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In
ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...
, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins ( la, Vestālēs, singular ) were priestesses of Vesta,
goddess A goddess is a female Female (symbol: ♀) is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, that produces non-mobile ovum, ova (egg cells). Barring rare medical conditions, most female mammals, including female humans, have two X chromo ...
of the
hearth A hearth is the place in a where a is or was traditionally kept for home heating and for , usually constituted by at least a horizontal hearthstone and often enclosed to varying degrees by any combination of , , , smoke hood, or . Hearths a ...
. The
college A college (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in rel ...
of the Vestals was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...
. These individuals cultivated the sacred fire that was not allowed to go out. Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children and took a 30-year vow of
chastity Chastity, also known as purity, is a virtue Virtue ( la, virtus ''Virtus'' () was a specific virtue in Ancient Rome. It carries connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strength ...

chastity
in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were forbidden to the colleges of male priests. In 382 AD, the Christian emperor
Gratian Gratian (; la, Flavius Gratianus; 18 April 359 – 25 August 383) was Roman emperor, emperor of the Western Roman Empire, western part of the Roman Empire from 367 to 383. The eldest son of Valentinian I, Gratian accompanied his father on severa ...

Gratian
confiscated the public revenues assigned to the cult of Vesta in Rome, and the Vestals vanished from historical record soon after.


History

The Roman imperial period authors
Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a historian. He wrote a monumental history of and the Roman people, titled , covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditional founding in 753 BC th ...
,
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46 – after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Platonic philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC&nbs ...

Plutarch
, and
Aulus Gellius Aulus Gellius (c. 125after 180 AD) was a Roman author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map ...
attribute the creation of the Vestals as a state-supported priestesshood to King
Numa Pompilius Numa Pompilius (; 753–673 BC; reigned 715–673 BC) was the legendary second king of Rome The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest ...

Numa Pompilius
, who reigned circa 717–673 BC. According to Livy, writing in the Augustan age, Numa introduced the Vestals and assigned them salaries from the
public treasury In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings. This is a different concept to the sociology, sociological concept of the ''Ö ...
. Livy also says that the priestesshood of Vesta had its origins at
Alba Longa Alba Longa (occasionally written Albalonga in Italian sources) was an ancient Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication ...
. The 2nd-century AD
antiquarian 's cabinet of curiosities, from ''Museum Wormianum,'' 1655 An antiquarian or antiquary (from the Latin: ''antiquarius'', meaning pertaining to ancient times) is an fan (person), aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More speci ...
Aulus Gellius Aulus Gellius (c. 125after 180 AD) was a Roman author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map ...
writes that the first Vestal taken from her parents was led away in hand by Numa. Also writing in the 2nd century, Plutarch attributes the founding of the
Temple of Vesta The Temple of Vesta, or the aedes (Latin ''Glossary of ancient Roman religion#aedes, Aedes Vestae''; Italian language, Italian: ''Tempio di Vesta''), is an ancient edifice in Rome, Italy. The temple is located in the Roman Forum near the Regia and ...

Temple of Vesta
to Numa, who appointed at first two priestesses;
Servius Tullius Servius Tullius was the legendary sixth king of Rome The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest in its class. Historically, the two d ...
increased the number to four.
Ambrose Ambrose of Milan (born Aurelius Ambrosius; c. 340 – 397), venerated as Saint Ambrose, ; lmo, Sant Ambroeus . was the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milan, Bishop of Milan, a theologian, and one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures o ...

Ambrose
alludes to a seventh in
late antiquity Late antiquity is a periodization Periodization is the process or study of categorizing the past into discrete, quantified named blocks of time.Adam Rabinowitz. It’s about time: historical periodization and Linked Ancient World Data'. Inst ...
. Numa also appointed the to watch over the Vestals. The first Vestals, according to the 1st-century BC author
Varro Marcus Terentius Varro (; 116–27 BC) was a Roman polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known ...
, were named Gegania, Veneneia, Canuleia, and
Tarpeia In Roman mythology Roman mythology is the body of myths Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture o ...

Tarpeia
. Tarpeia, daughter of
Spurius TarpeiusSpurius Tarpeius is a mythological/historical character. He was the commander of the Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, th ...
, was portrayed as traitorous in
legend A legend is a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, documentary, Travel literature, tra ...
. The Vestals became a powerful and influential force in the Roman state. When
Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Roman general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infan ...

