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Notes for Vestal Virgins Final Paper

Notes for Vestal Virgins Final Paper

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(1) Religion in the Roman Empire (James B.

Rives, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007) • “Romans and Etruscans alike apparently regarded any untoward event as a possible message from the gods, and the Senate regularly authorized the consultation of either a Roman priestly college or the Etruscan haruspices in order to determine its significance.” (p. 83) • “Another distinctive feature of the Roman tradition was a strong emphasis on divination. The traditional Roman form of divination was augury, the interpretation of the calls and flights of birds; magistrates were required to employ augury before any public business in order to determine whether or not the gods approved.” (p. 83) • “This concern for omens continued throughout the imperial period, when many other forms of divination seem to have faded away.” (p. 83) • Graeco-Roman practice of representing gods in human form (p. 85) • “A key element in the Graeco-Roman tradition was the integration of public cults into the social and political structures of the city, so that they were to some extent simply one facet of civic organization.” (p. 85) • “Roman authorities were often more concerned with the organization of public cult and religious authority because these things were intimately bound up with the fundamental power structures of society.” (p. 85) • “The Roman tradition likewise bestowed a central role on the goddess of the hearth, called Vesta in Latin, who similarly received offerings at mealtimes. In place of the domestic forms of Zeus, however, we find two groups of deities, the Lares and the Penates, whose precise nature is uncertain. The name “Penates” (found only in the plural) is probably connected with the Latin word penus, “arder”; they were thus apparently the protectors of the household property. The name “Lares” (also found in the singular “Lar”) is more obscure, and their function seems to have been less specific, since Lares also appear as guardians of crossroads. It was to the household Lares that young men dedicated the symbols of their boyhood on their assumption of adult status, and young women dedicated their toys and girlhood clothes when they married.” (p. 118-119) • “Aristotle identified the household as the basic building block of the city-state: both were part of the “natural” structuring of human society. Not surprisingly, there were significant interconnections between the household and the city.” (p. 119) o Many of the traditional household orders also existed on a civic level. o The Vestal Virgins ensured that the fire inside their small shrine in the Forum never went out, in addition to maintaining the public Penates. (p. 121) • “Although religion frequently served to reinforce traditional social hierarchies, it also provided opportunities for marginalized group to advance their social status in ways that would otherwise be denied to them. Women, for example, who were generally barred from political office, could nevertheless hold public priesthoods. This was especially common in the Greek tradition, in which female deities were typically served by female priests; even in the Roman tradition, in which there were fewer female priests, the Vestals enjoyed extremely high public status. In 1

the imperial period some elite women used their priesthoods to establish themselves as public benefactors on the same level as men, and consequently received the same forms of public recognition.” (p. 128) (2) Rome’s Vestal Virgins (Robin Lorsch Wildfang, London: Routledge, 2006) • “The central purpose of both the most ancient form of Roman marriage rite that cum manu and the Vestal rite of captio involved a girl’s removal from the familial cult under which she had lived from birth…The Vestal rite of captio removed a girl from the cult of her birth family but manifestly did not complete the transfer of a girl to the cult of any new family. Instead the new Vestal remained in a liminal state, outside the realm of any one Roman family. In both rites, though, there existed a period of time, brief in the case of bride and of at least thirty years’ duration in the case of a Vestal, when the girl in question was no longer a member of her birth family’s cult nor yet a ember of a new family cult. In both cases, the girl or woman in question wore her hair in the sex crines style so long as the period of liminality lasted. The bride put aside her hairstyle as soon as the rites that ensured her transfer to her new family were complete. The Vestal, however, retained hers s long as she was a member of the priesthood, visibly demonstrating her peculiar liminal status and perhaps gaining protection from its existence.” (p. 13) • Wore a stola, one of two groups (only the matronae and the Vestals) who were allowed to wear one. “Both prostitutes and freedwomen were explicitly forbidden to wear either of these garments. In other words, the stola was restricted to the use of certain citizen class women.” (p. 13) The stola likely was a visible sign of purity since in addition to freedwomen and prostitutes, divorced women were also prohibited from donning it. (p. 13) • “Alongside their role as purificatory agents, the Vestals had a second and simultaneous function, the guardianship of Rome’s symbolic storeroom and the ritual manufacture of certain religious substances, which, while often used in purificatory rites, seem also in some way to have been symbolic of Rome’s food stores.” (p. 16) --really good examples of types of food preparation that the Vestals did can be found on page 16. • “What should be emphasized instead is the Vestals’ role as guardians of Rome’s symbolic storehouse. These priestesses were, as Plutarch observes, the only Romans allowed within the penus, and they alone knew the exact nature of the objects preserved within this storeroom. What was important was not so much the precise contents of the penus as the fact that the Vestals alone had responsibility for these contents and that these contents, whatever they were, were integral to the continued existence of Rome.” (p. 17) = more proof/symbolism of the Vestals’ necessity for the continuation of Rome itself. • “Alongside their religious duties within the precincts of the aedes Vestae, the Vestal Virgins also participated more publicly in at least nine annual state rites.” (p. 22) –same responsibility of purification and storage expressed within these rituals…and of these nine, six were purificatory! o During the traditional New Year’s rite (March 1st, but actually New Year’s according to the original Roman calendar), the priestesses replaced the old decorative laurel branches on the aedes Vestae and kindled a new fire on 2





the focus. Ovid’s Fasti describes this with, “So that Vesta may also shine shaded with new leaf, / The white laurel departs from the Trojan hearth. / Add, that new ire is said to be lit within the secret shrine / And the renewed flame gains strength.” (p. 22) Cleansing rituals during the Vestalia, on June 9. Again, Ovid describes the importance of this purificatory ritual in his Fasti. “For the Dialis’ holy wife said to me: / ‘Until the placid Tiber’s yellow waters carry / Trojan Vesta’s sweepings to the sea, / I am not allowed to comb my hair with clipped / boxwood or trim my nails with iron, / or touch my husband, although he is Jupiter’s priest / and given to me by perpetual law. / You, too, should not hurry. Your aughter will wed better, / when blazing Vesta shines with a clean floor.’” (Ov. Fast. 6.226-234) (p. 23) For the Fordicidia and the Parilia, most primary evidence in Ovid and elsewhere emphasize the purificatory purposes. In fact, the “overwhelmin concern with purification and the minimal references to fertility suggest strongly that these rites were meant primarily as purificatory measures and were concerned with fertility only in as much as many ancient agricultural rites were to some extent fertility-related by their very nature.” (p. 26) One of the final annual rituals, the Argei, is described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus as having the Vestal Virgins and Pontifices (the most important priests) throw male effigies into the Tiber River. “…a little after the spring equinox, in the month of May, on what they call the Ides (the day they consider to be the middle of the month); on this day after offering the preliminary sacrifices according to the laws, the Pontifices, as the most important of the priests are called, and with them the virgins who guard the immortal fire, the Praetors, and whatever other citizens as may lawfully be present at the rites, throw from the sacred bridge into the river Tiber thirty effigies made in the likeness of men, which they call Argei.” (D.H. 1.38.3) (p. 27) Ovid also describes this when he writes, “Today also the Virgin hurls the straw dummies / of earlier men from the oaken bridge.” (Ovid, Fasti. 5.621-622) (p. 27) approximately 24-30 human figures were thrown into the water!  Some scholars have argued that since the Argei occurred directly after the Lemuria, the action of throwing the effigies into the river was meant to symbolize the disposal of the ghosts and spirits thought to be present during the Lemuria. (p. 28) From 7th to 15th of June, the aedes of Vesta were opened to Roman women, and then on June 9th, Vesta’s own festival, the Vestalia, occurred. It is likely that grain was manufactured into flour and bread during this festival. Ovid writes, “There survives to this time a piece of ancient custom: / A pure platter brings Vesta offered food. / Look, bread hangs from garlanded donkeys, / and chains of flowers veil rough millstones. / Farmers used to roast only spelt in opens / (these are the rites of the Goddess, Fornax). / The hearth itself baked the bread covered in its ash; / after a chipped tile had been placed on the warm floor. / Hence the baker serves the hearth and the mistress of the hearths / And the donkey who turns the pumice millstones.” (Ovid, Fasti 6.309-318) (p. 28-29)


