One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1(in ancient Rome) the head of the principal college of priests.
- ‘Cæsar might be ready to go to war; but if the Pontifex Maximus at Number XI opens any one of five pigeons and pronounces its entrails unpropitious, then the legions must stand down.’
- ‘The emperor, Pontifex Maximus, sits on top of the Pantheon, and adjudicates the differences among the doctrines.’
- ‘Now, recall that the way that the Romans set up their control, they set up this system of Pontifex Maximus, in which the emperor was the head of the religion.’
- ‘Now, the religions were all subjects of a Pontifex Maximus, who we call ‘Emperor’ in later usage.’
- ‘Massive bribery with money borrowed from the rich and influential ex-consul Crassus also procured for him the politically important office of Pontifex Maximus in 63.’
- ‘As a result, the bishops of the Christian community in the city of Rome became prominent leaders, and acquired the incidental pagan title of Pontifex Maximus along the way.’
- 1.1 (in the Roman Catholic Church) a title of the Pope.
- ‘Occasionally it was good custom to plunder the palace of the freshly deceased Pontifex Maximus.’
- ‘One of the most amazing aspects about the ascendancy of the papacy is that the church of Rome promotes the pope as the "Pontifex Maximus".’
Maximus, superlative of Latin magnus ‘great’.
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