PONTIFEX

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PONTIFEX ; a priest, who served no particular divinity. Under Numa, who regulated the sacred rites of the Romans, there was only one pontifex. This number was afterwards increased to four, then to eight, and, under Sylla, to fifteen. The pontiflces formed a particular college of priests, which superintended the affairs of religion, at the head of which was the pontifex maximus, the chief priest, whose duty was the inauguration of the priests, and, in earlier times, the care of the public records (annales maximi). He also superintended the sacred rites of Vesta. He held his office for life, and could not leave Italy. The emperors afterwards assumed this title. The pontifices had the supreme superintendence of the religious worship, and its ministers directed the religious solemnities, had the care of the calendar, and decided lawsuits which were connected with religion (hence the jus pontijicum). The external badge of the pontifex, at least on solemn occasions, and while engaged in the duties of his office, was a dress bordered with purple (toga prcetexta), and a tapering hat in the form of a cone, which was made of the skins of sacrificed animals (tutulus or galerus). The dresses of the superior clergy in the Roman Catholic church, which they wear particularly on festivals, are called pontificalia.Pontificate is the dignity of the pontifex; likewise the papal dignity, as the pope himself is called, in Latin, pontifex maximus.