HOWEVER, even when the Vestals made mola salsa three times a year, the relation fo the fertility of the crops seems doubtful, especially since Ovid compared Vesta to a sterile flame who “is a virgin, giving and taking / no seed, and [who] loves companions in virginity.’” (Ovid, Fasti 6.291-294) (p. 29) Jupiter had commanded Vesta to dry and bake the bread. (Not exactly fecund/moisturizing/growth/fertility processes)  Bona Dea: a women’s mystery rite (surprising that we know so much about it from our male sources!) “On the eve of the feast all the men, both members of the family and of the staff, leave the house of the magistrate where that year the rites are to be performed. The mistress of the house together with the female servants (?), decorates the festive hall with plants and flowers, and bowers are arranged, covered with vine—though this must have been somewhat problematic in December. The cult statue, borrowed for the occasion from the temple (?), is set up in the festive hall and in front of the statue the pulvinar and a small table with the sacred vessels from which the goddess is thought to eat and drink. Next a young sow (Juvenal) or a pregnant sow (if Macrobius’ remark also relates to this feast) s sacrificed and a libation is poured by the mistress of the house. Then the participants, the noble women of Rome and the Vestal Virgins, make merry, drinking wine and being enlivened by music performed by female harpers and flutists.” (Brouwer, H. H. J., 1989, Bona Dea: The Sources and a Description of the Cult. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.) (p. 31) Cicero even argues, “What is done by the Vestal Virgins is done for the Roma people.” (Cicero, De Haruspicum Responso 17.37) (p. 31) “As well as publicly participating in these nine rites, ancient sources note that the Vestals also made public appearances sitting in special seats at the gladiatorial games…Public theatrical performances and gladiatorial games in Rome were as much religious rites meant to honour various divinities, as they were sources of public entertainment. At the beginning of each performance, offerings were made to the deity or deities in whose honour the games were being held. The priests who performed these rites also had special seats at the games, from which they could oversee the spectacle performed in honour of their god.” (p. 33)  The Vestals had special seating arrangements at many of these public events, thereby visually reinforcing the public awareness of their special status. “The combination of the fact that the largest group of the Vestals’ ritual duties falls under the rubric ‘purification’ and the fact that four of the nine annual rites, in which they participated, were mainly purificatory in nature suggest that one major aspect of the Vestals’ religious position was purificatory. This supposition  4

• •

is further strengthened when we take into account the fact that even in some of the rites directed towards other purposes, most notably the fertility rites of 1 March and the Fordicidia, the Vestals’ participation is primarily limited to purificatory actions.” (p. 33) “When a girl became a Vestal Virgin, she underwent a religious ritual whose procedure can hardly have reassured a nervous, young Vestal candidate. Seated on her father’s lap, she awaited the approach of the Pontifex Maximus, who seized her by the hand and took her away ‘as if,’ Aulus Gellius remarks, ‘she had been captured in war.’” (p. 37) This is the rite of captio!! DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A VESTAL CEREMONY AND A MARRIAGE CEREMONY: “There are some marked differences between the two rites. The Vestal candidate was taken not from her mother’s lap, as a bride was, but from her father’s, and the war imagery described is not directly parallel. In the marriage rite cum manu, a bride’s hair was parted with a spear; in the rite of captio, the Vestal candidate was treated as a captive of war. Neither do the remaining rituals of captio parallel the remaining rituals of a Roman marriage ceremony. The Vestal candidate was not accompanied to her ‘symbolic’ husband’s house by a torch-lit procession, nor were any other rites reminiscent of the Roman wedding ceremony performed in connection with her induction into the Vestal order.” (p. 38) THEREFORE, captio was at the same time like and unlike the cum manu. o “Both rites then had as one of their purposes the transfer of a girl out of her father’s potestas. In the marriage rite, the establishment of the bride within her new family’s potestas completed this transfer. In the rite of captio, this transfer was never completed, the Vestal instead becoming sui iuris. (p. 39) Incomplete Vestal transfer—freed from her father’s control but no new male control! o Birth cult (potestas)  Husband’s cult Birth cult (potestas)  State cult “As a state cult, the cult of Vesta did not belong to a single Roman family but to all of them together, collectively.” The careful and uniform wording of the captio terms ensured “that every priestess inducted into the Vestal order was inducted on precisely the same terms as the first Vestal chosen.” The term amata (‘amare’ = “to love”; others think it’s a Latinization of the Greek word meaning “unmastered” or “virgin”) was used to refer to every new Vestal, and it was also the name of the first Vestal. HOWEVER, it’s more likely that it’s simply a derivation of the term, optima lege, which was part of a phrase, ‘on the same terms as her who was a Vestal on the best terms (optima lege)’ so that every subsequent Vestal would have the same rights as the first one, no matter how later laws attempted to change it. (p. 40) PONTIFEX MAXIMUS’S CENTRAL ROLE IN VESTAL CANDIDATE SELECTION: Vesta herself made the ultimate decision…only priest position decided to do this (sometimes). The Vestal selection process could take place one of two ways. Either the Pontifex Maximus, following King Numa’s ancient Papian law, could select twenty girls from whom one would be chosen by lot, or a 5

