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ἱερεύς). A priest; a person whose duty it was to perform certain rites associated with the relations existing between the State, or some organized body within the State, and the gods.

In Greece, the word ἱερεύς (fem. ἱέρεια) is found as early as Homer, and denotes a person charged with definite and permanent religious duties— prayer, sacrifice, purification, or prophecy, or all of these combined. He was regularly associated with some special place of worship, as a temple or shrine, and was the minister of the god to whom the temple or shrine was dedicated (Pollux, i. 14). Priests, however, were not the only persons who exercised these functions, for we find them also performed by kings and magistrates, and also by heads of families and clans; so that it is evident that the priestly office had no exclusive right to the exercise of liturgical observances. They were, however, even in Homer's time, held in honour (v. 78), and even regarded as possessed of a species of divinity. Besides the name ἱερεύς, Homer also uses the terms ἀρητήρ and θυόσκοος.

In historic times, the priest was required to be a citizen of the State, so that in Athens no μέτοικος could act as such; and if the worship were one peculiar to a family or clan, he must be a full member of it. Priestesses enjoyed some of the rights granted to male citizens—e. g. the right of pleading before the council, and of signing documents. They were usually women of rank and family. For both priests and priestesses, bodily purity was a requisite, and this not only a moral but a physical purity. The priest must not touch a dead body, and a death in the family of the priest sometimes served to forfeit the office, and always acted as a temporary disqualification. Some priesthoods could only be filled by virgins (Pausan. ii. 33, 3), while the priests of the Ephesian Artemis were eunuchs, and boy priests are also mentioned (C. I. G. 6206). There was, however, no general regulation as to age, nor was marriage prohibited by any general law. Priests were appointed sometimes by hereditary descent, as in the case of the Eumolpidae at Athens (C. I. A. ii. 410), sometimes by election (C. I. G. 2270, 18), and sometimes by purchase (C. I. G. 2656).

The duties of a priest were partly administrative and partly liturgical. The first class of duties comprised the care of the temple, the regulation of the worshippers, and the management of the revenues. In keeping order he was assisted by officers like the modern vergers (ῥαβδοφόροι, κλειδοῦχοι, ζάκοροι, νεωκόροι). (For the chief liturgic duties, see Sacrificium.) The privileges of a priest were special precedence, the use of a house, and a share of the perquisites arising from the sacrifices—e. g. specific portions of the victims (C. I. A. 610, 631), and fees, and also presents given by the worshippers (Plut. 676). The dress of a priest was not, in general, especially distinctive, except for the wreath worn on the head while sacrificing. The hair was also, in some cases, worn long. In some special rites, however, an ornamental dress was worn, as at the Eleusinia and in the cult of the dead (Aesh. Eumen. 982). See Eleusinia. On the frieze of the Parthenon, the priests appear in a long chiton.

For various classes of Greek priests, see the articles Eleusinia; Eumolpidae; Hieropoei; Sacrificium; and compare the articles Mysteria; Oracula; Religio.

At Rome, in comparison with the civil magistrates, all priests were regarded as homines privati; though all of them, as priests, were sacerdotes publici, in so far as their office (sacerdotium) was connected with any worship recognized by the State. The appellation of sacerdos publicus was, however, given principally to the chief pontiff and the Flamen Dialis, who were at the same time the only priests who were members of the Senate by virtue of their office. All priestly offices or sacerdotia were held for life, without responsibility to any civil magistrate. A priest was generally allowed to hold any other civil or military office besides his priestly dignity. Some priests, however, formed an exception, for the Duumviri, the Rex Sacrorum, and the Flamen Dialis were not allowed to hold any State office, and were also exempt from service in the armies. Their priestly character was, generally speaking, inseparable from their person as long as they lived; hence the augurs and Fratres Arvales retained their priestly character even when sent into exile, or when they were taken prisoners. It also occurs that one and the same person held two or three priestly offices at the same time. Thus we find the three dignities of Pontifex Maximus, augur, and Decemvir Sacrorum united in one individual. Bodily defects incapacitated a person at Rome, as among all ancient nations, from holding any priestly office. All priests were originally patricians, but from the year B.C. 367 the plebeians also began to take part in the sacerdotia (see Plebes); and those priestly offices which down to the latest times remained in the hands of the patricians alone, such as that of the Rex Sacrorum, the Flamines, Salii, and others, had no influence upon the affairs of the State.

As regards the appointment of priests, the ancient writers unanimously state that at first they were appointed by the kings, but after the sacerdotia were once instituted, each college of priests —for nearly all priests constituted certain corporations called collegia—had the right of filling up, by coöptatio, the vacancies which occurred. (See Pontifex.) Other priests, on the contrary, such as the Vestal Virgins and the Flamines, were appointed (capiebantur) by the Pontifex Maximus, a rule which appears to have been observed down to the latest times; others again, such as the Duumviri Sacrorum, were elected by the people, or by the curiae, as, for example, the curiones. But in whatever manner they were appointed, all priests after their appointment required to be inaugurated by the pontiffs and the augurs, or by the latter alone. Those priests who formed colleges had originally, as we have already observed, the right of coöptatio; but in the course of time they were deprived of this right, or at least the coöptatio was reduced to a mere form, by several laws, called leges de sacerdotiis, such as the Lex Domitia, Lex Cornelia, and Lex Iulia; their nature is described in the article Pontifex, and what is there said in regard to the appointment of pontiffs applies equally to all the other colleges. All priests had some external distinction, as the apex, tutulus, or galerus, the toga praetexta, as well as honorary seats in the theatre, circus, and amphitheatre. Most of the priestly colleges possessed landed property, and some priests had also a regular annual salary (stipendium), which was paid to them from the public treasury. This is expressly stated in regard to the Vestal Virgins, the augurs, and the curiones, and may therefore be supposed to have been the case with other priests also. The Pontifex Maximus, the Rex Sacrorum, and the Vestal Virgins had moreover a domus publica as their place of residence.

See Martha, Les Sacerdoces Athéniens; Boissier, La Religion Romaine; and the articles Augur; Augustales; Epulones; Extispex; Flamen; Haruspex; Pontifex; Sacrificium; Salii; Sibyllini Libri; Templum; Vestales.

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