Vol. 17 (2021): Purezza
...e passato

Pureté et impureté des Vestales

Diane Baudoin
Université Paris-Panthéon-Assas

Published 2022-07-26


  • vestal virgins,
  • chastity,
  • pudicity,
  • virginity,
  • crimen incesti,
  • purification
  • ...More

How to Cite

Baudoin, D. (2022). Pureté et impureté des Vestales. Storia Delle Donne, 17, 131–143. https://doi.org/10.36253/sd-13457


This article deals with the Vestals, virgin priestesses consecrated to the goddess Vesta, and their purity and impurity. These virgins, endowed with a specific legal and religious status, carried out rites of purification of the city. Moreover, through their main mission, the maintenance of the sacred fire, they ensured the continuance of Rome. They represent the perfect example of Roman feminine virtues: chastity (castitas) and pudicity (pudicitia). So, these priestesses embodied both moral and religious purity. However, they can also symbolize impurity. Indeed, two crimes could be committed by the Vestal, fire-extinguishing and the most serious of them, the incestum, the loss of virginity. The Vestal then became impure: she had been corrupted (corrupta), polluted. The punishment of this crime was death and the context, in which it takes place, expresses the danger associated with this incestum. Thus, the aim of this paper is to emphasize the importance of the pure-impure dichotomy in the construction and representation of the cult of Vesta and especially of its priestesses. 


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