In the Res Gestae Divi Augustus (‘The Deeds of the Divine Augustus’), Augustus demonstrates his piety by stating that he was a member of all four major priesthoods in Rome – the Pontifices, Augures, Quindecemviri and Septemviri. There was, however, one Roman religious college that was off limits to men, even to the pious emperor himself. This was the College of the Vestals, popularly known as Vestal Virgins, which only had women amongst its ranks.
What Was the Role of the Vestal Virgins?
The College of the Vestals was an important institution that served to ensure the well-being and security of Rome. The Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, and one of their most important functions was the maintenance of the sacred fire within the Temple of Vesta on the Forum Romanum.
Sacrifice to the goddess Vesta by Sebastiano Ricci. (Public Domain)