06-22-2008 10:05

In the Italian countryside, the ancient Roman feast of Vestalia is being revived. Six modern Vestal Virgins have presided over an event that used to mark the end of the harvest. It's part of a growing trend of "experimental archaeology," to teach history in a more interactive way.

In the Italian countryside, the ancient Roman feast of Vestalia is being revived.
In the Italian countryside, the ancient Roman feast of Vestalia
is being revived.

The Vestal Virgins gathered at the Temple of Vesta to revive an ancient ritual. They celebrated the "Vestalia", Rome's week-long feast from ancient times marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of a new season of work.

Adriana Serpi, Member of Senate & Roman People Cultural Club said "During the Vestalia, noble Roman women were allowed the honour of approaching the temple. During the celebration that we are reviving today, the temple was washed with spring water, and actually donkey dung was cleared away."

The Vestals played a crucial role in Rome's religious life. A Vestal Virgin's career began in childhood. After ten years training an acolyte was allowed to stand guard at Rome's Holy Fire. After thirty years at the temple, her days as a vestal virgin come to and end. Then she was free to choose whether or not to marry.

The penalty for Vestal Virgins who actually lost their virginity was death. Since tradition dictated that the blood of Vestal Virgins could not be shed, transgressors were buried alive.

Adriana Serpi said "It's just like the way you extinguish a fire, by covering it with dirt - in order to kill a Vestal they covered her with dirt."

Meanwhile at the gates of the Villa Gregoriana male members of the Cultural Club wielded swords in a less serene cultural re-enactment.

Renato Di Cicco, a member of the scientific committee of the Cultural Club says this approach to the past helps people to understand why Romans did things in certain ways. The "mock battles" with replicas of the Roman sword recreate the way Roman soldiers fought.

In the temple and on the battlefield "experimental archaeology" is breathing new life into the Past.


Editor:Xiong Qu