Sulla
included the young
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
in his
proscription '' The Proscribed Royalist, 1651'', painted by John Everett Millais c. 1853, in which a Puritan woman hides a fleeing Royalist proscript in the hollow of a tree Proscription ( la, proscriptio) is, in current usage, a 'decree of condemnation to ...
s, the Vestals interceded on Caesar's behalf and gained him pardon.
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
included the Vestals in all major dedications and ceremonies. They were held in awe, and attributed certain magical powers.
Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, includi ...

Pliny the Elder
, for example, in Book 28 of his ''Natural History'' discussing the efficacy of magic, chooses not to refute, but rather tacitly accept as truth: The 4th-century AD urban prefect Symmachus, who sought to maintain traditional Roman religion during the rise of Christianity, wrote: It is not known exactly when the Vestals were dissolved, but it must have happened not long after the emperor
Gratian Gratian (; la, Flavius Gratianus; 18 April 359 – 25 August 383) was Roman emperor, emperor of the Western Roman Empire, western part of the Roman Empire from 367 to 383. The eldest son of Valentinian I, Gratian accompanied his father on severa ...

Gratian
confiscated their revenues in 382 AD. The last epigraphically attested Vestal is Coelia Concordia, a who in 385 AD erected a statue to the deceased pontiff
Vettius Agorius Praetextatus Vettius Agorius Praetextatus (ca. 315–384) was a wealthy pagan Paganism (from classical Latin ''pāgānus'' "rural", "rustic", later "civilian") is a term first used pejoratively in the fourth century by early Christianity, early Christians fo ...
. The latest mention of a Vestal is by the pagan historian Zosimos, who relates that, during a visit of
Theodosius I Theodosius I ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. During his reign, he faced and overcame a war against the Goths and two civil wars, and ...

Theodosius I
to Rome in 394 AD, the emperor's niece
Serena Serena most commonly refers to: * Serena Williams (born 1981), professional tennis player Serena may also refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Serena (1962 film), ''Serena'' (1962 film), a British crime thriller * Serena (2014 film), ''Ser ...
insulted an aged Vestal, said to be the last of her kind. Conti writes that it is not clear from Zosimos's narrative if the cult of Vesta was still functioning (and thus maintained by that single Vestal) at that point, but Cameron is skeptical of the entire tale, noting that Theodosius did not actually visit Rome in 394.


The chief Vestal ( or , "greatest of the Vestals") oversaw the efforts of the Vestals, and was present in the
College of Pontiffs The College of Pontiffs ( la, Collegium Pontificum; see ''collegium A (plural ), or college, was any association in ancient Rome with a legal personality. Such associations could be civil or religious. The word literally means "society", f ...
. The Occia presided over the Vestals for 57 years, according to
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature Classi ...

Tacitus
. The was the most important of Rome's high priestesses. Although the and the each held unique responsibility for certain religious rites, each came into her office as the spouse of another appointed priest, whereas the vestals all held office independently.


Number of Vestals

According to
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46 – after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Platonic philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC&nbs ...

Plutarch
, there were only two Vestal Virgins when Numa began the College of the Vestals. This number later increased to four, and then to six. It has been suggested by some authorities that a seventh was added later, but this is doubtful.


Terms of service

The Vestals were committed to the priestesshood before puberty (when 6–10 years old) and sworn to
celibacy Celibacy (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...
for a period of 30 years. These 30 years were divided in turn into three decade-long periods during which Vestals were respectively students, servants, and teachers. After her 30-year term of service, each Vestal retired and was replaced by a new inductee. Once retired, a former Vestal was given a pension and allowed to marry. The , acting as the father of the bride, would typically arrange a marriage with a suitable Roman nobleman. A marriage to a former Vestal was highly honoured, and – more importantly in ancient Rome – thought to bring good luck, as well as a comfortable pension.


