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14339Livy on the Pontifix Maximus

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  • Benjamin Hart
    Feb 3, 2006
      I imagine some of you are interested in the morphology of certain aspects of Roman paganism into the current practice of the RC church.  I ran across this passage from Livy (History of Rome, 1.20) that I thought would be of some note.  It just describes some of the functions of the Pontifix Maximus, (a title accrued to the pope).  I've not researched the actual process of synchretism so I may be off, but it's reasonable to see the link between the two.  Anyway, the passage gives some nice background to the office of Pontifix Maximus.  Finally, for sake of context, this is from the section where Livy is discussing the life of Numa Pompilius (c. 700-650 BC).  It's likely not true Numa himself did this, so the historical value as it relates to Numa is low.  However, that doesn't invalidate its utility for understanding the office of Pontifix Maximus.  OK, enough of me, here's Livy:
      "The next office to be filled was that of the Pontifex Maximus. Numa appointed the son of Marcus, one of the senators - Numa Marcius - and all the regulations bearing on religion, written out and sealed, were placed in his charge. Here was laid down with what victims, on what days, and at what temples the various sacrifices were to be offered, and from what sources the expenses connected with them were to be defrayed. He placed all other sacred functions, both public and private, under the supervision of the Pontifex, in order that there might be an authority for the people to consult, and so all trouble and confusion arising through foreign rites being adopted and their ancestral ones neglected might be avoided. Nor were his functions confined to directing the worship of the celestial gods; he was to instruct the people how to conduct funerals and appease the spirits of the departed, and what prodigies sent by lightning or in any other way were to be attended to and expiated. To elicit these signs of the divine will, he dedicated an altar to Jupiter Elicius on the Aventine, and consulted the god through auguries, as to which prodigies were to receive attention."

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