A flamen was a name given to a priest assigned 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 Maximus is 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, Quirinus and 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 Dumezil attempted to link it to the Sanskrit word "brahman", but this etymology is controversial. Sophus Bugge suggested in 1879 that 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.

Flamines maiores

The three flamines maiores were required to be patricians.

The Flamen Dialis oversaw the cult of Jupiter, the sky deity and ruler of the gods.

The Flamen Martialis oversaw 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.

The Flamen Quirinalis oversaw 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.

Flamines minores

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 Carmentis
* Flamen Cerialis, who worshipped Ceres
* Flamen Falacer, who worshipped Falacer
* Flamen Floralis, who worshipped Flora
* Flamen Furrialis, who worshipped Furrina
* Flamen Palatualis, who worshipped Palatua
* Flamen Pomonalis, who worshipped Pomona
* Flamen Portunalis, who worshipped Portunes
* Flamen Volcanalis, who worshipped Vulcan
* Flamen Volturnalis, who worshipped Volturnus

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.


External links

* [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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  • flamen — [flā′men] n. pl. flamens or flamines [flam′i nēz΄] [ME flamin < L flamen < IE base * bhlagmen , priest, magician > Sans brahmán ] in ancient Rome, a priest serving one particular god …   English World dictionary

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