Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Fortuna Primigenia

This is my second post for today but it's actually a day late and should have been done yesterday, the 25th May! 

May 25th was the day named in honour of the goddess Fortuna Primigenia. Fortuna, like many of the 12 main deities, came in many different disguises and on May 25th as Fortuna Primigenia she was revered as the ‘first mother’.

Fortuna - British Museum

Said to be the first-born offspring of Jupiter, Fortuna is often depicted carrying a cornucopia (a horn of plenty) though may also be seen bearing a gubernaculum (a ship’s rudder) or a Rota Fortunae, a ball or wheel of fortune.

The comments on the above statue are interesting but not unique. She carries a cornucopia but the gubernaculum is no longer attached to her fist. The head may have been replaced at some time in the past and may not have been the original for the body.  

Blind Fortuna- Tadeusz Kuntze 

She seems to have brought both good and bad luck and may also be represented as veiled and blind. Fortuna brings no balance and as a goddess of fate the result could be of a whimsical nature.

There were many temples, altars and dedications to Fortuna but as Fortuna Primigenia the most impressive sanctuary was said to have been at Praeneste where a small boy was used to make a selection from various possible futures that were written on oak rods. I just hope that the lad made good choices which satisfied the oracle at the temple in Praeneste.

There’s an abundance of statues and dedications to Fortuna to illustrate this post but since my character Governor/ General Agricola (Celtic Fervour Series Books 4 & 5) believes that Fortuna has abandoned him, I’m going to highlight some wonderful remains found in Scotland.

Fortuna- found at Castlecary
Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

In approx. AD 80, Agricolan forces built a Roman Temporary Camp at a place called Castlecary (near Cumbernauld, Central Scotland) when Agricola was fortifying the territory between the Rivers Clyde and Forth. Some of those Agricolan defences/ sites were later used in the building of the Antonine Wall some 60 years later (AD 140’s), a number of the original camps or small wooden forts,  as at Castlecary, later enlarged to house around 1000 men.

Fortuna-found at Castlecary

Skip forward many centuries to when the Forth and Clyde Canal was built in approx. 1769.  The remains of a bathhouse with a hypocaust system was uncovered, and evidence found for other buildings. Small objects were found along with a wonderful alter dedicated to the goddess Fortuna. Unfortunately, the excavations were not properly conducted in the way archaeologists would do nowadays, so it’s likely artefacts were damaged during the process. Subsequent excavations in 1902, under stricter circumstances, were undertaken and additional remains were uncovered.

Some of the artefacts can be viewed at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow University. I visited the museum decades ago when I was a student, but at the time knew very little about the Roman occupation of Scotland. During another more recent visit, in approx. 2013, I was again amazed at the artefacts on show, but was still unable at that time to fully appreciate the finds from the decades of Roman occupation of Scotland. I’ve learned a lot since then and can now ‘fill in the gaps’ in my knowledge much better. 

Happy Reading! I'm off to do more research...

SlĂ inte!

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