Hestia was the Greek Goddess of the hearth, family, and domestic life. Her Roman equivalent was Vesta. Her name meant both a house and a hearth, symbolising the home and its residents. She also represented the coalition and relationship between the colonies and the mother cities.
She was the first born child of Kronos and Rhea who was swallowed by her father at birth. Zeus would later force their father to disgorge his children. As the first to be swallowed she was also the last to be disgorged, and so was named as both the eldest and youngest of the six Kronides. When many of the gods sought for her hand in marriage, Hestia refused and asked Zeus to let her remain an eternal virgin. He agreed and she took her place at his royal hearth. She would receive the first offering at every sacrifice in the household.
In Rome, Vesta and her priestess were particularly important. Vesta was served by six virgins determined by a lottery. The had to be six and free of mental or physical deformity and were pledged to the goddess for thirty years. The girls had to remain virgins or the sacred flame of Vesta they tended would go out, causing catastrophes for the city. They were the de facto housekeepers of the Roman state. It was believed their conduct had a direct effect on the health of the Empire. If a Vestal Virgin was found to be unchaste, the penalty was heavy. The unfortunate girl was buried alive.
When the Virgins retired, they were allowed to marry with the Pontifex Maximus acting as their father.