"Her half-sister was a vestal virgin, proof of her family’s social status."
The vestal virgins
were priestesses in charge of the sacred fire of Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, responsible for keeping the flame permanently lit. This was an important and high status position, usually filled by the daughters of influential Romans. The vestal virgins lived together in a special house set aside for them, and were forbidden from relations with men. If a vestal virgin was discovered to have lost her virginity, the punishment was burial alive. Vestal virgins served for a period of thirty years, after which they were free to marry and start a family. They were highly prized as wives for the status they would bring to husband and children.