Luna (mythology)

For other uses, see Luna.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Luna is the divine embodiment of the Moon (Latin luna; cf. English "lunar"). She is often presented as the female complement of the Sun (Sol) conceived of as a god. Luna is also sometimes represented as an aspect of the Roman triple goddess (diva triformis), along with Proserpina and Hecate. Luna is not always a distinct goddess, but sometimes rather an epithet that specializes a goddess, since both Diana and Juno are identified as moon goddesses.[1]

In Roman art, Luna's attributes are the crescent moon and the two-yoke chariot (biga). In the Carmen Saeculare, performed in 17 BC, Horace invokes her as the "two-horned queen of the stars" (siderum regina bicornis), bidding her to listen to the girls singing as Apollo listens to the boys.[2]

Varro categorized Luna and Sol among the visible gods, as distinguished from invisible gods such as Neptune, and deified mortals such as Hercules.[3] She was one of the deities Macrobius proposed as the secret tutelary of Rome.[4] In Imperial cult, Sol and Luna can represent the extent of Roman rule over the world, with the aim of guaranteeing peace.[5]

Luna's Greek counterpart was Selene. In Roman art and literature, myths of Selene are adapted under the name of Luna. The myth of Endymion, for instance, was a popular subject for Roman wall painting.[6]

Cult and temples

Varro lists Luna among twelve deities who are vital to agriculture,[7] as does Vergil in a different list of twelve, in which he refers to Luna and Sol as clarissima mundi lumina, the world's clearest sources of light.[8] Varro also lists Luna among twenty principal gods of Rome (di selecti).[9] In this list, Luna is distinguished from both Diana and Juno, who also appear on it.

The Romans dated the cultivation of Luna as a goddess at Rome to the semi-legendary days of the kings. Titus Tatius was supposed to have imported the cult of Luna to Rome from the Sabines,[10] but Servius Tullius was credited with the creation of her temple on the Aventine Hill, just below a temple of Diana.[11] The anniversary of the temple founding (dies natalis) was celebrated annually on March 31.[12] It first appears in Roman literature in the story of how in 182 BC a windstorm of exceptional power blew off its doors, which crashed into the Temple of Ceres below it on the slope.[13] In 84 BC, it was struck by lightning, the same day the popularist leader Cinna was murdered by his troops.[14] The Aventine temple may have been destroyed by the Great Fire of Rome during the reign of Nero.[15]

As Noctiluna ("Night-Shiner") Luna had a temple on the Palatine Hill, which Varro described as shining or glowing by night. Nothing else is known about the temple, and it is unclear what Varro meant.[16]

Juno as moon goddess

The Kalends of every month, when according to the lunar calendar the new moon occurred, was sacred to Juno, as all Ides were to Jupiter.[17] On the Nones, she was honored as Juno Covella, Juno of the crescent moon.[18] Both Juno and Diana were invoked as childbirth goddesses with the epithet Lucina.[19]

Chariot of the moon

In this relief depicting a Mithraic tauroctony, Luna drives a biga drawn by oxen (right), while the Sun drives a horse-drawn quadriga (left)
Luna (top right corner) paired with the Sun (top left) in another depiction of the tauroctony

Luna is often depicted driving a two-yoke chariot (biga), drawn by horses or oxen. In Roman art, the charioteer Luna is regularly paired with the Sun driving a four-horse chariot (quadriga).

Isidore of Seville explains that the quadriga represents the sun's course through the four seasons, while the biga represents the moon, "because it travels on a twin course with the sun, or because it is visible both by day and by night—for they yoke together one black horse and one white."[20]

Luna in her biga was an element of Mithraic iconography, usually in the context of the tauroctony. In the mithraeum of S. Maria Capua Vetere, a wall painting that uniquely focuses on Luna alone shows one of the horses of the team as light in color, with the other a dark brown.[21]

A biga of oxen was also driven by Hecate, the chthonic aspect of the triple goddess in complement with the "horned" or crescent-crowned Diana and Luna.[22] The three-form Hecate (trimorphos) was identified by Servius with Luna, Diana, and Proserpina.[23] According to the Archaic Greek poet Hesiod, Hecate originally had power over the heavens, land, and sea, not as in the later tradition heaven, earth, and underworld.[24]

See also

References

External link

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