Habitable Room

The Honest Courtesan

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on March 23rd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

The Vestal Virgins were among the most important people in classical Roman society; they were charged with keeping the sacred fires burning, and accorded numerous privileges in return.  One of the greatest of these was that their persons were sacrosanct; in other words, no person could touch them without their permission, upon penalty of death.  That meant no one at all, not even high state officials; a Vestal could not be touched even if she were convicted of the greatest crime of which she could be accused, that of breaking her vows by having sex or allowing the sacred fires to go out.  Because these offenses were believed to anger the gods and thus risk the safety of all Rome, the penalty for them was death…

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