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FMA NEXT is our project name for relaunching Free Music Archive. Fortuna (Latin: Fortūna, equivalent to the Greek goddess Tyche) is the goddess of fortune and the personification of luck in Roman religion who, largely thanks to the Late Antique author Boethius, remained popular through the Middle Ages until at least the Renaissance. The blindfolded depiction of her is still an important figure in many aspects of today's Italian culture, where the dichotomy fortuna / sfortuna (luck / unluck) plays a prominent role in everyday social life, also represented by the very common refrain "La [dea] fortuna è cieca" (latin Fortuna caeca est; "Luck [goddess] is blind").
Fortuna is often depicted with a gubernaculum (ship's rudder), a ball or Rota Fortunae (wheel of fortune, first mentioned by Cicero) and a cornucopia (horn of plenty). She might bring good or bad luck: she could be represented as veiled and blind, as in modern depictions of Lady Justice, except that Fortuna does not hold a balance. She was also a goddess of fate: as Atrox Fortuna, she claimed the young lives of the princeps Augustus' grandsons Gaius and Lucius, prospective heirs to the Empire. Fortuna's father was said to be Jupiter and like him, she could also be bountiful (Copia). June 11 was consecrated to her: on June 24 she was given cult at the festival of Fors Fortuna.
The two earliest temples mentioned in Roman Calendars were outside the city, on the right bank of the Tiber (in Italian Trastevere). The first temple dedicated to Fortuna was attributed to the Etruscan Servius Tullius, while the second is known to have been built in 293 BC as the fulfilment of a Roman promise made during later Etruscan wars. The date of dedication of her temples was 24 June, or Midsummer's Day, when celebrants from Rome annually floated to the temples downstream from the city. After undisclosed rituals they then rowed back, garlanded and inebriated. Here Fortuna was twinned with the cult of Mater Matuta (the goddesses shared a festival on 11 June), and the paired temples have been revealed in the excavation beside the church of Sant'Omobono: the cults are indeed archaic in date. Fortuna Primigenia of Praeneste was adopted by Romans at the end of 3rd century BC in an important cult of Fortuna Publica Populi Romani (the Official Good Luck of the Roman People) on the Quirinalis outside the Porta Collina.
No temple at Rome, however, rivalled the magnificence of the Praenestine sanctuary. Fortuna's identity as personification of chance events was closely tied to virtus (strength of character). Public officials who lacked virtues invited ill-fortune on themselves and Rome: Sallust uses the infamous Catiline as illustration – "Truly, when in the place of work, idleness, in place of the spirit of measure and equity, caprice and pride invade, fortune is changed just as with morality".
An oracle at the Temple of Fortuna Primigena in Praeneste used a form of divination in which a small boy picked out one of various futures that were written on oak rods. Cults to Fortuna in her many forms are attested throughout the Roman world. Dedications have been found to Fortuna Dubia (doubtful fortune), Fortuna Brevis (fickle or wayward fortune) and Fortuna Mala (bad fortune).
Fortuna is found in a variety of domestic and personal contexts. During the early Empire, an amulet from the House of Menander in Pompeii links her to the Egyptian goddess Isis, as Isis-Fortuna.
who is often represented as her counterpart: both appear on amulets and intaglio engraved gems across the Roman world. In the context of the early republican period account of Coriolanus, in around 488 BC the Roman senate dedicated a temple to Fortuna on account of the services of the matrons of Rome in saving the city from destruction. O Fortune, who dost bestow the throne's high boon with mocking hand, in dangerous and doubtful state thou settest the too exalted.
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Never have sceptres obtained calm peace or certain tenure; care on care weighs them down, and ever do fresh storms vex their souls. great kingdoms sink of their own weight, and Fortune gives way ‘neath the burden of herself. Sails swollen with favouring breezes fear blasts too strongly theirs; the tower which rears its head to the very clouds is beaten by rainy Auster. Whatever Fortune has raised on high, she lifts but to bring low. Modest estate has longer life; then happy he whoe’er, content with the common lot, with safe breeze hugs the shore, and, fearing to trust his skiff to the wider sea, with unambitious oar keeps close to land. The humiliation of Emperor Valerian by king Shapur I of Persia (260) passed into European cultural memory as an instance of the reversals of Fortuna. In Hans Holbein's pen-and-ink drawing (1521), the universal lesson is brought home by its contemporary setting. Saint Augustine took a stand against her continuing presence, in the City of God: "How, therefore, is she good, who without discernment comes to both the good and to the bad? It profits one nothing to worship her if she is truly fortune... In the 6th century, the Consolation of Philosophy, by statesman and philosopher Boethius, written while he faced execution, reflected the Christian theology of casus, that the apparently random and often ruinous turns of Fortune's Wheel are in fact both inevitable and providential, that even the most coincidental events are part of God's hidden plan which one should not resist or try to change. Fortuna, then, was a servant of God, and events, individual decisions, the influence of the stars were all merely vehicles of Divine Will.
In succeeding generations Boethius' Consolation was required reading for scholars and students. Fortune crept back into popular acceptance, with a new iconographic trait, "two-faced Fortune", Fortuna bifrons; such depictions continue into the 15th century.