In Ancient Roman mythology, the goddess, Juno, held a significant and powerful role among the gods and the people of Rome. She was the daughter of Saturn and married her twin brother, Jupiter, who was the god of sky and thunder, but was also more importantly known as the king of the gods. Juno was referred to as the queen of the gods. Along with Jupiter and Minerva, Juno was one of the three original gods of Rome and a great temple was built in their honor at the Capitoline, which is one of the seven hills of Rome associated with eternity. She has many epithets, which describe her numerous roles in ancient mythology as protector of the Roman people, but she is most famous for presiding over the aspects of women’s lives, similarly to her counterparts, which were Hera, the queen of the gods in Greek mythology, and Uni, the goddess of the Etruscan pantheon.
The Epithets of Juno
Juno Sospita refers to Juno’s role as the protector of those in confinement, referring to pregnant women awaiting the impending birth of their child. As a protector, this aspect of Juno is depicted in goatskin, carrying a spear and a shield. Juno Sospita was also the chief deity of Lanuvium, a city located to the southeast of Rome.
As Juno Lucina, Juno was known as the goddess of childbirth. Lucina, which means “light,” was described as “she who brings children into the light.” Her main duty was to ensure the safety of women in childbirth. In the temple of Juno Lucina, a woman could not present an offering unless all knots in her clothing were untied. It was said that a belt would hinder delivery.
Juno Moneta refers to the goddess of Rome that was the protector of funds. In the Temple of Juno Moneta, the first Roman coins were minted and continued to be minted there for over four centuries.
Like most gods and goddesses, there was a festival in honor of Juno. Celebrated on the first of March, Matronalia was a day when husbands were expected to present their wives with gifts. Some say the festival was in honor of the birthday of Juno’s son, Mars, while others believe that the festival was a celebration that marked the end of the Roman-Sabine War in which women played an important role. It is said that the women threw themselves between the two factions to restore peace.
In addition to Matronalia, which falls on the first of March, the first of each month was special to Juno. Also, the entire month of June was important to Juno, and it was named in her honor.
Juno was attended by Castor and Pollux, also known as Terror and Boldness, along with fourteen additional nymphs. Her most beloved attendant, Iris, has been pictured at her side in artwork. Iris acted as a messenger for Juno.
Juno was the mother of two children, Mars and Vulcan. According to a poetic work by Ovid, Mars, the Roman god of war, was not fathered by Juno’s husband, Jupiter, but instead was conceived by the use of a magical flower given to Juno by Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and Spring.
As Jupiter’s wife, she was known to be fiercely loyal, but was also jealous and vindictive, especially when Jupiter usurped her role as a mother and gave birth to Minerva from his head. It is said he tapped his forehead and gave birth to Minerva from his mind. This incident is believed to be the reason Juno, with the use of Flora’s magical flower, gave birth to Mars on her own. She was also, according to works by Homer and Virgil, more often scolding her husband rather than caressing him.
The Depiction of Juno
Juno is generally depicted more warrior-like in nature, as opposed to her Greek counterpart, Hera. She is usually wearing a goatskin coat and carrying a spear and shield, but others have depicted her with a crown featuring lilies and roses, carrying a scepter, and riding in a golden chariot pulled by peacocks. In some depictions, she is pictured with a matronly air, giving off a grave and majestic appearance, as befitting her regal station.
Juno’s Most Important Role
Although she is known for her various roles as a goddess protecting the Roman people, and she was a part of the integral triad on Capitoline Hill along with Jupiter and Minerva, Juno is most famous for her role as the goddess of marriage and childbirth. She was worshiped for her attentions to the women of Rome, specifically married women. Issues revolving homemaking, childbirth and motherhood are associated with Juno.
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