Kroppenberg, Inge, “Law, Religion and Constitution of the Vestal Virgins,” Law and Literature, 22, 3, 2010, pp. It’s also worth noting that the Vestal’s male lover didn’t fare any better than she did. Oppia was a Vestal Virgin in the early republic. Despite the resurgence and richness of the Vesta tradition, many people who think "Vestal Virgin" still think of one thing: the fact that Vestals who broke their vow of chaste service to the goddess were buried alive. Credits My goal here is merely to make us re-think the knee-jerk assumptions we make when we look at Vestal practices and punishments. It also granted them special favor to petition Vesta to protect Rome, particularly during times of crisis. YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article. page for info on data we are building upon. Let’s be honest. (in short "QFG") under the supervision of senior executive editor In December o… They were influential in the political sphere and were venerated by society at large. Again, it was believed this gave them special ability to perform Vesta’s rites. The Vestal Order was Rome’s only full-time, state-funded priesthood. The project's main effort is to survey ancient and modern texts and to extract excerpts describing various relevant events for analysis and mapping. Livy also says that the priestesshood of Vesta had its origins at Alba Longa. Who can blame people for going there? One wonders if carnal indulgences were merely a pretext to purge Aemilia, Licinia, and Marcia for the wrong politics. In antiquity, her fire burned in Roman homes as well as in the inner sanctum of her temple in the Roman Forum. She was found guilty of unchastity and buried alive. 12–27. 70, (1980), pp. But none of their tombs have ever been discovered, they have found 1 … The 11th century Byzantine historian George Kedrenos is the only extant source for the claim that prior to Priscus, the Roman King Numa Pompilius had instituted death by stoning for unchaste Vestal Virgins, and that it was Priscus who changed the punishment into that of live burial. Three were found guilty and buried alive. After all, the more Vesta approved of them, the more likely it was that she would continue to guard Rome and her people. In antiquity, her fire burned in Roman homes as well as in the … Marcia, who was accused of only one offence, and Licinia, who was accused of many, were at first acquitted by the pontifices, but were retried by the praetor and jurist Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla (consul 127 BC), and condemned to death. Beard, Mary, “The Sexual Status of Vestal Virgins,” The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. The man who violated her was sentenced to death by whipping. Some cleared themselves through ordeals. 91–69 BC, recorded as a Vestal during the trial of her brother in 69 BC, but she would have begun her service before her father’s death in 91. The QFG Historical Database is a research project undertaken by As we have seen, sexual violence against women punctuated important episodes of early Roman history. A Vestal who broke this vow was punished by being buried alive. The pontifex maximus, having lifted up his hands to heaven and uttered a secret prayer, opened the litter, led forth the culprit, and placing her on the steps of the ladder which gave access to the subterranean cell, delivered her over to the common executioner and his assistants, who conducted her down, drew up the ladder, and having filled the pit with earth until the surface was level with the surrounding ground, left her to perish deprived of all the tributes of respect usually paid to the spirits of the departed. The main duty they must perform was to guard the fire of Vesta. [1] Vestals found guilty of this crime were buried alive, according to Rome's Vestal Virgins. http://cof.quantumfuturegroup.org/events/5616. Any sexual relationship with a citizen was therefore considered to be incestum and an act of treason. Livy, Plutarch, and Aulus Gellius attribute the creation of the Vestals as a state-supported priestesshood to king Numa Pompilius, who reigned circa 717–673 BC. The chief rules prescribed them were, to vow the strictest chastity for the space of thirty years. Fabia, chief Vestal (b ca 98–97 BC; fl. Nor did the “sacrifice” these women were making go unnoticed or unrewarded. Was it motivated by misogyny? Their virginity was therefore not an attempt to control their lives, but rather a consequence of the condition required to do their job and attract the goddess’s good graces. You can't shed the blood of a Vestal Virgin without angering the gods. Another misconception is that being buried alive was a common occurrence. (in short However, it was also illegal to bury anyone within the city limits. In this way, the Vestal Virgin was not buried alive but was simply sent to a room with some provisions, where she would die a natural death. BRIDES OF ROME: A NOVEL OF THE VESTAL VIRGINS. More specifically, the text focuses on the roles of Vest… Pliny the Younger was convinced that Cornelia, who as Virgo Maxima was buried alive at the orders of emperor Domitian, was innocent of the charges of unchastity, and he describes how she sought to keep her dignity intact when she descended into the chamber: …when she was let down into the subterraneous chamber, and her robe had caught in descending, she turned round and gathered it up. This absolved the Roman people of guilt for their death. Ancient tradition required that an unchaste Vestal be buried alive within the city, that being the only way to kill her without spilling her blood, which was forbidden. The 2nd- century antiquarian Aulus Gellius writes that the first Vestal taken from her parents was led away in hand by Numa. This article is by no means an exhaustive look at the Vestal Order. Such an assumption is a lazy way to look at history: it looks through a 21st century lens, which often includes a hypersensitivity toward gender issues, and fails to truly put these things into historical or social context. Aemilia, who had supposedly led the two others to follow her example, was condemned outright. Moreover, she would die willingly. 