Vesta

 

Vesta
Discover the legends and myths and religious beliefs surrounding Vesta, the Roman goddess of fire, the hearth, the home and the Roman state. Vesta caused the fires to burn on the hearth, providing every with warmth. In every city and town a fire sacred to Vesta was always kept burning. The Temple of Vesta was situated in the Forum and served by her priestesses, called the Vestal Virgins, whose duty was to ensure that the eternal flame of Rome was preserved. The Greek counterpart of this ancient Roman deity was Hestia.

Picture of the Vestal Virgins

Picture of the Vestal Virgins, the priestesses of the goddess Vesta

Who was Vesta?
Vesta was the Roman goddess of fire, the hearth, the home and the Roman state. When her brother Jupiter defeated the Titans, and ascended the throne of the gods on Mount Olympus, he offered to her grant whatever she asked. The only desire of Vesta was the preservation of her virginity. When she was introduced to Mount Olympus the gods Apollo and Neptune asked for her hand in marriage. She refused their offers and Jupiter allowed her to remain an eternal virgin.

Facts about Vesta
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Vesta:

  • Roman Name: Vesta

  • Role & Function: The function of the goddess is described as being the goddess of fire, the hearth, the home and the Roman state

  • Status: Major Goddess and one of the 'Dei Consentes', the Council of Gods.

  • Symbols: The sacred eternal flame, a modest head-veil befitting her virgin state and a a kettle or cauldron
    Gender: Female

  • Greek Counterpart: The Greek name for this goddess was Hestia

  • Name of Husband: Unmarried

  • Name of Father: Saturnus (Saturn)

  • Name of Mother: Ops (Opis)

  • Name of siblings: Brothers & sisters: Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune, Juno and Ceres
    Names of Children: None

Facts about Vesta in Roman Mythology
Discover interesting information and facts about Vesta, the Roman goddess of fire, the hearth, the home and the Roman state.

  • Vesta was the daughter of the Titan gods Saturnus and Ops

  • Vestalia was the festival of the goddess and was celebrated June 7 to June 15 when the curtained sanctum her temple was opened for Roman women to offer sacrifices

  • She was also celebrated on the Roman's New Years day (March 1st) when her flame was ritually renewed

  • A Vestal Virgin swore a sacred vow of chastity for 30 years. If the vow was broken, the Vestal was buried alive in the Field of Wickedness (Campus Sceleris)

  • Her worship was observed in every household along with that of the Penates and the Lares

  • The sacred area of the Atrium Vestae comprised of the Temple of Vesta, a sacred grove, the Regia (headquarters of the pontifex maximus, or chief priest) and the House of the Vestal Virgins

  • The goddess was rarely depicted, and was instead represented by a naked flame.

  • Offerings were made to the goddess at every meal by throwing some of the food into the fire.

  • Her temple contained many of Rome's important legal documents.

  • The institution of the Vestal Virgins is generally attributed to Numa Pompilius who reigned 715673 BC

  • Any rite or religious act first required the invocation of Janus, with a corresponding invocation to Vesta at the end of the rite (Janus primus and Vesta extrema).

Vesta and the Vestal Virgins
The circular Temple of Vesta was situated in the Forum Romanum and served by the priestesses called the Vestal Virgins. The Vestal Virgins (sacerdos Vestalis) were the only female priestesses of Ancient Rome. The duty of the Vestal Virgins was to keep the sacred fire that burned on the altar of the goddess Vesta from being extinguished and to preserve a sacred pledge on which the safety and the very existence of Rome was supposed to depend. The Romans looked upon Vesta as one of the protective deities of their empire and that the safety and fate of Rome depended upon the preservation of the sacred fire in the temple of Vesta.  The Romans believed that the extinction of the sacred fire foreboded the most terrible misfortune to Rome and its empire. Every March 1 the fire was renewed and it burned until 391, when the Emperor Theodosius I forbade public pagan worship. The Vestalia was a festival held in honor of Vesta on the 9th of June, and was celebrated exclusively by women, who walked barefooted in procession to the temple of the goddess.

Vesta (Greek Counterpart was Hestia)
The Romans habitually assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Greeks and other nations. When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC many of the Greek gods and goddesses were adopted by the Romans.  The Romans simply changed the Greek gods names to Latin equivalents. The Greek counterpart of Vesta was Hestia. The Roman religion significantly differed from the Greeks in that it was officially endorsed by the state and exerted influence over the government of Rome. Politicians took the offices of influential priests, called pontiffs, to gain control of the popular worship, Roman gods and goddesses like Vesta were worshipped at every public event, including the gladiatorial games, where blood sacrifices were made to the gods. In ancient Rome, the pantheon of 12 major gods, including Vesta, were called the 'Dei Consentes' meaning the Council of Gods.

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