Protection is perhaps one of the most defining traits of what truly forges a well-respected deity.
With the throbs of power, charisma, flair, and countless tales to their name, a deity with such characteristics would have mastered the art of protection and defense. Of all the Roman gods and goddesses, Jupiter, the King of Gods, Goddesses, and Men, held the title of the supreme Roman deity. His Greek counterpart, of course, was none other than Zeus himself.
However, even Jupiter required a capable consort by his side. It is said that behind every successful man, there is a woman. Though Jupiter’s matrimony revolved around one goddess, he did indulge in countless affairs just like his Greek counterpart.
Defying Jupiter’s raging libido, there stood that one goddess by his side sworn to the spirit of protection and overwatch. Her duties were not only confined to serving Jupiter but also the realms of all men.
That, indeed, was Juno, the wife to Jupiter and the Queen of all gods and goddesses in Roman Mythology.
Juno and Hera
As you will see, there are countless similarities between Greek and Roman mythology.
This is because the Romans adopted Greek mythology as their own during their conquest of Greece. As a result, their theological beliefs were immensely shaped and influenced by it. Hence, the gods and goddesses have equivalent counterparts within each other’s religions.
For Juno, this was Hera. She was Zeus’ wife in Greek mythology and was the Greek goddess of childbirth and fertility. In addition to her doppelganger’s duties, Juno held dominion over multiple aspects of the Roman lifestyle, which we will now take a deeper look at.
A Closer Look At Hera and Juno
While Hera and Juno may be doppelgangers, they indeed have their differences. As you already know, Juno is the Roman version of Hera. Her duties are similar to her Greek counterpart, but in some instances, they extend well beyond the Greek Queen of the gods.
Hera’s psychological aspects revolve around her vindictiveness against Zeus’ lovers, springing from her profoundly rooted jealousy towards them. This adds to Hera’s aggressiveness and stands a somewhat human touch to her celestial character. As a result, even though she is portrayed as a solemn goddess, her jealousy in Greek tales aggravates her dominant silence.
On the other hand, Juno takes on all the duties that Hera has to look over with the addition of other attributes such as war and affairs of the state. This doesn’t concentrate the Roman goddess’ powers on individual factors such as fertility. Instead, it amplifies her duties and solidifies her position as a protector goddess over the Roman state.
If we put both Juno and Hera up on a chart, we may begin to see the differences pop out. Hera has a more peaceful side to her reflecting the Greek culture of dissecting philosophies and encouraging more humane art.
On the other hand, Juno has an aggressive warlike aura that is a product of Rome’s direct conquest raging upon Greek lands. Both, however, retain the characteristics of jealousy and hate towards the extramarital affairs of their “loving” husbands.
Owing to her thunderous and promising presence on the battlefield, Juno sure did flex a suitable attire for it.
Due to Juno’s role as a really powerful goddess with her duties over many aspects of life, she was depicted as wielding a weapon and garbed in a cloak woven from goatskin. To go along with the fashion, she also donned a goatskin shield to ward off unwanted mortals.
The cherry on the top was, of course, the diadem. It served as a symbol of power and her status as a sovereign goddess. It was an instrument of both fear and hope for the Roman people and a display of celestial might that shared common roots with her husband and brother Jupiter.
As the Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth, her symbols ranged over various sentient objects that project her intentions of securing purity and protection of the Roman state.
As a result, one of her symbols was the cypress. Cypress is considered a symbol of permanence or eternity, which accurately indicates her lasting presence in the hearts of all those who worshiped her.
Pomegranates were also an important symbol often witnessed at the temple of Juno. Due to their deep red color, pomegranates could’ve symbolized menstruation, fertility, and chastity. All these were indeed important attributes in Juno’s checklist.
Other symbols included creatures such as peacocks and lions, which symbolized her might as the Queen of the other Roman deities and all mortals. Naturally, these animals were considered sacred due to Juno’s religious affiliation with them.
Juno and Her Many Epithets
Being the absolute badass of a goddess, Juno sure did flex her crown.
As the Queen of the gods and goddesses and the protector of general wellbeing, Juno’s duties were not only confined to women. Her roles were distinguished through multiple branches such as vitality, military, purity, fertility, femininity, and youthfulness. Quite a step up from Hera!
Juno’s roles in Roman mythology varied over multiple duties and were separated into epithets. These epithets were essentially variations of Juno. Each variation was responsible for specific tasks to be carried out over a vast range. She was the Queen, after all.
Below, you will find a list of all the said variations that can be traced back to Roman beliefs and tales over many aspects of their lives.
Here, “Regina’” refers to, quite literally, the “Queen.” This epithet revolves around the faith that Juno was Queen of Jupiter and the female patron of all society.
Her constant surveillance over feminine matters such as childbirth and fertility contributed to her symbolizing purity, chastity, and protection for Roman women.
Juno Regina had been dedicated to two temples in Rome. One was enshrined by Furius Camillus, a Roman statesman, near the Aventine Hill. The other one was dedicated to the Circus Flaminius by Marcus Lepidus.
