Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome
Vesta occupies a distinguished place among the earlier divinities of the Romans. Her temple in Rome, containing as it were the hearthstone of the nation, stood close beside the palace of Numa Pompilius.
On her altar burned the never-ceasing fire, which was tended by her priestesses, the Vestal Virgins.
The favour of Demeter was believed to bring mankind rich harvests and fruitful crops, whereas her displeasure caused blight, drought, and famine. The island of Sicily was supposed to be under her especial protection, and there she was regarded with particular veneration, the Sicilians naturally attributing the wonderful fertility of their country to the partiality of the goddess.
Demeter is usually represented as a woman of noble bearing and majestic appearance, tall, matronly, and dignified, with beautiful golden hair, which falls in rippling curls over her stately shoulders, the yellow locks being emblematical of the ripened ears of corn. Sometimes she appears seated in a chariot drawn by winged dragons, at others she stands erect, her figure drawn up to its full height, and always fully draped; she bears a sheaf of wheat-ears in one hand and a lighted torch in the other. The wheat-ears are not unfrequently replaced by a bunch of poppies, with which her brows are also garlanded, though sometimes she merely wears a simple riband in her hair.