The clothing of Roman goddesses was based on traditional dress and well known personal symbols and attributes. This made it very easy for people to easily identify the image or statue with the identity of the goddess.
Goddess clothing in ancient Rome was a fundamental iconic element. The garments themselves tended to be the same traditional Stola and Palla, associated with Roman traditional matrons. Their accessories provided the strongest strongest elements of identification.
As has already been mentioned in our discussion of ancient Roman religion the Romans were very liberal in their attitude to religion. They had freedom of cult and gave little importance to an individual’s preference for one deity or another, so long as it didn’t preclude them from paying tribute to the Capitoline triad. This is particularly evident in their attitude to foreign cities which were Romanised: Foreign cults were maintained, and even purposely integrated with the official cults of Rome so as to achieve a unique locally pertinent result.
They were also open to the possibility of physically importing foreign deities into Rome itself and maintaining them with all their original attributes. The goddess Juno was an early example of this, brought to Rome from the neighbouring Etruscan city of Veii. Similarly Isis from Egypt was also extremely successful.
Giving a god or goddess the right clothing and attributes was particularly important when so many deities existed. It was a means of easily identifying them, for example when pictured on the back of coins, on paintings or as statues.
The clothing attributes of different Roman goddesses
We list some items of clothing particular to some roman goddesses (most if not all wore the traditional stola):
Ceres: bears a torch, sits on a cask, crown of cereals, carries poppies and wheat
Minerva: often shown with an owl, a shield and helmet (Corinthian) propped on her head, spear
Diana: A stag, a bow and arrow, a moon on her tiara
Juno: Tiara, patera (libations bowl), traditional matronly appearance. Stern.
Vesta: Covered head (traditional stola). Virginal and pure. Perhaps a flame or fire nearby.
Isis: Sistrum. Egyptian attire, holding an ankh in her left hand and staff in her right. Headress shaped as a throne. Sometimes with wings.