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FAX (φανός), a torch. The descriptions of poets and mythologists, and the works of ancient art, represent the torch as carried by Diana, Ceres, Bellona, Hymen, Phosphorus, by females

Fax. 1. From a relief. 2. From a fictile vase. 3. From an antique gem.

in bacchanalian processions, and, in an inverted position, by Sleep and Death. In the above woodcut, the female figure in the middle is copied from a fictile vase. The winged figure on the left hand, asleep and leaning on a torch, is from a funeral monument at Rome: the word “Somnus” is inscribed beside it. The other winged figure, also with the torch inverted, is taken from an antique gem, and represents Cupid under the character of Λυσέρως, “the deliverer from love” (Serv. in Verg. A. 4.520) or “Lethaeus Amor” (Ovid, Rem. Am. 551). In ancient marbles the torch is sometimes more ornamented than in the examples now produced; but it appears to be formed of wooden staves or twigs, either bound by a rope drawn round them in a spiral form, as in the above middle figure, or surrounded by circular bands at equal distances, as in the two exterior figures. The inside of the torch may be supposed to have been filled with flax, tow, or other vegetable fibres, the whole being abundantly impregnated with pitch, rosin, wax, oil, and other inflammable substances. As the principal use of torches was to give light to those who went abroad after sunset, the portion of the Roman day immediately succeeding sunset was called fax or prima fax. (Gel. 3.2.11; Macr. 1.3.8.) Torches, as now described, appear to have been more common among the Romans than the Greeks. The use of torches after sunset, and the practice of celebrating marriages at that time, probably led to the consideration of the torch as one of the necessary accompaniments and symbols of marriage. Among the Romans the fax nuptialis (Cic. Clu. 6.15), having been lighted at the parental [p. 1.831]hearth, was carried before the bride by a boy whose parents were alive. (Plaut. Cas. 1.30; Ov. Ep. 11.101; Servius in Verg. Ecl. 8.29; Plin. H. E. 16.75; Festus, s. v. Patrimi.) The torch was also carried at funerals (fax sepulcralis, Ovid, Ov. Ep. 2.120), both because these were often nocturnal ceremonies, and because it was used to set fire to the pile. Hence the expression of Propertius (5.11, 46), “Viximus insignes inter utramque facem.” The torch-bearer turned away his face from the pile in setting it on fire. (Verg. A. 6.224

[J.Y] [W.W]

hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Cicero, For Aulus Cluentius, 6.15
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 4.520
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 6.224
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 3.2.11
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