Selection

To obtain entry into the order, a girl had to be free of physical and mental defects, have two living parents and be a daughter of a free-born resident of Rome. From at least the mid-Republican era, the chose Vestals between their sixth and tenth year, by lot from a group of twenty high-born candidates at a gathering of their families and other Roman citizens. Originally, the girl had to be of
patrician Patrician may refer to: * Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage * Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval a ...
birth, but membership was opened to
plebeian In ancient Rome, the plebeians (also called plebs) were the general body of free Roman citizenship, Roman citizens who were not Patrician (ancient Rome), patricians, as determined by the capite censi, census, or in other words "commoners". Both ...
s as it became difficult to find patricians willing to commit their daughters to 30 years as a Vestal, and then ultimately even from the daughters of freedmen for the same reason. The earlier, stricter selection rules were determined by the Papian Law of the 3rd century BC. The choosing ceremony was known as a (capture). Once a girl was chosen to be a Vestal, the pointed to her and led her away from her parents with the words, "I take you, Amata, to be a Vestal priestess, who will carry out sacred rites which it is the law for a Vestal priestess to perform on behalf of the Roman people, on the same terms as her who was a Vestal 'on the best terms' " (thus, with all the entitlements of a Vestal). As soon as she entered the atrium of Vesta's temple, she was under the goddess' service and protection. To replace a Vestal who had died, candidates would be presented in the quarters of the chief Vestal for the selection of the most virtuous. Unlike normal inductees, these candidates did not have to be prepubescents, nor even virgins (they could be young widows or even divorcees, though that was frowned upon and thought unlucky), though they were rarely older than the deceased Vestal they were replacing. Tacitus recounts how
Gaius Fonteius Agrippa:''For other with this surname, see Agrippa (disambiguation).'' Gaius Fonteius Agrippa was the name of two related people in Roman history: *Gaius Fonteius Agrippa was one of the four accusers of Marcus Scribonius Libo in 16 AD. Agrippa profited fina ...
and Domitius Pollio offered their daughters as Vestal candidates in 19 AD to fill such a vacant position. Equally matched, Pollio's daughter was chosen only because Agrippa had been recently divorced. The (
Tiberius Tiberius Caesar Augustus (; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titl ...

Tiberius
) "consoled" the failed candidate with a dowry of 1 million
sesterces The sestertius (plural sestertii), or sesterce (plural sesterces), was an ancient Roman coin. During the Roman Republic it was a small, silver Silver is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Ag (from the Latin ', derive ...
.


Duties

Their tasks included the maintenance of the fire sacred to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth and home, collecting water from a sacred spring, preparation of food used in rituals and caring for sacred objects in the temple's sanctuary. By maintaining Vesta's sacred fire, from which anyone could receive fire for household use, they functioned as "surrogate housekeepers", in a religious sense, for all of Rome. Their sacred fire was treated, in Imperial times, as the emperor's household fire. The Vestals were put in charge of keeping safe the wills and testaments of various people such as
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
and
Mark Antony Marcus Antonius (14 January 1 August 30 BC), commonly known in English as Mark Antony, was a Ancient Rome, Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the Crisis of the Roman Republic, transformation of the Roman Republic f ...
. In addition, the Vestals also guarded some sacred objects, including the
Palladium Palladium is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elem ...
, and made a special kind of flour called ''
mola salsa In Religion in ancient Rome, ancient Roman religion, ''mola salsa'' ("salted flour") was a mixture of Granularity, coarse-ground, toasted emmer flour and salt prepared by the Vestal Virgins and used in every official sacrifice. It was sprinkled o ...
'' which was sprinkled on all public offerings to a god.


Privileges

The dignities accorded to the Vestals were significant. In an era when religion was rich in pageantry, the presence of the College of Vestal Virgins was required for numerous public ceremonies and wherever they went, were transported in a carpentum, a covered two-wheeled carriage, preceded by a
lictor A lictor (possibly from la, ligare, "to bind") was a Ancient Rome, Roman civil servant who was an attendant and bodyguard to a Roman magistrate, magistrate who held ''imperium''. Lictors are documented since the Roman Kingdom, and may have origi ...

