From Cooptation to Election: Reforming the Way of Creating Pontiffs in the Roman Republic in the 3rd–2nd Centuries BC (Political and Legal Aspect)

Borovkov Pavel S.

The author analyses evidence of the written tradition concerning two events: (1) establishment (in the 3rd c. BC) of voting on the candidate for the office of pontifex maximus at the comitia; and (2) adoption of lex Domitia if 104/103 BC on the election of pontiffs. He points out two basic characteristics of the reforms, which adapted the procedure of election to the norms of sacral law: (1) «reduced» comitia tributa began to be enough for the election; (2) divination was used to chose the tribes that had rights to vote; (3) the college of pontiffs retained the prerogative to take part in the election of pontifex maximus and to chose the rite of cooptation of other members of the college, a fact that left to the deity the formal right to authorize the elected pontifex. All this ultimately made the priests’ power de jure independent of the popular assembly. But the very fact of comitial vote and the fact that it was preceded by election campaign changed the attitude of the political elite to the sacral office. Epigraphic evidence shows that as early as the 1st century BC Roman politicians regarded pontificate as a social honor and included it in cursus honorum.

Keywords: Pontifex, comitia tributa, college of pontiffs, pontifex maximus, cooptation