"the Forum, house of the Vestal Virgins" Roman Forum - Temple of the Vesta - Vestal Virgins Tip by tompt

  house of the Vestal Virgins
by tompt
 
 

In this house lived the virgin priestesses who kept the holy flame burning in the temple of Vesta. This sisterhood is in Rome from the earliest times. Silvia, the mother of Romulus, was a member.

A maiden was between six and ten years old, perfect in body and mind, daughter of free and freeborn parents, who followed no dishonourable occupation, and lived in Italy. Then she could be choosen to become a Vestal Virgin. She was there for thirty years. During the first ten years she had to learn her mysterious duties. The next ten performing them, and the last ten giving instructions to the new virgins. During this thirty years she was bound by a vow of chastity. After that time she might unconsecrate herself and return to the world. Only few did and most of the priestesses died in the service of the goddess.

The main duty of the priestesses was to guard the eternal flame, its extinction was said to be a sign of the extinction of the state. Other duties were presenting offerings to the goddess at stated times, and purifying the shrine each morning with water.

Today all that remains of the house is the courtyard and some rooms adjoining to it. In the courtyard are some beheaded statues of Vestal Virgins. The more complete statues are in the Museo Nazionale Romano.

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  • Written Jan 25, 2004
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