The Roman Goddess Vesta and her Vestal Virgins

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Kelly Macquire
published on 09 August 2022

The goddess Vesta was the Roman goddess of the home, the hearth, fire, domestic life, and the patroness of bakers. She is identified with the Greek goddess Hestia, although Hestia was less so in the spotlight in ancient Greece than Vesta in ancient Rome. In Roman mythology, Vesta was the daughter of Saturn (the Roman equivalent of Cronos) and Ops, the goddess of fertility, and was responsible for preparing the food of the gods.

There are no myths associated with the goddess Vesta in Roman mythology, but we know that she is one of the oldest deities and was often not depicted as a woman, but as fire. When she was depicted as a woman, she was always fully clothed and was often accompanied by a donkey (her sacred animal, associated with bakers because the donkey turned the millstone). Sometimes she was depicted holding a kettle which was a symbol of the hearth, as well as cut flowers which symbolised domesticity.

The Vestales or Vestal Virgins were specially chosen priestesses to Vesta. There were either four or six Vestal Virgins at any one time, and their chief priority was to tend to the sacred flame of Vesta that eternally burned in the Shrine of Vesta in the Roman Forum. Young girls were chosen to be Vestals at the age of six or seven, and had to dedicate themselves to the goddess for at least thirty years, and they had to stay chaste during the entirety of their service to the goddess. They were the only full time clergy in ancient Rome, and along with tending to the sacred fire, they also performed other rites and rituals associated with Vesta including caring for the sacred objects in the shrine and inner sanctuary, preparing ritual food and officiating in public events such as the festival to Vesta, the Vestalia.



0:00​ Introduction
1:00 Who Was the Goddess Vesta?
3:09 Who Were the Vestal Virgins?
5:56 Outro

Vestal Virgins
Roman Religion
Temple of VEsta/Hercules, Rome
Roman Mythology
Roman Forum

The Lives of Ancient Roman Women
The Roman Epic Poem The Aeneid: Introduction and Summary
Ancient Roman Games, Sports and Spectacles
Ancient Roman Art and Architecture
History of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty of the Roman Empire

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The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

Mario Enzo Migliori
Rabax63 - own work
CC BY SA 4.0

World History Encyclopedia

#vesta #vestalvirgins #romangoddess

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2022, August 09). The Roman Goddess Vesta and her Vestal Virgins. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Roman Goddess Vesta and her Vestal Virgins." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified August 09, 2022.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Roman Goddess Vesta and her Vestal Virgins." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 09 Aug 2022. Web. 18 Jul 2024.