- Fortuna: Deity and Concept in Archaic and Republican Italy by Daniele Miano
This fascinating book offers a sweeping assessment of the Roman goddess Fortuna as both deity and concept from the archaic period through the death of Caesar. Fortuna was one of the most popular goddesses in ancient Italy, attracting worshippers from a variety of social and civic backgrounds. Miano analyzes the available literary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence for her cult in Rome, Latium, and the rest of Italy. He explores Fortuna as a translation of her Greek counterpart Tyche, and discusses how authors such as Cicero and Caesar wrote about Fortuna, chance, and luck. His aim throughout is to examine the ways in which individuals and communities interpreted Fortuna as a goddess and fortuna as a concept, and how they understood the relationship between the two.
The introduction outlines the author's methodological approach. Miano rejects the essentialism of earlier monographic studies of individual Roman deities, which sought to reduce their subjects to systematized, one-dimensional "powers," and sets out to prove that variety and contradiction were essential features of ancient polytheism. Fortuna (or any other god or goddess, for that matter) could mean many different things to many different people, and individual worshippers had a great deal of freedom in deciding what she meant to them.
Chapter 1 considers the sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia at the city of Praeneste in Latium. Whereas previous scholarship has focused on the sanctuary's famous lot oracle and Fortuna's association with mothers, Miano foregrounds her connection to military victory, salvation, and wealth. The chapter analyzes an impressive array of visual, epigraphic, and literary sources for Fortuna and her cult at Praeneste. Some of the most intriguing evidence comes from a group of votive inscriptions dating to the monumental phase of the temple. Examples include dedications from members of the local elite, inscriptions naming the senate and magistrates of Praeneste, and votives commissioned by professional associations of various kinds, from chefs and butchers to blacksmiths, marble workers, goldsmiths, singers, flute players, and messengers.
Chapter 2 discusses the worship of Fortuna throughout Latium, Campania, and the rest of Italy. The evidence is extremely fragmentary and, in several cases, a single inscription must be used to interpret a local Fortuna. Even so, the general picture is one of local innovation, such as the association of Fortuna with Fides and Spes at Capua, or the use of the epithet Melior at Spoletium. Miano argues that worship of Fortuna spread along with the Latin language from Latium to [End Page 307] Campania, the region that had the earliest sustained contact with Latium in the period of the middle Republic. Outside of Latium and Campania, evidence for Fortuna comes mostly from Latin or Roman colonies, though Miano is hesitant to assign an "institutional" interpretation to this pattern, prioritizing instead evidence for individual devotion. The apparent connection between the diffusion of Latin and the spread of Fortuna also raises the question of whether the goddess was worshipped in her own right, or whether she appears in the historical record as a translation for various local deities. Miano argues against a process of translation, and interprets the local Fortunae as proof of the versatility of the Latin Fortuna.
In chapter 3, Miano turns to archaic Rome, beginning with the close connection between Fortuna and King Servius Tullius. He concludes that this tradition developed under the influence of Greek historiography, in which Tyche's ability to exalt and ruin men at will was an important theme. The chapter also reviews some of the major interpretive issues associated with three archaic temples to Fortuna. Miano finds the evidence for the archaic temple beneath the Republican sanctuary of Fortuna and Mater Matuta in the Forum Boarium inconclusive, particularly as it relates to the literary sources. Although the temples of Fors Fortuna and Fortuna Muliebris are not archaeologically attested, the written sources for these foundations are more consistent, and Miano is confident that both existed...