Vestal Virgin

Vestal Virgin

In Roman religion, any of six priestesses, representing the daughters of the royal house, who tended the state cult of Vesta. Chosen between the ages of 6 and 10, they served for 30 years, during which time they had to remain virgins; violation of the vow of chastity was punishable by burial alive. Their duties included tending the perpetual fire in the Temple of Vesta, fetching water from a sacred spring, preparing ritual food, caring for objects in the temple's inner sanctuary, and officiating at the public worship of Vesta. They enjoyed many honours and privileges, including emancipation from their fathers' rule.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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