As Juno Sospita, her powers were directed toward all who were entrapped or confined in childbirth. She was the symbol of relief for every woman suffering from labor pain and imprisoned by the lingering uncertainty of the near future.
Her temple was in Lanuvium, an ancient city located a couple of kilometers southeast of Rome.
Alongside worshiping Juno, the Romans connected the duties of blessing childbirth and fertility to another minor goddess named Lucina.
The name “Lucina” comes from the Roman word “lux,” which stands for “light.” This light can be attributed to moonlight and the moon, which was a strong indicator of menstruation. As Juno Lucina, the queen goddess, kept close watch over women in labor and growth of the child.
Juno Lucina’s temple was near the church of Santa Prassede, right by a small grove where the goddess was worshiped since ancient times.
This variation of Juno upholds the values of the Roman military. Being the harbinger of war and defense, Juno Moneta was depicted as a sovereign warrior. As a result, she was honored by the Roman empire’s army in hopes of her support on the battlefield.
Juno Moneta also protected the Roman warriors by blessing them with her strength. Her fit was on fire here too! She was depicted as donning hefty armor and armed with an imposing spear to ward off the enemies with total preparation.
She also protected the state funds and the general flow of money. Her watch over monetary expenditure and Roman coins symbolized fortune and goodwill.
Juno Moneta’s temple was on Capitoline Hill, where she was worshiped alongside Jupiter and Minerva, the Roman version of the Greek goddess Athena, forming the Capitoline Triad.
Juno and the Capitoline Triad
From the Triglav of Slavic Mythology to the Trimurti of Hinduism, the number three holds a special meaning in terms of theology.
The Capitoline Triad was no stranger to this. It consisted of Roman mythology’s three most important gods and goddesses: Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.
Juno was an integral part of this Triad due to her many variations providing constant protection over different aspects of Roman society. The Capitoline Triad was worshiped on Capitoline Hill in Rome, though any temples dedicated to this trinity were named “Capitolium.”
With Juno’s presence, the Capitoline Triad continues to be one of the most integral parts of Roman mythology.
Meet Juno’s Family
Like her Greek counterpart Hera, Queen Juno was in opulent company. Her existence as Jupiter’s wife meant she was also the mother of the other Roman gods and goddesses.
However, to track down the importance of her role within this royal family, we must look to the past. Due to the Roman conquest of Greece (and the subsequent merging of mythology), we can connect Juno’s roots to the equivalent Titans of Greek mythology. These Titans were the original rulers of Greece long before they were overthrown by their own children- the Olympians.
The Titans in Roman mythology did not hold much significance to the people. Still, the state revered their powers which stretched over a more existential field. Saturn (the Greek equivalent of Cronus) was one such Titan, who also happened to hold dominion over time and generation.
Sharing the story from Greek mythology, the Romans believed that Saturn consumed his children as they came out of Ops’ (Rhea) womb because he feared that he would be overthrown by them one day.
Talk about sheer insanity.
The godly children who fell victim to Saturn’s hungry stomach were Vesta, Ceres, Juno, Pluto, Neptune, and Jupiter, aka Demeter, Hestia, Hades, Hera, Poseidon, and Zeus, respectively, in Greek mythology.
Jupiter was saved by Ops (known as Rhea, the mother of the gods, in Greek mythology). Due to her witty mind and courageous heart, Jupiter grew up on a distant island and soon returned for vengeance.
He overthrew Saturn in a godly clash and rescued his siblings. Thus, the Roman gods began their rule, establishing a golden period of perceived prosperity and the prime faith of the Roman people.
As you might have guessed, Juno was one of these royal children. A family to stand the test of time, indeed.
Juno and Jupiter
Despite the differences, Juno still did retain some of Hera’s jealousy. In one scenario described with quick velocity by Ovid in his “FASTI,” he mentions one particular myth where Juno has an exciting encounter with Jupiter.
It goes like this.
The Roman goddess Juno approached Jupiter one fine night and saw that he had given birth to a beautiful bubbly daughter. This girl was none other than Minerva, the Roman goddess of Wisdom or Athena in Greek tales.
As you might have guessed, the horrific scene of an infant coming out of Jupiter’s head was traumatizing for Juno as a mother. She hurriedly ran out of the room, grieving that Jupiter had not required her ‘services’ to produce a child.
Subsequently, Juno approached the Ocean and started venting all her worries regarding Jupiter to the sea foam when she was met by Flora, the Roman goddess of flowering plants. Desperate for any solution, she begged Flora for any drug that would help her in his case and gift her with a child without Jupiter’s help.
This, in her eyes, would be a direct retaliation toward Jupiter giving birth to Minerva.
Flora Helps Juno
Flora was hesitant. Jupiter’s rage was something she greatly feared as he was, of course, the supreme king of all men and gods in the Roman pantheon. After Juno assured her that her name would be kept secret, Flora finally gave in.
She handed a flower to Juno bound with magic plucked straight from the fields of Olenus. Flora also stated that if the flower touched an infertile heifer, the creature would immediately be blessed with a child.
Lifted emotionally by Flora’s promise, Juno sat up and requested her to touch her with the flower. Flora performed the procedure, and in no time, Juno was blessed with a baby boy squirming happily on the palms of her hands.
