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REX SACRO´RUM In this form, or as rex sacrûm, the title is always found in inscriptions (C. I. L. 6.2122, &c.), and so in Plut. Q. R. 63, τῷ καλουμένῳ ῥῆγι σακρώρουμ, and in Dionys. A. R. 4.74, ἱερῶν βασιλεύς. The title rex sacrificulus is used in some post-Augustan writers (Liv. 2.2, 41.9; Gel. 10.15, &c.); rex sacrificus (Liv. 40.42); rex sacrificiorum (Liv. 9.34). Cicero speaks of him simply as rex (Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii.3 15).

When the monarchy came to an end, the chief sacred functions of the king, and all that was particularly important on the religious side, passed to the Pontifex Maximus [PONTIFEX], but a certain part fell to the Rex Sacrorum, a priest who preserved the name of king much as the βασιλεὺς did at Athens. The Romans seem to have wished to preserve a continuity in religious matters, and not to deprive the gods of the service of the king by their change of constitution, while they carefully assigned him nothing that could give him political weight, and precluded him from holding any other office in the state. It is probable that the ceremonies described below, which fell specially to him, were regarded as marking particularly the royal priesthood. The office was not peculiar to Rome; there was a Rex Sacrorum at Tusculum, Lanuvium, Velitrae, Bovillae, and perhaps at other places (Orell. 2279; C. I. L. 6.2125, 10.8417; Wilmanns, 1773).

The Rex Sacrorum belonged to the collegium of which the Pontifex Maximus was the head, and the pontifices and flamines were also members [PONTIFEX]. (Cf. Cic. de Dom. 52, 135; de harusp. Resp. 6, 12; Marquardt, Staatsverw. iii.2 243.) In the ordo sacerdotum he stands first, above the three chief flamines, and at the priestly banquet he sat in the first place, and next to him the flamen dialis (Gel. 10.15, cf. Fest. p. 185; Serv. ad Aen. 2.2; Gel. 15.27). It is probable that this was the place originally reserved for the king; and perhaps also the appearance of his wife as assistant in the sacrifices which fell to him, with the title regina sacrorum (Fest. p. 113; Macrob. 1.15, 19; C. I. L. 6.2123), was a remnant of the king's priestly office under the monarchy: the wives of flamines, however, also took part in sacrifices. His traditional royalty appears, too, in the fact that the pontifices received the februa for the purification from the Rex and the flamen dialis, and perhaps also, as Mommsen thinks, in his official residence [see REGIA]. In spite, however, of these shadows of ancient supremacy, ho ranked below the Pontifex Maximus in real dignity as well as in political importance (Liv. 2.2) [compare SACERDOS], and this is marked by the mode of his appointment; and indeed, though, as was said above, standing first in the ordo sacerdotum, the Rex was practically only a subordinate member of the College of Pontifices, nominated by them, appointed by the Pontifex Maximus, and inaugurated by the augurs. It appears that when a vacancy occurred, out of certain persons nominated by the College of Pontifices, the Pontifex Maximus selected the Rex Sacrerum, who was then inaugurated by the augurs at the Comitia Calata (Liv. 40.42; Gel. 15.27; Marquardt, Staatsverw. 3.322, note). His office was for life (Gaius, 1.112; Serv. ad Aen. 8.646), and he was always a patrician (Cic. de Dom. 14, 38; Liv. 6.41).

His duties, so far as our information goes, were as follows: on the calends of each month, the state of the moon having been announced to him by one of the pontifices, he summoned the people in Comitia Calata to the Curia Calabra. on the Capitol, and announced when the nones of that month would fall, and offered sacrifice there to Janus, while his wife offered in the Regia (Macrob. 1.15); on the nones the people were again gathered in the Arx to learn front his declaration (edictum) what festival days fell in that month, and he offered the sacra nonalia in arce (Varro, L. L. 6.28); on Jan. 9 [AGONIA] he offered a ram to Janus in the Regia (Fest. p. 10; Varro, L. L. 6.12; Ov. Fast. 1.317). For other ceremonies specially attributed to the Rex Sacrorum on Feb. 24, March 24, and May 24, see REGIFUGIUM

It was, as has been said, carefully provided, from jealousy of the royal power, that the Rex Sacrorum should be cut off from political power and incapable of holding any other office (Liv. 40.42; Plut. Q. R. 63; Dionys. A. R. 4.74). This disability (which did not exist in other priestly offices) was not always maintained under the Empire, for we find Cn. Pinarius Severus Rex Sacrorum and Consul under Trajan (C. I. L. 14.3604, 4246); but still the office being, as will be seen from the above account, purely ceremonial, and regularly divorced from power and influence in the state, it became less and less coveted (cf. Liv. 28.6; 40.42), though it remained till a late period, at any rate till the middle of the 3rd century A.D. (Trebell. Poll. Valer. duo, 6, 6). (See further in Marquardt, Staatsverw. iii.2 321-324; Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii.3 13-15. A general survey of the changes in the relative importance of priestly offices will be found under SACERDOS.)

[L.S] [G.E.M]

hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Cicero, On his House, 14
    • Cicero, On his House, 52
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 34
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 42
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 41
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 2
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 10.15
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 15.27
    • Ovid, Fasti, 1
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