In ancient Rome, a member of one of two groups of priests, elected from the ranks of patrician and plebeian families.

The flamines were divided into flamines maiores, the "greater", representing the gods Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus (called, respectively flamen Dialis, flamen Martialis and flamen Quirinalis); and flamines minores, the "lesser", representing approximately ten other gods.

The etymology of flamen is unknown, but the Romans themselves considered it to be derived from filum, "band", because of the characteristic headband worn by the flamines (in many ways very similar to Etruscan priestly practice).

Although the office of flamen (and particularly that of flamen Dialis) was onerous and required the strict observance of numerous religious taboos, it was nevertheless much sought-after for its prestige.

Fla"men (?), n.; pl. E. Flammens (#), L. Flamines (#). [L.] Rom. Antiq.

A priest devoted to the service of a particular god, from whom he received a distinguishing epithet. The most honored were those of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, called respectively Flamen Dialis, Flamen Martialis, and Flamen Quirinalis.

Affrights the flamens at their service quaint. Milton.

 

© Webster 1913.

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