lictor
, and had the right-of-way. Vestals had a reserved place of honour at public games and performances, and could give evidence without first taking the customary oath, their word being trusted without question. Vestals were entrusted with important wills and state documents, such as public treaties, on account of their incorruptible character. Their personhood was sacrosanct, and Vestals were given escorts to protect them from assault; anyone found to have injured a Vestal would suffer the death penalty. Vestals also had the power to free condemned prisoners and slaves by touching them - if a person sentenced to death saw a Vestal on their way to their execution, they were automatically pardoned. Vestals participated in the annual throwing of ritual straw figures called
Argei The rituals of the Argei were archaic Religion in ancient Rome, religious observances in ancient Rome that took place on March 16 and March 17, and again on May 14 or May 15. By the time of Augustus, the meaning of these rituals had become obscure ...
into the
Tiber The Tiber (; la, Tiberis; it, Tevere ) is the third-longest and the longest in Central Italy, rising in the in and flowing through , , and , where it is joined by the River , to the , between and . It estimated at . The river has achi ...

Tiber
on May 15.


Punishments

Allowing the sacred fire of Vesta to die out was a serious dereliction of duty. It suggested that the goddess had withdrawn her protection from the city. Vestals guilty of this offence were punished by a scourging or beating, which was carried out "in the dark and through a curtain to preserve their modesty". The chastity of the Vestals was considered to have a direct bearing on the health of the Roman state. When they entered the , they left behind the authority of their fathers and became daughters of the state. Any sexual relationship with a citizen was therefore considered to be and an act of treason. The punishment for violating the oath of celibacy was
immurement Immurement (from Latin ''im-'' "in" and ''murus'' "wall"; literally "walling in") is a form of imprisonment, usually until death, in which a person is sealed within an enclosed space with no exits. This includes instances where people have been enc ...
, to be
buried alive Premature burial, also known as live burial, burial alive, or vivisepulture, means to be buried while still alive. Animals or humans may be buried alive accidentally on the mistaken assumption that they are dead, or intentionally as a form of tort ...
. They would be buried in the ("Evil Field") in an underground chamber near the Colline Gate supplied with a few days of food and water. Ancient tradition required that an unchaste Vestal be buried alive within the city, that being the only way to kill her without spilling her blood, which was forbidden. However, this practice contradicted the
Roman law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor J ...
that no person might be buried within the city. To solve this problem, the Romans buried the offending priestess with a nominal quantity of food and other provisions, not to prolong her punishment, but so that the Vestal would not technically be buried in the city, but instead descend into a "habitable room". The actual manner of the procession to Campus Sceleratus has been described like this: Cases of unchastity and its punishment were rare. In 483 BC, following a series of portents, and advice from the soothsayers that the religious ceremonies were not being duly attended to, the vestal virgin
OppiaOppia (d. 483 BC), was a Vestal Virgin in ancient Rome. In 483 BC, following a series of portents, and advice from the soothsayers that the religious ceremonies were not being duly attended to, she was found guilty of a breach of chastity and immu ...
was found guilty of a breach of chastity and punished. The Vestal Tuccia was accused of
fornication Fornication is generally consensual sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other. When one or more of the partners having consensual sexual intercourse is married to a third person, it is called adultery. Nonetheless, John Calv ...
, but she carried water in a
sieve A sieve, fine mesh strainer, or sift, is a device for separating wanted elements from unwanted material or for characterizing the particle size distribution of a sample, using a screen such as a woven mesh or net or perforated sheet material. ...
to prove her chastity. Because a Vestal's virginity was thought to be directly correlated to the sacred burning of the fire, if the fire were extinguished it might be assumed that either the Vestal had acted wrongly or that the Vestal had simply neglected her duties. The final decision was the responsibility of the , or the head of the pontifical college, as opposed to a judicial body. While the Order of the Vestals was in existence for over one thousand years there are only ten recorded convictions for unchastity and these trials all took place at times of political crisis for the Roman state. It has been suggested that Vestals were used as scapegoats in times of great crisis.
Pliny the Younger Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo (61 – c. 113), better known as Pliny the Younger (), was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Rom ...

Pliny the Younger
was convinced that Cornelia, who as was buried alive at the orders of emperor
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles thr ...

