Truly, then, these Vestal priestesses were more than just docile temple inhabitants; they wielded an authority and presence that rivaled the very figureheads of the Roman Empire. Her political, social, and economic privileges extended beyond the scope of the average inhabitant of Rome, implying an elevated status that earned her special powers and respect from the public. The Vestal Virgins took on a greater role in society than mere worshippers giving service to a major pagan goddess; they were the metaphorical mothers of the empire as part of their services and duties to the Roman public.
The origins and subsequent proliferation of the cult of Vesta are extensively documented by the first century historian Plutarch in Life of Numa. This biographical record of history serves as an excellent source to understand the reason for the formation of the cult of Vesta and her assembly of priestesses. Plutarch holds that this sect was formed towa...
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...stowed the Vestals certain privileges when they traversed outside the temple. These priestesses were transported about Rome in a private carriage, and they were always escorted by a duo of lictors carrying rods. This extra protection was necessary since the Vestal represented the bridge that connected the mortal world to the gods; this relationship was vital to the sustainability of the Roman republic.
Several other accounts offer evidence that the Vestal priestesses received privileges that were reserved for the more elite figures of Rome. Pliny the Younger is another ancient historian that provides an inside look into the public and personal lives of the Vestal priestesses. This is evidenced in an excerpt from his written work, Letters, which states “when sickness compels the virgins to leave the hall of Vesta, they are always committed to the care of some married
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