Vesta in Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
one of the great Roman divinities, identical with the Greek
Hestia both in name and import. She was the goddess of the
hearth, and therefore inseparably connected with the
Penates, for Aeneas was believed to have brought the eternal
fire of Vesta from Troy, along with the images of the
Penates; and the praetors, consuls, and dictators, before
entering upon their official functions, sacrificed not only
to the Penates, but also to Vesta at Lavinium. (Verg. A.
2.296, &c., 10.259, 5.744; Macr. 3.4.) In the ancient Roman
house, the hearth was the central part, and around it all
the inmates daily assembled for their common meal (coena,
κοινή), and every meal thus taken was a fresh bond of union
and affection among the members of a family, and at the same
time an act of worship of Vesta combined with a sacrifice to
her and the Penates. (Ov. Fast. 6.305; Verg. G. 4.384; Serv.
ad Aen. 1.734.) Every dwelling house therefore was, in some
sense, a temple of Vesta (August. De Civ. Dei, 4.11), but a
public sanctuary united all the citizens of the state into
one large family. This sanctuary stood in the Forum, between
the Capitoline and Palatine hills, and not far from the
temple of the Penates. (Dionys. A. R. 2.65.) That temple was
round with a vaulted roof, like the impluvium of private
houses, so that there is no reason to regard that form as an
imitation of the vault of heaven (Ov. Fast. 6.269, &c., 282;
Plut. Num. 11.) The goddess was not represented in her
temple by a statue, but the eternal fire burning on the
hearth or altar was her living symbol, and was kept up and
attended to by the Vestals, her virgin priestesses. As each
house, and the city itself, so also the country had its own
Vesta, and the latter was worshipped at Lavinium, the
metropolis of the Latins, where she was worshipped and
received the regular sacrifices at the hands of the highest
magistrates. The goddess herself was regarded as chaste and
pure like her symbol, the fire, and the Vestals, who kept up
the sacred fire, were likewise pure maidens. Respecting
their duties and obligations, see Dict. of Ant. s. v.
Vestales. As regards her worship, it is stated, that every
year, on the 1st of March her sacred fire, and the laurel
tree which shaded her hearth, were renewed (Macr. 1.12; Ov.
Fast. 3.143), and that on the 15th of June her temple was
cleaned and purified. The dirt was carried into an
angiportus behind the temple, which was locked by a gate
that no one might enter it. (Ov. Fast. 6.227, &c.; Fest.
1.344, ed. Müller.) The day on which this took place was a
dies nefastus, the first half of which was thought to be so
inauspicious, that the priestess of Juno was not allowed to
comb her hair, to cut her nails, or to approach her husband,
while the second half was very favourable to contracting a
marriage or ente ring upon other important undertakings. A
few days before that solemnity, on the 9th of June, the
Vestalia was celebrated in honour of the goddess, on which
occasion none but women walked to the temple, and that with
bare feet. On one of these occasions an altar had been
dedicated to Jupiter Pistor. (Ov. Fast. 6.3. 50; comp.
Hartung, Die Relig. der Röm. vol. ii. p. Ill, &c.) - A
Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology,
William Smith, Ed.
Vesta in Wikipedia
Vesta was the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family
in Roman religion. Vesta's presence was symbolized by the
sacred fire that burned at her hearth and temples. Her closest
Greek equivalent is Hestia...