Domitian
, was innocent of the charges of unchastity, and he describes how she sought to keep her dignity intact when she descended into the chamber:
Dionysius of Halicarnassus Dionysius of Halicarnassus ( grc, Διονύσιος Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἁλικαρνασσεύς, ; – after 7 BC) was a Greek historian Hellenic historiography (or Greek historiography) involves efforts made by Greeks to track and r ...
claims that the earliest Vestals at
Alba Longa Alba Longa (occasionally written Albalonga in Italian sources) was an ancient Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication ...
were whipped and "put to death" for breaking their vows of celibacy, and that their offspring were to be thrown into the river. According to
Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a historian. He wrote a monumental history of and the Roman people, titled , covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditional founding in 753 BC th ...
,
Rhea Silvia Rhea (or Rea) Silvia (), also known as Ilia, was the mythical mother of the twins Romulus and Remus 350px, Altar to Mars (divine father of Romulus and Remus) and Venus (their divine ancestress) depicting elements of their legend. Tiberinus, ...
, the mother of
Romulus Romulus () was the legendary foundation of Rome, founder and King of Rome, first king of Ancient Rome, Rome. Various traditions attribute the establishment of many of Rome's oldest legal, political, religious, and social institutions to Romulus ...
and Remus, had been forced to become a Vestal Virgin, and when she gave birth to the twins, it is stated that she was merely loaded down with chains and cast into prison, her babies put into the river. Dionysius also relates the belief that live burial was instituted by the Roman king
Tarquinius Priscus Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, or Tarquin the Elder, was the legendary Kings of Rome, fifth king of Roman Kingdom, Rome and first of its Etruscan civilization, Etruscan dynasty. He reigned from 616 to 579 BC. Tarquinius expanded Roman power through mi ...
, and inflicted this punishment on the priestess Pinaria. The 11th century Byzantine historian
George KedrenosGeorge Kedrenos, Cedrenus or Cedrinos ( el, Γεώργιος Κεδρηνός, fl. 11th century) was a Byzantine Empire, Byzantine historian. In the 1050s he compiled ''Synopsis historion'' (also known as ''A concise history of the world''), which sp ...
is the only extant source for the claim that prior to Priscus, the Roman King
Numa Pompilius Numa Pompilius (; 753–673 BC; reigned 715–673 BC) was the legendary second king of Rome The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest ...

Numa Pompilius
had instituted death by stoning for unchaste Vestal Virgins, and that it was Priscus who changed the punishment into that of live burial. But whipping with rods sometimes preceded the immuration as was done to Urbinia in 471 BC. Suspicions first arose against Minucia through an improper love of dress and the evidence of a slave. She was found guilty of unchastity and buried alive. Similarly Postumia, who though innocent according to Livy was tried for unchastity with suspicions being aroused through her immodest attire and less than maidenly manner. Postumia was sternly warned "to leave her sports, taunts, and merry conceits". Aemilia, Licinia, and Martia were executed after being denounced by the servant of a barbarian horseman. A few Vestals were acquitted. Some cleared themselves through ordeals. The paramour of a guilty Vestal was whipped to death in the
Forum Boarium today. before conservation work. The Forum Boarium (, it, Foro Boario) was the cattle Cattle, taurine cattle, Eurasian cattle, or European cattle (''Bos taurus'' or ''Bos primigenius taurus'') are large domesticated Domestication is a sus ...

Forum Boarium
or on the
Comitium The Comitium ( it, Comizio) was the original open-air public meeting space of Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century ...

Comitium
.


House of the Vestals

The House of the Vestals was the residence of the vestal priestesses in Rome. Located behind the
Temple of Vesta The Temple of Vesta, or the aedes (Latin ''Glossary of ancient Roman religion#aedes, Aedes Vestae''; Italian language, Italian: ''Tempio di Vesta''), is an ancient edifice in Rome, Italy. The temple is located in the Roman Forum near the Regia and ...

Temple of Vesta
(which housed the sacred fire), the was a three-storey building at the foot of the
Palatine Hill The Palatine Hill, (; la, Collis Palatium or Mons Palatinus; it, Palatino ) which is the centremost of the seven hills of Rome The seven hills of Rome ( la, Septem colles/montes Romae, it, Sette colli di Roma ) east of the river Tiber ...

Palatine Hill
.


