In Roman mythology, Vesta was the virgin goddess of the hearth. Worshiped in every Roman household, Vesta served as a symbol of home and family as well as the guardian of the sacred fire in her temples. As keeper of this flame—a source of life and immortality— the goddess played a prominent role in Roman culture.

Vesta was an important figure in Greek mythology as well. Known as Hestia, she was the daughter of the Titans Cronus* and Rhea and the sister of the gods Zeus*, Poseidon*, Hades*, Demeter*, and Hera*. The Greeks kept her sacred fire burning in their capital cities and took it with them when they founded new colonies.

immortality ability to live forever

Titan one of a family of giants who ruled the earth until overthrown by the Greek gods of Olympus

The Romans believed that their legendary ancestor Aeneas* had brought the sacred fire to Italy from Troy*. They thought that if Vesta's fire went out, Rome would experience a great disaster. Virgin priestesses known as the Vestals kept the fire burning constantly in the Temple of Vesta in Rome. Vestals who lost their virginity, and thus dishonored the goddess, were buried alive. Each year on March 1, Vesta's fire was renewed during a ceremony, and on June 9, the Romans held a festival in her honor called the Vestalia.

See also Fire ; Greek Mythology ; Roman Mythology .

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