History of the Vestal Virgins

Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, was arguably the most important god in the Roman pantheon. Consequently, her priestesses – the Vestal Virgins – were very powerful women. They were given unprecedented privileges, but they were also given demanding responsibilities and strict rules, and the consequences for failing in their duties were fatal.
The most important duty of a Vestal Virgin was to watch the fire of Vesta. This fire ensured the existence of Rome, and without it, the people would lose the favor of the gods and become vulnerable to war, famine, disease, and even complete destruction. On the rare occasion that the fire did go out, there was mass panic.
The vestals had to remain virgins. One of their primary responsibilities was to ensure the purity of Rome, so they had to be completely pure themselves.
The vestals participated in almost every event and ceremony in Rome. They kept the wills and money of every citizen, they prepared purifying cakes for every animal sacrifice, they went to banquets and social events, they guarded over sacred relics… let’s just say, they were very busy women.
Vestal Virgins were legally severed from their families, so they didn’t have fathers or husbands to rule over them. They were the only women who could own land, make wills, and have a lictor (a body guard reserved for powerful men). They were given an enormous stipend for their service and seats of honor at every event they attended. When they walked through the street, people bowed their heads and even consuls and praetors had to make way to let them pass.
The vestals were only required to serve for 30 years, but a rare few left when their time was up. Considering what a great deal they were getting, who could blame them?

Restrictions and Punishments
The Vestal Virgins are perhaps most well-know for how they were punished. Not only did a vestal have to remain a virgin; she also had to retain the appearance of virginity, perform ceremonies with exactness, and be without fault. If something bad happened in Rome, such as a war or a disease, the vestals were scrutinized because people suspected their impurity had displeased the gods.
If they were deemed impure, they were executed.
It was against the law to kill a Vestal Virgin, so the Romans put them in a situation where they would die unless the gods saved them. In other words, they buried the women alive.
Even in death, they were honored. They were some of the privileged few to be buried inside the city, and a vestal’s executors routinely placed offerings on her grave for the rest of their lives.

Query Letter


  1. Hey, about the photo on the left, do you know anything about it? I remember being in Rome and wondering what it was because it was so tall and neat looking.

  2. That's the temple of Vesta. The building to the right is a reproduction of what it probably looked like. (I guess I should have labeled the picture.) I think it's beautiful too, but that's probably because it means so much to me.

  3. Wow, I wouldn't like to be one of them!! Even if it DID give me special privileged!! I can see why you chose it for you story!

  4. Wow. This part of myth/history has so much of depth in it. I see clearly why you may have chosen this are of work. I hope the book has a lot more surprises than the cliche's we expect.

  5. SH: It will have surprises, I promise. For one thing, it's not about forbidden love and rebellion; that's been done already. (I'm so sick of reading about women who use sex to solve all their problems.) Sacred Fire about rising to a higher calling and the value of making sacrifices for something greater than yourself.

  6. A little movie about the vestal virgin : "vestale sous contraintes, exercice ludique en courrier 10" :

  7. I am a young adult author who is planning on writing a novel about a reincarnation of one of the Vestal Virgins. I am starting my research.


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