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The Roman Goddess Fortuna

Associations and Other Names

Fortuna, goddess of fortune -both good and bad- was a popular goddess throughout Rome, enjoying prominence as a common cult figure with temples located throughout the empire and also frequently being a personal goddess, part of an individual’s own set of gods and goddesses whom they most frequently honored and implored. She had many epithets that varied depending upon the type of luck that was desired, e.g. Fortuna Augusta who was called upon to strengthen the prosperity of the emperor, Fortuna Tranquilla for luck in oversea trade, and Fortuna Felix for overall happiness.

Primary Attributes and Depictions

Particularly old depictions of Fortuna show her with wings and sandals. Mythology tells us that when she came to Rome, she discarded these as a sign that she had found her true home and had no intention of leaving. Frequently, she is depicted blindfolded, representing how volatile and changing life and luck can be. She is commonly shown holding a cornucopia, depicting the prosperity, fertility, and increase she brings; holding a rudder, noting her ability to steer the fortunes of men; and standing atop or near a ball, symbolizing how unpredictable luck can be. Frequently, too, she is shown with her sister Nemesis, who attempted to rein in the capricious manner in which she bestowed luck and argued for fair distribution for all.

Origins and Lasting Influence

The goddess Fortuna’s popularity and influence can be seen to this day. Old prayers for gamblers luck and even popculture songs mentioning “Lady Luck” or “Lady Fortune” evoke this famed goddess and her ability to favor whom she will. She is also depicted upon the Wheel of Fortune card found in the Tarot. While initially, she was seen solely as a goddess of fertility, with time and the growing reach of her influence, Fortuna became tied up with the Fates, who oversaw the fates and fortunes of all. As she was able to dictate fortunes, it was also believed that she was able to see future fortune -good and bad- and so she also had at least two oracle sites where the future was divined via clay tablets that were chosen from a jar.
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