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The Temple of Vesta ( ) is an ancient edifice in Romemarker, Italymarker, located in the Roman Forummarker between the Temple of Castor and Polluxmarker, the Temple of Caesarmarker, the Regiamarker and the House of the Vestal Virginsmarker. The temple's most recognizable feature is its circular footprint which is most likely a remnant of an ancient Latin or Etruscan shrine. Since the worship of Vesta began in private homes, the architecture seems to be a reminder of its history. The extant temple used Greek architecture with Corinthian columns, marble, and a central cella. The remaining structure indicates that there were twenty Corinthian columns built on a podium fifteen meters in diameter. The roof probably had a vent at the apex to allow smoke release.

History

All temples to Vesta were round, and had entrances facing east to symbolize connection between Vesta’s fire and the sun as sources of life. The Temple of Vesta represents the site of ancient cult activity as far back as 7th century B.C.E. Numa Pompilius is believed to have built this temple along with the original Regiamarker and House of the Vestal Virgins in its original form.

It was one of the earliest structures located in the Forum although its present reincarnation is the result of subsequent rebuilding. Instead of a cult statue in the cella there was a hearth which held the sacred flame. The temple was the storehouse for the legal wills and documents of Roman Senators and cult objects such as the Palladium. The Palladium was a statue of Athena (Roman Minerva) believed to have been brought by Aeneas from Troymarker. According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the Romans believed that the Sacred fire of Vesta was closely tied to the fortunes of the city and viewed its extinction as a portent of disaster.

Reconstructions

Although there was a fire in the temple, it did not pose a great risk to burning down since the fire was maintained in a hearth and watched closely by the Vestals. Rather, the city of Rome itself was often the source of conflagration that destroyed the temple. The Temple of Vesta did burn twice in written history. In AD 64, the Great Fire of Rome, believed to have been started by the infamous Nero, burned most of Romemarker, including the Temple of Vesta. After a fire in 191, Julia Domna, the wife of Septimius Severus, had the temple restored. The sacred flame was put out in 394 C.E. by Theodosius I after he won the Battle of the Frigidusmarker, defeating Eugenius and Arbogast. Since that time, the temple has been looted and was stripped of its marble during the 16th century. The section standing today was reconstructed in the 1930s during the Mussolini dictatorship.

Upon close examination of the reconstructed remains, it is clearly visible how the original restorations had been carried out. Instead of rebuilding the temple from scratch much of the scorched marble was resurfaced with Roman concrete completely covering the intricate carvings on white corinthian marble.

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