previous next


FLAMEN the name for any Roman priest who was devoted to the service of one particular god (DIVISQUE ALIIS ALII SACERDOTES, OMNIBUS PONTIFICES, SINGULIS FLAMINES SUNTO, Cic. de Leg. 2.8, § 20), and who received a distinguishing epithet from the deity to whom he ministered (Horum, sc. flaminum, singuli cognomina habent ab eo Deo quoi sacra faciunt, Varr. L. L. 5.84). The ancients derived the word from filum, as if filamen, from the peculiarity of their head-dress (Varr. l.c.; Fest. Epit. 87; Serv. ad Aen. 8.664, 10.270; Dionys. A. R. 2.64) or from pilleus (Plut. Num. 7). The real derivation, it is tolerably certain, is from flare in a transitive sense, to “blow up” a fire; the flamen was always a sacrificing priest. The office is called [p. 1.865]flaminium in the MSS. and editions of Cicero and Livy; inscriptions, and the Medicean MS. of Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 4.16), give flamonium, undoubtedly the more correct form; rarely flaminatus (Inscrr.).

The most dignified flamens were those attached to Diiovis, Mars, and Quirinus, the Dialis, Martialis, and Quirinalis. The two first are said by Plutarch (l.c.) to have been established by Romulus; but the greater number of authorities agree in referring the institution of the whole three, in common with all other matters connected with state religion, to Numa (Liv. 1.20; Dionys. A. R. 2.64 ff.). The number was eventually increased to fifteen (Fest. p. 154 b): the three original flamens were always chosen from among the patricians, and styled Majores (Gaius, 1.112); the rest from the plebeians, with the epithet Minores (Fest. Epit. p. 151). Two rude lines of Ennius (ap. Varr. L. L. 7.44) preserve the names of six of these, appointed, says the poet, by Numa,-- Volturnalem, Palatualem, Furrinalem,
Floralemque, Falacrem et Pomonalem fecit
Hic idem which we may add the Flamen Volcanalis (Varr. L. L. 5.84), the Flamen Portunalis (Fest. p. 217 a), and the Flamen Carmentalis (Cic. Brut. 14, § 56). We find mention of the Virbialis, Laurentialis, Lavinalis and Lucullaris, which would raise the number of names to sixteen; but there is nothing to prove that these four were Roman and not merely provincial priests. The most distinguished of all the flamens was the Dialis; the lowest in rank the Pomonalis (Fest. p. 154 b).

Towards the end of the Republic the Lesser Flamens seem not to have been fully kept up; there is no record of the mode of their election, and some of the names were almost forgotten (Varr. L. L. 6.19). Of the flamens in general we are told that their characteristic dress was the apex [APEX], the laena [LAENA], and a laurel wreath; that they were inaugurated (it does not follow that they were appointed) at the Comitia Calata (Gel. 15.27; COMITIA p. 504 b); and that they were at all times subject to the authority of the Pontifex Maximus, against whom, however, they sometimes appealed to the people (Liv. Epit. xix., 37.51; V. Max. 1.1.2). The office was understood to last for life; but a flamen might be compelled to resign (flamonio abire) for a breach of duty, or even on account of the occurrence of an ill-omened accident while discharging his functions (Liv. 26.23; Val. Max. l.c. § 4). The three Greater Flamens were all, it is probable, elected like the Dialis, respecting whose appointment we have the fullest details; though in other respects they led a much less ceremonious life. When a vacancy occurred, three persons of patrician descent, whose parents had been married by the rite of confarreatio [MATRIMONIUM], were nominated by the college of pontiffs, and one of these chosen and solemnly installed by the Pontifex Maximus (Tac. Ann. 4.16; Liv. 27.8, cf. 29.38; V. Max. 6.9.3); he was not allowed to refuse, and the word capere applied to this act seems to indicate that he was regarded as a prisoner of the god, forcibly impressed for his service. From that time forward he was emancipated from the control of his father, and became sui juris (Gaius, 1.130; Ulpian, Fragm. 10.5; Tac. Ann. l.c.).

