Ancient Rome Roman Forum

House of Vestals

House of Vestals

The House of Vestals, on the south side of the Via Sacra, was a complex including the Temple of Vesta and the home where the vestal virgins lived. As priestesses of the cult of Vesta, they were the custodians of the spiritual hearth and were charged with carrying out the numerous rites included. The only womanly body of priests in Rome, the 6 vestal virgins were picked amongst the kids of patrician family in between 6 and 10 years old. They were needed to remain in the order for thirty years, appreciating a vow of chastity.

House of the Vestals

Rome, Italy – Ancient Roman Forum – House of the Vestal Virgins

House of the Vestals - Rome, Italy.

House of the Vestals – Rome, Italy.

Vestal Virgins who broke this vow were buried alive in a below ground chamber outside the Porta Collina, in a location appropriately called “Campo Scellerato” (field of iniquity) while their accomplice was condemned to death by flogging in the Comitium. On the other hand they took pleasure in important benefits: they were deducted from adult authority and the patria potesras passed to the Pontefix Maximus, they might take a trip in the city in a wagon (which was prohibited to females), they had actually scheduled seats at the spectacles and ceremonies and might do as they finest saw fit with a sort of stipend they got from the State.

House of Vestals

Central courtyard of the House of Vestals at the Palatine Hill, used to accommodate the priestesses who tended the sacred flame in the Temple of Vesta.

The institution of the vestal virgins is older and typically dates to king Numa Pompilius.
The remains of the House of Vestals are still noticeable about a meter below the level of today structure. Of republican date, it is a much smaller sized structure and, unlike the later one, is oriented north-south. It was joined to the Temple of Vesta by a yard, to the south which was a complex of 6 spaces (keep in mind that there were 6 vestal virgins). Part of the mosaic pavement with inserts of irregular marble tiles (lithostroton) is still undamaged.

Ruins of the House of Vestals in the Roman Forum. Rome, Italy

Ruins of the House of Vestals in the Roman Forum. Rome, Italy

After the burning of Rome in A.D. 64 the House of Vestals was reconstructed by Nero. Trajan totally renovated it and later on Septimius Severus brought back the whole complex, consisting of the temple. The Vestals left the structure in A.D. 394 when the pagan cults were eliminated and it was then utilized for other functions.

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