Fortuna Augusta is a form of the Roman Goddess of Fortune and
Good Luck Who looks after the prosperity of the Emperor. Her cult was associated
with the genius or guardian spirit of the Emperor. Augusta, meaning
"sacred, dignified, or majestic" was a title of the imperial period
which was given to the consort of the Emperor (who was called Augustus,
after the first Emperor, Octavian). Augusta then is an epithet used specifically
of the imperial family, symbolically making Fortuna a "spouse" of
the Emperor who is intimately connected with him.
Every man had a genius, as every woman had a juno;
and the genius ensured that a man was virile and able to father children.
The genius of the Emperor, the Genius Augusti, kept watch over the Emperor and
kept him fortunate and fertile, for his lot was symbolically the lot of the
Roman state. Offerings were made to the Genius Augusti at every formal dinner,
by decree of the Senate, probably as a thanks for the bounty received during
the Emperor's reign.
Fortuna Augusta was just one of many divine qualities the Emperor
was supposed to personify, and Her worship formed part of the imperial cult.
The first Roman leader who was deified was Julius Caesar, though Augustus (Octavian)
was the first Emperor to be made a God after his (His) death. But early Emperors
seem to have been somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, and only allowed true
Emperor worship for those who had already died (though in the eastern stretches
of the Empire worship of the living family was practiced, in association with
the Goddess Roma), instead shifting the worship of the living Emperor to his
genius. The crazy Emperors like Nero had no such qualms though, and in
time the living Emperor (and His family) were worshipped as Gods and given sacrifices,
and Emperor worship was expected of the people as an expression of patriotism.
As part of this cult, Fortuna Augusta was honored, and several altars to Her
have been found.
Fortuna as a propagandistic tool of the reigning Emperor was
featured on coins, to connect Her good luck and prosperity with his reign. On
one coin of Hadrian, She is shown shaking His hand; on one of the Emperor Claudius
She stands with him in the temple of Roma and Augustus (the deified city of
Rome and the Emperor) and offers him a wreath as for a victory. Sometimes a
female member of the imperial family was depicted in guise of Fortuna, making
the Goddess a part of his family.
Fortuna Augusta had a temple in Pompeii which was built by Marcus
Tullius; according to the inscription on it the temple was built solo et
pequnia sua, "on his land and at his own expense". Tullius was
a local magistrate who had held numerous other offices, and been made a military
officer by the Emperor Augustus himself. This temple was dedicated in 3 or 4
CE, but heavily damaged in the earthquake of 62CE (a preliminary grumbling of
the volcano Vesuvius which was to cataclysmically erupt 15 years later) and
was never rebuilt. It had been a very beautiful and magnificent building, faced
with marble and of very good workmanship, but the damage was too extensive and
the material was reused in other buildings. Inside had been a statue of Fortuna,
with Her rudder and probably an oar (another metaphor for Her ability to drive
destiny) as well as other statues in niches along the interior side walls. With
Her temple damaged and not rebuilt, one wonders if the eruption of Vesuvius
which was to completely wipe out any trace of Pompeii was taken as a sign that
Fortuna had abandoned the city...
Also called: Fortuna Caesaris