The Dialis enjoyed many peculiar honours, counterbalanced by the most burdensome restrictions in the whole compass even of Roman ceremonial religion. A long catalogue of the latter has been compiled by Aulus Gellius (10.15) from the works of Fabius Pictor and Masurius Sabinus, while Plutarch, in his Roman Questions (Nos. 44, 50, 109-113), endeavours to explain their import. The object was evidently to make him, in a literal sense, Jovi adsiduum sacerdotem ; to compel constant attention to the duties of the priesthood, and to leave no temptation to neglect them. Other priests were obliged to be equally careful when engaged in performing sacred rites ; but the Dialis was always on parade, and always in full dress. He had a right to the toga praetexta, the sella curulis, and to a seat in the senate by virtue of his office; but in early times he was altogether precluded from seeking any civil magistracy, and at a later period the restriction was only partially relaxed. He might not mount upon horseback, nor even touch a horse, nor look upon an army marshalled (classem procinctam, Gell. l.c.) without the pomoerium; was not allowed to swear an oath (Liv. 31.50; Fest. Epit. p. 104), nor to be out of the city for a single night (Liv. 5.52): a regulation so far modified in imperial times, that an absence of two nights was allowed, not more than twice a year, and with the consent of the Pontifex Maximus (Tac. Ann. 2.58, 71). Thus it was impossible for him to undertake the government of a province, and he was seldom elected to the consulship. His right of sitting in the senate, even, had long fallen into abeyance, when it was revived by the claim of C. Valerius Flaccus in B.C. 209 (Liv. 27.8; compare 1.20). In other respects his privileges were curiously mixed up with the corresponding restrictions: in both we can trace the working of the same principles. As every day was a holiday with him (cotidie feriatus est, Gell.) he was not allowed either to work himself or to see others working. Whenever he went out, he wore the special apex called albogalerus, with an olive-branch twined with white wool (filum) attached to its point (apiculum); the laena, a thick woollen praetexta, woven by the hands of his wife; in one hand he carried a sacrificial knife [SECESPITA], in the other a wand called commetacula, with which he kept the people at a distance. For the same purpose he was preceded by a lictor and by criers called praeciae or praeclamitatores, at whose bidding every one laid aside his work. As emblematic of the divine freedom, he could neither look upon, touch, nor name anything suggestive of bonds or imprisonment: hence he had no knots on any part of his attire, which was fastened instead with clasps (fibulae); his ring had to be split so as not to completely encircle his finger (anulo . .. pervio et casso, Gell. l.c.); he was forbidden to name ivy, on account of its binding properties, or to walk along a path over-canopied by vines, for a similar reason. [These last two prohibitions are wrongly explained by Plutarch: he was under no restrictions as to the use of wine.] If one in bonds took refuge in his house, the chains were immediately struck off, conveyed through the [p. 1.866]impluvium to the roof, and thence cast down into the street; if a criminal on his way to punishment met him (as was also the case with the Vestals), he could neither be scourged nor executed on that day. None but a free man might out his hair; his beard might only be trimmed with a knife of bronze, the ancient and more sacred metal; the clippings of his hair, and the parings of his nails, were buried beneath a felix arbor. All day long he could not take off his head-dress out of doors (his doing so in the house was a concession in later times); nor strip off his tunic, that he might not be exposed sub oculis Jovis. No one might sleep in his bed, the legs of which were smeared with fine clay; a box containing sacrificial cakes (capsula cum strue a<*>que ferto, Gell.) always stood beside it. The clay on the feet of the bed has been ingeniously explained by Mr. J. G. Frazer; it was an “accommodation” of an old rule which required him to sleep on the ground (Class. Rev. 2.322). Again, he was forbidden to touch or name anything unclean or suggestive of uncleanness, such as a dead body or a bustum [FUNUS], though he was not preyented from attending a funeral; a dog, a she-goat (because liable to epilepsy [!], Plut. Q. R. 111), beans (because sacred to the dead, Fest. Epit. p. 87; LEMURIA), raw flesh, or fermented dough (fermentata farina, Gell.), because fermentation implies corruption. To cooked meat or leavened bread when baked there was, it seems, no objection.

Flaminica was the name given to the wife of the Dialis. He was required to wed a virgin according to the ceremonies of confarreatio, which regulation also applied to the two other flamines majores (Serv. ad Aen. 4.104, 374; Gaius, 1.112); and he could not marry a second time. Hence, since her assistance was essential to many sacrifices, a divorce was not permitted, and if she died the Dialis was obliged to resign. Their children, if they had any, assisted them in their sacred duties; if not, their place was supplied by camilli and camillae, who were required to be patrimi et matrimi, and in early times to be the offspring of a confarreate marriage [CAMILLI]. The regulations imposed upon the flaminica were similar to those of her husband. In public, her dress consisted of a dyed robe (venenato operitur); her hair was plaited up with a purple band in a conical form [TUTULUS]; and her head was covered with a veil (flammeum) and a rica, the nature of which is somewhat doubtful [RICA]. She likewise carried the secespita. She was prohibited from mounting a staircase consisting of more than three steps (the text of Aulus Gellius is uncertain, but the object must have been to prevent her ankles from being seen); and when she went to the argei [ARGEI], she neither combed nor arranged her hair. On each of the nundinae a ram was sacrificed to Jupiter in the regia by the flaminica (Macrob. 1.16).

