Who were the Vestal Virgins?

The Vestal Virgins were once the most powerful women in Ancient Rome. They were the priestesses of Vesta and had the duty of protecting Ancient Rome. Considered to be a pure, respected, and independent woman during this historic time.

The Birth the Vestal

The start of the Vestal Virgins was said to be by the King of Rome in the 7th century. The King was informed that the region of Rome would be protected from any dangers by the Goddess Vesta; the virgin goddess of hearth, home, and family. This Goddess Vesta bestowed a magical fire that was to burn forever to honour the Goddess’s protection. The task of this fire was left on a college of virgin women, later known as the Vestal Virgins.

The Life of the Vestal Virgins

Each vestal virgin‘s time in the cult lasted thirty years, with every ten years changing in their duties. The first ten years were to learn the ways of the college, with the next ten years performing the rituals of the house and finally, their last ten years were to train the new virgins. They were an exceptionally exclusive cult, only welcoming six virgins at a time. Children were picked when they were ages six to ten and were from wealthy families. After being chosen the girls would leave their father’s house and move into the House of Vestal. As they were committed to the priesthood, they would make a vow of celibacy until their thirty years were up. After which they were free to leave and marry.

The Privileges and Punishments

They were by far the most influential women in Rome, having extremely higher rights compared to the common women. The only women able to vote and voice their political opinion on matters, own property and had freedom from their fathers/husbands. They were also able to attend events that were only for men, having VIP sections in all stadiums. They were seen as completely pure beings; considered truthful, blessed, and gentle souls. A testimony of a Vestal could be done without being under oath. They could also free a slave just by touch. And any individual that harmed Vestal women would be put to death, regardless of status.

Although they had a larger amount of freedom in their society, the cult did follow very strict restrictions and punishments in place. If a virgin broke their celibacy vows, they would have disastrous repercussions, punishable by death by whipping or being buried alive in the underground chambers. This was also the case if they allowed the fire to go out.

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