The goddess Fortuna in imperial Rome: cult, art, text

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2002

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Fortuna in imperial Rome was a complex, multivalent deity, venerated with particular fervency during the first and second centuries CE. This study presents an examination of the continual evolution of the cult and image of goddess in case studies from cult settings, artistic depictions, and literary descriptions, revealing the multiple meanings that she conveyed to Romans and Greeks during the imperial period. Fortuna’s evolving character was due to a variety of political, religious, social exigencies. Romans considered her a single, universalized deity and qualified her with over ninety epithets, according to different settings and needs. However, despite Fortuna’s strong rapport with Tyche, the modern term “Tyche-Fortuna” has only served to obscure the persona of Fortuna because it has been interpreted variously in religious, art historical, and literary studies; Fortuna did not simply become Tyche in the imperial period. In the first chapter, two studies of Tyche statues demonstrate that the Romans influenced the image of Tyche as much as the Greeks influenced that of Fortuna. Fortuna’s image continued to change during the imperial period. For example, Fortuna statuary received new iconographical features in a Roman setting, including a rudder resting on a globe and a rudder resting on a wheel, reflecting her novel role as guarantor of the empire and the emperor. The background of Fortuna in Rome included shrines and temples dedicated to the goddess from Rome’s primordial past, as well as features adopted and adapted from the cult of Tyche during the Republican period. The second and first centuries BCE witnessed the transformation of Fortuna from national deity to personal patron of various Roman generals, from Catulus to Julius Caesar. A new development in the cult of Fortuna took place under Augustus. In the Campus Martius, the figure of Fortuna figures prominently in a number of Augustan buildings, in particular, the Pantheon that was modeled, in part, after the Tychaion in Alexandria. Most explicitly, the role of Fortuna in Augustan Rome became focused on the cults of Fortuna Redux and Fortuna Augusta, directly tied to the persona of the emperor as kingmaker and guarantor of dynastic succession.

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