A vestal was a priestess dedicated to Vesta, goddess of the hearth with Rome. Vesta is a Italic divinity in which the worship is probably originating in Lavinium and who was then comparable with the Greek goddess Hestia.
The worship of VestaThe worship of Vesta was closely related to the origins of the town of Rome. The legend indicates that the twin brothers Romulus and Remus are the wire of Rhéa Silvia girl of king d' Albe, a Vestal of Alba Long the and of the god Mars.
Fruits of a prohibited love, they were exposed and their condemned mother. According to Tite-Live I, 20, it is the Sabin Numa Pompilius, second king of the City, which will transfer the worship from Vesta in Rome. The Vestals were the continuatrices of a very old tradition, the maintenance of common fire perpetually lit.
The historian Denys d' Halicarnasse gives many details on their role ( the origins of Rome , delivers II, 66-67): The Grand Pontiff chose four young girls at the origin (then six, and then seven young girls) old of 6 and 10 years, and free birth (of origin patrician exclusively). They were to be without physical defect nor moral (including sometimes in their family ascent) and had, under penalty of death, to remain virgin during their priesthood. Guarantors of the conservation of an element as paramount as fire, they then received in deposit, in the round temple of Vesta, other relics guarantors of the duration of Rome. The spontaneous extinction of fire was regarded as disastrous predicts.
The service of the Vestals lasted thirty years. Their college was organized in three groups of the different ages, youngest being informed by oldest during ten years, those of the intermediate age group maintaining civic fire permanently. Their costume consisted of a tunic (Stola), over which they put a jacket of flax. Their hair was cut at the time of their dedication. At the conclusion of his time of priesthood, the vestal could, if she wished it, return to the civil life and marry.
A privileged statuteThe Vestals enjoyed many privileges attached to their load. Maintained with the expenses the State, they were freed from the paternal authority (whereas a Roman woman was minor all her life). They had the right to test; they testified without lending oath to a lawsuit. At the end of the Roman Republic, they were preceded by a Licteur during their displacements; the Consul S and the Préteur S yielded the step to them and made lower their beams in front of them.
When a Vestal met one condemned which one led to the torment, it had the right to ask that it was pardoned, the condition however of proving that the meeting was fortuitous. The inviolability of the Temple of Vesta and the person of its priestesses made that one deposited between the hands of those the wills which one wanted to put in safety, and sometimes even certain solemn treaties. Lastly, their ashes were buried inside even Pomœrium , in exemption from the law on the burials.
See also: funerary Rite of the Roman religion
the incesteIn the event of sexual relationships sacrileges, a qualified crime of incestus , the vestals were buried alive. A recent study shows that this punishment was perhaps a way of doing accept with the civic body a human sacrifice with the gods. Indeed, according to (short) the list of the Vestals having made the sacrilege to have guilty relations during their priesthood, one notices that these sacrileges often occur at the time of great catastrophes for the city (seat of Rome by Brennus, disaster of Cannes in the war against Hannibal) and the sacrifices which follow are a means of restoring the Pax deorum .
After to be whipped rods, it was equipped like late, and was transported in a litter closed according to the use at the time of the funeral, until the campus sceleratus , which was located in the enclosure of the city, very close to the Colline door. It was buried with a lamp and a small provision of the things necessary to the life, bread, water in a vase, milk, oil. The fact that its execution takes place inside the Pomérium is there too revealing special character of the Vestals, since death was banished of this crowned enclosure (the weapons and the legionaries did not enter there, the field of Mars was outside, the capital executions also). The culprit went down in a small part without opening. As for its accomplice, it was beaten rods until it expired under the blows.
Vestals under the Republic
- In 390 av. J. - C., at the time of the incursion of the Gallic against Rome, the Vestals were put in safety at Caere, Etruscan city close and friend to Rome, and were thus saved at the time of the bag of Rome.
- In 273 av. J. - C., the Sextilia vestal, convinced of adultery, is buried lives close to the door Capène
- Towards 204 av. J.C, the vestal Claudia Quinta miraculeusement accommodates the statue of the goddess Cybèle
- In 114 av. J. - C., the misconduct of the Aemilia vestals, Marcia and Licinia which multiplies the lovers is denounced by a slave. The large pontiff Lucius Caecilius Metellus Dalmaticus condemns only Aemilia and discharges the two others. The business is rejugée the following year by Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla at the request of the people made indignant by the first judgment, and the three vestals are carried out.
- In 73 av. J. - C., Catilina is shown to have had a criminal relation with a Vestal but is discharged.
Vestals under the EmpireThe historian Suétone testifies to a certain disaffection of the Romans for this institution, at the beginning of the empire, under Auguste:
- as the death of the one of them imposed the choice of one replacing, seeing much citizens to make steps not to subject their daughters to pulling, it (Auguste) the Jura that if one or the other of its grand-daughters had had the old one required, itself would have offered it. (Suétone, Life of the twelve Césars, Auguste, XXXI).
- Nevertheless, Tacite testifies under Tibère to the zeal to two patricians families to propose their daughter to replace late a vestal. Tibère chooses that which the parents had never divorced, and comforted the other candidate of a dowry of a million Sesterce S (Tacit, Annales , II, 86).
The respect granted to the vestals remains large. Crowned people, they are untouchable, and no one cannot prohibit to them to go where good seems to them, which makes it possible to entrust to them missions of intermediaries of last recourse:
- in 48, Messaline, guessing that Claude will condemn it for its misconduct, utilizes Large the Vibidia Vestal in his favor, to request a meeting with Claude: “ could not move away Vibidia, nor to prevent it from requiring that one did not make perish a wife without hearing his defense ” (Tacit, Annales, delivers XI, 34)
- At the time of the civil war of 69, the vestals bring proposals for a negotiation of Vitellius to the partisans of Vespasien (Tacit, Histoires, delivers III, 81)
Suétone announces a scandal which took place under Domitien (81-96):
- when with the overflows sacrileges of the Vestals, on whom his father and his brother had closed the eyes, it (Domitien) punishes them with severity, in various manners, initially of the capital punishment, then according to the habit of the ancestors. It allowed the Oculata sisters like in Varonilla choosing their torment and relegated their seducers, but later Cornelia, large the Vestal, formerly discharged, after a long interval again marked and having been convinced, it ordered to bury it sharp and to whip its accomplices until death, except for a former praetor whom it simply condemned to the exile because he had acknowledged his crime whereas the business was still badly cleared up and that neither the investigations nor torture made it possible to conclude. (Life of the twelve Césars, Domitien, VIII).
The business testifies to a dissolution of manners of the vestals, at least if the charges are exact because the instruction of the lawsuit of Cornelia is doubtful, and rests on an extorted testimony. It is however difficult to draw a general conclusion from it on a relaxation manners of the vestals, because it is the only scandal brought back by Suétone for all the period of Ier century, apart from the insinuation of a rape of vestal made by Néron.
|Random links:||Governed Laspalès | Malacosoma laurae | Heinrich von Brühl | Jean-Paul Mourot | Public library and cantonal of Zoug | 708|