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Topic: Temple of Juno Regina on the Aventine

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Juno, Queen of the Gods

Nancy  Thomson de Grummond and Erika Simon (referenced below, at p. 61) observed that, from an early date, the Greek goddess Hera, the wife of Zeus, was widely venerated by the Latins and Faliscans as Juno and by the Etruscans as Uni.  This goddess also seems to have been worshipped at Rome in the regal period: as Howard Scullard (referenced below, at p. 19) observed:

  1. “The most famous of Rome's temples was that on the Capitol, [which was] begun by Tarquinius Priscus, completed by Tarquinius Superbus, and dedicated in the first year of the Republic to the Etruscan triad, Tinia, Uni and Menrva under the Roman form of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.”

However, the earliest known Roman temple dedicated to Juno alone was built on the Aventine by the dictator Marcus Furius Camillus to house a cult statue of Uni that he captured in 396 BC, after the Roman subjugation of the Etruscan city-state of Veii.

Calling of Uni/Juno from Veii (396 BC)

Green = Etruscan city-states of Veii, Caere and Volsinii



According to Livy, on the eve of the Romans’ last and decisive engagement in their long war with Veii, after Camillus had:

  1. “... taken the auspices and issued orders for the soldiers to arm for battle, he uttered this prayer:

  2. ‘... Queen Juno, who inhabits Veii, when we are victors [and Veii is conquered], I beseech you to accompany us into our city, which is  soon to be yours, where a temple worthy of your majesty shall receive you”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 21: 3).

Veii duly fell, and:

  1. “When the Romans had carried away all human wealth from Veii, they began to remove the offerings to their gods and the gods themselves, but more after the manner of worshippers than of plunderers: youths selected from the entire army, who were charged with conveying queen Juno to Rome, thoroughly washed their bodies and arrayed themselves in white garments before entering her temple with profound adoration.  At first, they [touched the statue] with religious awe because, according to the Etruscan custom, only a priest of a certain family [could do so].  Then, when [one of them] ...  asked: ‘Juno, are you willing to go to Rome?’, the rest ... shouted that the goddess had nodded assent.  An addition was afterwards made to the story, [claiming] that her voice was heard, declaring that ‘she was willing’.  [Whether or not this had been the case], it is certain ... that, having been raised from her place by machines of trifling power, she was light and easily removed ... [She was thus] safely conveyed to the Aventine Hill, her eternal seat, to which the vows of [Camillus] had invited her; ... the same Camillus ... afterwards dedicated a temple to her [on the Aventine]”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 22: 3-8).

Dionysius of Halicarnassus

Dionysius of Halicarnassus gave a shorter but essentially similar account account, with the addition of the claim that the young men repeated their question to Juno in order to be sure that they had heard her correctly:

  1. “This same Camillus, when conducting his campaign against Veii, made a vow to Queen Juno of the Veientes that, if he should take the city, he would set up her statue in Rome and establish costly rites in her honour.  Accordingly, upon the capture of the city, he sent the most distinguished of the knights to remove the statue from its pedestal.  When they came into the temple and one of them ... asked whether the goddess wished to move to Rome, the statue answered in a loud voice that she did.  This happened twice; for the young men, doubting whether it was the statue that had spoken, asked the same question again and heard the same reply”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 13: 3). 


Plutarch, who cited Livy, nevertheless introduced an important variant of this legend, in which Camillus himself asked Juno to agree to move to Rome:

  1. “After [Camillus] had utterly sacked the city, he determined to transfer the image of Juno to Rome in accordance with his vows.  It is said that, when the workmen were assembled for the purpose, and as Camillus was sacrificing and praying that the goddess would accept of their zeal and [agree to join] the gods of Rome, the image spoke in low tones and said she was ready and willing.  However, Livy says that Camillus did indeed lay his hand upon the goddess and pray and beseech her, but that it was certain of the bystanders who gave answer that she was ready and willing and eager to go along with him”, (‘Life of Camillus’, 6:  1-2).

Roman Isaenko (referenced below, at p. 24) argued that:

  1. “... [since] Plutarch names Livy as his source, it can be assumed that ... [he] merely forgot about the young warriors, [who, according to Livy, had been charged with asking the goddess to acquiesce and whom Livy ] never again mentioned... [He therefore] naturally ascribed their actions to Camillus, the man who plays the most prominent part in [Livy’s Book 5].  Another, less likely. possibility is that Plutarch knew of a different version of the legend that he misattributed to Livy.”

Calling of Uni/Juno from Veii: Conclusions

These surviving accounts demonstrate that, at least by the Augustan period, the Romans believed that Camillus had won the acquiescence of Uni, the patron goddess of Veii, to transfer her allegiance to Rome.  In their eyes (and perhaps in reality), the physical transfer of her cult image to the Aventine marked Rome’s complete subjugation of Veii.  This was to be the first step in the long process of conquering Etruria, which finally ended with the fall of Volsinii in 264 BC.

Temple of Juno Regina on the Aventine

Adapted from Eric Orlin (referenced below, 2002, at p. 10)

Construction and Dedication of the Temple

When Camillus returned to Rome in triumph:

  1. “... he signed a contract for building the temple of Juno Regina on the Aventine and dedicated another to Mater Matuta.  After having thus discharged his duties to gods and men, he resigned his dictatorship”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 23: 5-7). 

In 392 BC:

  1. “... the consuls Lucius Valerius Potitus and Marcus Manlius (later surnamed Capitolinus) celebrated the ‘Great Games’ that [Camillus] had vowed when dictator in the Veientine war [of 396 BC]’and  the Temple of Juno Regina, which [Camillus] had also vowed [in 396 BC]”, (History of Rome’, 5: 31: 2-3).