Vestal festivals

The chief festivals of Vesta were the Vestalia celebrated June 7 until June 15. On June 7 only, her sanctuary (which normally no one except her priestesses the Vestals entered) was accessible to mothers of families who brought plates of food. The simple ceremonies were officiated by the Vestals and they gathered grain and fashioned salty cakes for the festival. This was the only time when they themselves made the ''
mola salsa In Religion in ancient Rome, ancient Roman religion, ''mola salsa'' ("salted flour") was a mixture of Granularity, coarse-ground, toasted emmer flour and salt prepared by the Vestal Virgins and used in every official sacrifice. It was sprinkled o ...
'', for this was the holiest time for Vesta, and it had to be made perfectly and correctly, as it was used in all public sacrifices.


Attire

Throughout time, the image of the Vestal Virgin has been a woman draped in white priestly garments denoting the essence of purity and divinity through such attire. The important elements of the Vestal costume include the and the . These two items are closely related to the traditional attire of Roman brides and the Roman matron, and therefore are not unique to the Vestals. The that the Vestals wore was a cloth ribbon worn in the Vestals' hair. It is closely associated with status of Roman matron. were worn by a wider range of women at different stages of life and therefore cannot be accepted as unique to just one stage. Unmarried girls, matrons, as well as the Vestal virgins all wore them. However, the Vestals did not share all elements of the bride's attire, specifically they did not wear the that brides did, but instead wore the . The vestals also wore a , which is associated with Roman matrons, not with Roman brides. Furthermore, the manner in which the Vestals styled their hair was the way that Roman brides wore their hair on their wedding day. This juxtaposition between the attire and style worn by Vestal Virgins and brides or matrons is particularly intriguing and studied by scholars in numerous instances. The gowns worn by the Vestals and Roman brides were also similar in the way that they were tied. The distinction, though is that the Vestals wore the , which is associated more with matrons, while brides were associated with the . The was a long gown that covered the body, and this covering of the body by way of the gown "signals the prohibitions that governed he Vestalssexuality". The word literally communicates the message of "hands off" and further communicates their virginity. The connection between Vestals and Roman brides suggests that the Vestals had the connotation of being ambivalent, being perceived as eternally stuck in the moment between virginal status and marital status. Their main articles of clothing consisted of an ''infula'', a ''suffibulum'', and a ''palla''. The infula was a fillet, which was worn by priests and other religious figures in Rome. A vestal's infula was white and made from wool. The suffibulum was the white woolen veil which was worn during rituals and sacrifices. Usually found underneath were red and white woolen ribbons, symbolizing the Vestal's commitment to keeping the fire of Vesta and to her vow of purity, respectively. The palla was the long, simple shawl, a typical article of clothing for Roman women. The palla, and its pin, were draped over the left shoulder. Vestals also had an elaborate hairstyle consisting of six or seven braids, which Roman brides also wore. In 2013 Janet Stephens became the first to recreate the hairstyle of the vestals on a modern person.


List of Vestals

From the institution of the Vestal priesthood to its abolition, an unknown number of Vestals held office. Several are named in Roman myth and history.


Legendary Vestals

*
Rhea Silvia Rhea (or Rea) Silvia (), also known as Ilia, was the mythical mother of the twins Romulus and Remus 350px, Altar to Mars (divine father of Romulus and Remus) and Venus (their divine ancestress) depicting elements of their legend. Tiberinus, ...
, a vestal at
Alba Longa Alba Longa (occasionally written Albalonga in Italian sources) was an ancient Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication ...
, was the mythical mother of Rome's founders,
Romulus and Remus 350px, Altar to Mars (divine father of Romulus and Remus) and Venus (their divine ancestress) depicting elements of their legend. Tiberinus, the Father of the Tiber and the infant twins being suckled by a she-wolf in the Ostia, now at the Na ...

Romulus and Remus
. *Aemilia, a Roman vestal who prayed to Vesta for assistance on one occasion when the sacred fire was extinguished, and then miraculously rekindled it by throwing a piece of her garment upon the extinct embers.