Flora sent Juno’s creation along with her as she ascended to the heavens, with a smile as big as the moon on her face.
Juno and Io
Here’s where we start to see Juno cracking down on Jupiter’s cheating posterior. This is precisely where we realize that Juno married a cheating cow (quite literally, as you will see) instead of the loving chief deity of the Roman people that we assume Jupiter to be.
The story begins as such. Juno was chilling and flying over the sky like any ordinary goddess would on any given day. During this celestial journey through the firmament, she comes across this dark cloud that looks strangely out of place because they are in the midst of a group of white clouds. Suspecting something was wrong, the Roman goddess swooped right down.
Right before she did, she realized that this could be a disguise cooked up by her loving husband Jupiter to hide his flirting sessions with, well, essentially any woman below.
With a quivering heart, Juno blew the dark cloud away and flew down to probe into this severe matter, considering their marriage was at stake here.
Without any doubt, it was, indeed, Jupiter camped right there by a river.
Juno was happy when she saw a female cow standing close beside him. She was relieved for a while because there was no way Jupiter would be having an affair with a cow while being a man himself, right?
Juno goes all out
Turns out, this female cow was actually a goddess that Jupiter was flirting with, and he managed to morph her into the animal in the nick of time to hide her from Juno. This goddess in question happened to be Io, the Moon Goddess. Juno, of course, didn’t know this, and the poor deity went on to compliment the cow’s beauty.
Jupiter whips up a quick lie and says it was just another magnificent creation gifted by the abundance of the universe. When Juno asks him to hand it over, Jupiter rejects it, and this absolutely dumb move intensifies Juno’s suspicions.
Fazed by her husband’s rejection, the Roman goddess summons Argus, the Hundred-Eyed giant, to watch over the cow and prevent Jupiter from reaching it anyhow.
Hidden under the watchful gaze of Argus, poor Jupiter couldn’t even save her without blowing the ruse. So the mad lad called Mercury (Roman equivalent of Hermes, and a known trickster god), the messenger of Gods and orders him to do something about it. Mercury eventually slays the optically overpowered giant by distracting him with songs and saves the ten thousandth love of Jupiter’s life.
Jupiter finds his chance and rescues the damsel in distress, Io. However, the cacophony immediately grabbed Juno’s attention. She swooped down from the heavens once more to exact revenge on her.
She dispatched a gadfly in pursuit of Io as she ran worldwide in cow form. The gadfly would aim to sting poor Io countless times as she attempted to run away from its terrifying chase.
Eventually, she came to a halt on the sandy shores of Egypt when Jupiter promised Juno that he would stop flirting with her. That finally calmed her down, and the Roman king of the gods morphed her back into her original form, letting her leave his mind with tears in his eyes.
On the other hand, Juno directed her ever-watchful eyes closer toward her unfaithful husband, wary of everything else she would have to deal with.
Juno and Callisto
Enjoyed the last one?
Here’s one more tale about Juno’s endless quest to unleash total hell upon all of Jupiter’s lovers. It was highlighted by Ovid in his famous “Metamorphoses.” The myth, once again, begins with Jupiter rendered unable to control his loins.
This time, he went after Callisto, one of the nymphs within Diana’s (the goddess of hunting) circle. He disguised himself as Diana and raped Callisto, unbeknownst to her that the apparent Diana was actually the great thunderer himself, Jupiter.
Not long after Jupiter violated Callisto, Diana discovered his clever ruse through Callisto’s pregnancy. When the news of this pregnancy reaches Juno’s ears, you can only imagine her reaction. Enraged by this newfound lover of Jupiter, Juno started firing on all cylinders.
Juno Strikes Again
She descended into the fray and turned Callisto into a bear, hoping that it would teach her the lesson of staying away from the seemingly loyal love of her life. However, fast forward a couple of years, and things began to become a bit mushy.
Remember that child Callisto was pregnant with? Turns out, it was Arcas, and he had fully grown over the last couple of years. One fine morning, he was out hunting and came across a bear. You guessed it right; this bear was none other than his own mother. Finally returning to his moral senses, Jupiter decided to slip once more under Juno’s eyes and pull Callisto out of danger.
Right before Arcas was about to strike the bear with his javelin, Jupiter turned them into constellations (known as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor in scientific terms). As he did that, he ascended to Juno and subsequently hid another one of his loverly rescues from his wife.
Juno frowned, but the Roman goddess once again made the mistake of believing in the great god’s crystalline lies.
As one of the primary goddesses in Roman mythology, Juno wears the cloak of power. Her watch over feminine attributes such as fertility, childbirth, and marriage may be one of the key highlights of her Greek counterpart. However, in Roman practice, it stretched far beyond just that.
Her presence was integrated and worshiped within many branches of everyday life. From monetary expenditure and war to menstruation, Juno is a goddess with countless purposes. While her quirks of jealousy and anger may occasionally come up in her tales, they are examples of what could happen if lesser beings dared cross her path.
Juno Regina. The queen of all gods and goddesses.
The epitome of a many-headed snake ruling over ancient Rome with just her might. However, it is indeed one that could inject venom if startled.