Pontifex Maximus

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Historic Uses of the Title

The Pontifex Maximus was the high priest of the Ancient Roman College of Pontiffs. This was the most important position in the Ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians, until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post. A distinctly religious office under the early Roman Republic, it gradually became politicized until, beginning with Augustus, it was subsumed into the Imperial office. It was last held by the Christian Roman Emperor Gratian until the title passed over to the Bishop of Rome.[1][2]

Modern Uses

  • Today, "Pontifex Maximus" is one of the titles of the Bishop of Rome as Pope of the Catholic Church. As a papal title, the translation Supreme Pontiff is customary when writing in English, in which the Latin term Pontifex Maximus refers to the former pagan Roman post.