A flamen was a name given to a
priestassigned to a state-supported god or goddess in Roman religion. There were fifteen flamines in the Roman Republic. The most important three were the flamines maiores (or "major priests"), who served the three chief Roman gods of the Archaic Triad. The remaining twelve, two of whom are unknown, were the flamines minores ("lesser priests").
The fifteen flamines were part of the Pontificial College which administered state sponsored religion in
Rome. When the office of flamen was vacant, a pontifex could serve as a temporary replacement, although only the Pontifex Maximusis known to have substituted for the Flamen Dialis.
The official costume of a flamen, of great antiquity, was a hat called an "apex" and a heavy woollen cloak called a "laena". The laena was a double-thick wool cloak with a fringed edge, and was worn over the flamen's toga with a clasp holding it around his throat. (
Maurus Servius Honoratus, "Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil" iv.262; Cicero"Brutus" 57). The "apex" was a leather skull-cap with a chin-strap and a point of olive wood on its top, like a spindle, with a little fluff of wool at the base of the spindle (Servius "Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil" ii.683, viii.664, x.270).
History and etymology
By the time of the religious reformation of
Augustus, the origins and functions of many of the long-neglected gods resident in Rome was confusing even to the Romans themselves. The obscurity of some of the deities assigned flamines (for example Falacer, Palatua, Quirinusand Volturnus) suggests that the office was ancient. Many scholars assume that the flamines existed at least from the time of the early Roman kings, before the Roman Republic. This scholarly opinion is in agreement with the belief of the Romans themselves, who credited the foundation of their priesthood to Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome.
The origin of the word "flamen" is as obscure as are some of the assigned gods. Indo-Europeanist
Georges Dumezilattempted to link it to the Sanskritword " brahman", but this etymology is controversial. Sophus Buggesuggested in 1879that flamen is from an older *"flădmen" and related to the Germanic blót. Both would be derived from a Proto-Indo-European word *"bhlād(s)men". [ [http://runeberg.org/svet/0137.html Hellquist, Elof. "blota". "Svensk etymologisk ordbok", 1922] .] The flamines were circumscribed by many taboos: see Smith.
The three flamines maiores were required to be
Flamen Dialisoversaw the cult of Jupiter, the sky deity and ruler of the gods.
Flamen Martialisoversaw the cult of Mars, the god of war, leading public on the days sacred to Mars. The sacred spears of Mars were ritually shaken by the Flamen Martialis when the legions were preparing for war.
Flamen Quirinalisoversaw the cult of Quirinus, who presided over organized Roman social life and was related to the peaceful aspect of Mars. The Flamen Quirinalis led public on the days sacred to Quirinus.
A fourth "flamen maior" was added after 44 BC dedicated to
Julius Caesar. When the imperial cult got underway, further flamines were appointed to worship the divine Roman emperors.
The twelve flamines minores could be plebeians. Some of the deities they worshipped were rather obscure, and only ten are known by name:
* Flamen Carmentalis, who worshipped
* Flamen Cerialis, who worshipped Ceres
* Flamen Falacer, who worshipped
* Flamen Floralis, who worshipped Flora
* Flamen Furrialis, who worshipped
* Flamen Palatualis, who worshipped
* Flamen Pomonalis, who worshipped
* Flamen Portunalis, who worshipped
* Flamen Volcanalis, who worshipped Vulcan
* Flamen Volturnalis, who worshipped
There were two other "flamines minores" during republican times, but the gods or goddesses whom they worshipped are not known. The obscurity of the gods worshipped by the ten "flamines minores" makes any speculation about the gods of the remaining two doubtful.
* [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Flamen.html William Smith's "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities", 1875] : "Flamen"
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