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A Place at the AltarPriestesses in Republican Rome$
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Meghan J. DiLuzio

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691169576

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691169576.001.0001

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The Costume of the Vestal Virgins

The Costume of the Vestal Virgins

(p.154) Chapter Five The Costume of the Vestal Virgins
A Place at the Altar

Meghan J. DiLuzio

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the Vestal costume. Like the dress of a respectable matrona, the costume of a Vestal rendered visible her social status and moral probity. The full Vestal regalia included the seni crines (six-tressed) hairstyle, a headdress composed of the infula and vittae (woolen bands), a veil known as the suffibulum, a palla (mantle), the soft shoes of a priestess, and a long tunica (tunic). Through a detailed analysis of the Vestal costume, the chapter analyzes how its constituent parts worked together to define and represent a Vestal's position as a public priestess and ideal virgin. These two facets of her identity were inextricably linked and absolutely central to her role in Roman society. A Vestal's virginity guaranteed her ritual purity and her ability to secure the inviolability of the city. In addition to these vital ritual and symbolic functions, her absolute castilas provided a template of feminine virtue after which other women could model their behavior.

Keywords:   Vestal costume, moral probity, Vestal regalia, seni crines hairstyle, suffibulum, palla, tunica, virginity, ritual purity, feminine virtue

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