List of pontifices maximi


The pontifex maximus was the chief priest of the ancient Roman religion, and head of the Collegium Pontificum ("College of Pontiffs").


According to legend, the first Pontifex Maximus was Numa Marcius, who was appointed by his friend, Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome. No other Pontifices Maximi are mentioned in surviving sources until the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally occurring in 509 BC. Once appointed, the Pontifex Maximus held his position for life; a new Pontifex Maximus was normally appointed following his death.

This list includes all of the Pontifices Maximi mentioned by historians and other ancient writers, down to the end of the Roman Republic. The list prior to the time of the First Punic War is presumably incomplete, as fewer than a dozen holders of the office are known from the first two-and-a-half centuries of the Republic. The last Pontifex Maximus of the Republican era was Lepidus, the triumvir. Upon his death, Augustus assumed the office, further consolidating his authority over the Roman state.

In the imperial era, it was customary for the emperor to serve as Pontifex Maximus. Although Constantine the Great reportedly converted to Christianity, and most of his successors were Christians, they continued to hold the office until the time of Gratian (375–383), who declined it,[1] instead assuming the title of Pontifex Inclytus, which was not associated with the former pagan state religion. The title of Pontifex Maximus thereafter fell into abeyance. After the sack of Constantinople and the end of the Eastern Roman Empire in the fifteenth century, the title was revived by the Popes, notwithstanding its pagan origins, and is now a part of the papacy's official titulature.

Pontifices maximi of the Roman Kingdom

Pontifices maximi of the Roman Republic

The Pontifex Maximus held his office for life, but the date of death is not known for every man who held the office, and the name of the Pontifex is not recorded for every period. Unless otherwise noted, dates and citations of primary sources are from T.R.S. Broughton's three-volume The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (American Philological Association, 1951, 1986).


  1. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Gratian
  2. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus 3.36.4; T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (American Philological Association, 1951, 1986), vol. 1, p. 4.
  3. ^ Broughton, vol i, pp. 3-6, note 3, pp.4, Cicero, Dom. 139, fr. 15 Consol. Valerius Maximus 5.10.1, Seneca Cons. ad. Marc. 13.1, places him in 508 BC
  4. ^ Livy 3.54.5.
  5. ^ Asconius 77C; Broughton, MRR1, p. 49.
  6. ^ Livy 4.27.1; Broughton, MRR1, p. 64.
  7. ^ Plutarch, "On Putting One's Enemies to Use 6 (see also Livy 4.44.11–12); Broughton, MRR1, p. 71
  8. ^ Livy 5.41.3; Plutarch, Camillus 21.3 (as Fabius); Broughton, MRR1, p. 96; Jörg Rüpke, Fasti sacerdotum (Franz Steiner, 2005), p. 1000.
  9. ^ Livy 25.5.4; Broughton, MRR1, p. 142.
  10. ^ Livy 9.46.6; Broughton, MRR1, p. 168.
  11. ^ Broughton, MRR1, pp. 210 and 218, attested widely in works by Cicero and other sources.
  12. ^ Livy, Periochae 19; Valerius Maximus 8.13.2; Broughton, MRR1, pp. 218 and 234.
  13. ^ Livy 22.10.1; Broughton, MRR1, p. 234.
  14. ^ Livy 25.5.2–4 and 39.46.1; Broughton, MRR1, pp. 271, 381.
  15. ^ Livy 39.46.1 and 40.42.6 and 11–12; Broughton, MRR1, pp. 381, 390.
  16. ^ Livy 40.42.6 and 11–12, Periochae 48; Broughton, MRR1, p. 390.
  17. ^ Cicero, De senectute 50, De natura deorum 3.5, De oratore 3.134; Broughton, MRR1, pp. 390, 457.
  18. ^ Broughton, MRR1, pp. 478–479, 499, citing multiple testimonia.
  19. ^ Broughton, MRR1, pp. 499, 503.
  20. ^ Broughton, MRR1, pp. 503, 532.
  21. ^ Asconius 45–46C; Broughton, MRR1, pp. 532, 534.
  22. ^ Broughton, MRR1, pp. 564–564; MRR2 (1952), p. 37.
  23. ^ Broughton, MRR2, pp. 37, 73.
  24. ^ Broughton, MRR2, pp. 73, 171, 172 (note 3).
  25. ^ Broughton, MRR2, pp. 171, 172 (note 3), 333.
  26. ^ Velleius Paterculus, 2.43; Plutarch, Caesar 7; Suetonius, Divus Julius 13.
  27. ^ Broughton, MRR2, p. 333.

Further reading

  • Bowersock, G. W. (1990). "The Pontificate of Augustus", in Kurt A. Raaflaub and Mark Toher (eds.): Between Republic and Empire: Interpretations of Augustus and his Principate. Berkeley: University of California Press, 380–394. ISBN 0-520-08447-0.

External links

  • article Pontifex in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities