Flamen Dialis: Wikis


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The Flamen Dialis was an important position in Roman religion. There were 15 flamines , including the flamen dialis who was the high priest of Jupiter. The flamen dialis was one of three flamines maiores, the flamines serving the three gods of the Archaic Triad. According to tradition the flamines were forbidden to touch metal, ride a horse, or see a corpse.

The office of flamen dialis, and the offices of the other flamines maiores, were created by Numa Pompilius, although Numa himself performed many of the rites of the flamen dialis [1].

The Flamen Dialis enjoyed many peculiar honours. When a vacancy occurred, three persons of patrician descent, whose parents had been married according to the ceremonies of confarreatio (the strictest form of Roman marriage), were nominated by the Comitia, one of whom was selected (captus), and consecrated (inaugurabatur) by the Pontifex Maximus.[2] From that time forward he was emancipated from the control of his father, and became sui juris.[3] He alone of all priests wore the albogalerus (Apex);[4] he had a right to a lictor,[5] to the toga praetexta, the Sella Curulis, and to a seat in the Roman senate in virtue of his office. This last privilege, after having been suffered to fall into disuse for a long period, was asserted by C. Valerius Flaccus (209 BC), the claim allowed however, says Livy, more in deference to his high personal character than from a conviction of the justice of the demand.[6] The Rex Sacrificulus or Rex Sacrorum alone was entitled to recline above him at a banquet; if one in bonds took refuge in his house, the chains were immediately struck off and conveyed through the impluvium to the roof, and thence cast down into the street:[7] if a criminal on his way to punishment met him, and fell suppliant at his feet, he was respited for that day;[8] usages which remind us of the right of sanctuary attached to the persons and dwellings of the papal cardinals.


To counterbalance these high honours, the Dialis was subjected to a multitude of restrictions and privations, a long catalogue of which has been compiled by Aulus Gellius[9] from the works of Fabius Pictor and Masurius Sabinus, while Plutarch, in his Roman Questions, endeavours to explain their import. Among these were the following:

It was unlawful for him to be out of the city for a single night;[10] a regulation which seems to have been modified by Augustus, in so far that an absence of two nights was permitted;[11] and he was forbidden to sleep out of his own bed for three nights consecutively. Thus, it was impossible for him to undertake the government of a province. He might not mount upon horseback, nor even touch a horse, nor look upon an army marshalled without the pomoerium (or pomerium), and hence be elected to the consulship. Indeed, it would seem that originally he was altogether precluded from seeking or accepting any civil magistracy;[12] but this last prohibition was certainly not enforced in later times. The object of the above rules was manifestly to make him literally Jovi adsiduum sacerdotem; to compel constant attention to the duties of the priesthood; to leave him in a great measure without any temptation to neglect them. The origin of the superstitions which we shall next enumerate is not so clear, but the curious will find abundance of speculation in Plutarch,[13] Festus,[14] and Pliny the Elder.[15] He was not allowed to swear an oath,[16] nor to wear a ring nisi pervio et cass, that is, as they explain it, unless plain and without stones;[17] nor to strip himself naked in the open air, nor to go out without his proper head-dress, nor to have a knot in any part of his attire, nor to walk along a path over-canopied by vines. He might not touch flour, nor leaven, nor leavened bread, nor a dead body: he might not enter a bustum [Funus], but was not prevented from attending a funeral. He was forbidden either to touch or to name a dog, a she-goat, ivy, beans, or raw flesh. None but a free man might cut his hair; the clippings of which, together with the parings of his nails, were buried beneath a felix arbor. No one might sleep in his bed, the legs of which were smeared with fine clay; and it was unlawful to place a box containing sacrificial cakes in contact with the bed-stead.

