SEF/Art Resource, NY

Ever vigilant, a first- or second-century A.D. marble statue of a Vestal virgin stands guard over the House of the Vestals (not visible in the photo). The building in the background is the second-century A.D. Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. The Vestals were once the most powerful—and liberated—women in ancient Rome. As servants of the hearth goddess Vesta, they presided over important public rituals and played a crucial role in supporting Rome’s emperors.