Fortuna (Fortune) - Encyclopedia




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FORTUNA (FORTUNE), an Italian goddess of great antiquity, but apparently not native at Rome, where, according to universal Roman tradition, she was introduced by the king Servius Tullius as Fors Fortuna, and established in a temple on the Etruscan side of the Tiber outside the city, and also under other titles in other shrines. In Latium she had two famous places of worship, one at Praeneste, where there was an oracle of Fortuna primigenia (the first-born), frequented especially by women who, as we may suppose, desired to know the fortunes of their children or their own fortune in child-birth; the other at Antium, well known from Horace's ode (i. 35). It is highly probable that Fortuna was never a deity of the abstract idea of chance, but represented the hopes and fears of men and especially of women at different stages of their life and experience; thus we find her worshipped as time went on under numerous cult-titles, such as muliebris, virilis, hujusce diei, equestris, redux, &c., which connected her supposed powers with individuals, groups of individuals, or particular occasions. Gradually she became more or less closely identified with the Gr. TiAn, and was represented on coins, &c., with a cornucopia as the giver of prosperity, a rudder as the controller of destinies, and with a wheel, or standing on a ball, to indicate the uncertainty of fortune. In this semi-Greek form she came to be worshipped over the whole empire, and Pliny (N.H. ii. 22) declares that in his day she was invoked in all places and every hour. She even became identified with Isis, and as Panthea was supposed to combine the attributes of all other deities.

The best account of this difficult subject is to be found in Roscher's Mythological Lexicon (s.v.); see also Wissowa, Religion and Kultus der Romer, p. 206 foil. (W. W. F.*)

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