So who thinks to themselves, “what did a Vestal Virgin Hair style looks like? “. Perhaps it isn’t all that surprising. Lots of people like history and archeology, and lots of people hair dressing. So there must be lots of people who like both. Janet Stevens from Baltimore has gone into the whole issue in a lot of detail and posted her findings on Youtube.
The six Vestal Virgins were a key feature of the Roman religion and state. They maintained a flame sacred to Vesta the goddess of the hearth. It was never extinguished under any circumstances, because to allow it go out would lead to the breakdown of the Roman Empire. Being a Vestal Virgin was a serious business and once you took the vow you were signed up for thirty years. Afterwards you could get married, and bagging a Vestal Virgin was regarded by Roman men as both prestigious and lucky.
The official punishment for breaking the vows was being buried alive. There is no record of this punishment ever having been carried out. The emperor Julian records the story of Clodia who was one of the Vestals during a long war between Rome and Carthage. To help beat the Carthaginians the Romans had taken delivery of a statue of a goddess called Cybele. But the boat carrying it got stuck in the Tiber. Rumours went round that the problem was that Cybele was displeased with Clodia’s fidelity. To prove her innocence she went down to the river and dragged the boat upstream to the temple herself. That shut her critics up.
Julian was writing some 500 years after the events he was describing, so the story might have got embellished a bit over the years.
The Vestal Virgins and their sacred flame were finally put out by the emperor Theodosius in 394 as part of an anti-pagan drive. It was only just over 15 years later that Alaric and his Goths turned up and sacked Rome. The empire never really recovered and fell shortly afterwards.
We can’t bring back their flame, their religion or their empire. But thanks to the diligent and painstaking work of Janet Stevens we can recreate their hairdos.