Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The Temple of Vesta (Tempio di Vesta), or the aedes, is an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Vesta. It was located south of the Regia and adjacent to the north-western corner of the House of the Vestals, where the shrine dedicated to the Lares Praestites was located.

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Overview

The Temple of Vesta served as the sancturary for Vesta's sacred fire—a significant symbol representing the safety and prosperity of Rome. The Temple of Vesta usually represented the sites of ancient religious activity going as far back as the seventh century BCE.

The original Temple of Vesta stood on the east end of the forum near the house of the Vestal Virgins and the Regia. The current temple was the earliest constructions in the Roman Forum, though its current design emerged through several later reconstructions and modifications. Unlike many Roman temples that housed a cult statue, the Temple of Vesta housed a perpetual flame on its hearth, burning continuously day and night, which was quite unique in ancient Roman religious tradition. This temple served as the archives for legal documents and wills belonging to Roman Senators, along with revered cult items such as the Palladium—a statue of Athena (known as Roman Minerva), believed to have been brought to Rome by Aeneas from ancient Troy. The statue was considered one of the Pignora Imperii, representing pledges of imperium in Ancient Rome.

Architecture

circa 700 BCE-400 CE

Notably, the temple's floor plan was circular in design, classifying it as a tholos. The current state of the temple structure, although quite dilapidated, incorporates features of Greek architecture, including Corinthian columns and marble. The central cella contained the sacred hearth, while the remaining structure suggests the presence of twenty Corinthian columns erected on a podium with a diameter of fifteen meters. It is likely that the roof included a vent at its apex to facilitate the release of smoke.

Around the outer perimeter of the temple, there were twenty fluted columns, each having a diameter of 0.52 meters and a base circumference of 1.6 meters. These columns were adorned with Corinthian capitals. The temple had a radius of approximately 6.19 meters, measured from the outer edge of the architrave to the center of the structure. The interior wall had a thickness of 0.60 meters, and the internal diameter of the temple was 8.6 meters. Positioned on an elevated platform, the entrance was approached by broad steps.

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