Hearth at the Temple of Vesta.

The sacred fire of Vesta was a holy fire in ancient Rome. The Vestal Virgins (they originally numbered two, but were later increased to four and eventually six) were selected by lot and served for thirty years, tending the holy fire and performing other rituals connected to domestic life—among them were the ritual sweeping of the temple on June 15 and the preparation of foods for certain festivals. By analogy, they also tended the life and soul of the city and of the body politic through the sacred fire of Vesta, which was renewed every year on the Kalends of March.

The sacred fire burned in Vesta's circular temple, which was built in pre-republican times, in the Roman Forum below the Aventine Hill. Other sacred objects were stored within the temple, including the Palladium (a statue of Pallas Athena) supposed to have been brought by Aeneas from Troy. The temple burned completely on at least four occasions and caught fire on two others. The current temple (somewhat restored in the 20th century) dates from 191 CE, when Julia Domna, wife of the emperor Septimius Severus, ordered a thorough rebuilding. The rites of Vesta ended in 391, when the fire was extinguished and the Vestal Virgins disbanded by order of Theodosius I.


  • Altheim, Franz (tr. Harold Mattingly): A History of Roman Religion (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1938)
  • Fowler, W. Warde The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic: An Introduction to the Study of the Religion of the Romans (London: Macmillan & Co., 1899)
  • Platner, Samuel Ball (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby): A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (London: Oxford University Press, 1929) (e-text)
  • Rose H.J..: Religion in Greece and Rome (NY: Harper & Row, 1959)
  • "Vesta". 1911 encyclopedia.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Sacred fire of Vesta. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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