), 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,
Fax. 1. From a relief. 2. From a fictile vase. 3. From an antique
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.
.) 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
(Cic. Clu. 6.15
been lighted at the parental [p. 1.831]
hearth, was carried
before the bride by a boy whose parents were alive. (Plaut.
1.30; Ov. Ep. 11.101
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
), “Viximus insignes inter utramque
facem.” The torch-bearer turned away his face from the pile in
setting it on fire. (Verg. A. 6.224