Agrippa and the Pontifical College on the Ara Pacis Augustae
By Gaius Stern
Paper given at the Classical Association of Canada Annual Meeting (2012)
Introduction: Vell. Pat. 2.127 informs us that Agrippa and Statilius Taurus held complura sacerdotia, as proof of the high regard in which Augustus held them. However, Dio 54.19.8 documents only one priesthood for Agrippa, membership in the college of the Quindecimviri Sacris Faciundis, confirmed by the Ludi Saeculares inscription (CIL 6.32323) while any other sacral honors remain unknown. Although Roman politicians were restricted to a single priesthood under normal rules, the members of the Second Triumvirate ignored this rule for themselves and their most trusted favorites. Even without the testimony of Velleius, the accumulation of powers Agrippa received in the last seven years of his life indicates that he received multiple priesthoods, including membership in the highest college in the Roman religion, the Pontifical College, as an effort to raise his stature beyond challenge should Augustus suddenly die. Agrippa’s presence on the Ara Pacis in the Pontifical College confirms this hypothesis, along with two coins whose meaning before now has seemed unimportant.
Inez Scott Ryberg and Erika Simon consider Agrippa to be a Pontifex, but three experts on the membership of the Republican priesthoods, Martha Hoffman Lewis (1955), G.S. Szemler (Latomus 1972), and John Scheid decline to endorse that view, because none of his other priesthoods are documented. Lewis even disputed Velleius