Fortuna, the Goddess of Luck

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Fortuna is a Roman goddess equivalent to the Greek goddess Tyche.

She is the goddess of fortune and the personification of luck who gained popularity in the Middle Ages and at least into the Renaissance, in great part because of the Late Antique author Boethius. In many facets of contemporary Italian society, the duality fortuna / sfortuna (luck / unluck) plays a significant part in daily social life. This contradiction is also symbolized by the recurrent idiom “La [dea] fortuna è cieca” (latin Fortuna caeca est; “Luck [goddess] is blind”).

She might be shown as veiled and blind, like in contemporary Lady Justice representations, except that Fortuna does not maintain a balance. She might bring good luck or terrible luck. Fortuna began to stand for the erratic nature of life. She was also a goddess of fate, taking the young lives of Gaius and Lucius, the princeps Augustus’ grandsons and potential heirs to the Empire, as Atrox Fortuna. (She was also known as Automatia in ancient.) A cornucopia, a ball or Rota Fortunae (the wheel of fortune, originally referenced by Cicero), and a gubernaculum (a ship’s rudder) are frequently used to represent Fortuna (horn of plenty).

Fortuna was thought to be the daughter of Jupiter, and like him, she had the potential to be abundant (Copia). She defended grain supply while posing as Annonaria. She was given a special day on June 11 and had cult treatment on June 24 during the Fors Fortuna festival. The name Fortuna appears to be derived from Vortumna (she who revolves the year). The personification of random occurrences, Fortuna, had a tight relationship with virtus (strength of character).

Featured image: Fortuna, inv. 2244 – Braccio Nuovo, Museo Chiaramonti – Vatican Museums.



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