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Vesta - Greek 'estia' means 'stove' - was the goddess of the hearth-fire. The fire was the centre of the Roman house and it was worshipped in the family circle. The temple of Vesta was propably built by Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome and the founder of the cult of Vesta. The temple stands at the centre of the Roman Forum.
The temple guarded the holy fire, the symbol of the life of the city. So it could never be extinguished.The temple of Vesta Every year the temple had to be cleaned. Then some bits and pieces of the fire were kept and the rest was put out. After the cleaning the fire was stoked up again with the help of the remains of the old fire. The fire was kept burning by the six Vestal Virgins. These Virgins were chosen by the Pontifex Maximus when they were seven years old. The Pontifex Maximus was in charge of the cult of Vesta.
The temple of Vesta is a circular Corinthian temple built on a circular foundation. It was renovated a couple of times, the last time in 191 by Septimius Severus after a fire. In 394 the temple was closed on Theodosius' order. In a hole under the temple the remains of the sacrificial fires were collected. Every year they were carried to the Tiber in a holy procession and eventually thrown into the river. The 'Penus Vestae' - the inner sanctum'- was to be found here. It was a collection of historical relics, on which the city's well-being depended according to the Romans.
October 16th, 2012
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