50 BC), admitted to the order in 80 BC, half-sister of Terentia (Cicero’s first wife), and a wife of Dolabella who later married her niece Tullia; she was probably mother of the later consul of that name. And when the executioner offered her his hand, she shrunk from it, and turned away with disgust; spurning the foul contact from her person, chaste, pure, and holy: and with all the deportment of modest grace, she scrupulously endeavoured to perish with propriety and decorum. Legal Notice If they broke their vow of virginity; they were buried alive in a place allotted to that peculiar use.” In this way, Vestal privileges were an early form of women’s rights that could be expanded beyond the Vestal Order. See also our That emperor had determined that Cornelia, chief of the Vestal Virgins, should be buried alive, from an extravagant notion that exemplary severities of this kind conferred lustre upon his reign. The final decision was the responsibility of the Pontifex Maximus, or the head of the pontifical college, as opposed to a judicial body. Castro Pretorio is the 18th rione of Rome (Italy), identified by the initials R. XVIII, and it is located within the Municipio I. 20 Indeed, there is evidence that the Vestal Order itself was challenging this as early as the 1st century CE. Postumia was sternly warned “to leave her sports, taunts and merry conceits.” Aemilia, Licinia, and Martia were executed after being denounced by the servant of a barbarian horseman. In the thousand-plus years that the Temple of Vesta was active in the Roman Forum, only a handful of Vestals were ever killed in this way. And in a way it was his avarice that absolved him from the charge of corrupting the Vestal, and he was acquitted by the judges. Convicted vestals Aurelia Severa, Clodia Laeta, and Pomponia Rufina were buried alive, while Cannutia Crescentina managed to commit suicide before that happened by leaping from the roof of her family’s house. Rome’s Vestal Virgins. Why Ingrid Bergman was “buried alive” after her affair The temples of Hestia were tended by the Vestal Virgins. Cases of unchastity and its punishment were rare. It has been suggested that Vestals were used as scapegoats in times of great crisis. (2004), pp. In 483 BC, following a series of portents, and advice from the soothsayers that the religious ceremonies were not being duly attended to, she was found guilty of a breach of chastity and punished. Aemilia, Licinia and Marcia were Roman vestal Virgins, who were prosecuted for having broken the vow of chastity in a famous case in 115-113 BC. That's why the Vestal Virgins of Rome were buried alive if they got caught fooling around - no blood was spilled but they still got their punishment. The Emperor Domitian imposed strict morality laws on all women, and he had four out of the six Vestals tried for breaking their vows. Because Vesta is a virgin goddess, virgin girls were selected as priestesses. By guarding the flame, the Vestals ensured the pax deorum—the peaceful contract between the gods and humankind—would remain unbroken. When they entered the collegium, they left behind the authority of their fathers and became daughters of the state. These eruptions of rage against women reveal a profound fear at the core of Roman society. Emperor Domitian sent the chief Vestal, Cornelia, to be buried alive on a charge of breaking her vows of virginity, but didn’t allow her to defend herself. To prevent this from happening, an order of Vestal priestesses was created to keep the eternal flame alight in Vesta’s temple. Choosing suitable priestesses for this duty was essential. Hestia: Vestal virgins and Nuns. I think so. …the very interchangeability and exchangeability on which Rome was based necessitated that a woman still be attached to, and be a member of, her father’s family for her to have value as an exchange. This put them in a state of purity that was deemed patently suitable to approach a virgin goddess. (They also got a loaf of bread in their tomb, not that that would be a great comfort.) It was considered a sacrilege to kill a Vestal, so those who were found guilty of incestum (breaking their vow of chastity) were taken to the Campus Sceleratus or "evil field" just inside the city walls of Rome where they descended a ladder into a subterranean pit. It has been suggested that Vestals were used as scapegoats in times of great crisis. After being condemned by the college of pontifices, a Vestal’s executioners would prepare for her a very small vault in the ground, usually containing a couch and small amount of food and water. But he did not let Licinia go until he had acquired her property.” Licinia became a Vestal in 85 BC and remained a Vestal until 61 BC. War, Vestal Virgins, and Live Burials in the Roman Republic Vestal virgins were women priestesses to the goddess of Hearth, Vesta, in Ancient Rome. It is thought she converted to Christianity before her death. Links featured in this article is by no means an exhaustive look at the Vestal Virgins Vesta to Rome! 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