The third novel in my Tales of Ancient Rome saga is entitled Call to Juno. It is set in the final year of a ten year siege between the Etruscan city of Veii and the nascent Republican Rome in 396 BC. These cities were situated only 12 miles apart across the Tiber River but the differences in their societies were marked. The Etruscans were sophisticated and cosmopolitan with trading links extending across the Mediterranean whereas Roman society was insular, warlike and agrarian. Accordingly, by crossing a strip of water, it was like moving from somewhere akin to the Dark Ages into the Renaissance.
There were many contrasts between the enemy societies but interestingly the pantheons they worshipped contained the same gods with different names. One such Etruscan deity was Uni, called Juno by the Romans. Her counterpart in Greece was Hera. Most modern readers know this goddess as the consort of the king of the gods, namely, Jupiter (Roman), Tinia (Etruscan) or Zeus (Greek.) And the divine spouses were included in a holy triad with Minerva in all three cultures.
In Rome, Juno held many roles and was worshipped in many guises. She must have been extremely busy given all her functions! As the goddess of marriage, she protected a bride in her role as Juno Pronuba or Cinxia ‘she who loosens the girdle.’ She was also a mother goddess and protector of children. As Juno Lucina, she looked over women in childbirth, bringing light to the newborn. As she was associated with new beginnings, her sacred day was the Kalends or first day of the month. Juno Lucina was celebrated in the Matronalia festival on 1 March, the first day of spring in the old Roman calendar. On that day matrons and their husbands visited the temple, laid flower wreaths, and prayed for the protection of their marriages by sacrificing lambs and cattle. The wives would undo their belts and loosen their hair to encourage Juno to also loosen their wombs and bless them with children. Husbands would give them presents, and female slaves were provided with special meals and excused from work.
This gentler aspect of Juno’s nature was contrasted with her role as a warrioress. Juno Sospita or ‘the Saviour’ was a special guardian of Rome in times of war. She wore a horned goatskin helmet and carried a shield and spear. As Juno Moneta, she was the protector of ‘funds.’ Coins were minted in her temple on the citadel on the Capitoline Hill.
The Juno in my third novel refers to Juno Regina – ‘the queen.’ Legend states that Veii’s guardian, the Etruscan Uni, was enticed to forsake that city with the promise of being housed in a new temple built especially for her. This was the first example of the practice known as an ‘evocatio,’ a ceremony by which a Roman general lured the chief divinity of a foreign city to Rome through the promise of games and honours. There is dispute, however, as to whether Juno Regina was already an ancient Latin goddess known to the Romans or was only introduced when the dictator Camillus wooed her. This conjecture fuelled my interest in how divinities have their own origins and histories. Yet the fact Camillus built Juno Regina’s temple on the Aventine Hill may be proof that she was indeed introduced to Rome rather being an already established manifestation of the deity. My research revealed that, although Rome adopted foreign cults, alien gods were not allowed within the city’s holy boundary ie pomerium. The pomerium, however, did not always fall within the footprint of Rome’s city wall. This is the case with the Aventine Hill. Presumably Camillus built the temple for Juno Regina there rather than on the Capitoline because Uni was a foreign deity. Hence the traitorous Veientane goddess was unable to truly place a footstep in Rome’s sacred territory.
The history of the war between Veii and Rome can’t be altered no matter how much I wish it could. Nevertheless, I hope readers will enjoy finding out what fate Juno Regina decreed for all my characters in the dramatic final confrontation portrayed in Call to Juno.
Elisabeth Storrs, May 2, 2016
Elisabeth Storrs is an Australian author who graduated from University of Sydney in Arts Law, having studied Classics. Her curiosity piqued by an Etruscan sarcophagus depicting a couple embracing for eternity, she discovered the little known story of the struggle between Etruscan Veii and Republican Rome and the inspiration to write the Tales of Ancient Rome Saga.