Vestal Virgins and Their Families

Classical Antiquity 34 (1):74-120 (2015)
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Abstract

This article reexamines the evidence for the relationships between the Vestal virgins and their natal kin from the second century BC to the third century ad. It suggests that the bond between these priestesses and their families remained strong throughout this period and that, as a consequence, interpretations of the Vestals' position within Roman society that emphasize the severing of agnatic ties through their removal from patria potestas may be misguided. When placed in the broader social and legal context, the ritual “capture” of these priestesses is shown to be a necessary feature of their priestly identity, which only marked the Vestals as extraordinary because of the unique intersection of religious and gender categories that characterized their office. Finally, the implications of these findings for the interpretation of Vestal virginity are discussed.

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