Flaminia, according to Festus and A. gellius, was the house of the Dialis, from which it was unlawful to carry out fire except for sacred purposes. The name flaminia was also given, according to Festus, to a little or perhaps subordinate priestess (sacerdotula) who assisted the flaminica in her duties.

After the death of the flamen Merula, who was chosen consul suffectus on the expulsion of Cinna (Vell. 2.20; V. Max. 9.12.5), and who, upon the restoration of the Marian faction, shed his own blood in the sanctuary (B.C. 87), calling down curses on his enemies with his dying breath (Vell. 2.22), the priesthood remained vacant until the consecration of Servius Maluginensis (B.C. 11) by Augustus, then Pontifex Maximus, Julius Caesar had indeed been nominated in his 17th year, but was never installed; and during the whole of the above period the duties of the office were discharged by the Pontifex Maximus. (Suet. Jul. 100.1, compared with Vell. 2.43, and the Commentators. See also Suet. Aug. 31; D. C. 54.36; Tac. Ann. 3.58. The lastquoted historian, if the text be correct, states that the interruption lasted for 72 years only.)

The municipal towns also had their flamens. Thus the celebrated affray between Milo and Clodius took place while the former was on his way to Lanuvium, of which he was then dictator, to declare the election of a flamen (ad flaminem prodendum, Cic. pro Mil. 10, § 27). After the deification of the emperors, flamens were appointed to offer sacrifices to them both in Rome and in the provinces. Julius Caesar accepted a flamen in his lifetime (Suet. Jul. 76; Cic. Phil. 2.43, § 110); Augustus refused all divine honours within the borders of Italy, but after his death the flamen Augustalis appears (cf. AUGUSTALES). These flamines Divorum did not, as has been sometimes thought, form a collegium with the sodales, but stood in direct relations only with the Pontifex Maximus, i. e. with the emperor himself. We find flamens to emperors who had no sodales, as to Julius, Nerva (Plin. Paneg. 11), Trajan (flamen Ulpialis, C. I. L. 6.1383, Wilm. 1175); and the imperial flamens were required to be patricians, the sodales were not. The former were, in fact, mostly taken fromt he imperial family, e. g. the Gaesars Germanicus and Nero (Orelli, 660, 664), L. Silanus the victim of Claudius and Agrippina (C. I. G. 369), the younger Pertinax (Capitol. Pert. 15). In the case of Antoninus Pius, the “flamen ex affinibus” is clearly distinguished from the “sodales ex amicissimis” (Capitol. M. Ant. Phil. 7 extr.). We do not find flamens assigned to any but actual emperors, excluding other deified persons; nor to empresses, with the exception of the elder Faustina, who received more than one flaminica in her husband's lifetime (Capitol. Ant. Pi. 6). With the emperors the appointment of a flamen was the natural accompaniment of consecration; and it can only be accidental that no records are preserved of the flamens of such favourite emperors as Vespasian, Titus, and Alexander Severus. Inscriptions show that, following the analogy of the earlier flamens (Dialis, Martialis, Quirinalis, not Jovis, Martis, Quirini), the flamens of the empire were not called Julii, Augusti, Claudii, &c., but Juliani (Orell. 2242), Augustales (Orell. 2378), Claudiales (Wilmanns, 1174). (Compare Marquardt, Staatsverw. 3.313-319, 453-455; H. Dessau, de sodalibus et flaminibus Augustalibus, Berlin, 1877, and in Ephem. Epigr. 3.205 ff.; AUGUSTALES p. 258 b.

[W.R] [W.W]

hide References (20 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (20):
    • Cicero, For Milo, 10
    • Cicero, Philippics, 2.43
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 76
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.58
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.71
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.58
    • Tacitus, Annales, 4.16
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 52
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 23
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 31, 50
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 8
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.8
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 10.15
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 15.27
    • Plutarch, Numa, 7
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 1.1.2
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 6.9.3
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 9.12.5
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: