Juno is the Roman goddess of marriage. She is also a protector of Rome and the Roman people, as well as the consort and wife of the chief god Jupiter. She is the first and foremost among the Roman goddesses and the principle goddess of the Roman State. Because of her position among the gods and goddesses, she was often referred to as Juno Regina, or Queen Juno.
Juno was worshipped as one of the leading gods of the early Roman era, but little is known about the exact origins of Juno and her brother, Jupiter. After Rome invaded Greece, aspects of Greek mythology were taken to Rome as part of the religious life of the Roman Empire.
There is some dispute about the birth of Juno and Jupiter. Early Roman writings explain that the goddess Fortuna fed two infants who would become Juno and Jupiter. However, an inscription was discovered in the 19th-century that stated Fortuna was Juno’s daughter, so this remains subject to debate.
After the arrival of Greek culture in Rome, Juno’s appearance took a significant turn to the being more war-like. The decision to model Juno after the Greek goddess, Hera, is easy to identify with the clothing of the goddess becoming more military in style.
Juno is depicted in most artworks as being a classically-beautiful woman who is often seen holding a spear or staff to signify her role as the goddess of war. Juno is rarely depicted in images as a younger woman. Instead, she is drawn as a mature woman.
There are many members of the Roman family of gods and goddesses who are part of the family of Juno. The goddess has been described as the daughter of Saturn along with her twin brother, Jupiter. The pair are both siblings and married to make Juno the queen of the ruling class of gods in ancient Rome.
Juno was the mother of Mars, who was born without a father and became the Roman god of warfare. Other children were born to both Juno and Jupiter, including Vulcan and Juventas.
The birth of Mars came after Juno was given a scared lily that impregnated her with a single touch. Some readings of the life of Juno compare her to the Virgin Mary of Christianity because of her pregnancy and their birth taking place in a virginal way. The use of the fleur-de-lis as a symbol is usually linked to the story of Juno and the sacred lily.
Some of the other symbols linked to the mythology of Juno include the peacock, which was seen as a companion of the goddess. The peacock myth reported by Fables of Aesop begins with the peacock coming to visit the goddess to ask for a more beautiful singing voice. The peacock understands it is the most beautiful bird in the world but still asks for the voice of the nightingale to enhance her beauty. Juno decides against providing the peacock with the voice of a nightingale, but she remains firm in her belief that no animal should be perfect in every way.
Among the other symbols that are associated with Juno is the scepter she holds in many images and depictions of the goddess. In ancient civilizations, one of the symbols of fertility was the pomegranate, which Juno holds in artworks from the Roman period and in later eras.
Powers & Duties
Juno had several names, titles and roles during the time of the Roman Empire. One role included being protector of Rome and its people. While the duties of Juno included protecting all of the people of Rome, she took a particular interest in the protection of women in the culture.
Juno was viewed as the goddess of the lives of women, especially of married life. On an interesting note, the month of June was eventually named after her and and became a favorite time for couples to be married.
Other duties of the goddess included her role as the overseer of childbirth. In this role, she was often called Juno Lucina. She was viewed as a comforter of women and was something like a guardian angel.
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 Juno 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.”
Myths & Stories
Juno plays a role in numerous ancient myths. In the story of Mars’ birth, the Roman poet Ovid stated that when Jupiter gave birth to Minerva from his head, Juno was jealous that it wasn’t her who was 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 Aeneid, 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.
Facts about Juno
- Each woman was said to have a juno, a guiding principle or protective spirit, the counterpart of the genius that guarded man.