The Roman goddess Vesta was the goddess of the hearth. She
was considered the patron of the fire that symbolized the perpetuity of the state. It was the responsibility of the priestesses to maintain this sacred fire and to renew it each year on March 1, the first day of the Roman year (The Wycliffe historical geography of Bible lands).
We photographed the remains of the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum a few weeks ago.
Vos, in his work, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs: How the People of the Bible Really Lived, asks the reader to suppose that when Paul’s trial was conducted in Rome that he entered the Forum on the east side:
As Paul came into the Forum area down the Sacred Way from the east, the first building he would have passed was the house of the vestal virgins. He might have observed that the house was rather large for a sisterhood of only six priestesses. But such an objection is erased with the observation that the vestals were held in high esteem and that their house was chosen by private citizens and by the state as a safe deposit for documents.
Adjacent to this house was the Temple of Vesta, considered the goddess of the hearth and the patron of the fire that symbolized the perpetuity of the state. It was the responsibility of the priestesses to maintain this sacred fire and to renew it each year on March 1, the first day of the Roman year (p.606).
The extant temple used Greek architecture with Corinthian columns, marble, and a central cella. The remaining structure indicates that there were twenty Corinthian columns built on a podium fifteen metres in diameter. The roof probably had a vent at the apex to allow smoke release.
My friend Ferrell Jenkins is currently directing a biblical study tour in Turkey & Greece. He will be posting as time permits on Ferrell’s Travel Blog.
Click on image for larger view.