The narrator and Umbricius stroll outside the Porta Capena toward the spring and grove of the Muses on the Caelian hill, which tradition records Numa made sacred to these water nymphs (Livy, Ab Urbe Condita I.21).

To the natural setting of field, spring water, and tufa rock grotto, legend has it that Numa, to honor the goddesses, added a small bronze aedicula, which was later housed within the Temple of Heracles and the Muses, after it had been struck by lightning.

Numa also decreed that as part of their duties the Vestal Virgins had to fetch water by hand from this sacred spring for the daily cleansing of the Temple of Vesta.

Vestal with flame
Vestal holding the sacred flame
Photo: B. McManus