According to the mythology of ancient Rome, Juno was the consort, or wife and female counterpart, of the the chief god Jupiter; she herself was the foremost among the goddesses and the principle goddess of the Roman State. She was viewed as a protector and adviser. Juno was also associated with the moon, and was nearly identical to the Greek goddess Hera. She is at times called Juno Regina, or Queen Juno. Depictions of Juno in art are majestic, with a flattering female figure and a crown, or diadem, upon her head.
Juno was the goddess of the lives of women, especially of married life. Often called Juno Lucina, she also served as the goddess of childbirth. She was viewed as a comforter of women and something like a guardian angel. Each woman was said to have a juno, a guiding principle or protective spirit, the counterpart of the genius that guarded man. Upon reaching puberty, girls were initiated into adult life under the auspices of Juno Sororia, meaning “sister.” Purification rituals involved passing under a yoke, or crossbeam of wood, called the tigillum sororium. It is from this title “Sororia” that the modern term sorority, or “sisterhood,” is derived.
Under the name Sospita, Juno was depicted as being armed with weapons. She was viewed as a savior of both women individually and of the Roman State. At other times, she was called Juno Moneta, meaning “the warner” or “the adviser.”
Juno in Myths and Stories
Juno plays a role in numerous ancient myths. For example, the Roman poet Ovid relates that when Jupiter gave birth to Minerva from his head, Juno was jealous that it were not she giving birth. Flora, the goddess of flowering plants, then gave her an herb that allowed her to give birth to the god Mars. In the Aenid, Juno is said to have opposed the success of Aeneas. Jupiter and Fate proved stronger, however, and Juno was forced to accept the entry of the Trojans into Italy.
Worship of Juno
A temple dedicated to Juno was built on the Esquiline in the fourth century B.C. In 396 B.C., the Romans defeated the Etruscans, who worshiped Juno under the name Uni, in battle. They then performed a ritual called evocatio, or “calling out, evoking.” They dedicated a temple to Juno and “invited” the goddess to leave the Etruscan city of Veii in favor of Rome. The Romans believed that the Etruscans were thus deprived of Juno’s protection, which was then given to Rome.
In 344 B.C., another temple to Juno was built on the north side of the Capitoline Hill, in an area known as the Arx. The noise of her sacred geese cackling was said to have scared away the attacking Gauls and saved the Arx. This temple was located alongside the Roman mint, the office in which money was made and held. In fact, it is from Juno’s title “Moneta” that the word “mint” is derived. By that time, one of the great temples in Rome was also dedicated to the Capitoline Triad, a trinity of gods and goddesses consisting of Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno.
Worship of Juno involved at least two festive occasions of the Roman calendar. Her primary festival was that of Matronalia, also called Matronales Feriae, held on March 1, the date on which one of Juno’s temples was dedicated. This festival revered the spring renewal of nature, the sacredness of marriage, as well as the peace that followed the capture and marriage of the Sabine women by Roman soldiers. To mark this occasion, women marched to the temple of Juno in procession, where they offered sacrifices of lambs and cattle. Upon returning home, they prayed for marital happiness, accepted gifts from their husbands, and held feasts for their female slaves.
The second celebration was called the Nonae Caprotinae, or “The Nones of the Wild Fig.” It was held on July 7 in the Campus Martius beneath a wild fig tree. The preceding month, June, was named after Juno.