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Pontifex Maximus

The term of highest office in the ancient religion of Rome, indicating the highest priest of the city and its cult, passed into the hands of Octavian in 12 b.c. Subsequent emperors, as is documented numismatically, bore the title until the termination of the Western half, by which time Rome itself had been abandoned as seat of government-though it had been refused by Gratian,* who is also noted for his supposed recognition of the Roman bishop's primacy. It was only natural, then, that the Christian bishop of the city should receive this designation among many others, just as he remained the ranking officer therein-a situation mockingly anticipated by Tertullian. A fascinating play with the term occurs in Erasmus's Julius Excluded.

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