After Lepidus the title passed to Augustus, and henceforth the title of pontifex maximus would be a prerogative of the emperor. It remained so until the 5th century when it passed to the Pope, who have used the title ever since.
The title pontifex means literally "bridge builder" because they bridged the gap between the world of man and the world of the gods.
- Augustus - Roman Emperor (27 BCE-14 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Comitium - The ancient political centre of Rome (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Curia Hostilia - The meeting place of the Roman senate during the Roman Republic (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Domus Publica - The official residence of the Rex Sacrorum on the Via Sacra (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Flamines - The flamines were the most important Roman priests (Roman Religion and Mythology, Lexicon)
- Forum Romanum - The Roman Forum was the political and religious centre in ancient Rome (Rome, Italy)
- Julius Caesar - Roman patrician, politician, writer, reformator, general, dictator and god (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Regia - The house of the Roman kings and later the Pontifex Maximus (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Rex Sacrorum - The priest performing the religious duties of the king (Roman Religion and Mythology, Lexicon)
- Roman Calendar - The Romans used a calendar of 13 lunar months (Roman Culture, Lexicon)
- Vestal Virgins - The only female priesthood in Rome (Roman Religion and Mythology, Lexicon)
- House of the Vestal Virgins - The residence of the six vestal virgins in the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Via Sacra - The sacred procession road through the Forum Romanum (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
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