Vestals in the Republic (509–27 BC)

*
OppiaOppia (d. 483 BC), was a Vestal Virgin in ancient Rome. In 483 BC, following a series of portents, and advice from the soothsayers that the religious ceremonies were not being duly attended to, she was found guilty of a breach of chastity and immu ...
was a Vestal Virgin in the early republic. In 483, following a series of portents, and advice from the soothsayers that the religious ceremonies were not being duly attended to, she was found guilty of a breach of chastity and punished. *Orbinia, put to death for misconduct in 471. *Postumia, tried for misconduct in 420, but acquitted. *Minucia, put to death for misconduct in 337. *Sextilia, put to death for misconduct in 273. *Caparronia, committed suicide in 266 when accused of misconduct. * Tuccia, accused of misconduct, perhaps in 230, she proved her innocence. *Floronia, Opimia, convicted of misconduct in 216, one was buried alive, the other committed suicide. *Claudia Ap. f. Ap. n., daughter of Appius Claudius Pulcher, consul in 143. During the triumph of her father, she walked beside him to repulse a tribune of the plebs, who were trying to veto his triumph. *Licinia C. f., vestal in 123, her dedication of an altar was cancelled by the pontiffs because it had been done without the approval of the people. She was possibly the same as the vestal executed for misconduct in 113. * Aemilia, Marcia, and Licinia, accused of multiple acts of (violations of their vows of chastity) in 114. Aemilia, who had supposedly led the two others to follow her example, was condemned outright and put to death. Marcia, who was accused of only one offence, and Licinia, who was accused of many, were at first acquitted by the
pontifices A pontiff (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
, but were retried by
Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla was a Roman consul in 127 BC. As a tribune of the plebs in 137 BC he successfully proposed in the Roman assemblies#Council of the People, Concilium Plebis the ''lex Cassia tabellaria'' (a measure to change the voti ...
(consul 127), and condemned to death in 113. The prosecution offered two Sibylline prophecies in support of the final verdicts. The charges were almost certainly trumped up, and may have been politically motivated. *Fonteia, served c. 91–69, recorded as a Vestal during the trial of her brother in 69, but she would have begun her service before her father's death in 91. * Fabia, chief Vestal (b. c. 98–97; fl. 50), admitted to the order in 80, half-sister of
Terentia Terentia (; 98 BC – AD 6) was the wife of the renowned orator Marcus Tullius Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of I ...
(Cicero's first wife), and full sister of Fabia the wife of Dolabella who later married her niece Tullia; she was probably mother of the later
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of that name. In 73 she was acquitted of '' incestum'' with Lucius Sergius Catilina. The case was prosecuted by
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
. * Licinia (flourished 1st century) was supposedly courted by her kinsman, the so-called "
triumvir A triumvirate ( la, triumvirātus) or a triarchy is a political regime ruled or dominated by three powerful individuals known as triumvirs ( la, triumviri). The arrangement can be formal or informal. Though the three are notionally equal, this ...
"
Marcus Licinius Crassus Marcus Licinius Crassus (; 115 – 53 BC) was a general and statesman who played a key role in the transformation of the into the . He is often called "the richest man in Rome." & .. Trivia-Library. '. 1975–1981. Web. 23 December 2009."Ofte ...

Marcus Licinius Crassus
– who in fact wanted her property. This relationship gave rise to rumors. Plutarch says: "And yet when he was further on in years, he was accused of criminal intimacy with Licinia, one of the Vestal virgins and Licinia was formally prosecuted by a certain Plotius. Now Licinia was the owner of a pleasant villa in the suburbs which Crassus wished to get at a low price, and it was for this reason that he was forever hovering about the woman and paying his court to her, until he fell under the abominable suspicion. And in a way it was his avarice that absolved him from the charge of corrupting the Vestal, and he was acquitted by the judges. But he did not let Licinia go until he had acquired her property." Licinia became a Vestal in 85 and remained a Vestal until 61. *Arruntia, Perpennia M. f., Popillia, attended the inauguration of Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Niger as Flamen Martialis in 69. Licinia, Crassus' relative, was also present. *Occia, vestal for 57 years between 38 BC and 19 AD.


Imperial Vestals

* Junia Torquata (1st-century), vestal under Tiberius, sister of Gaius Junius Silanus. *Rubria (Vestal Virgin), Rubria (1st-century), said by Suetonius to have been raped by Nero. *Aquilia Severa (3rd century), whom Emperor Elagabalus married amid considerable scandal. *Clodia Laeta (3rd century). *Flavia Publicia (mid-3rd century). *Coelia Concordia (4th century), the last head of the order.


