Vestal Virgins: Women in Ancient Rome with Jade Bajeot - Context Travel

Vestal Virgins: Women in Ancient Rome with Jade Bajeot


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Join a local Roman archaeologist to discover what life was like for women in Ancient Rome, with a spotlight on the Vestal Virgins. A woman’s main purpose was to give birth to children and rules were very strict for Ancient Roman women. However, in the thousand years of Roman history, they did see a significant improvement in their condition. In this conversation, we will discuss what the rules and duties were and how this varied depending on social class. We’ll spend some time discussing contemporary civilizations, such as the Etruscans and the Greeks, to see how the female condition compared outside of Rome.

A large part of the conversation will be dedicated to the particular case of the Vestal Virgins, priestesses that took care of the sacred fire burning in a temple located in the Roman Forum. The temple, one of the most important in Rome, was dedicated to the goddess Vesta, an indigenous deity older than the city itself. We’ll discuss how the girls who served in the sanctuary were chosen and how they lived together from around age six, for 30 years. As their name suggests, they remained virgins and lived in limbo: their status flowed between a daughter and a bride and was free from a father or husband’s authority. We will discuss their status, their duties, their numerous privileges, and their terrible fate in case they disregarded the rules.

We will talk about the recent excavations in the Roman Forum, in which Jade participated, that allowed to uncover the remains of the hut where the Vestal virgins were possibly living during the 8th century BC. We’ll talk about the origin of the cult and discuss why most ancient civilizations so revered the practice and presence of fire. We’ll finish up by discussing some scandals and legends that concern the Vestal Virgins that may leave us enthralled in this particular period of history.

Led by an archaeologist who has dug at the possible ancient site of the Vestal Virgins, this interactive discussion will explore life in Ancient Rome for women. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with a deeper understanding of female duties thousands of years ago and increased knowledge of just really who the Vestal Virgins were.

Born in Paris, Jade moved to Rome when she was 6 years old. Half of her family is French and the other half is Italian (her grandfather was very proud of being a 6th generation Roman!) Her passion for ancient cultures started when she was still a little girl and it inspired her to study archaeology at the Sapienza University of Rome. Thanks to a scholarship granted by a foundation connected to Harvard University, she earned a Ph.D. in Archaeology. She specializes in pre-history, specifically Egyptian pre-history. She still regularly works on archaeological excavations and conducts research projects. Her passion for Rome, together with her career as an archaeologist, inspired her to lead travelers on their discovery of the Eternal City. Jade is currently working on an illustrated book for kids dealing with Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.