Flaminica was the name given to the wife of the dialis. He was required to wed a virgin according to the ceremonies of confarreatio, which regulation also applied to the two other flamines maiores;[18] and he could not marry a second time. Hence, since her assistance was essential in the performance of certain ordinances, a divorce was not permitted, and if she died the dialis was obliged to resign. The restrictions imposed upon the flaminica were similar to those by which her husband was fettered.[7] Her dress consisted of a dyed robe (venenato operitur); her hair was plaited up with a purple band in a conical form (tutulus); and she wore a small square cloak with a border (rica), to which was attached a slip cut from a felix arbor[19] It is difficult to determine what the rica really was; whether a short cloak, as appears most probable, or a napkin thrown over the head. She was prohibited from mounting a staircase consisting of more than three steps (the text of Aulus Gellius is uncertain, but the object must have been to prevent her ankles from being seen); and when she went to the argei she neither combed nor arranged her hair. On each of the nundinae a ram was sacrificed to Jupiter in the regia by the flaminica.[20]

After the death of the flamen Lucius Cornelius Merula, who was chosen consul suffectus on the expulsion of Lucius Cornelius Cinna,[21] and who, upon the restoration of the Marian faction, shed his own blood in the sanctuary (87 BC), calling down curses on his enemies with his dying breath,[22] the priesthood remained vacant until the consecration of Servius Maluginensis under Augustus, then Pontifex Maximus. The exact date when Servius Cornelius Lentulus Maluginensis became Flamen Dialis is disputed. Dio 54.36 says in about 11 BC. Many modern scholars accept this date without question. But Tacitus Ann. 3.58 indicates that the date was 72 years after the suicide of Cornelius Cinna (87 BC). Some modern translators (including the Penguin's Rex Warner, but not Wood) change Tacitus to match Dio instead of vice-versa, even though Tacitus is the more reliable historian. Gaius Stern asserts that Tacitus is probably correct, meaning that Maluginensis became Flamen Dialis while Lepidus was Pontifex Maximus (16/15 BC), so that Lepidus had to supervise his inauguration at Augustus' direction, possibly unwillingly. Jens Vanggaard, the world's expert on the flamines does not address this matter sufficiently. Julius Caesar was nominated to be Flamen Dialis by Marius and Cinna in 86 BC. Many scholars think he was not installed, although it seems ridiculous that the Romans would allow a nominee to wait years without inauguration. When Sulla returned to Italy in 82, he proscribed Julius and stripped him of his priesthood (so assumedly he had indeed been inaugurated). No successor was selected. During the vacancy that transpired (ca. 82 to ca. 16 or later) the duties of the office were discharged by others.[23]

This article is based on a portion of the article "Flamen" in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, in the public domain.


  1. ^ Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1:20
  2. ^ Tacitus Ann. iv.16; Liv. xxvii.8
  3. ^ Gaius, i.130; Ulpian, Frag. x.5; Tac. Ann. iv.16
  4. ^ Varro, ap. Gell. x.15
  5. ^ Plutarch Q. R. p119, ed. Reiske
  6. ^ Liv. xxvii.8; cf. i.20
  7. ^ a b Aul. Gell. x.15
  8. ^ Aul. Gell. x.15; Plut. Q. R. p166
  9. ^ x.15
  10. ^ Liv. v.52
  11. ^ Tacit. Ann. iii.58, 71
  12. ^ Plut. Q. R. p169
  13. ^ Q. R. pp114, 118, 164‑170
  14. ^ s.v. Edera and Equo
  15. ^ H.N. xviii.30, H.N. xxviii.40
  16. ^ Liv. xxxi.50
  17. ^ Kirchmann, De Annulis, p14
  18. ^ Serv. ad Virg. Aen. iv.104, 374; Gaius, i.112
  19. ^ Fest. s.v. Tutulum, Rica; Varro, De Ling. Lat. vii.44
  20. ^ Macrobius i.16
  21. ^ Velleius Paterculus ii.20; Valerius Maximus ix.12 §5
  22. ^ (Vell. Pat. ii.22)
  23. ^ Suet. Jul. c1, compared with Vell. Pat. ii.43, and the Commentators. See also Suet. Octav. 31; Dion Cass. liv.36; Tacit. Ann. iii.58. The last quoted historian, if the text be correct, states the interruption lasted for 72 years only

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