The Vestal Virgins and the Transition From Republic to Principate Under Augustus c. 30 BCE - 14 CE
Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in History and University Honors
Vestal Virgins, Augustus, Republic, Principate, Religion, Continuity, Change
For centuries, ancient historians have been intrigued by the Vestal Virgins, a priestess order older than Rome itself that was dedicated to Vesta, Roman goddess of the heath. From our ancient sources we can glean that the cult, though shrouded in mystery, was regarded as playing an invaluable role in the prosperity of Rome and notions of what it meant to be Roman. Scholars such as Mary Beard and Ariadne Staples have been pioneers in studies of the Vestals, proposing the widely accepted theories that the Vestals served as physical embodiments of republican values, Roman people, and the city of Rome itself. Operating until the mid-4th century CE, the Vestal Virgins would continue to serve Vesta throughout the civil war, the fall of the republic, the advent of the principate, and centuries of monarchial rule. This paper seeks to understand how and why, particularly in the context of Augustus' reign. How is it that such a robust republican institution was preserved during the transition to autocratic rule, and what allowed for this to happen? Answering these questions will allow us to gain a deeper understanding of Augustus' political strategy, but also the ideological significance of the Vestal Virgins.
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Ditzel, Jamie R., "The Vestal Virgins and the Transition From Republic to Principate Under Augustus c. 30 BCE - 14 CE" (2022). University Honors Theses. Paper 1245.