The fasti Fratres Arvales (CIL VI 2295, ca. 30 BC) record the dies natalis of the temple Iunoni Reginae in Aventino as the 1st September.

Location of the Temple

Livy and the fasti Fratres Arvales placed Camillus’ temple on the Aventine, which was within the Servian walls of Rome but outside the pomerium (religious boundary).   Two inscriptions (CIL VI 364 and 365) found near the church of Santa Sabina mention the goddess and might well indicate the approximate location of her temple. 

Eric Orlin (referenced below, 2002, at p. 5) pointed out that the Aventine:

  1. “... has long been recognised as a favourite spot [for the construction of temples devoted to newly-introduced foreign cults at Rome]; in chronological order, we can list temples [there] to:

  2. Diana (supposedly erected by Servius Tullius, which we may take as an indication of a pre-republican foundation);

  3. Mercury (dedicated in 495 BC);

  4. Ceres, Liber and Libera (493 BC);

  5. Juno Regina (392 BC);

  6. Summanus (ca. 278 BC);

  7. Vortumnus (ca. 264 BC);  ... [and]

  8. Minerva (whose temple [was founded at an unknown date before] the end of the third century BC).”

Interestingly, Vortumnus was probably ‘called’ from another Etruscan city-state, Volsinii: while the calling of Uni/ Juno from Veii marked the start of Rome’s subjugation of the Etruscans, the calling of Voltumna/ Vortumnus from Volsinii marked its completion.

Evocatio Deorum ?

Festus (probably following the Augustan scholar Verrius Flaccus) recorded that the Romans regarded as ‘foreign’ those cults that were observed at Rome:

  1. “... for gods:

  2. who were ‘called forth’ [by the Romans]  ... in the course of besieging their cities and forcibly brought to Rome; or

  3. who, on account of some religious scruple, the Romans had sought in peace, such as:

  4. the Magna Mater from Phrygia;

  5. Ceres from Greece; [and]

  6. Aesculapius from Epidauros;

  7. [all of whom] are worshipped according to the custom of those from whom they were received”, (‘De verborum significatu’, 268 L, based on the translation by Eric Orlin, referenced below, 2015, search on Festus).

In this passage, Festus/ Verrius Flaccus used the verb evocare (to summon or call forth) in relation to the Romans’ appropriation of foreign gods during war.  Pliny the Elder elaborated on the ritual nature of this process, at least as he understood it in the 1st century AD:

  1. “Verrius Flaccus cites reliable authors to show that, at the start of a siege, it was the custom for the Roman priests to summon forth the tutelary divinity of that particular town, and to promise him the same rites, or even a more extended worship, at Rome; and even at the present day, this ritual still forms part of our pontifical law”, (‘Natural History’, 28: 4).

Macrobius, who was writing in the early 5th century AD, also described such a ritual:

  1. “... it is commonly understood that all cities are protected by some god, and that it was a secret custom of the Romans ... that, when they were laying siege to an enemy city and were confident that it could be taken, they used a specific spell evocarent tutelares deos (to call out the gods that protected it), either because they believed the city could not otherwise be taken or (even if it could be taken) they thought it against divine law to hold gods captive”, (‘Saturnalia’, 3: 9, translated by Robert Kaster, referenced below).

Modern scholars refer to this putative ritual as evocatio deorum and often refer to four occasions when this putative ritual was used:

  1. in 396 BC, for the calling of Juno from Veii;

  2. in ca. 264 BC, for the calling of Vortumnus from Volsinii;

  3. in ca. 241 BC, for the calling of Juno Curitis from Falerii; and

  4. in 146 BC, for the calling of Juno Caelestis (Tanit) from Carthage.

For example, Giorgio Ferri (referenced below) devoted a chapter to each of these putative examples.  It is certainly true that each of them coincided with the end of the city in question as a political force.  However, Eric Orlin (referenced below, 2015, search on ‘looms’) argued that:

  1. “... the evocatio looms much larger in the Roman imagination (and particularly in the imagination of [the time at which Verrius Flaccus, for example was writing]) than it seems to have done in practice.  That is, the Romans believed they had a tradition of calling out the divinities of besieged towns, but they seem to have done it in practice only rarely; the Veii example is one of the few reported instances accepted as historical by most scholars, and even [this claim] has its detractors.” 

Roman Isaenko (referenced below) is one of these detractors: he pointed out (in his abstract at p. 23) that, even in the case of Veii:

  1. “.. none of the... [surviving] accounts of the statue’s transfer ... [to Rome] present it as a part of a ritual.”

He concluded that:

  1. “... the legend of the transfer of Juno Regina is not meant to depict a particular ritual, and has emerged merely to provide an explanation of the fact that the ancient Etruscan image [from Veii] has found its place in Rome

  1. Read more: 

R. Isaenko ,”Evocatio and the Transfer of Juno Regina from Veii”, Philologia Classica. 12: 1 (2017) 21-8

E. Orlin, “Sacra Peregrina; ‘Foreignness’ in Roman Rites”, (2015) presented at the SBL annual meeting and published on-line

R. A. Kaster (translator), “Macrobius: Saturnalia, Volume I: Books 1-2”, (2011) Cambridge (MA)

G. Ferri, “Tutela Urbis: Il Significato e la Concezione della Divinità Tutelare Cittadina nella Religione Romana”, (2009) Stuttgart

N Thomson de Grummond and E. Simon, “Religion of the Etruscans”, (2006) Austin (Texas)

E. Orlin, “Foreign Cults in Republican Rome: Rethinking the Pomerial Rule”, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 47 (2002) 1-18

H. H. Scullard, “Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, (1981) London

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