Is The Month of June Named After Roman Goddess Juno?

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Roman Goddess Juno

The Roman Goddess Juno embodied fertility. Kiscelli Museum. Painting by Jakob Warschag, image by Szilas.

Juno was one of the major public deities of Rome.

Is she simply a Roman version of Hera? Actually, Juno originated amongst the latins of central Italy before Rome adopted her.

Juno’s aspects of power and fertility made her of vital importance to the Romans. Perhaps that is why they named June after her.

Or did they?

Juno’s Name

The origin of Juno’s name is uncertain but historians believe it derives from the root word iuventas meaning youth. It was once supposed that the goddess derived her name from the female equivalent of the Roman male genius, (a higher aspect of the personality), which was known as the Iuno.

Historians now think this is unlikely – as the Iuno was a later invention than the genius.

 Juno’s Italic Origins

Cults of Juno were well established in the Italic states surrounding Rome from antiquity. She was the principle deity of many towns, representing rulership and strength.

In Lanuvium, Juno was Juno Sospita or ‘Sospitia Mater Regina.’ The residents portrayed Juno, the chief deity of the town, carrying a shield, spear and wearing a goatskin, revealing a threefold role as a goddess of rulership, fertility and war. This common theme repeated in Juno’s other cities.

The Juno Regina of  Veii was very similar to Juno Sospita. The Junos of Falerii, Tiber and Beneventum also echoed the theme of strong rulership. Falerii, one of the twelve chief Etruscan towns knew their Juno as Juno Quiritis or Curritis and the goddess was venerated by her own priests in her sacred grove.

In Tiber, (modern Tivoli), the goddess was known as Juno Curitis and in Campania at Beneventum as Juno Quiritis.

In antiquity, these names were variably linked to the latin currus or ‘chariot’ or curis: ‘spear.’ But the etymology is by no means certain.

Rome Acquires Juno

Rome adopted many of these italic cults of Juno after the conquest of their original cities. This was through a Roman practise known as evocatio. Basically, the evocatio petitioned the  diety of the enemy city to abandon its original host and transfer its allegiance to Rome. Often, the Romans promised temples and cults to the god as an incentive.

In Juno’s case, it worked. Dionysus of Halicarnassus describes how, as early as the time of Romulus, the King’s Sabine ally, Titus Tatius, brought the Cult of Juno Quiritis to Rome.  In 396BC, followers relocated the Cult of Juno Regina from Veii to Rome’s Aventine Hill after the goddess abandoned the city for Rome. Juno Sospita  followed in 338BC.

Juno: Goddess of Mints and Mothers

Once in Rome, Juno’s character began to develop. The temple  of Juno Moneta was reputedly established on the Arx of the Capitoline on the first of June 344BC, on the site of the house of Manlius Capitolinus in fulfillment of a vow for victory over the Aurunci.

The name ‘moneta’ comes from monere ‘to warn’ but because the first mint in rome was later located near her temple, moneta became associated with coinage- hence the derivative term ‘money.’

Juno was also widely connected with women’s issues.   In Latium and Rome, she was the goddess of childbirth in her guise of Juno Lucina. To Ovid, the name ‘Lucina’ is derived from lux or in the plural form luces- the latin for ‘light’, particularly daylight. Cicero , on the other hand associated it with lucere ‘to shine,’ specifically the moon at night and attributed the name to Juno because of this connection between the moon and the length of pregnancy.

 Greek and Carthaginian Associations

Tunisie_Néapolis_musée_17

Juno Caelestis, the version of Juno associated with the goddess Tanit of Carthage, in the Muesuem of Nabeul, Tunisia. Image by M Rais.

As Rome’s conquests spread, the Romans discovered other goddesses who could be affiliated with Juno. They included the Carthaginian Tanit and the Goddess Hera, who Juno resembled in the Capitoline Triad.

 June: The Month of Juno?

As Rome’s Queen of the gods, Juno’s transformation was complete. ‘I love no nation more’ says the Juno of Ovid’s Fasti.

But did the Roman’s love their chief goddess enough to name the month of June after her?

The Ovid’s Juno certainly believed this was the case. “Why call me regina ‘queen’ and princeps goddess, why place the golden sceptre in my hand? Shall days or luces make a month and title me ‘lucina’ and I draw no month’s name?” says the goddess.

But in the Fasti, other dieties appear to argue against Juno’s belief. The goddess Juventas claims that June is named – like Juno herself – from the iuventas, the young people, one of the two age specific groups Romulus divided the roman people into.

The Goddess Concordia attributes the month’s name to an event from the same era but this time referring to iunctus-the joining of the Roman and Sabine communities.

But interestingly, according to Macrobius’s Saturnalia , the month of June  was known as Junonius or ‘of juno’ by the Latins of Aricia and Praeneste (1.12.30), suggesting the Roman’s may have inherited the name of the month along with the goddess.

June, Juno, Junonius: Roman and Italic Origins

The jury is out on whether the Romans named June after their queen of the gods. But she is certainly the goddess we most associate with the month today.

© Copyright 2014 Natasha Sheldon, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Past

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