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FORTUNA. Fortune, a goddess to whose worship the Romans were devoutly attached. The common people regarded her as a divinity who distributed good and evil among mankind according to her caprice and without any regard to merit. The more sensible of the ancients either denied the existence of this deity or understood by Fortune nothing more than Divine Providence whose decrees being unknown to mortals made human events appear to happen by chance.
The Romans who were, at the earliest period of their history content to consult Sors et Fortuna at Antium, afterwards adopted the goddess into the number of their tutelaries and consecrated nearly thirty temples to her in the different districts of the city. Servius Tullius set the first example which was followed by Ancus Martius and it was largely adopted in the time of the Republic. The Emperor Nero built a temple to Fortune of transparent stones.
The Romans mystically believed that Fortune after deserting the Persians and Assyrians took flight over Macedonia and saw Alexander perish as she passed into Egypt and into Syria. At last arriving on Mount Palatine she threw aside her wings and casting away her wheel, entered Rome where she took up her abode for ever.
Fortune was Sulla's favorite divinity. To her and not to himself or his own wisdom, was he accustomed to ascribe all the glory of his many achievements. In allusion to this he assumed the name of Felix.
The Romans gave many different names to this versatile goddess. The following are those which appear on coins, viz: Antiatina, Bona, Felix, Fors, Mala, Muliebris, Manens, Obsequens, Primigenia, Redux and lastly Fortuna Augusta (or Augusti) and Fortuna Populi Romani (see those names, suis locis).
Fortune appears on a great number of imperial coins (in each metal and size and from Augustus to Diocletian) with the legend FORTVNA, but more frequently FORTVNA AVG and AVGVSTI. She is shown wearing the stola, standing or seated, holding in her right hand a rudder, resting on the prow of a ship and in her left hand, a cornucopia. In some types a wheel appears at her feet or under her chair as in Albinus, Gordian III, etc. On other specimens we see her with the rudder planted on a globe as in Verus, Commodus, etc., but the cornucopia is her invariable attribute.
- See GENIUS.