man of ‘respectable birth’ could offer his daughter of his own accord and if the senate approved the offer, and if all the religious aspects were in accordance, she might be automatically accepted. (p. 46) Sidenote: Plutarch argues that the king himself originally chose the Vestals. Thus, although the selection process for other positions within the Pontifical College (e.g. the Flamines and the Rex Sacrorum) follows a similar process whereby a list of acceptable candidates is first made and then a final candidate is chosen, the Vestal Virgin final selection is done by lot rather than by the Pontifex Maximus, since it is viewed as being left up to the gods (particularly Vesta herself). (p. 47) Other historians think that the difference was that for Vestals, the Pontifex Maximus alone selected from the list, whereas other priestly positions were chosen from the list by the Pontifices as a whole. Still other historians think that an alternative method included a man of respectable birth offering his daughter for priesthood, and then the Pontifex Maximus deciding whether to accept that girl or not without going through the full process of selecting twenty candidates. (p. 47) IN ALL CASES, THE GODDESS HERSELF WAS ALLOWED THE FINAL SAY IN THE CHOICE OF HER NEW PRIESTESS!!! o “The Pontifex Maximus was consulted in all matters connected with the transfer of an individual from one family’s potestas to another’s (adoptions, marriages cum manu, etc.). This consultation took place because of the dangers of religious pollution that an improper transfer from one family’s domestic cult to another carried with it. The Pontifex Maximus’s central role in the selection of a Vestal candidate can be traced to a similar concern, and thus, it highlights once again just how important familial cult purity was in the case of a Vestal candidate.” (p. 47) *Vestal virginity was not a lifetime commitment. HOWEVER, the loss of virginity during service, aka the crime of incestum (crimen incesti), was a life-altering act. “Virginity was at the very centre of the Vestal’ religiouscult. Whatever else these priestesses were and whatever else they did, they were virgins, and their cult had as one of its central aspects the preservation of this virginity.” (p. 51) *Period of service (minimum thirty years) was not necessarily a lifelong one, although most priestesses chose to make it so. (p. 51) * “A loss of virginity during a Vestal’s period of service … led to charges of incestum, a crime viewed as a particularly die threat to the Roman state, and punished by burial alive.” (p. 51) *Vestal virginity had several explanations. Their virginity functioned on a variety of levels—it was (a) “rooted in a univirate Roman matron’s chastity [and] meant to separate the Vestals from the profane world of ordinary women and give them a special sacred status,” (p. 51-52) (b) it “prevented the order from becoming too closely connected to a single Roman family” (p. 52), (c) it “represented a stored-up power, the suppression of which gave the Vestals a special status,” (p. 52) and (d) it enabled the Vestals to easily accomplish custody of the fire as well as showing the Roman citizenry that feminine nature was capable of complete purity (castitas = moral purity). (p. 52) “incestum” 


“in-castum”  an antonym of “castum” which was basically the opposite of castitas, or mural purity. *There were just two classes of women citizens in Rome—the matronae and the virgines —and if you didn’t fit in either, you weren’t a Roman citizen. Vestals’ virginity ensured that they remained in the Virgine class. (p. 53)  “Women who did not fulfill the qualifications of either the matronae or the virgines were viewed as non-members of the Roman state for religious purposes and banned from participating in almost all state rites.” (p. 55) *A virgo had to be a daughter of a Roman citizen, and thus, captio required that a suitable Vestal candidate must have parents who had never been slaves or ‘held lowly occupations.’ (p. 54) The possibility of a Vestal reproducing was left open, however, only nominally so since she was bound as a virgin during her most fertile 30 years. *CRIMEN INCESTI DESCRIPTION: “According to ancient sources, when a Vestal Virgin was accused of incestum, she was ordered by the Pontifical College to refrain from the sacred rites and from selling her slaves. She was then tried, originally by a court made up of the Pontifices, later by a quaestorial tribnal. If she was found guilty, she was dressed in funeral garments, and then carried, bound hand and foot in a closed litter, accompanied by her family and friends as if at a funeral, to thecampus sceleratus near the Colline Gate. Here she was taken by the Pontifex Maximus and sent down a ladder into an underground chamber furnished with a bed, blankets, a lighted lamp, water, brea, milk and oil. As soon as she was placed upon the ladder, the Pontifex Maximus and the other priests accompanying him turned away. After the priestess had descended the ladder, it was removed and the hole through which she had entered the room filled in until no trace of its existence remained. Her lover was bound to a furca and beaten to death.’ (p. 55) • “It has often been remarked that the original judicial method used to try the Vestals for the crimen incesti was anomalous in both Roman religion and law. Of all Roman officials, only a Vestal was suspended from her duties on the slightest suspicion of wrongdoing, and only she faced a judicial inquiry by the full Pntifical College. Of all Romen women accused of sexual misdeeds, only a vestal faced such a court or such public proceedings. Of all Romans, only a Vestal seemingly faced a trial with so little possibility of defending herself.” (p. 56) Every incestum accusation was preceded by a mysterious omen (e.g. extinguishing of the fire in the aedes Vestae) (p. 56) Only Vestals were tried in front of the entire Pontifical college because only they transcended the status of civis. (p. 56) Pontifices presided over transfer of “manus” weddings and official adoptions too. (Hence, their involvement in liminal Vestals) Other crimes could be atoned, but the crimen incesti was seen as ordinary and voluntary, hence the live burial! (p. 57) Vestals’ exact live burial was not because the state was afraid of killing a priestess b/c hermaphrodites and murderers were killed similarly. (p. 58)

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Buried alive so they’d make the right offering to Vesta, goddess of the earth, underworld, and hearth. (p. 59) Discussion of the rationale behind the items buried with the Vestal (and debunk myths starting on the former page of the book) (p. 60) Proof of execution/Vestal death ritual (p. 61)

STOPPED ON PAGE 61 of this BOOK (3) The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome (By Catherine Edwards, Cambridge University Press, 1993) • “Female unchastity was also a recurrent element in discussions of the ‘decline’ of Roman religion which was said to have been a feature of the later republic. This chapter began with the story of Clodius’ infiltration of the rites of the Bona Dea. Female sexual ‘purity’ in Roman religion (as in many other religions) was constructed as important to the preservation of divine favour. Female impurity disrupted religious activity; the unchastity of Vestal Virgins, for instance, was often associated with times of crisis. Though the chastity of Vestals is of a rather different order from that of the ordinary Roman matrona, rules governing their behaviour do suggest the threat female unchastity was felt to pose to he religious well-being of the state.” (p. 44) • Furthermore, just as during the Bacchanalian scandal of the early second century BCE, during which the consul Postumius Albinus addressed the senate saying, “To start with, a great many of them are women and they are the source of this trouble; then there are the men who are just like women, debauched and debauchers.” / “primum igitur mulierum magna pars est, et is fons mali huiusce fuit; deinde simillimi feminis mares, stupati et constupratores.” (LIVY 39.15.9) (p. 44) Thus, in ancient Rome, “women are seen as primarily to blame. They are presented as particularly susceptible to religious frenzy. The behaviour of the men involved is characterized as wrong by assimilating them to women. The disruption of Roman religion is inextricably associated with feminine sexual immorality.” (p. 44-45) • “Just as Scipio waged war on Rome’s enemies, hostile peoples who (in theory at least) threatened the security of the res publica, so Cato fought the enemy within, moribus [sc. Nostris] (‘our orals’), according to Seneca’s picture. While Romans fought foreigners on the margins of their empire to determine its physical boundaries, they also attacked their fellow citizens at the empire’s centre, in disputes over the bounds of Rmanitas (‘Romanness’) itself.” (p. 2) • Justas Livy prefaces his history by telling of the luxus and libido (luxury and lust), so too did all Romans believe that luxury and lust were cognate vices; “those susceptible to sexual temptation, it was felt, were also prone to indulge to excess their appetites for food, drink and material possessions.” (p. 5) • The disorder of the final years of the Roman Republic were reflected by Publius Clodius, a young and politically ambitious Roman aristocrat, who disguised himself as a woman in 62 BCE and infiltrated the rites of the all-female Bona Dea ritual. Profaning a religious rite and intending to seduce the wife of Julius Caesar represented two of the major issues with the failing republic—religious 8

