Erich Lessing

No Roman ruler played a greater role in enhancing the power of the Vestals than Rome’s first de facto emperor, Augustus (shown here in a first-century A.D. marble statue depicting him as Rome’s Pontifex Maximus, or Chief Priest). Augustus granted the priestesses personal bodyguards, gave them the best seats in the arena and assigned them prominent roles in public religious rites. In return, the priestesses enthusiastically endorsed his reign.