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Fortuna.

When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes I all alone beweep my outcast state...
~ William Shakespeare's Sonnet 29

Fortuna, also known as Lady Fortune, was the Roman goddess of chance, fortune, luck and fate, and the counterpart to the Greek goddess Tyche.

Description

Like her father, Jupiter, Fortuna could grant bounty to those she chose. In early Rome, she did so in the form of a good harvest. Farmers thanked Fortuna for bringing them plentiful food, a form of luck that was not guaranteed in the ancient world. She was also a protective goddess who kept crops and grain stores safe from spoilage, fire, rodents, thieves, and other dangers.

The plentiful harvest brought by Fortuna inspired one of her most well-known symbols. The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, is still used today in imagery of plentiful good and good fortune. The bounty that Fortuna could bring soon expanded beyond agricultural concerns. Fortuna could also bring material wealth.The concept of good fortune expanded even more to include all forms of luck.

This goddess, unlike others, did not disappear from culture when Christianity settled in Europe, and she was often referred to depicted in poetry and painting, being called Lady Fortune.

Overview

She was said to be the daughter of Jupiter, the King of the Roman gods, which might be borrowed from Greek mythology, where the Zeus is one of the speculated fathers of Tyche. She was inspired in large part by the Greek goddess Tyche. While Tyche was generally connected to the fortunes of a city or state, however, Fortuna had a much broader domain.

Roman people invoked Fortuna whenever chance or luck might play a role in their lives. She was seen as a general goddess of fate who could influence events on both a large and small scale. Like Tyche, Fortuna could give her favor to an entire city or population. In the grand scope of the vast Roman Empire, she could influence the fates of millions of people through a single action.

Fortuna was not an entirely benevolent goddess, however. Both good luck and bad were due to her influence. Seen as a general goddess of fate, the whims of Fortuna could not be predicted. Ill fortune was as much as domain as bounty. The Wheel of Fortune, one of the goddess’s most enduring symbols, was first mentioned in the 1st century BC. It represented the unpredictable and often changeable nature of luck.

When two potential heirs to the throne died unexpectedly, for example, that was the result of Fortuna. Any bad luck from natural disasters to minor inconveniences were as much a result of Fortuna as good luck was.

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