licentiousness and adultery. Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, the new Romulus, claimed he would fix all these problems and return Rome to chastity and res publica. (p. 34) (4) LIVY, The History of Rome, Books 1-5. (Translated by Valerie M. Warrior, Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2006) • Numa realized “that in a warlike nation there would be more kings like Romulus than like himself, and that they would go off to war. So, he appointed the flamen Dialis as a permanent priest, distinguishing him with special dress and a regal curule chair. To him he added two flamens, one for Mars and the other for Quirinus. He chose virgins for the service of Vesta, a priesthood that originated in Alba and was thus associated with the race of Rome’s founder. For them, so that they might be perpetual attendants of her temple, he decreed a stipend from the public treasury, marking their revered and inviolable status by their chastity and other signal honors.” (p. 31) o THUS, when emperors would not be able to ensure the security and survival of the Roman interior state when times of war required them to attend to external/warring matters, the Vestal Virgins were part of the vital homefront protection! (5) Mika Kajava, “Vesta and Athens” in Greek East in the Roman Context • Perhaps Rome’s Vestal devotion was translated and transferred to the Acropolis in Greece. • “Vestal Virgins could not marry (at least during their service) nor could they travel abroad, for they were not allowed to omit their duties in Rome, leaving, for example, the eternal fire in the Forum unprotected. Thus Vestals in office could never come to Athens in person. This probably means tat when a Vestal was honoured in Athens [as Vibidia did in AD 48], it was her father who was in the Greek East because of either administrative duties or military service or for some other reason.” (p. 73) • “Vestal Virgins were not similarly honoured anywhere else in the Roman provinces. On the whole, there is very little evidence for their presence outside the city of Rome. One cannot but conclude from this singular evidence that there must have been some particular reason for the Vestals to be honoured on the Acropolis.” (p. 73) “A number of inscriptions on the hill [Acropolis] show that Roman Vestals were honoured with statues by the Athenian people.” (p. 72) • “Three seating inscriptions from the Theatre of Dionysus show that there were priesthoods of Hestia in Athens: one of the seats belonged to the priestess of ‘Hestia on the Acropolis, Livia and Julia’ (Augustus’s daughter). This institution is likely to date before 2BC, the year of Julia’s banishment.” (p. 73) And since there’s no proof that the worship of Hestia was ever institutionalized in the Greek world as a priesthood or cult, in addition to the fact that the Vesta was associated with the Roman Livia, and that the inscription distinguishes the Vesta cult on the Acropolis from the other Athenian hesiai, means that the goddess in question was likely the Roman version of Hestia, aka, the Vesta of the Roman Forum. (p. 76) • There’s a round, Ionic-styled building on the Acropolis (just like the only round building in the Ionic order found in all of Rome—the aedes Vestae), and it is


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likely that female priestesses from the Temple of Athena tended to any hypothetical Vesta rites in the Acropolis. (p. 78) • “ The triple cult of ‘Hestia on the Acropolis, Livia and Julia’ may plausibly be associated with the Temple of Roma and Augustus, for on the Acropolis there is no earlier trace of a worship of Hestia; moreover, this temple is the only known nucleus of an imperial cult on the hill.” (p. 79) • (stopped b/c what’s the point if this were really the case?!) (6) “The Sexual Status of Vestal Virgins,” by M. Beard, in The Journal of Roman Studies vol. 70, 1980, pages 12-27. “The evidence we have for the Vestals … is not sufficient to draw any but the most banal comparisons between one period and the next.” (p. 12) The holiness of the Vestal priestesses was directly associated with their virginity and purity and reflected a connection to ancient Greek ideas that sexual activity was polluting and therefore disqualified a person from close contact with a deity. (p. 12) Greek law even went so far as to forbid common worshippers from entering a temple up to 2-3 days following intercourse. (p. 13) Since the Vestal Virgins were believed to be in constant contact with a deity, they had to refrain from sexual intercourse all the time. (p. 13) The Vestals are associated with the wives of the early kings since both (1) guarded the hearth like the matron of the household (2) prepared the sustaining mola salsa, sacrificial cake, and cleaned the aedes Vestae (3) a lot of the sacrificial elements, like the burning of a cow fetus during the Roman Hausfrau mean more for the city at large (and less personally) if it is a wife/mother rather than a daughter doing it (4) the Vestal dress was not that of a virgine but of a matrona, or more exactly, a bride on her wedding day/bride-wife element (p. 13) (5) “after the symbolic wedding, it is argued that the right of punishment exercised by the high priest over the virgins was directly comparable to the disciplinary powers of a Roman man over his wife, and that action taken when a Vestal broke the rule of chastity was parallel to the action taken by a husband in the case of an adulterous wife and her paramour.” (p. 14) “It is argued that the type of virginity represented by the Vestals is not virginity in the sense of total abstinence from sexual intercourse, but rather the chastity (pudicitia) of a univirate Roman matron, a quality defined by her fidelity to a single husband and by soberness of conduct and dress. Furthermore, the problem posed by the number of Vestals—for it seems hard at first to equate six priestesses with a single wife—is reconciled by considering the whole, as a unity, to be representative of the one individual materfamilias.” (p. 14) In early Rome, “it seems as if the virgin was not looked upon as sterile but as a mediator of stored up, potential procreative power, a fact that can be adduced against the view that the connection of the Vestals with ancient fertility cults reaffirms their matronal status.” (p. 15) In the dress, a bride wore a red veil, whereas a Vestal wore a white one. (p. 15) Another difference is that in captio, the Vestal is taken by the Pontifex Maximus from her father, whereas a bride is taken from her mother or closest female relative. (p. 15) Vestals were both Virgines and Matronae: “So far from possessing a single, exclusive sexual identity, they combined aspects of two separate categories that were


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for Romans even more distinct than they are for us: the married and unmarried woman.” (p. 15) Mythology of the importance of Vestal sexuality: The early priestesses were sometimes saved from charges of unchastity by performing miracles with Vesta’s help, and when serious state crises occurred later, there was immediate suspicion of Vestal chastity. (p. 16) Two items of the Vestal clothing—the stola (long dress) and the vittae (bands around the head)—were also elements in the traditional costume of a Roman matron. (p. 16) Vestal hairstyle was like that worn by Roman women only on their wedding day. HOWEVER, the Vestals also had a male identity since they were given the right to enjoy the services of a lector, a symbol of masculine status. Testabilis—they could also give evidence in court. And they had the power to make a will and bequeath their possessions. (p. 17) [[stopped on top of page 18 online!!!]]

