one of the most ancient patrician gentes at Rome, but it never attained any historical importance. The Potitii were, with the Pinarii, the hereditary priests of Hercules at Rome: the legend which related the establishment of the worship of this god, is given under PINARIA GENS. It is further stated that the Potitii and Pinarii continued to discharge the duties of their priesthood till the censorship of App. Claudius (B. C. 312), who induced the Potitii, by the sum of 50,000 pounds of copper, to instruct public slaves in the performance of the sacred rites; whereat the god was so angry, that the whole gens, containing twelve families and thirty grown up men, perished within a year, or, according to other accounts, within thirty days, and Appius himself became blind (Liv. 9.29
; Festus, p. 237, ed. Muller ; V. Max. 1.1.17
). Niebuhr remarks that if there is any truth in the tale respecting the destruction of the Potitia gens, they may have perished in the great plague which raged fifteen or twenty years later, since such legends are not scrupulous with respect to chronology.
The same writer further observes that it is probable that the worship of Hercules, as attended to by the Potitii and the Pinarii, was a form of religion peculiar to these gentes, and had nothing to do with the religion of the Roman state; and that as App. Claudius wished to make these sacra pricata
part of the sacra publica,
he induced the Potitii to instruct public slaves in the rites, since no foreign god could have a flamen. (Niebuhr, list. of Rome,
vol. iii. p. 309.)