Collegium (ancient Rome)
In Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, a collegium (plural collegia, "joined by law") was any association with a legal personality
Legal personality
Legal personality is the characteristic of a non-human entity regarded by law to have the status of a person....

. Such associations had various functions.


Collegia could function as guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

s, social club
A club is an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal. A service club, for example, exists for voluntary or charitable activities; there are clubs devoted to hobbies and sports, social activities clubs, political and religious clubs, and so forth.- History...

s, or funerary societies; in practice, in ancient Rome, they sometimes became organized bodies of local businessmen and even criminals, who ran the mercantile/criminal activities in a given urban region, or rione
Rione is the name given to a ward in several Italian cities, the best-known of which is Rome. Unlike a quartiere, a rione is usually an official administrative subdivision...

. The organization of a collegium was often modeled on that of civic governing bodies, the Senate of Rome being the epitome. The meeting hall was often known as the curia
A curia in early Roman times was a subdivision of the people, i.e. more or less a tribe, and with a metonymy it came to mean also the meeting place where the tribe discussed its affairs...

, the same term as that applied to that of the Roman Senate.

By law, only three persons were required to create a legal collegium; the only exception was the college of consuls, which included only the two consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...


There were four great religious corporations (quattuor amplissima collegia) of Roman priests. They were, in descending order of importance:
  • Pontifices (also known as College of Pontiffs
    College of Pontiffs
    The College of Pontiffs or Collegium Pontificum was a body of the ancient Roman state whose members were the highest-ranking priests of the polytheistic state religion. The college consisted of the Pontifex Maximus, the Vestal Virgins, the Rex Sacrorum, and the flamines...

    ), headed by the Pontifex Maximus
    Pontifex Maximus
    The Pontifex Maximus was the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post...

  • Augur
    The augur was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome and Etruria. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups/alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of...

  • Quindecemviri
    Quindecemviri sacris faciundis
    In ancient Rome, the quindecimviri sacris faciundis were the fifteen members of a college with priestly duties. Most notably they guarded the Sibylline Books, scriptures which they consulted and interpreted at the request of the Senate...

  • Epulones
    The epulones formed one of the four great religious corporations of ancient Roman priests. The two most important colleges were the College of Pontiffs and the augurs; the fourth was the quindecimviri sacris faciundis...


Greek equivalent

The Ancient Greek term for collegium is hetaireia
The Hetaireia or Hetaeria was a term used to describe a corps of bodyguards of the Byzantine Empire. Its name means "the Company", echoing the ancient Macedonian Companion cavalry. The imperial Hetaireia, composed chiefly of foreigners, formed part of the Byzantine imperial guard alongside the...

and such organizations existed, from as early as the 6th century BCE in Athens.
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