Juno was a Roman goddess who provided general protection for the state of Rome and also provided specific protection for every part of a woman’s life. Juno was married to Jupiter, the supreme Roman god who ruled over all the other gods and goddesses. Many of the Roman gods and goddesses eventually became similar in descriptions and traits to Greek gods and goddesses, mainly because Rome had conquered Greece and was then influenced by Greek culture and religion. However, the Roman gods were originally Roman in all aspects.
Juno was one of the three original gods honored on the Quirinal and the Capitoline, which were significant and important places in Rome. The wife of Jupiter, Juno was also Jupiter’s sister. Jupiter, Neptune, Ceres, Pluto, Vesta and Juno were all siblings. Their father was the Roman god Saturn. Juno had these children: Mars, Bellona, Juventas and Vulcan.
Some fun facts about Juno:
Her sacred animal was the peacock.
She often dressed in warlike attire such as weapons and a goatskin cloak.
She was the Goddess of married women.
The month of June is named in Juno’s honor because more marriages were performed then.
Juno was the sole parent of Mars, giving birth to him from a magical flower.
Juno had several names – Juno Regina (queen), Juno Sospita (protector of prisoners), Juno Lucina (light and the goddess of childbirth) and Juno Moneta (moon). There was a sanctuary built on the Arx, the northern part of Capitoline Hill, which was placed close to the Roman mint. A mint is where a country’s money is made. The word “money” actually comes from Juno’s name for moon, “Moneta.”
Juno had her own festival, the Matronalia, on March 1. March is the beginning of spring and signals renewal and growth. On this holiday husbands were supposed to give their wives gifts. The day that was chosen was to commemorate the birthday of Juno’s son, Mars, the god of war. A temple honoring Juno was erected in 375 BC on that date. Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines, established this festival in honor of the peace between the Sabines and the Romans after the marriages between the Romans and the Sabine women following the end of their war.
The legend of how the peacock, Juno’s sacred bird, got the markings on its tail feathers is all about the tale of Io, one of Jupiter’s many girlfriends. Jupiter disguised Io as a white cow and gave her to his wife Juno. Juno was not fooled and set her favorite servant named Argus to watch over Io, in order to prevent Jupiter from visiting Io. Argus had 100 eyes and could watch Io while some eyes slept and some stayed awake. The god Hermes was sent by Jupiter to kill Argus, which he did. Juno later took the eyes of Argus and set them on the tail feathers of her favorite bird, the peacock.
Juno was a major player in the Aeneid, an epic poem written by the Roman poet Virgil sometime between 29 and 19 BC. The Aeneid takes place right after the events in the Iliad, written by Homer many centuries before the Aeneid. The Iliad describes the events during the last weeks of the 10-year Trojan and Greek war, wherein the Greeks were besieging the city of Troy. Troy was ultimately defeated when the Greeks left a large wooden horse outside the city gates and seemingly departed. The Trojans brought the horse inside the city gates. When night fell, the Greek soldiers that were hidden inside the horse came out and let the Greeks outside the walls into the city, thus defeating Troy.
The Aeneid recounts the journeys of Aeneas and other Trojans who were looking for a new home after the defeat of Troy. Juno loved the city of Carthage and knew that prophecy foretold of the city of Rome one day destroying Carthage. So, she tried her best to stop events from happening that would fulfil the prophecy. Aeneas, a Trojan warrior from the city of Troy, was destined to have descendants named Romulus and Remus who would found the city of Rome.
Therefore, if Juno could destroy Aeneas, then Rome would never come to be. And the fact that Paris, another Trojan of Troy, had chosen the goddess Venus over Juno in a beauty contest between the goddesses added fuel to the fire of her wrath against all things from Troy.
Unfortunately for Juno, no matter how hard she tried, events kept conspiring against her. First she made sure that Aeneas and his men were stranded in the city of Carthage, where Queen Dido fell in love with Aeneas and persuaded him to stay. However, the god Mercury persuaded Aeneas to eventually leave Carthage for the island of Sicily. There, Juno caused the Trojan women to burn the boats, but Aeneas was still able to leave. Juno created a storm at sea to stop him, but the god Neptune (ruler of the oceans) intervened. Aeneas sailed onward and landed in Italy. Juno’s attempts to stop Aeneas from getting to Italy failed, and subsequently his descendants founded the city of Rome.