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Rex Sacrōrum

(or Rex Sacrificŭlus), “the king of sacrifices.” The name given by the Romans to a priest who, after the abolition of the royal power, had to perform certain religious rites connected with the name of king. He resembles the King Archon of the Athenian constitution. He was always a patrician, was chosen for life by the Pontifex Maximus with the assistance of the whole pontifical college (of which he became a member), and was inaugurated by the augurs. Although he was externally of high rank and, like the Pontifex Maximus, had an official residence in the Regia, the royal abode of Numa, and took the chair at the feasts and other festivities of the pontifices, yet in his religious authority he ranked below the Pontifex Maximus, and was not allowed to hold any public office, or even to address the people in public. His wife (like the wives of the flamens) participated in the priesthood. Our information as to the details of the office is imperfect. Before the knowledge of the calendar became public property, it was the duty of the Rex Sacrorum to summon the people to the Capitol on the Calends and Nones of each month, and to announce the festivals for the month. On the Calends he and the regina sacrificed, and at the same time invoked Ianus. Of the other sacrifices known to us we may mention the Regifugium on Feb. 24th, when the Rex Sacrorum sacrificed at the Comitium, and then fled in haste. This has been erroneously explained as a commemoration of the flight of Tarquinius Superbus, the last of the Roman kings; but it is much more probably one of the customs handed down from the time of the kings themselves, and perhaps connected with the purificatory sacrifice from which the month of February derived its name. At the end of the Republic the office, owing to the political disability attaching to the holder, proved unattractive, and was sometimes left unfilled; but under Augustus it appears to have been restored to fresh dignity, and in imperial times it continued to exist, at any rate, as late as the third century. See Mommsen, Röm. Staatsrecht, ii. 13-15 (3d ed.); Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, iii. 321-324 (2d ed.).

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