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On this page: Ver Sacrum – Verbenarius – Verna – Verso in Rem Actio – Versura – Vespae – Vestales


crime was punished capitally in the case of persons of lower rank (Jiumiliores\ who were exposed to wild beasts, but persons of higher rank (altiores) were condemned to the deportatio in insulam. (Dig. I.e.}

The word Veneficium was also applied to potions, incantations, &c. (Cic. Brut. 60 ; Petron. 118) ; whence we find Veneficus and Venefica used in the sense of a sorcerer and sorceress in general.

VER SACRUM (eros/ep^). It was a custom among the early Italian nations, especially among the Sabines, in times of great danger and distress, to vow to the deity the sacrifice of every thing born in the next spring, that is between the first of March and the last day of April, if the calamity under which they were labouring should- be re­moved. (Fest. s. v. Ver sacrum; Liv. xxii. 9, 10, xxxiv. 44 ; Strab. v. p. 17*2 ; Sisennaop. Non. xii. 18 ; Serv. ad Aen. vii. 796.) This sacrifice in the early times comprehended both men and domestic animals, and there is little doubt that in many cases the vow was really carried into eifeet. But in later times it was thought cruel to sacrifice so many innocent infants, and accordingly the follow­ing expedient was adopted. The children were allowed to grow up, and in the spring of their twentieth or twenty-first year they were with covered faces driven across the frontier of their native country, whereupon they went whitherso­ever fortune or the deity might lead. them. Many a colony had been founded by persons driven out in this manner ; and the Mamertines in Sieily were the descendants of such devoted persons. (Fest. 1. c. and s. v. Mamertim; compare Dionys. i. 16 ; Plin. H. N. iii. 18 ; Justin. xxiv. 4 ;. Liv. xxxiii. 44.)

In the two historical instances in which the Romans vowed a ver sacrum, that is, after the battle of lake Trasimenus and at the close of the second Punic war, the vow was confined to do­ mestic animals, as was expressly stated in the vow. (Liv. 1. o. ; Plut. Fab. Max. 4.) [L. S.J VERBE'NA. [sagmina.]

VERBENARIUS. [fetialis.]

VERNA. [servus, pp. 1038, 1040.]

VERSO IN REM ACTIO. [servus, p. 1038.]

VERSURA. [fenus, p. 527, a.J VERU, VERU'TUM. [hasta. p. 588,.b.]

VESPAE, VESPILLO/NES. [funus, p. 559, a.]

VESTALES, the virgin priestesses of Vesta who ministered in her temple and watched the eternal fire. Their existence at Alba Longa is connected with the earliest Roman traditions, for Silvia the mother of Romulus was a member of the sisterhood (Liv. i. 20 ; Dionys. i. 76) ; their esta­blishment in the city, in common with almost all other matters connected with state religion, is ge­nerally ascribed to Numa (Dioriys. ii. 65 ; Plut. Num." 10), who selected four (their names are given in Plutarch), two from -the Titienses and two from the Ramnes (Dionys. ii. 67 ; Festus, s. v. Sex Vestae), and two more were subsequently added from the Luceres, by Tarq.uinius Priscus. ac­cording to one authority (Plut. Num. L c.), by Servius Tullius according to another. (Dionys. iii. 67.) This number of six remained unchanged at the time when Plutarch wrote, and the idea that it was afterwards increased to seven rests upon very unsatisfactory evidence. (See Memoires de VAcademic des Inscript. vol. iv. p. H>7 ; Ambros.



Epist. v. 31, c. Syminach. and the remarks of Lip- sius.) .

They were originally chosen (capere is the tech­nical word) by the king (Liv. i. 3. 20 ; Dionys. II. cc.) and during the republic and empire by the Pontifex Maximus. It was necessary that the maiden should not be under six nor above ten years of age, perfect in all her limbs, in the full enjoyment of all her senses, patrima et matrima [patrimi], the daughter of free and freeborn pa­rents who had never been in slavery, who followed no dishonourable occupation, and whose home was in Italy. (Gell. i. 12.) The lex Papia ordained that when a vacancy occurred the Pontifex Maxi­mus should name at his discretion twenty qualified damsels, one of whom was publicly (in condone) fixed upon by lot, an exemption being granted in favour of such as had a sister already a vestal and of the daughters of certain priests of a high class. (Gell. /. c.) The above law appears to have been enacted in consequence of the unwillingness of fathers to resign all control over a child, and this-reluctance was manifested so strongly in later times that in the age of Augustus libertinae were declared^ eligible. (Dion Cass. Iv. 22 ; Suet. Octav. 31.) The casting of lots moreover does not seem to have been practised if any respectable person came for­ward voluntarily and offered a daughter who ful­filled the necessary conditions. As soon as the election was concluded the Pontifex Maximus took the girl by the hand and addressed her in a solemn form preserved by Aulus Gellius from Fabitis Pictor.: sacerdotem. vestalem.quae. sacra. faciat. quae. lous. siet. sacerdotem. vestalem.-facere. pro. populo. romano. quiritium. utei. quae. optima. lege. fovit. ita. te. amata. capio. where the title amata seems simply to signify " beloved one," and not to refer as Gellius supposes to the name of one of the ori­ginal Vestals, at least no- sueh name is to be found; in the list of Plutarch alluded to above. After these words were pronounced she was led away to the atrium of Vesta, and lived thenceforward with­in the sacred precincts under the special superin­tendence and: control of the pontifical college. (Dionys. ii. 67 ; Liv. iv. 44, viii. 15 ; Plin. Ep. iv. 11 ; Suet. Octav. 31 ; Gell. i. 12.)

The period of service lasted for thirty years. During the first ten the priestess was engaged in learning her mysterious duties, being termed disci-pula (Val. Max. i. lv§ 7), during the next ten in performing them, during the last ten in giving in­structions- to the novices (Dionys. L c. ; Plut. /. c. ; Senec. de vit. beat. 29),. and so long as she was thus employed she was bound by a solemn vow of chastity. But after the time specified was com­pleted she might, if she thought fit, throw off the emblems of her office (Dionys. /. c.), unconsecrate herself (eocaugurare, Gell. vi. 7), return to the world and even enter into the marriage state. (Plut. I. <?;) Few however availed themselves of these privileges ; those who did were said to have lived in sorrow and remorse (as might indeed have been expected from the habits they had formed) : hence such a proceeding was considered ominous, and the priestesses for the most part died as they had lived in th& service of the goddess. (Tacit. Ann. ii. 86 ; Inscrip. quoted by Gronov. ad Tacit, Ann. iii. 64.)

The senior sister was entitled Vestalis Maxima} or Viryo Ufa^ima (Ovid. 'Fast; iv. 639 ; Suet. Jiti,

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