Pontifices and Citizens' Assemblies (contiones, concilia, comitia) in the Epoch of the Roman Republic

Smorchkov Andrey M.

Two problems are treated by the author: (1) the competence ofpontifex maximus at comitia calata and (2) the role he played at the election of plebeian tribunes in 449 BC. Having analysed the cases of arrogatio of Clodius and Octavian and three pieces of evidence given by Tacit and Gellius mentioning pontifices' participation in comitia calata, the author comes to the conclusion that pontifices conducted preliminary inquest and issued a decree about the possibility of adoption, but could not summon comitia calata, direct them or/and move for adoption. Only a magistrate with imperium and with the right to hold auspices could do that. The main purpose of the article is to analyse Livy's account (III. 54. 5-14) of the fact that after the overthrow of decemviri the election of plebeian tribunes was conducted by the pon-tifex maximus. In the author's opinion, the fact that the pontifex fulfilled political functions does not agree with the principles of organisation of the sacral sphere in the Roman Republic. It is not improbable that Livy was influenced by the contemporary practice, i.e. by the system of personal leadership created by Augustus, in which the role of plebeian tribune and pontifex maximus was very important. Comparing the establishment of plebeian tribunes in 494 BC with the election of 449 BC, the author shows that at the latter the role of pontifex maximus was limited to his usual assistance at the sacral act, i.e. at administering an oath to the plebeians ensuring tribunes' sacral immunity. Comparing the election of 449 BC with the faulty election of plebeian tribunes in 293 BC, he points out that in 449 BC it was conducted by one of the leaders of the plebeian «army». In this light Livy's statement that a pontifex could conduct quasi-comitia electing pontifex maximus seems to be doubtful, too. Most probably, it was the consul who was in charge of electing priests at such comitia. The conclusion is that pontifices did not have any political power as far as popular assemblies were concerned.