Vita Gazette

News from Italy

by Alessandro Romano

Once upon a time there lived a beautiful young girl named Flora. One day, she went out for a walk in the country gardens that she loved very much. While she was smelling every flower,  encountered the god of wind. Zephyr (Zephyros-Favonius) kidnapped Flora, whose beauty he immediately fell in love with. He gave her the power to dominate all flowering plants and crops as a wedding gift. Flora, after that, began to flower the trees and dominate every blooming plant.

The name Flora comes from the Latin word ‘flos’ meaning flower. She was a fairy. She appeared in the world of art and literature as a fairy with flowers in her hair. During the Renaissance, many painters and artists were inspired by Flora and drew her as the goddess of flowers and spring.

Flora, one of the oldest Roman goddesses, woke up with the warming of the weather this year. She put on her tunic and cloak. She wore spring flowers on her head. She took in her hand a bunch of flowers of all colors and varieties of nature. She began to touch the flowers one by one. Flowers began to sprout from every plant she touched. Because spring is Flora’s season. Flowers, love, fertility and abundance were her characteristic…

But Flora’s power did not end there.  She also had an important influence on the birth of the god Mars. Indignant that Jupiter had driven Minerva out of his own head, Juno appealed to Flora to have a child without having intercourse with a man. Flora gave Iona a flower that made her pregnant when she touched it. Thanks to this flower, the goddess Iona was able to create ‘Mars’ by herself. That’s why the Romans named the first month of the year Mars (March), emphasizing its relationship with Flora and spring.

People started to organize festivities in honor of Flora, the fairy of rebirth, fertility, beauty and flowers, which started on April 27 and lasted until May 3. During the six-day festival, horse races, athletics competitions, games celebrating the goddess and theater performances were held. People would come to this event with flowers in their hair and colorful clothes to please the goddess. 

The meaning of this six-day festival was not just to please the goddess. It was the time when people worked, produced, and then freely had fun and did what they wanted. Celebrating Flora represented celebrating life in general and all the beauty in it. Everywhere was decorated with bright colors and flowers. The ability to regenerate and give people a new chance to do things was a wish for everyone. That’s why the goddess Flora is one of the most beloved Roman gods.

On the first day, people would bring wheat as an offering to the goddess, and milk and honey on the following days. People have always loved Flora, so they brought their offerings regularly. Because Flora was the goddess of renewal, fertility and flowers, and the products of that period represented survival and the continuation of life. At some point, the entire festival was stopped due to the reckless behavior of some people.

                                                 Flora, Rome Capitolino Museum

The Roman Emperor of the time, Titius Tatius, had a shrine and temple built in honor of Flora. The temple was built near the Circus Maximus, where chariot races were once held and later used as a stadium.

The ballet dedicated to Flora was called Flora’s Awakening. There is also Henry Purcell’s opera “Fairies and Shepherds” in which one of the characters is the goddess Flora.

Statues dedicated to this Roman goddess can be found all over Rome as well as the rest of Europe. For example, there is one in the Roman Capitoline and one in Szczecin in Poland.

Today, not only Rome, but all of Italy is decorated with all kinds of flowers. From balconies to parks… Could it be for the fertile Flora and her army of flowers? Come and participate in this beautiful festival…


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