(7) Suetonius, Twelve Caesars (London: The Folio Society, 1957) • “Not satisfied with seducing free-born boys and married women, Nero raped the Vestal Virgin Rubria. He nearly contrived to marry the freedwoman Acte, by persuading some friends of consular rank to swear falsely that she came of royal stock. Having tried to turn the boy Sporus into a girl by castration, he went through a wedding ceremony with him—dowry, bridal veil and all—which the whole Court attended; then brought him home, and treated him as a wife. He dressed Sporus in the fine clothes normally worn by an Empress and took him in his own litter not only to every Greek assize and fair, but actually through the Street of Images at Rome, kissing him amorously now and then. A rather amusing joke is still going the rounds: the world would have been a happier place had Nero’s father Domitius married that sort of wife.” (p. 224-225) (8) The History of the Vestal Virgins of Rome by Sir T. Cato Worsfold (London: Rider & Co., 1934) • Vestal Virgins began in 715 B.C. and ended under Theodosius in A.D. 394. (p. 11) • “The origin of the Vestal Virgins as an organized cult, in Rome, may be said to date from the time of Numa Pompilius (B.C. 715), a Sabine and second King of Rome.” (p. 15) • “The earliest Vestals whom we find mentioned in connection with ROMAN History are Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus, and Tarpeia who betrayed the Citadel to the Sabines.” (p. 15) • “At Rome two brothers, Numito and Amulius, were rivals for the throne. Amulius drove out his elder brother, and appointed the latter’s daughter, Rhea Silvia, as a vestal, pretending to do her honour but really to prevent her having children.” (Livy, I, 3) (p. 15) • “Fire, which was not too readily obtained in primitive times, was looked upon as sacred and its maintenance became the duty of the daughters of each family, whilst engaged in their domestic functions, for the work of maintaining it could not be relegated fittingly to slaves, and the mother of the family had numerous


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household duties to perform which precluded her from devoting the time and attention necessary to the sacred fire.” (p. 16) “…It is on this account that they esteem Vesta to be a virgin, inasmuch as fire is an inviolable element; and nothing can be born from it, since it consumes all things, whatever it has seized upon.” (p. 16) (Lactantius, Divin. Inst., I, 12.) “As Vesta, who herself typified the earth, was to be regarded as the centre of the universe, so fire, which is sacred to her, was placed in the centre of the City.” (Dionysius, II, 66, and Plutarch, Numa, XI) (p. 17) Names of some of the first Vestals: Gegania, Verana, Canuleia, Tarpeia. (At first, there were four…later, six.) (p. 22) No girl was eligible under 6 and over 10 years of age (p. 22) “The Lex Papia ordained that when a vacancy occurred, the Pontifex Maximus should select twenty girls, and from this number, one was elected by ballot, which must be held in public.” (p. 22) “A parent could offer his child voluntarily, and then the Senate made the selection if there were more than one candidate.” (Tacitus, Ann., II. 86) (p. 22) “A girl was ineligible who stammered (lingua debili) or was deaf or had some other bodily defect.” (Aulus Gelliu, I, 12, 3.) (p. 23) Ceremony of Initiation for a new Vestal: She was taken by the High Priest to the Atrium Vestae (aka: Home of the Vestals), her hair was close cropped short like that of modern nuns before they take their veil, “her hair was hung on a tree called the Capillata, which grew by the Atrium, she was robed in the costume of the Vestals, and the short hair was bound with a white woolen riband, or fillet, called Vitta.” (p. 23) “It is quite evident that in the earlier traditions of the Cult, the Vestal Virgins were regarded as the possible brides of the Deity as well as the priestesses of his rites.” (p. 24) Religious Duties and Festivals attended by the Vestal Virgins: o February 13th: Parentatio. Worship of the dead at the Tomb of the Vestal Tarpeia. o February 15th: The Lupercalia. Using up of the last of the alt-wafers. o February 17th; The Fornacalia. In honour of Fornax, goddess of ovens, that the baking of the corn might be successful. o March 1st: The sacred fire re-kindled. o March 6th: Sacrifice to Vesta. Augustus elected Pontifex Maximus. o March 16th and 17th: Visit to Sacra Argeorum (the twenty-four places consecrated by Numa for religious services). o April 15th:The Fordicidia. Pregnant cows are sacrificed, and the High Vestal burns the calves, that the people may be purified on the festival of Pales. o April 21st: The Parilia. Anniversary of the foundation of Rome. o April 28th: Foundation by Augustus of a Temple to Vesta on the Palntine. o May 1st: Rites of the Bona Dea. (Also on Dec. 3rd and 4th) o May 7th-15th: The three elder Vestal Virgins plucked the first ears of corn for their sacramental cake (molsa salsa) 12

o May 15th: Vestals throw the Argei (straw men) into the Tiber. (Ovid, F., V, 621) o June 9th: Festival of Vesta. (Opening of the Penus Vestae to the matrons.) o June 15th: The sweepings of the Temple thrown down the Porta Stercoraria. o August 21st:Festival of Consus, god of counsel and harvest. o August 25th: Festival of Ops Consiva, the goddess of seed time. o Sept. 13th: Festival of Jupiter. o October 15th: Sacrifice of the October horse o Dec. 3rd & 4th: Rites of the Bona Dea. [[all info pgs. 28-29]] *make copies of pages 32-47 for my screenplay!! (they provide detailed descriptions of the various festivals!!) • Privileges of the Vestals: o “The King (Numa) honoured them with great privileges, such as the power to make a will during their father’s life, and to transact other affairs without a guardian, like the mother of three boys now.” (Plutarch) (p. 48) o “When they went out, they had the right to have a lector, carrying the fasces, to march before them; and if, by accident, they met a person being led to execution, his life was spared, always subject to an affirmation that there had been no collusion, but death was the penalty for him who passed under the litter.” (Plutarch, Numa, 10; Dio Cassius, XLVII, 19). (p. 48) o “Until through this intermediary of the Vestal Virgins, and of his relatives and neighbours, M. Emilius and Aurelius Cotta, he obtained a pardon.” (Suetonius, Caesar, I.)  “The reference is to Caesar, who had married a daughter of Marius, the democratic leader, and when called upon by Sulla to divorce her, had refused. He was heavily fined, but escaping, left Rome, and shifted his quarters daily, bribing his pursuers, until through the mediation of the Vestal Virgins, Emilius, and Aurelius Cotta, he was pardoned. The point of this reference is that it shows that the social and political influence of the Vestals could be classed with that of well-known men like those mentioned.” (p. 49) *They had the right to be buried inside the city, unlike any other priests and priestesses. (Servius on AEn. XI, 206) (p. 50) *Right to give evidence in a Court of Justice, without taking the oath. (Aul. Gell., VII, 7, 2) (p. 51) * Privilege of good seats at Gladiatorial Games even though the traditional Roman rule was that omen occupied the uppermost (worst) seats at the Games. (p. 51) *Bequeath property independently of wardship. (Gaius. I, 145; Plutarch, Numa, 10, and Gellius, VII, 7, 2) (p. 51) *Vestals were removed from the official residence and taken care of by some high society elderly lady whenever they were sick. (Pliny the Younger, Epist., VII, 19, translation of W.C. Melmoth, 1746) (p. 52)


