(From flare, one who blows or kindles the sacrificial fire; or from the root of flagro, to burn). The special priest of a special deity among the Romans.1 There were fifteen flamines — three higher ones (flamines maiores) of patrician rank: these were the flamen Dialis (of Jupiter), Martialis (of Mars), and Quirinalis (of Quirinus). The remaining twelve were flamines minores, plebeians, and attached to less important deities, as Vulcan, Flora, Pomona, and Carmenta. Their office was for life, and they could be deprived of it only in certain cases. The emblem of their dignity was a white conical hat (apex) made out of the hide of a sacrificed animal, and having an olive branch and woolen thread at the top. This the flamines were obliged to wear always out of doors — indeed, the flamen Dialis had originally to wear it indoors as well. They were exempted from all the duties of civic life, and excluded at the same time from all participation in politics. In course of time they were allowed to hold urban offices, but even then they were forbidden to go out of Italy.

The flamen Dialis was originally not allowed to spend a night away from home; in later times, under the Empire, the pontifex could allow him to sleep out for two nights in the year. Indeed, the flamen Dialis, whose superior position among the flamens conferred upon him certain privileges, as the toga praetexta, the sella curulis, a seat in the Senate, and the services of a lictor, was in proportion obliged to submit to more restrictions than the rest. He, his wife, their children, and his house on the Palatine were dedicated to this god. He must be born of a marriage celebrated by confarreatio, and live himself in indissoluble marriage. If his wife died, he resigned his office. In the performance of his sacred functions he was assisted by his children as camilli. Every day was for him a holy day, so that he never appeared without the insignia of his office, the conical hat, the thick woolen toga praetexta woven by his wife, the sacrificial knife, and a rod to keep the people away from him. He was preceded by his lictor, and by heralds who called on the people to stop their work, as the flamen was not permitted to look upon any labor. He was not allowed to set eyes on an armed host; to mount, or even to touch, a horse; to touch a corpse, or grave, or a goat, or a dog, or raw meat, or anything unclean. He must not have near him or behold anything in the shape of a chain; consequently there must be no knots, but only clasps, on his raiment; the ring on his finger was broken, and any one who came into his house with chains must instantly be loosened. If he were guilty of any carelessness in the sacrifices, or if his hat fell from his head, he had to resign.

His wife, the flaminica, was priestess of Juno. She had, in like manner, to appear always in her insignia of office — a long woolen robe, with her hair woven with a purple fillet (tutulum) and arranged in pyramidal form, her head covered with a veil and a kerchief, and carrying a sacrificial knife. On certain days she was forbidden to comb her hair.

The chief business of the flamines consisted in daily sacrifices; on certain special occasions they acted with the pontifices and the Vestal Virgins. The three superior flamines offered a sacrifice to Fides Publica at the Capitol on the Kalends of October, driving there in a two-horse chariot. During the imperial period flamines of the deified emperors were added to the others.



  1. Cicero. De Legibus ii, 8.

This article incorporates text from Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898) by Harry Thurston Peck, which is in the public domain.