Flamines, Roman priests within the college of the pontifices. There were three major, twelve minor flamines, each of them assigned to the worship of a single deity, though this did not preclude their taking part in the worship of other deities, as when the flamen Quirinalis conducted the ritual for Robigus on April 25. The three major ones were the flamen Dialis, Martialis, and Quirinalis—of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus; according to the system of Georges Dumézil, these three gods formed the most ancient and senior triad of Roman gods, representing the three Indo-European functions of law, warfare, and production. Of the twelve deities served by a minor flamen, we know ten, including Ceres, Flora, and Volcanus; but next to nothing is known of their priests' duties.
The three major flamines were always patricians and chosen by the members of the pontifical college, never elected. The Dialis in historic times was bound by an elaborate system of ritual rules, marking the holiness of his person and protecting it from pollution (Gell.NA 10. 15). They meant that he and his wife (the flaminica) had perpetual religious obligations. If these rules originally applied to other flamines as well, they had been much relaxed by the later republic, for they could hold high office, even up to the consulate; successive pontifices maximi did, however, dispute the right of the flamines to abandon priestly duty, leave Rome, and so hold provincial commands, like other politician-priests; in the case of the Dialis, this right was still disputed when the priesthood lapsed, for unknown reasons, between 87 and c.12 bce. In this gap, we know that the rituals were maintained by the pontifices. Since the flaminate was the only priesthood devoted to a specific deity, it was the natural model for the new priesthood devised first for Caesar and then for successive emperors after their deaths. Specific rules and privileges were borrowed from old to new flamines, but not the full set of restrictions. See concilium; ruler-cult.
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