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Goddess Aurora

The Roman goddess aurora was goddess of dawn – the new day. She was daughter of the titan Hyperion and would wake before day break and fly across the skies to announce the coming of the morning and the sun. Her brother and sister were the sun (the deity Sol) and moon (the goddess Luna). Her children were the four winds.

In ancient Rome she was considered as one and the same with the Latin goddess Mater Matuta who’s temple, consecrated by Romulus (founder of Rome) himself. It stood on the forum Boarium. Her dedicated feast was known as the "Matralia" on the 11th June to which only Roman citizen virgins or women who had only been married once and whose husband still lived, were admitted. In line with the goddesses’ nature, the feast celebrated the coming dawn of the longest day in the year (summer solstice 21st June), thus the Matralia was essentially the feast to celebrate the dawn of the second half of the year.

Mater Matuta was soon identified with the Greek Ino, sister of Semele, mother of Dionysus – Roman god Bacchus. This is an important detail because Ino supposedly threw herself into the sea with her son and returned as a marine divinity. On returning to land she was welcomed by Hercules.... at the forum Boarium.

Firstly we should remember that the Forum Boarium was, as the name suggests, a Forum: a market. It was dedicated to banking and the meat trade. It was situated by the port on the river Tiber, ie where trade and commerce would have come from abroad or inland.

Hercules was there because his great altar had always been there and he was divinity closely associated with oaths and contracts (as was his Latin/Sabine alter ego, Semo Sancus). Tradition suggested that it was here that Hercules had had a misadventure with the giant Cacus who’d tried to steal his cattle (note the forum Boarium dealt with cattle and meat). Portunus was there because he was divinity in charge of doors and ports (hence Portunus-port).

As we have suggested above, Mater Matuta was also there (as was Fortuna). She was deity in charge of motherhood, navigation and commerce: together with Hercules and Portunus she was one of the three divinities of ports and warehousing.

So there we have it: Dawn – Motherhood – Commerce – Navigation and a strong association with her twin, Fortune.

Excavations under the area of the church of Saint Omobono have identified an area which was sacred since the end of the 7th Century BC and the construction of the first archaic temple coincides with the reign of king Servius Tullus. During that same reign modifications were made so that two twin temples stood on the same stone base – one to Mater Matuta and the other to the goddess Fortuna (fortune) who by tradition was lover and advisor of the king. The temples were destroyed during the 6th century BC at about the time when the Etruscan monarchy of Rome fell (Tarquin the Proud was deposed) but rebuilt later.

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"Goddess Aurora" was written by Giovanni Milani-Santarpia for www.mariamilani.com - Rome apartments