Friday, February 3, 2023

A Rejection of Purity Culture: A Christian Author Lambasts Vestal Virgins, Prudentius Contra Symmachum 2.1064-1079

quae nunc Vestalis sit virginitatis honestas

discutiam, qua lege regat decus omne pudoris.

ac primum parvae teneris capiuntur in annis,

ante voluntatis propriae quam libera secta,

laude pudicitiae fervens et amore deorum,

iusta maritandi condemnet 1 vincula sexus,

captivus pudor ingratis addicitur aris,

nec contempta perit miseris sed adempta voluptas

corporis intacti: non mens intacta tenetur,

nec requies datur ulla toris, quibus innuba caecum

vulnus et amissas suspirat femina taedas;

tum quia non totum spes salva interficit ignem,

nam resides quandoque faces adolere licebit

festaque decrepitis obtendere flammea canis;

tempore praescripto membra intemerata requirens

tandem virgineam fastidit Vesta senectam. 

--Prudentius, Contra Symmachum 2.1064 -1079

Now I’ll discuss the honor given to the chastity of the Vestal Virgins,

And how this ‘honor’ reflects all of their [Roman polytheists’] ‘respect’ for chastity.

First of all, little girls are taken in their tender years

Before they are old enough to understand and consent.

All hyped up with religious zeal and purity culture,

They reject the natural bonds of matrimony.

They become slaves to their chastity and are dragged to ungrateful altars.

These poor girls lose their sense of bodily pleasure

Not because it’s the right thing to do,

But because their free will was taken from them.

Their bodies might remain chaste,

but their minds are not kept pure,

They stay up at night restlessly and sigh in their unwed beds

The blind wounds & the wedding denied to them.

And since their secret hope doesn’t extinguish their fire completely

(for they can get married in their old age)

They run to the altar as gray-haired women.

Vesta demands purity for her maidens

For an allotted time,

but they immediately reject her as old maids.



Name: Aurelius Prudentius Clemens 

Date:   4th century CE

Works:  Crowns of Martyrdom; Against Symmachus; Psychomachia





  Prudentius was a Christian author from Roman Hispania (modern Spain) who had great influence in the court of Emperor Theodosius I. He is known for his elevated poetry with Christian themes.

Byzantine / Late Latin






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