The Ancient Library

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On this page: Pontius – Pontus – Popinae – Poplifuga – Porfirius Optatianus – Porphyrion – Porphyry – Porrima – Porticus – Portland Vase – Portorium



had the superintendence over many transac­tions of private life, so far as ceremonial ques­tions were connected with them, such as the conclusion of marriages, adoption by means of arrogation, and burial. Even upon the civil law they had originally great influence, inasmuch as they alone were in traditional possession of the solemn legal formulae:, known as the ISgis actiones, which were necessary for every legal transaction, in-eluding the settlement of legal business and the forms for bringing lawsuits. They even gave legal opinions, which obtained recog­nition in the courts as customary law, by the side of the written law, and grew into a second authoritative source of Roman law. Until the establishment of the prsetorship (366 b.c.), a member of the college was appointed every year to impart information to private persons concerning the legal forms connected with the formulating of plaints and other legal business. The legis actiones were made public for the first time by the above-mentioned Flavius at the same time as the calendar. (See jurisprudence.)

Pontius. A special name of the sea-god Glaucus (q.v.).

Pontus. The sea, son of Gsea, and, by her again, father of Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybla.

Pdplnse. Roman cook-shops. (See inns.)

Popllfugia. The festival of the flight of the people. (See caprotina.)

Porf Irins Optatlanus (Publlllus), A Latin poet, who composed, about 33U a.d., a series of short poems in praise of Constantine, con­structed in a highly artificial manner. [All the lines in each poem contain exactly the same number of letters.] By this composi­tion he obtained his recall from banishment and won the favour of the emperor. The commendatory letter of Constantine, as well as the thanks of the poet, have come down to us with the poem.

Porphyrion. (1) One of the Giants. (See


(2) See pomponius (6).

Porphyry (Greek, Porphijrids). A Greek scholar and philosopher; in the latter capacity a votary of Neoplatonism. He was born 233 a.d. at Batansea in Syria, and received his education at Tyre, and after­wards studied grammar, rhetoric, and philo­sophy at Athens with Longmus, who instead of his Syrian name ifalchus ("king "), gave him the Greek name Porphyrlos (" clad in royal purple "). The fame of the Neoplatonist Plotinus drew him in 263 to Rome, where,

after some initial opposition, he for six years enthusiastically devoted himself to the study of the Neoplatonic philosophy. Being at­tacked by a dangerous melancholy, the result of overwork, he went, on the advice of Plotinus, to Sicily, whence after five years he returned to Rome, strengthened in mind and body. Here, until his death (304), he taught philosophy in the spirit of Plotinus, especially by bringing the teaching of his master within the reach of general know­ledge by his clear and attractive exposition. His most important scholar was lambllchus. A man of varied culture, Porphyry was par­ticularly prolific as an author in the domain of philosophy, grammar, rhetoric, arith­metic, geometry, and music; however, most of his works, including the most important, are lost, among them a treatise against the Christians in fifteen books, which was pub­licly burned under The8d8sius II (435). We have to lament the loss of his history of Greek philosophy before Plato in four books, of which we now possess only the (certainly uncritical) Life of PytMgOras, and that not complete. Besides this there are preserved a Life of Plotinus; a Com­pendium of the System of Plotinus, in the form of aphorisms ; a work on abstaining from animal food (De AbsVlnentia) in four books, from the Pythagorean point of view, valuable for its fulness of information on philosophy, and on the religions, forms of ritual, and customs of various peoples; an Introduction to the Categories of Aristotle, and a commentary on the same, in the form of questions and answers; a compendium of his own practical philosophy in the form of a Letter to Marcella, a widow without property, and with seven children, whom Plotinus married in his old age on account of her enthusiasm for philosophy; Scholia on Homer, discussions on a number of Homeric questions, an allegorical interpre­tation of the Homeric story of the grotto of the Nymphs in the Odyssey; and a Com­mentary on the Harmonics of Ptolemy.

Porrlma. See carmenta.

Portions. The Roman name for a colon­nade. (See stoa.)

Portland Vase. See gems, at end.

Portorlum. The custom levied by the Romans upon imports and exports; it was introduced as early as the time of the kings, and was generally leased to piibllcani (q.v.~). In 60 b.c. it was abolished for Italy, but was re-introduced by Csesar for foreign goods, and after that time always continued to exist. Tree and allied cities were, in

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