Outside Rome

Inscriptions record the existence of Vestals in other locations than the centre of Rome. * Manlia Severa, , a chief Alban Vestal at Bovillae whose brother was probably the L. Manlius Severus named as a in a funerary inscription. Mommsen thought he was of Rome, view that is now not considered probable. * Flavia (or Valeria) Vera, a , chief Vestal Virgin of the Alban Arx (Roman), ''arx'' (citadel). * Caecilia Philete, a senior virgin () of Laurentum-Lavinium, as commemorated by her father, Q. Caecilius Papion. The title means at Lavinium the Vestals were only two. *Saufeia Alexandria, . *Cossinia L(ucii) f(iliae), a of Tibur (Tivoli). *Primigenia, Alban vestal of Bovillae, mentioned by Symmachus in two of his letters.


Vestals in Western art

The Vestals were used as models of female virtue in allegory, allegorizing portraiture of the later West. Elizabeth I of England was portrayed holding a sieve to evoke Tuccia, the Vestal who proved her virtue by carrying water in a sieve. Tuccia herself had been a subject for artists such as Jacopo del Sellaio (d. 1493) and Stradanus, Joannes Stradanus, and women who were arts patrons started having themselves painted as Vestals. In the libertine environment of 18th century France, portraits of women as Vestals seem intended as fantasies of virtue infused with ironic eroticism.Kathleen Nicholson, "The Ideology of Feminine 'Virtue': The Vestal Virgin in French Eighteenth-Century Allegorical Portraiture," in ''Portraiture: Facing the Subject'' (Manchester University Press, 1997), p. 58ff. Later vestals became an image of republican virtue, as in Jacques-Louis David's ''The Vestal Virgin (David), The Vestal Virgin''. The discovery of a "House of the Vestals" in Pompeii made the Vestals a popular subject in the 18th century and the 19th century.


Portraits as Vestals

File:Metsys Elizabeth I The Sieve Portrait c1583.jpg, ''Sieve Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I'' (1583) by Quentin Metsys the Younger File:Jean Raoux – Vestal Virgin.jpg, ''Vestal Virgin'' (1677–1730) by Jean Raoux File:Madame Henriette de France as a Vestal Virgin (c. 1749) by Jean-Marc Nattier.jpg, ''Madame Henriette de France as a Vestal Virgin'' (1749) by Jean-Marc Nattier File:Angelica Kauffmann, Portrait of a Woman as a Vestal Virgin, 1780-1785 02.jpg, ''Portrait of a Woman as a Vestal Virgin'' (1770s) by Angelica Kauffman


Notes


References


Further reading

* Beard, Mary, "The Sexual Status of Vestal Virgins," ''The Journal of Roman Studies'', Vol. 70, (1980), pp. 12–27. *Thomas Robert Shannon Broughton, Broughton, T. Robert S., ''The Magistrates of the Roman Republic'', American Philological Association (1952–1986). *Kroppenberg, Inge, "Law, Religion and Constitution of the Vestal Virgins," ''Law and Literature'', 22, 3, 2010, pp. 418 – 439

* Peck, Harry Thurston, ''Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities'' (1898) * Parker, Holt N. "Why Were the Vestals Virgins? Or the Chastity of Women and the Safety of the Roman State", ''American Journal of Philology'', Vol. 125, No. 4. (2004), pp. 563–601. * Samuel Ball Platner and Thomas Ashby, ''A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome'' * Saquete, José Carlos, "Las vírgenes vestales. Un sacerdocio femenino en la religión pública romana". Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2000. * Sawyer, Deborah F. "Magna Mater and the Vestal Virgins." In ''Women and Religion in the First Christian Centuries'', 119–129. London: Routledge Press, 1996. * Wildfang, Robin Lorsch. ''Rome's Vestal Virgins''. Oxford: Routledge, 2006 (hardcover, ; paperback, ).


External links

{{Commons category, Portraits as vestals *Rodolfo Lanciani (1898
"The Fall of a Vestal"
Chapter 6, in ''Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries.'' Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston and New York, 1898.

*[http://sights.seindal.dk/sight/173_House_of_the_Vestal_Virgins.html House of the Vestal Virgins] Ancient Roman religious titles Vestal Virgins, Gendered occupations