Roma, the goddess of Rome

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Roma is a goddess in the Roman religion who, since the second century BC, personified the city of Rome and, more generally, the Roman state.

On the origin of the term “Rome” there is a plurality of hypotheses, including derivation from the ancient Greek ρώμη i.e. rome translatable as “strength” or from the Etruscan Rumon, the Etruscan name for the Tiber River.

According to the oldest tradition Roma was a Trojan captive who accompanied Odysseus and Aeneas from the land of the Molossians in Illyria, Latium. According to other traditions she was instead the daughter or wife of Ascanius, son of Aeneas; according to this legend Rome was named after this mythological figure.

Related article: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Rome

She appeared in official games and festivals, as well as on coins, sculptures, and architectural projects. The official cult of Rome promoted Imperial Rome’s propaganda. She is frequently shown in military uniform, complete with a helmet and weapons, in Roman art and coins. She was frequently shown with a mural crown, cornucopia, or both in Rome’s eastern provinces, signifying the security, tranquility, and wealth that local Tyches of Hellenic city-states provided. Rarely does one see her in a household or everyday setting.

At 195 BC, the first known worship dedicated to the goddess Roma was founded in Smyrna, perhaps to commemorate Rome’s victory against Antiochus III. Mellor has argued that her cult was a method of religio-political diplomacy that modified traditional Greco-Eastern divine monarchic honors to Republican norms: divine honors to the divine personification of the Roman state acknowledged the authority of its offices, the Republic, and the city, but did not supplant local, Greek cult to specific Roman benefactors.

Featured image: The goddess Roma (right) and the personification of the Campus Martius (left) witness the apotheosis on the wings of Aion (Eternal Time) of Antoninus Pius and Faustina. Relief from the base of the column of Antoninus Pius, 2nd century AD. Vatican City, Courtyard of the Pinecone


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