*Only wore white, in contrast to the purple or red worn by other branches of priesthood. Shoes were also white. (p. 53) *Hair was cropped very short during their initiation ceremony, but there are some accounts of older Vestals having hair in a bun, so perhaps they could grow the hair again. (p. 53) • “While attending a sacrifice the Vestals had their heads bound with a band (infula) and covered with a hood (suffibulum). They wore a garment next their skin called “tunica interior,” or “interula,” or, later on, “subucula.” (Horace, Sat., I., 2, 132) (p. 53) • The severe penalties for those Vestals who were careless in their performance of duties to the order were “not a matter of a rigid moral code, but [were] due to a superstitious fear of the vengeance of the God to whom alone the Vestal Virgins belonged, body and soul.” (p. 59) • Only 22 were alleged to have been false to their vows during he thousand years of Vestal Virgins’ existence. (p. 59) o “Of these, eighteen were put to death in the prescribed manner, two committed suicide, one was seduced by Nero, and there is no record of her punishment, whilst the remaining one became the Empress of Heliogabalus and died A.D. 225.” (p. 59) o “For smaller offences, these virgins were punished with stripes; and sometimes the Pontifex Maximus gave them the discipline naked, in some dark place and under cover of a veil; but she that broke her vow of chastity was buried alive by the Colline Gate.” (p. 60)  “In this, are placed a bed, a lighted lamp, and some slight provisions, such as bread, water, milk, and oil, as they thought it impious to take off a person consecrated with the most awful ceremonies, by such a death as that of famine. The criminal is carried to punishment through the Forum, in a litter well covered without, and bound up in such a manner that her cries cannot be heard. The people silently make way for the litter, and follow it with marks of extreme sorrow and dejection…When the litter comes to the place appointed, the officers loose the cords, the highpriet, with hands lifted up towards heaven, offers some private prayers just before the fatal minute, then takes out the prisoner, who is covered with a veil, and places her upon the steps which lead down to the cell; after this he retires with he rest of the priests, and when she is gone down, the steps are taken away, and the cell is covered with earth; so that the place is made level with the rest of the mount.” (Plutarch, Numa, Lnghorne’s translation) (p. 60)  The Pontifex Maximus had the power of punishing the Vestal Virgins for disciplinary offences, without consulting the Sacred College; however, in the case of any offence against chastity, the entire Sacred College would assemble. (p. 60)  Plutarch asks: “What is there in all Rome so sacred and venerable as the Vestal Virgins, to whose care alone the preservation of the eternal fire is committed? Yet, if their chastity be violated and 14

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their reputation stained, they are buried alive; for when they presume to commit any offence against their gods, they instantly lose that veneration which they claimed as attendants in their service.” (Plutarch, Tib. Gracchus, anonymous translation, published by Tonson, 1683) (p. 60-61)  WHY Plutarch believed Vestals should be buried alive:  “What is the reason that the Romans punish the holy Vestall Virgins (who have suffered their bodies to be abused and defiled), by no other meanes, than by interring them quicke under the ground. Is this the cause, for that the manner is to burne the bodies of them that be dead; and to burie (by the meanes of fire), their bodies who have not devoutly and religiously kept or preserved the divine fire, seemed not just nor reasonable? Or haply, because they thought it was not lawful to kill any person who had been consecrated with the most holy and religious ceremonies in the world; nor to lay violent hands upon a woman consecrated; and to die of their owne selves; namely to let them downe into a little vaulted chamber under the earth, where they left with them a lampe burning, and some bread, with a little water and milke; and having so done, cast earth and covered them aloft. And yet for all this, can they not be exempt from a superstitious feare of going over this place, performe (I know not what) anniversary services and rites, for to appease and pacifie their ghosts.” (Plutarch, Romane Questions, XCVI. Translation by Philemon Holland) Livy often interrupts historical description with cases of crimen incesti. (p. 61) -Unfaithful virgins were originally whipped to death; this was the fate of Ilia or Rhea Silvia of Alba Longa. Rome changed this. (p. 62) * “Now the Pontifical law ordains that she shall be buried alive.” (Dionysius, I, 78, Spelman’s trans., 1758) (p. 62) Tarquin was the first to institute the punishment: “The Pontiffs were informed that one of the Vestals, who reerved the holy fire, by name, Opimia, had los her virginity, and polluted he holy rites. The Pontiffs, having by tortures, and other proofs, found the information to be true, took from her head the fillets, and, conducting her through the Forum, buried her alive within the walls of he city, and, causing the two men who had debauched her to be scourged and put to death.” (Ib., VIII, 89) (p. 62) “Lucius Pinarius and Publius Furius were created consuls in 471 B.C. Information was given to the Pontiffs by a slave that one of the Vestal Virgins, who have the care of the perpetual fire, by name Urbinia, had lost her virginity, and, though impure, performed the public sacrifices.” (Ib., IX, 40) (p. 62) “The reproduction of species, whether human, animal or vegetable, became a religion amongst primitive peoples because it was a necessity in the struggle for existence.” (p. 64) EX: Posthuma, a Vestal nun, “a virgin guiltless for any deede done; but scarcely of good name and fame; by reason that she was suspected for her apparall and 15

