Virginity In The Roman and Christian Worlds
Throughout history, women in Europe have always been seen as less and looked down upon by men and other important figures in society. Women were given no rights and frequently told that they would never amount to anything. Their main functions were to strictly bear children, provide for their husbands, and take care of their homes. Understandably so, women became overwhelming tried of the predicament placed upon them, that they began a quest for an outlet that would break them free from the hostilities they were facing. While some women gave up hope, many women turned to religion as a way of gaining power and respect. Religion allowed women to take comfort through God’s words and gain some forms of power through religious practices. One religious practice that gave women an incredible amount of power in Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages was the practice of virginity. Virginity is simply defined as, “A woman who has never had sexual intercourse.” Although many people today wouldn’t associate virginity with power, because the practice has become so nonchalant. In Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages, Romans and Christians greatly valued the pureness of virgin women. Virginity became so respected that men adopted preferences for only marrying virgin women. In addition, women who had not remained virgins idolized those who had and strongly wished they had remained pure as well. In analyzing virginity in the Roman and Christian worlds, it is evident that both groups worshiped their own forms of virginity. For instance, the Romans worshiped virginity through the Vestal Virgins. Where the Christians worshiped virginity through Virgin Mary. In a book titled Women’s Life In Greece and Rome, the authors Lefkowitz and Faut further explore and explain the ideals of Rome’s Vestal Virgins. Likewise the ideals of the Christian Virgin Mary are discussed in a document titled “Elisabeth of Schonau’s Vision of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.” Both of these writings discuss why virginity is valued and how women obtained power and respect through the practice. In the book Women’s Life In Greece and Rome, the authors credit the creation of “Rome’s Vestal Virgins to Numa Pompilius, who was Rome’s second King (715-673 BC). The Vestals consisted of six chosen women who served under the goddess of the hearth, known as Vesta.” The Vestals resided in Rome’s temple of Vesta and carried out their main daily duties, which were to pray for the citizens of Rome and to keep the scared Roman fire alive. The Roman’s greatly valued the Vestal Virgins duties because, “It was believed that if for any reason the fire in the temple was not burning, it would lead to the destruction of the city of Rome.” In essence, ancient Romans saw the cult of Vesta as the symbol of unity for all Roman families. The prestige associated with being one of Rome’s Vestal Virgins was so great, that almost all Roman women willingly wanted to become Vestals. However, the truth of the matter was that not all women could become Vestals, because they were chosen in accordance to a criterion and examined by the Pontifex Maximus. This criterion stated, “Candidates for Vestals must not only be a virgin, but also be perfect in everyway. The ideal candidate could not be an orphan and both of her parents must have been alive. In addition, her parents could not be divorced, because that would also be seen as imperfect.” When the Vestal Virgins first began, it was decided by the King of Rome that they were to devote thirty years of service to the city. The King believed thirty years was an adequate amount of time for the Vestals to serve, because he believed that, “In the first decade they learn their duties, in the middle decade they do what they have learned, and in the third they teach others.” After their term of service, all Vestals were free to marry and do as they choose. However, the reality remained that...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document