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FLA´MMEUM (sc. velum), a flame-coloured [p. 1.867]veil, worn by a Roman bride, the colour of which is described as luteus (Plin. Nat. 21.46; “lutea flammea,Lucan 2.361 ). The diminutive flammeolum (Juv. 10.334), used of the bridal veil of Messalina, probably indicates only a veil of finer texture than usual. It was a long veil covering the head, and, with the exception of the face, descending over the back to the feet, whence it is described by the grammarians as a kind of dress ( “flammea genus amicti,” Schol. ad Juv. 6.225; “vestimentum,” Fest. p. 92, 16; “flammeo amicitur nubens,” Fest. p. 89, 3). It is so represented in works of art, and is frequently mentioned by the Roman writers in connexion with marriage ( “flammeum cape,” Cat. 60.8; “flammea sumit,” Juv. 2.124; “flammea texuntur sponsae,” Mart. 11.78, 3; “puellae caput involverat flammeo,” Petron. 26, 1). Though the flammeum did not entirely cover the face, yet from its falling over the forehead usually it is described as concealing the countenance ( “velare vultus,” Lucan, l.c.; Mart. 12.42, 3). When the bride was brought into the nuptial chamber, the veil was removed by the bridegroom (Claudian, de Laud. Stilich. 2.368).

Bride with the Flammeum. (From the Aldobrandine Marriage.)

Festus says (p. 89) that the bride wore the flammeum because it was always used by the Flaminica, the wife of the Flamen, who could not obtain a divorce. But this is not correct. It has been pointed out by Rossbach that the flammeum was part of the dress of the Flaminica, because it was in ancient times worn by all Roman matrons in performing sacrificial rites. It was originally identical with the ricinium and rica, except in colour, which is also described as a portion of the dress of the Flaminica, though subsequently the ricinium was made smaller and became only a head-dress. [RICINIUM]

The flammeum being a symbol of marriage, flammea conterit is said of a Roman matron who changes her husband repeatedly (Juv. 6.225). The flammeum continued to be worn by the bride in the imperial period down to the fourth and fifth centuries, and along with the palla was the characteristic dress of the bride (Claudian, in Nupt. Hon. et Mar. 284; Mart. Capell. v. p. 538, Kopp). The use of the veil in the marriage ceremony was adopted in the Christian Church, and is described by Tertullian (de Veland. Virgin. 100.11) as a praiseworthy heathen custom. The colour of the Christian veil was purple and white, though the name flammeum was sometimes used (St. Ambros. de Virg. 100.15; de Inst. Virg. 100.17). [See Dict. Christ. Ant. ii. p. 1108.]

The flammearii in Plautus (Aul. 3.5, 36) are usually supposed to be the makers of the flammeum or the bridal veil; but as they are mentioned by Plautus along with the violarii, they are more probably the dyers of the colour, and are so explained by Festus (p. 89, 11), “flammearii, infectores flammei coloris.” This colour, as we have seen, is called luteus from lutum, “weld” (reseda luteola, Linn.). (Marquardt, Privatl. pp. 43, 489; Becker-Göll, Gallus, ii. p. 29; Blümner, Techn. i. p. 243; Rossbach, Röm. Hochzeit, &c., Leipz. 1871.)


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