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A lone priestess walks towards
an underground chamber. People line the streets to watch
as she proclaims her innocence. It doesn’t matter. She’s already been judged
and found guilty. The sentence? Live burial. The underground chamber contains
a portion of bread, water, milk, and oil. She will have a lamp, a bed,
and a blanket, but she won’t emerge alive. At the threshold, the priestess pauses, claims her innocence one last time, then enters the chamber never
to be seen again by the Roman people. The priestess is one
of Rome’s six Vestal Virgins, each carefully selected as children
from Rome’s most aristocratic families. But now with her death,
there are only five, and a new priestess must be chosen. The six-year-old Licinia witnessed
the spectacle, never suspecting that a few days later,
she’d be chosen as the next Vestal Virgin. Her age, her patrician family lineage, and her apparent good health makes her the best candidate to serve the
goddess Vesta in the eyes of the Romans. Her parents are proud that their
daughter’s been chosen. Licinia is afraid,
but she has no choice in the matter. She must serve the goddess
for at least the next 30 years. For the first ten years
of Licinia’s service, she’s considered in training,
learning how to be a Vestal Virgin. Her most important duty is keeping vigil
over the flame of Vesta, the virgin goddess of the hearth. Vesta doesn’t have a statue
like other Roman gods and goddesses. Instead, she’s represented by the flame
which burns day and night in her temple located next to the Forum in the center
of the city. Like all Vestal priestesses, Licinia
spends part of each day on shift, watching and tending to the flame. The flame represents two things. The first is the continuation of Rome
as a power in the world. The Romans believed that if the flame
goes out, the city’s in danger. The flame also symbolizes the continuing
virginity of Vesta’s priestesses. For the Romans, a Vestal’s virginity
signaled not only her castitas, or modest spirit and body, but also her ritual purity. So Licinia knows she must never
let the flame go out. Her life, the lives of her fellow Vestals, and the safety of Rome itself
depends upon it. Licinia learns to collect water each day
from a nearby fountain to cleanse the temple. She learns the Fasti, the calendar
of sacred rituals and she watches while the senior
priestesses conduct sacrifices. By the time Licinia
completes her training, she’s 16 years old. Licinia understands that
the way she must act is a reflection of the goddess she serves. When it’s her turn to collect the water,
she keeps her eyes lowered to the ground. When she performs sacrifices,
she focuses intently on the task. Licinia directs her energy towards
being the best priestess she can be. She’s worried that someday the state
will claim her life for its own purposes to protect itself from danger. Licinia could be accused of incestum,
meaning unchastity, at any time and be sacrificed whether
she’s innocent or guilty. Licinia fully understands now why her
predecessor was buried alive. Ten years ago,
the flame of Vesta went out. The priestesses knew that they couldn’t
keep it a secret. The future of Rome depended upon it. They went to the chief priest
and he opened an investigation to discover why the flame had failed. Someone came forward and claimed
that one of the Vestals was no longer a virgin. That was the beginning of the end. The accused protested her innocence,
but it wasn’t enough. She was tried and found guilty. That Vestal’s death was meant
to protect the city, but Licinia weeps for what has been lost
and for what she knows now. Her own path was paved by the death
of another, and her life could be taken just as easily for something as simple
as a flame going out.

100 thoughts on “Who were the Vestal Virgins, and what was their job? – Peta Greenfield

  1. It’s a good video but you should had explained how their daily life was like. Could they ever get married? Did anyone escape? How did they live every day?

  2. Why does this story make them sound like powerless cattle tortured just for fun? These were among the most powerful women in Rome.

  3. So i guess the flame was extinguished when christianity took over… n then instead of buried alive the virgins turn into nuns…

  4. Fail to mention that after they started Catholicism they continue to do the sacrifices right.
    And they were not that Angel's portrait in this video.

  5. This is another one of the sad ways the Roman government used to abuse women occulticly then destroy them to cover up their wrongs

  6. Me after watching the video : ok I get it . Ji-Jimmy! don't blow out the candles! Vesta / Hestia won't be happy!

  7. I'm going to Rome soon and I am definitely stopping by the Temple of Vesta! Thank you for such a great video!

  8. You all ingnorants don't see the picture, everyone saying his glad was born on this century can go watch Mtv and better not talk about rituals, gods or rome

  9. Kind of funny u would kind of think with breathing in all that fume from the flame the girls would die anyway from being so close to it for so long.

  10. WITCHCRAFT; BURNING YOUR BODY TO BAAL.
    THE ALL MIGHTY HAS NEVER CALLED FOR THIS TOMFOOLERY.

  11. finally when she can married, at 40 she can not have children, too late, at least they should have asked her when she is 18, if this take place in certain religion which media hate, they will be vomiting critisism 24 hours a day about it yet many here justify this sinless tradition.

  12. OMG!!!! What horrors have been done to Women over the Milennia. It breaks my heart. This was very educating..thank you. May we all stand up AGAINST injustice, not FOR it!

  13. Seems Every time has its own difficulties. Atleast the 21st century is a power incubator for women and mankind. Lot of work in progress and so is the time.

  14. Rituals examined from an external view will always seem barbaric and overthought. For example, we refuse to work one day a week so that we can meet in huge groups to worship at the foot of an ancient torture device then drink the blood and eat the body of a sacrificed human. Context!

  15. That's part of why being a historian is so difficult. You must understand the context and intentions of the time period so that it translates to modern viewpoints. A culture that praises feminism, individualism, and democracy would never empathize with a culture under a patriarchal empire.

  16. They were Eve sister's their were seven onand started the SUN on this part of the world now all the races are defiled by this sin that spread to all human kinde was defiled by Seth

  17. Want to know why Islam is called religion of peace because when it came it crushed this type of practices and then local use to say that Islam bring peace to region

  18. Thanks to Christianity which changed all of the Roman Empire forever, without Christianity this practice would have continued 🔥

  19. These are just false histories and propaganda written by England to occupy the rome in the name of religious liberation so shame that ted believed it. That is the thing england did in india too . Comes here spreads propaganda that indian religion is beastly , superstitious and destroys everything like culture , religion and later builds museum for all the destroyed cultures . Shame on TED for believing and spreading such fake history .By the way indian culture still lives even after 200 yrs of british and few hundred years of Islamic rule

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