going more light and garish in her attire; yea, and for her wit, more conceited and pleasant than became a maiden, and nothing respective of the speech of the world.” (Livy IV, 44) (p. 66) • A Vestal letting the fire go out was punished/burned, and then one managed to restart it and was celebrated. (p. 67) • Suetonius (Nero, 28) tells us that the Emperor violated a Vestal Virgin named Rubria, and further that he summoned “to the show of wrestlers and other champions also the Vestal Virgins, because at Olympia, the Priestesses likewise of Ceres are allowed to see the Games there.” (Suetonius, Nero, 12). (p. 71) • “During the reigns of such abnormal Emperors as Nero, Commodus and Heliogabalus, the Vestals and their charges, the holy relics, had unpleasant adventures, but til the conversion of Constantine to Christianity (A.D. 313) their position was in no way weakened or even threatened, and even under Constantine and his Christian successors, the Vestal Establishment showed a remarkable tenacity of life. Under Augustus the status of the Vestal Virgins received serious imperial attention.” (p. 70) Suetonius describes how Augustus increased the numbers and the emoluments of all priests, especially the Vestal Virgins in his Augustus,XXXI. There’s also discussion of how Augustus revived certain ancient ceremonies like the rites of the Lupercalia, which had gradually fallen into disuse. • Emperor Domition accused Cornelia, chief of the Vestal Virgins, of incest, decided she should be buried alive, as a means to make his reign illustrious by such a strong example, and condemned her without allowing her a chance to speak in her own defense. Ironically, he himself “had not only been guilty of thee same crime with his brother’s daughter, but had also been the occasion of her death: for she died of abortion in her widowhood.” (p. 71) • In A.D. 211-217, Caracalla “cut off the flower of the nobility and gentry. Then sent he into the provinces and massacred all the presidents and procurators…yea, whole nights were spent in such tragicall executions of all sorts of people. He buried the Vestal Virgins quicke, pretending they had lost their virginity.” (Herodian, IV, 6, 4, out of the Greeke originall 6290) (p. 72) • Worst of all, Heliogabalus (A.D. 218-222), who had declared himself the true god and tried to impose his personal cult on the Roman world, committed incest with a Vestal Virgin, Julia Aquilia Severa, removed the secret relics of the Vestals, profaned the worship of the Roman people, he broke into the inner shrine (penus) of Vesta, which only the virgins and priests enter, defiled himself and the men who were with him, attempted to carry of the holy relic, but only managed to steal one of many copies of it. (All this according to Lampridius) (p. 72-73) o According to Herodian, Heliogabalus also pretended he was in love, stole a Vestal Virgin out of the sacred house in Rome, married her, and then sent the distraught Senate an apology letter. (p. 73) *Even when Christian emperor Constantine (Edict of Milan, A.D. 313)’s sons, Constans and Constantius (A.D. 360) decreed that temples were to immediately close and no more sacrifices could be made, the statesman Symmchus, “the last of the Pagans,” (A.D. 340410), says that Constantius “suffered the privileges of the Vestal Virgins to remain inviolate…he never attempted to deprive the Empire of the sacred worship of antiquity.”


(G.P. Baker, Constantine the Great and the Christian Revolution, Gibbon, chaps. XVI and XXV) (p. 75) o However, during the reign of Jovian (A.D. 363-4), the chief Vestal Virgin, Coeia Concodia became a Christian and her last act on leaving the Atrium was to erase her name from a pedestal, which was found in 1883 with her name erased. (p. 76) [[there’s a sketching of this statue on page 76!!!]] o Around 375-380, Emperor Gratian abolished the office of Pontifex Maximus and the functions of the Vestal Virgins, eventually closing the Temple of Vesta. (p. 85) • “The word Penus means, “that which is inside the house’ 9cf. penetralia, penitus), it also means a store or sanctuary. It must be remembered that every Roman house had its own Storeroom (penus), which was deemed holy because the Penates, or Gods of the Storeroom, dwelt therein. Thus in every house Vesta, the Goddess of the Hearth, was intimately bound up in the Roman mind with the Penates, and was indeed reckoned as one of them. It follows therefore that the Penus already sacred in the common Roman home, became the Hoy of Holies in the House of the Vestals.” (p. 117) o “To the west of the Penus is a well of spring water, 16ft. 8 in. deep, lined with blocks of tufa. To the north of the well is a small rectangular tufa base, 4ft. by 4 ft. 10 in., upon which is cut a circle 2ft. 10 in. in diameter. Upon a loose stone is a part of an inscription…It apparently belonged either to the Temple of Vesta or to the Regia, but it is inscribed: “CN. DOMITIVS. M.F. CALVINVS PONTIFEX COS. ITER. IMPER. DE MANIBEIS.” (8) From Good Goddess to Vestal Virgins: Sex and category in Roman religion, by Ariadne Staples (London and New York: Routledge, 1998) • “At any given time there were six Vestals who might range in age from early childhood to extreme old age. A newly selected Vestal had to be between six and ten years old and was committed to serve for a period of thirty years.” (p. 129) • “Suspicions of unchastity and its almost inevitable aftermath—burial alive—arose typically during periods of political instability.” (p. 129) • “The Vestal Virgins were Rome’s most extraordinary reigiousphenmenon. At any given time there were six Vestals who migh range in age from early childhood to extreme old age. A newly selected Vestal had to be between six and ten years old and was committed to serve for a period of thirty years. After that she was free to leave the priesthood but could choose to serve until her death. Many chose to remain.” (p. 129) • “Individually and collectively the Vestals were an embodiment of virginity.” (p. 129) • “Then the high priest, after stretching his arms towards heaven and uttering certain mysterious prayers, brings forth the culprit, who is closely veiled, and places her on the steps leading down into the chamber. After this he turns away his face as do the rest of the priests, and when she has gone down, the steps are taken up, and great quantities of earth are thrown into the entrance of the


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chamber, hiding it away, and making the place level with the rest of the mound.” (Plutarch, Num, 10) Unlike the gory, celebrated deaths which were often viewed as entertainment by the Roman public, the death ritual of an unchaste Vestal virgin was surrounded by such somberness and a heavy silence, which served as a remarkable contrast to the bustling city. (p. 132) “Nobody asked why it was just these six women and no others who were so cruelly put to death if they were suspected of losing their virginity. Nobody asked, because everybody knew the answer: the Vestals were different.” (p. 132) LIVE INTERMENT!!! “The first thing to note is the complexity of the ritual. The ritualistic nature of the punishment of the Vestal is all the more striking when compared with the way her alleged lover was punished. He was publicly flogged to death, without ceremony as far as we can tell.” (p. 133) “There are instances where some of the expiatory rites were recommended by the pontiffs, but these were rare. However, it was the pontifical college alone that tried and condemned a suspected Vestal. This is of fundamental importance.” (p. 133) Rather than being cast out of the city or sewn up into sacks and thrown into the sea, as other labeled prodigia (like Androgynes and Obsequens) were, the unchaste Vestals were buried within the city. (p. 134) Proof that Vestal burials typically occurred during times of severe political crisis = there are only two recorded instances of Vestals being interred for unchastity during the period between the first Punic war and the end of the Republic. (p. 134) All victims of the ensuing panic crisis!! Unlike a matron, a Vestal’s virginity “represented life and death, stability and chaos for the Roman state.” (p. 135) “A Vestal’s virginity was indispensable for the political well-being of Rome. But —and herein lies a paradox—the loss of her virginity was equally indispensable for the political well-being of Rome. A single lapse by a single priestess threatened the very existence of the state. In such an event the only way to restore the status quo was to rid the state of the offending Vestal in the manner described by Plutarch.” (p. 135) o Despite the importance of this virginity, however, the six Vestals were in no way secluded. Regularly, they left the Atrium Vestae, and had a social life similar to that of any upper-class Roman woman, attending dinner parties, being mistaken for normal upper-class women following such dinner parties (according to Dio Cassius’s writings), etc. (p. 136) o “The gods themselves revealed her crime by means of prodigia.” (p. 136) o The Vestal was allowed to be at the trial and defend herself. (p. 136) o The authority of the pontifical college and particularly the Pontifex Maximus over the Vestal Virgins was an ancient tradition, thought to date bck to the time of Tarquinius Priscus. So when in 114, there was a tribune established in order to re-try two Vestals who had already been acquitted by the pontifical college of unchastity, it could only have been due to the


