Junonalia: Festival for the Protector & Special Counselor of the Roman State

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

With this being the month of Martius (March), we sadly don’t have as many festivals as we did in Februarius (February). But don’t let that fool you, the Romans had celebrations in every month.

That brings us to today’s celebration, so please join us as we revel in Junonalia!

Procession in honor of Juno.

Before we get into the party, let us understand why we party. Today is a celebration of the ancient Roman goddess Juno, the Protector and Special Counselor of the Roman State.

Juno Sospita, a plaster cast based on an original in the Vatican Museums.

As the patron goddess of Rome and the Roman Empire, Juno was called Regina (Queen) and, together with Jupiter and Minerva, was worshipped as a the Juno Capitolina (Capitoline Triad) in Rome. Juno was a daughter of Saturn and sister (but also the wife) of the chief god Jupiter, as well as being the mother of Mars and Vulcan.

Juno’s theology is one of the most complex and disputed issues in Roman religion. Even more than other major Roman deities, Juno held a large number of significant and diverse epithets, names and titles representing various aspects and roles of the goddess. In accordance with her central role as a goddess of marriage, these included Pronuba and Cinxia (she who loses the bride’s girdle).

Juno looked after the women of Rome, with her Greek equivalent as Hera and her Etruscan counterpart was Uni. Hera was the Greek goddess for love and marriage, so Juno was Rome’s goddess of love and marriage.

Juno’s own warlike aspect among the Romans was apparent in her attire, as she often appeared sitting with a peacock armed and wearing a goatskin cloak. The traditional depiction of this warlike aspect was assimilated from the Greek goddess Athena, whose goatskin was called the aegis.

Ancient etymologies associated Juno’s name with iuvare (to aid, benefit) and iuvenescendo (rejuvenate), sometimes connecting it to the renewal of the new and waxing moon. This perhaps implied the idea of a moon goddess.

While her connection with the idea of vital force, fullness of vital energy, eternal youthfulness is now generally acknowledged, the multiplicity and complexity of her personality have given rise to various and sometimes irreconcilable interpretations among modern scholars.

2nd Century AD statue of Juno known as La Providence (Louvre Museum, Paris).

Juno was certainly the divine protectress of the community, who showed both a sovereign and a fertility character, often associated with a military one. She was present in many towns of ancient Italy, which leads us to her celebration.

The Iunonalia or Junonalia was a Roman festival in honor of Juno, held on 7 March (the Nonae). Among extant Roman calendars, it appears only in the Calendar of Filocalus (354 AD), and was added to the festival calendar after the mid-1st Century AD.

On this day, Ancient Romans observed the Junonalia to honor their Queen of Heaven. This festival was celebrated by the matrons of Rome in which a procession of 27 girls accompanied a statue of Juno carved out of a cypress tree.

Temple of Juno Moneta

There were processions in which statues of Juno were carried through the streets and ending at the Temple of Juno. Prayers and generous offerings of flowers and flowering plants were brought to Juno.

There was dancing, merriment, and wonderful feasting (for the Romans were known for their feasts). From how it sounded, it would be very similar to a modern “girls night out”.

The Junonalia was also attested in a fragmentary poem De Iunonalibus, attributed to Claudian. In it, Juno is addressed as mistress of the celestial pole, and the spouse and sister of the king of heaven.

Santa Maria in Aracoeli (Rome, Italy), some topographers’ possible location for the temple of Juno Moneta.

Her function as a goddess of marital bonds is also noted. Although the text is conjectural at this point, she may be asked to grant a return.

The Junonalia may have concluded a 3-day festival begun 5 March with the Isidis Navigium (Sailing of Isis). In the Metamorphoses of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, Isis is addressed as Queen of Heaven, and by the 2nd Century a number of goddesses, including Juno, shared the epithet Caelestis.

Modern reenactors as Roman matrons in the parade for Junonalia.

We hope you enjoyed today’s celebration, and if you are a woman (with or without children) here’s to your strength. Check us out again soon to see what we’ll be celebrating or to where we’ll travel.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Benko, Stephen. The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology. Brill, 2004.

Corbishley, Mike. Ancient Rome. Warwick Press, 1986.

Palmer, Robert E. A. Roman Religion and Roman Empire. Five Essays Philadelphia, 1974.

Patrich, Joseph. Studies in the Archaeology and History of Caesarea Maritima. Brill, 2011.

Riese, Alexander. Anthologia Latina. Teubner, 1906.

Rodgers, Nigel. Life In Ancient Rome. Anness Publishing Ltd, 2007.

Salzman, Michele Renee. On Roman Time: The Codex Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity. University of California Press, 1990.

Junonalia”. ladyisisrose. 7 March 2011.