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In ancient Roman religion, a flamen was a priest assigned to one of fifteen deities with official cults during 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 were the flamines minores ("lesser priests"). Two of the minores cultivated deities whose names are now unknown; among the others are deities about whom little is known other than the name. During the Imperial era, the cult of a deified emperor (divus) also had a flamen.

The fifteen Republican flamens were part of the Pontifical College which administered state-sponsored religion. 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 woolen 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.[1] 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.[2]

History and etymology[edit]

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 a flamen (for example Falacer, Palatua, Quirinus and Volturnus) suggests that the office dated back to Archaic Rome. Many scholars[who?] assume that the flamines existed at least from the time of the early Roman kings, before the establishment of the Republic. The Romans themselves credited the foundation of the priesthood to Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome. According to Livy, Numa created the offices of the three flamines maiores and assigned them each a fine robe of office and a curule chair.[3]

The origin of the word flamen is as obscure as are some of the assigned gods. Indo-Europeanist Georges Dumézil 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.[4] The flamines were circumscribed by many taboos.

Flamines maiores[edit]

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 rites 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 rites on the days sacred to Quirinus.

A fourth flamen maior was dedicated to Julius Caesar as a divinity (divus) of the Roman state.[5] Thereafter, any deceased emperor could be made divus by vote of the senate and consent of his successor, and as a divus he would be served by a flamen. The flamen's role in relation to living emperors is uncertain; no living emperor is known to have received official divine worship;[6] see Imperial cult.

A flamen could also be represented by a proflamen, or by a member without that title who could act as a substitute for the flamen (qui vice flaminis fungebatur).[7]

Flamines minores[edit]

Flamines, distinguished by their pointed headdress, as part of a procession on the Augustan Altar of Peace

The twelve flamines minores could be plebeians.[citation needed] Some of the deities whose cult they tended were rather obscure, and only ten are known by name:

There were two other flamines minores during the Republican period, but the names of the deities they cultivated are unknown. The flamines minores seem mostly connected to agriculture or local cults. The change to an urban way of life may explain why these deities lost their importance or fell into oblivion.[citation needed]

The Floralis and Pomonalis are not recorded in calendars as their festivals were moveable. Some information exists for the ritual roles of the Portunalis in connexion with the cult of the god Quirinus and Volcanalis in connexion with the cult of the goddess Maia on the Kalends of May.[8] Also preserved is the list of deities invoked by the flamen Cerialis when he officiated at sacrifices to the goddesses Ceres and Tellus.[9]

Scholars disagree about some differences among flamines maiores and minores. Some maintain the difference was not substantial.[10] Others, among them Dumézil,[11] believe that inherent differences lay in the right of the auspicia maiora and the ritual of inauguration that concerned only the maiores[12] by birth as farreati, that is, as children of parents married through the ritual of confarreatio, which was the form of marriage in turn required for maiores. The maiores also had the privilege of having calatores, assistants who carried out day-to-day business.[13] The difference would thus be akin to that between magistracies with imperium and those with potestas only.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Maurus Servius Honoratus, Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil iv.262; Cicero Brutus 57.
  2. ^ Servius Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil ii.683, viii.664, x.270.
  3. ^ Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1:20
  4. ^ Hellquist, Elof. "blota". Svensk etymologisk ordbok, 1922.
  5. ^ Caesar's first flamen was Mark Antony.
  6. ^ Caesar may have been granted an active flamen while living; the evidence is equivocal.
  7. ^ A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin).
  8. ^ Fest. p.321 L1 s.v. "persillum"; Macrob. Sat. I,12, 18
  9. ^ The lost treatise De jure pontificio by Quintus Fabius Pictor had contained the list, which was in turn recorded by Varro and through Servius later preserved by Augustine in the De civitate Dei.
  10. ^ Kurt Latte, Roemische Religionsgeschichte 1960, pp. 36-37
  11. ^ G. Dumezil La religion romaine archaique Paris, 1974, Consideratons preliminaires, XI
  12. ^ Gaius 1, 112; Aulus Gellius 13, 15 quoting Messala De Auspicis; Festus p. 274-275 L2.
  13. ^ Fest. p. 354 L2; Jörg Rüpke, Religion of the Romans (Polity Press, 2007, originally published in German 2001), p. 227 online.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamen — Please support Wikipedia.
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Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 01:00:06 -0700

Belgien: König Philippe hat Ende Juli den Christlichdemokraten Kris Peeters (rechts) aus dem niederländischsprachigen Flandern und den Liberalen Charles Michel aus dem frankofonen Wallonien mit der Bildung einer Regierung beauftragt. (Bild: Imago) ...

FOCUS Online

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Wed, 06 Aug 2014 01:50:28 -0700

Da unterscheiden sich die Wallonen nicht von den Flamen. Nach Ansicht von Bernard Lefèvre, Chef des Verbands belgischer Pommeshersteller, können die Belgier stolz auf ihr Straßennationalgericht sein. Er will die Fritten sogar zum Weltkulturerbe machen ...
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 08:56:15 -0700

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Aargauer Zeitung
Fri, 29 Aug 2014 02:11:15 -0700

Während in der Schweiz über Frühfranzösisch gestritten wird, treibt der Sprachenstreit in Belgien das ganze Land auseinander. Vor allem die Niederländisch sprechende Mehrheit der Flamen im Norden des Landes verlangt zunehmend Autonomierechte.


Sun, 31 Aug 2014 23:33:45 -0700

... Aostatal, Donauraum-Strategien und -kooperationen) bis hin zu separatistischen Bestrebungen erstrecken (von den Flamen in Belgien über die Katalanen in Spanien, die Schotten in Großbritannien, die Korsen, aber auch die Kroaten, Bosnier und Serben) ...
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Wed, 27 Aug 2014 09:18:45 -0700

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Fri, 08 Aug 2014 04:02:25 -0700

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