Fortuna, Roman goddess of chance. This deity, whose name means “she who brings things,” is associated with possibility — and the randomness — of the cosmos. She promises riches and abundance and nurtures our individual destinies through the ups and downs of life. She is said to reward those who have joyful intentions with success and prosperity.
Fortuna is usually depicted holding a rudder in one hand, steering our destiny as our karmic path progresses. Other times she clutches a cornucopia (horn of plenty), signifying the wealth that she can bring. She also has a wheel beside her, reminding us that she is the benefactor of life, death, and, of course, the wheel of fortune.
Known as Tyche to the Greeks, Fortuna was worshipped extensively throughout the Roman Empire and had oracular shrines at Antium and Praeneste (now Anzio and Palestrina). At first, she was regarded as a kind of fertility goddess or bearer of prosperity, and later was invoked for good luck – or lamented to, as in the “Ode to Fortuna“, the famous opening of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Fortuna, was introduced among the Romans from Greece during the reign of Servius Tullius, and soon became very popular. Indeed, at one period Fortuna was the chief Italian divinity, and the plebeians and slaves held an annual festival on the twenty-fourth day of June in honor of her who could bestow riches and liberty. Pliny wrote that the Chance or Fortune by means of which we acquire so much is a divine power; and Plutarch, in his work on the Fortune of the Romans, attempts to show that the great achievements of that people were to be attributed to good luck rather than to sagacity or prowess. As an example he cites their escape from invasion by the opportune death of Alexander the Great at Babylon, B.C. 323, at a time when he was preparing to overwhelm Italy with his armies.
Temples in honor of the Goddess Tyche were built at Elis, Corinth, and in other Grecian cities; and in the second century A. D. the eminent philanthropist, Herodes Atticus, erected for her a temple in Athens, the ruins of which are believed still to exist.
The western suburb of Syracuse, in Sicily, was called Tuxn, after a temple of Tyche which adorned it.
Among the Italians the worship of Fortune became so popular that her temples outnumbered all others. “We have built a thousand temples to Fortune and not one to Reason,” remarked Fronto, the worthy tutor of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Of all these pagan edifices in Rome, but a single one now remains, the temple of Fortuna Virilis, now the church of Santa Maria Egiziaca. It is a small Ionic tetrastyle building on the left bank of the Tiber, a little north of the so-called Temple of the Sun. But the most famous Italian temple of Fortune was at Preneste, an ancient Latin town, now called Palestrina. Here oracles were consulted and fugitives found a place of refuge.
In Great Britain there still exist a number of altars in honor of Fortune, which date from the Roman occupation. One of these, on the line of the wall of Antoninus in Scotland, was erected by soldiers of the second and sixth legions. Another altar, dedicated to the same goddess, was found at the headquarters of the sixth legion at Eboracum, the modern city of York, and is still to be seen at the museum there.
Working on my own fate and fortune, I will be at the easel most of the day today.
As well as cleaning up my regular life, that has been suffering under the weight of my creative Muse’s take-over of my brain pan and energies.
May the world favor you today in all that you do and say.
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