Vesta (seated on the left) with Vestal Virgins, classical relief sculpture; in the Palermo Museum, …—Courtesy of the Palermo Museum, Italy

In Roman religion, the goddess of the hearth, identified with the Greek Hestia. Because maintaining a hearth fire was important in ancient times, she was worshiped in every household. Her state worship was elaborate: her temple in Rome had a perpetual fire that was attended by the Vestal Virgins. The fire was officially extinguished and renewed annually on March 1st; its extinction at any other time was viewed as a portent of disaster to Rome.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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