The Women Who Influenced Rome
Dedicating their life to keeping the sacred fire alight, these six priestesses were sworn for greatness through the ages of 6 and 10. Their vow of chastity kept the empire of Rome afloat.
The House of The Vestals was a three-story fifty room palace located at the bottom of the Palantine Hill. Building began by Domitian's rule (81AD) and ended by Trajan's (113AD). The complex consists of The Temple of Vesta, the Regia, and the Domus Publica. THe Temple of Vesta was a Roman sanctuary dedicated to the worship of Vesta.
Becoming a Vestal
In order to become a Vestal, there were hard requirements:
-free of physical and mental deformities
- a daughter of a free-born resident
-two living parents
Between the years of 6 and 10, twenty candidates were chosen by lot. The children were led away from their parents with the sacred 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", by the pointifex maximus (chief priest). From there they spent their first decade of their thirty year long term.
The first 10 years of being a vestal were spent learning their duties.
Preserving the sacred fire as the shrine of Vesta (they could not let the fire burn out)
Preparing food for sacred rituals
Caring for holy objects in the temple's sanctuary
Making mola salsa, a flour that was sprinkled on public offerings
Keeping safe the wills of people like Caesar and Mark Antony
The vestals received many more privileges than the average roman in ancient Rome.
-transported in a carpentum, a covered two-wheeled carriage, preceded by a lictor, practically a roman bodyguard.
-free to own property, make a will, and vote
-gave evidence without the customary oath, their word being trusted without question
-entrusted with important wills and state documents, like public treaties
-able to free condemned prisoners and slaves by touching them – if a person who was sentenced to death saw a Vestal on his way to the execution, he was automatically exonerated
- death was the penalty for injuring their person and they had escorts to protect them from assault
Although very rare if a vestal let Vestsa's fire die out or broke their vow of chastity, then they received a serious penalty. They were to be buried alive in the Campus Sceleratus or "Evil Field" (an underground chamber) with a few days worth of food and water.
-Rhea Silva was the mother of twins Remus and Romulus. Her father was King Numitor of Alba Longa, and her uncle was Amulius, Numitor's brother who ladethroned him. Amulius had her become a Vestal Virgin because he found out that her offspring would threaten to dethrone him. Because of Mars, Rhea Silvia was accused of violating her vows and was thrown into the Tiber River, along with Remus and Romulus. The myth says, her children were rescued by a she-wolf and later grew up to build Rome. The god Tiberius rescued Rhea Silvia and married her
-Aemilla was killed in 114 BC for incest on several cases and convinced vestals, Licinia and Marcia, to do the same.
-Licnia was close with Marcus Licinius Crassus. They were close but did not commit incest, he wanted her property. They were almost charged with incest but he proved that his greed was the reason for their close relationship.
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