Click Photo for Larger Version
View of the Temple of Vesta—goddess of the hearth—looking southeast. A temple to Vesta stood on this spot for many years. It is a circular structure and was surrounded by 20 Corinthian columns. The current remains date to A.D. 191 when Julia Domna, the wife of the Emperor Septimius Severus, sponsored its reconstruction. It was partially reconstructed in 1930.
Evidently the sacred "eternal fire" of Rome that had been brought from Troy was kept inside of it—tended to by the 6 Vestal Virgins. The rise of buildings on the right of it are built on the north slope of the Palatine Hill and overlook the Forum.
The priestly order of the Vestals goes back to the 8th century B.C. They were selected by the Pontifex Maximus when there were between the ages of 6 and 10. For 10 years they learned their duties, for 10 the performed their duties, and for 10 they taught the younger Vestals. They were responsible for maintaining the fire in the Temple of Vesta, participated in other sacrifices, and they were entrusted with "wills"—including those of the various Emperors! If a Vestal broke her vow of chastity she was buried alive!