emotional frenzy and not so much a desire to reaffirm Roman tradition and state security. (p. 137) o The ritual burial of a guilty Vestal repeated three times in 114. o “If the state was in trouble the spectacle of the burial of an unchaste Vestal would restore hope for its recovery. If the state was peaceful and prosperous the Vestals were clearly chaste.” (p. 137)  Domitian’s description of the Vestal, Cornelia, who said “Me Caesar incestam putat, qua sacra faciente vicit, triumphavit? “How could Caesar think I am polluted when as long as I carried out my sacred duties he has conquered and triumphed?” • Also, “the trial of two Vestals Opimia and Floronia in 216 BC followed the near annihilation of the Roman army by Hannibal at Cannae. The trials of Aemilia, Licinia and Marcia in 114 BC came in the wake of the destruction fo the army of C. Porcius Cato by the Scordisci in Thrace. These defeats gave rise to intense and widespread emotional upheaval in Rome itself.” (p. 136) MORE THAN ONE VESTAL INVOLVED IN EACH CASE!!! • APPEARANCE of virginity was also important! “Plutarch says that Crassus caused the prosecution of the Vestal Licinia by associating with her to closely. Both Crassus and Licinia were tried and acquitted, for it turned out that all he wanted to do was buy at a bargain price some property that she owned. Livy records that the Vestal Postumia was put on trial because her attractive appearance and free and easy manner had aroused suspicions of unchastity. She also was acquitted with the warning to dress and behave in a manner ‘more suitable to sanctity than coquetry’.” (p. 138) • Rigorous qualifications for a prospective Vestal: “She had to be aged between six and ten; be free of any kind of physical blemish or impediment; to have father and mother both living—patrima et matrima; and to be in patria potestas. This last injunction was further qualified. Her father should not have been emancipated in any way from the potestas of his father, which meant that if the girl’s grandfather was alive she would have to be, like her father, in his ppotestas.” [legitimate children—the legal relationship and will that would occur only for legitimate children, and had to be sought out for children who were not obviously legitimate.] (p. 138-139) …Vestals were made free from patria potestas. (p. 141) • “The legal rules effected a Vestals’ separation from the family both individually and institutionally. This ‘separateness’ manifested itself in various ways. For example when a Vestal became ill she was sent for nursing not to one of her female relatives but to the home of a selected matron.” (p. 143) (9) M. Beard, “Re-reading (Vestal) virginity,” in R. Hawley and B. Levick (eds.), Women in antiquity: new assessments (1995) • “These priestesses always seemed to resist simple classification as daughters: their priestly dress was the stola, the traditional costume of the Roman 19

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married woman; they arranged their hair in the style of the Roman bride on the day of her wedding; and their legal relationship with the Pontifex Maximus seems, in some respects, to have mirrored the relationship of wives to their husbands.” (p. 167) “Their funny mix of categories, both/neither virgins and/nor matrons, was what showed them to be ‘sacral’.” (p. 167) “Roman polytheism is a complex system. Its claims to ‘meaning’, its hermeneutic functions, depend on that system(at)ic quality. ‘Meaning’ resides not in any individual element of the polytheism (whether god, festival, priest, ritual…), but is constructed in the connections, oppositions and tensions within the system, between its different elements.” (p. 170) “You do not have to look very hard among the priestly groups of Rome to find a systematic concern with gender, its norms and transgressions; a series of debates on and around the definition of Roman sexual categories—of which the Vestal ambiguities are just one part.” (p. 170) By their simultaneous connection to and contrast with the cult of Magna Mater (the galli), the Vestals were paraded as inherently Roman. o “The priests of Magna Mater (the galli) are almost as well known as the Vestals for breaking the gender rules: self-castrated eunuchs (it is said), flamboyantly female in appearance, loud cross-dressers; ‘notmen’ at loose in the city of Rome, discomfiting hangers-on of an eastern cult…The galli were as ‘not-Roman’ as the Vestals were ‘Roman’; the galli as ‘other’ as the Vestals were ‘native’. Yet, at the same time, that opposition was also a connection, made to be displayed in contiguity; Roman literature and culture put the Vestals and the galli together in order to parade their difference. Like all differences, it could only be perceived by comparison; difference inevitably entails system.” (p. 171) o What were these writers writing ABOUT when they wrote about the Vestals? Who wrote about Vestals, to whom, and why? o In Seneca and other writings, “a series of arguments follow—for and (mostly) against her chastity. Could she count as chaste if she had been kissed? Who, anyway, could countenance a priestess who had lived in the company of whores? If she had been so virtuous, why had she not been ransomed? Had she not, on the other hand, defended her chastity with greater commitment than women usually displayed? She had literally fought for her virginity. But then again she was now a murderer, and yet judged innocent of the crime. These arguments are extended over pages and pages of the text of Seneca, and of other declaimers. Within this elite male institution, at the centre of Roman declamatory culture, not only was female virginity (and its definitions) a major theme, but that theme was played necessarily involve a reinstatement of this kind of text at the centre of the argument; a reinstatement of virginity and its transgressions above the neat schematics of ambiguity.” (p. 173)


o Nobody knew what was inside the temple except the Vestals. A lot of speculation by the masses merely belies the ambiguity of Roman identity, which the Romans themselves supported by placing an ambiguous shrine and cult at its heart. They weren’t masculine. They weren’t feminine. They weren’t matrons. They were simply Vestals. (p. 174) IDEAS FOR PAPER OUTLINE THUS FAR: OVERALL QUESTION: Why was the punishment for crimen incesti appropriate despite its severity and because of its nuances? I. II. How the Vestals began historically (LIVY’s description), how they were selected, and how/why their virginity was vital to the role they played. Historical/social reasons why their adultery would have threatened the heart of the Roman social and state order

…somehow incorporate Greece?


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