Pontifices

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Pontifices

 

in ancient Rome, members of one of the most important colleges of priests. The pontifices were in charge of general state religious rites and other matters of sacred law, composed and corrected the calendar, and kept lists of the consuls and annual notations of major events. Until the late fourth century B.C., they were also charged with the interpretation of civil law and worked out several procedural formulas that became the basis of Roman judicial proceedings. The pontifices were appointed, and later elected, for life. Their number increased from three in the eighth century B.C. (according to ancient tradition) to 15 in the first century B.C.

The most powerful among the pontifices was the pontifex maximus. Julius Caesar was elected pontifex maximus in 63 B.C., and Augustus in 12 B.C. From then on, pontifex maximus was part of the title of all the Roman emperors until Gratian (A.D. 367–383).

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