They numbered only six and were selected from noble Roman families at an early age, between six and 10 years old. They would tend the sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta and remain virgins for the duration of their tenure, which would stretch long into womanhood, lasting at least 30 years. Credit: Carole Raddato Wikimedia Commons.
Jeremy Alexander. Picture this: It is about years before Jesus was born, and you are Numa. You are Numa Pompilius, the king of Rome.
At varying times there were four to six priestesses employed. They were the only full-time clergy collegia of a Roman deity which attests to the high regard in which the goddess was held. They also ritually prepared the herbs sprinkled on sacrifices and made the bread pane which was offered on feast days such as March 1st, which was the Roman New Year.
They prepared the mola salsa that was used in all state sacrifices. Originally, there were 2, then 4 in Plutarch's timeand then 6 Vestal Virgins. They were proceeded by lictors, who carried the rods and ax that could be used to inflict punishments on the people, if necessary.
Vestal virgins were women priestesses to the goddess of Hearth, Vesta, in Ancient Rome. The main duty they must perform was to guard the fire of Vesta. With this they would be endowed with many honors and rights that a normal female would not have at that time.
The College of the Vestals and its well-being were regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome. They cultivated the sacred fire that was not allowed to go out. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children and took a year vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were forbidden to the colleges of male priests.
There was, however, one Roman religious college that was off limits to men, even to the pious emperor himself. This was the College of the Vestals, popularly known as Vestal Virgins, which only had women amongst its ranks. The College of the Vestals was an important institution that served to ensure the well-being and security of Rome.
All rights reserved. Marcus Licinius Crassus was one of the richest and most powerful Roman citizen in the first century B. Yet he nearly lost it all, his life included, when he was accused of being too intimate with Licinia, a Vestal Virgin.
The priestesses of the goddess Vesta were known as the Vestal Virgins. They were responsible for maintaining the sacred fire within the Temple of Vesta on the Forum Romanum. Other duties included performing rituals in regards to the Goddess Vesta, and baking the sacred salt cake to be used at numerous ceremonies in the year.
For thousands of years in ancient Rome, young women were chosen to devote their entire lives to make sure a fire in the Temple of Vesta never went out. These were the Vestal Virgins, chosen for their purity at a young age to keep the gods happy in order to bring prosperity to Roman civilization. If the fire continued to burn, the city of Rome would continue to prosper during battle, but if it ever went out, civilization would fall into turmoil. This is why there needed to be someone tending to the fire at all hours of the day and night.