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In the spirit of openness and from a desire to share what I have produced in terms of research, my (Dr Greenfield’s) dissertation is attached below.

Handy to have if you want to know more about the Vestal Virgins!

Super handy if your looking for more scholarly work on the late Republic and early principate (c. 150 BCE – 14 CE)!

Greenfield, P. N. 2011. Virgin Territory – The Vestals and the Transition from Republic to Principate


The cult of Vesta was vital to the city of Rome. The goddess was associated with the City’s very foundation, and Romans believed that the continuity of the state depended on the sexual and moral purity of her priestesses. In this dissertation, Virgin Territory: The Vestals and the Transition from Republic to Principate, I examine the Vestal cult between c. 150 BCE and 14 CE, that is, from the beginning of Roman domination in the Mediterranean to the establishment of authoritarian rule at Rome.

Six aspects of the cult are discussed: the Vestals’ relationship with water in ritual and literature; a re-evaluation of Vestal incestum (unchastity) which seeks a nuanced approach to the evidence and examines the record of incestum cases; the Vestals’ extra-ritual activities; the Vestals’ role as custodians of politically sensitive documents; the Vestals’ legal standing relative to other Roman women, especially in the context of Augustus’ moral reform legislation; and the cult’s changing relationship with the topography of Rome in light of the construction of a new shrine to Vesta on the Palatine after Augustus became pontifex maximus in 12 BCE.

It will be shown that the cult of Vesta did not survive the turmoil of the Late Republic unchanged, nor did it maintain its ancient prerogative in the face of Augustus’ ascendancy. The thesis therefore sheds new light on our understanding of the nature, role and significance of the Vestal cult during the Roman revolution.