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Caprotina is an epithet of Juno in Her aspect as a fertility Goddess. As Juno Caprotina She is associated with goats (Latin capra, "she-goat", caper, "he-goat") and with figs, both of which are symbolic of fertility: the fig fruit bears many seeds, and goats are well-known for their randiness. Her festival was called the Nonae Caprotina, or the "Nones of Caprotina", held on the nones or 7th day of July, and it was exclusively celebrated by women, especially slave-women.

The Roman explanation of the Nonae Caprotina is thus: after Rome had survived a siege by the Gauls (historically in the 4th century BCE), some of the less-friendly neighboring Latin tribes decided to take advantage of Rome's weakened position and demanded Roman women in marriage, under the threat of destroying the city. While the Senate debated what to do, a slave-woman named Tutela took the matter into her own hands: with a group of other slave-women dressed as free women, she went to the amassed enemy army, and under the guise of celebrating a wedding feast, got the Latins quite drunk. After they had fallen asleep the slave-girls took their weapons, and Tutela climbed a nearby wild fig tree (caproficus in the Latin) and waved a torch as signal for the Romans to attack. This they did, and as a reward for the resulting victory, the Senate gave each slave-woman who participated her freedom, as well as a generous dowry. After that, in remembrance of the victory, the Nonae Caprotina were celebrated. Fig-branches and the milky sap of the fig-tree were offered to Juno, and festivities, feasts and rites were held in the fig-grove of the Campus Martius (the Plain of Mars).

Another explanation for this festival was that it commemorated the day that Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, mysteriously vanished during a thunderstorm, after which He was believed to have been taken by the Gods and made immortal. The site of His disappearance was the Palus Caprae (or "Goat's Marsh") in the Campus Martius, a swampy basin not far from the spot where the Pantheon is nowadays. The Nonae Caprotinae were also connected with the Poplifugia of the 5th of July, traditionally said to commemorate the people's panicky flight when faced with either a) the enemy army come to seize the women, or b) the occasion of Romulus's disappearence into thin air. The actual, original meaning of the Poplifugia had been long forgotten, though it may have referred to a ritual defeat or chasing away of the neighboring Latin armies. Another connection between the Nonae Caprotinae and the Poplifugia is that it was traditional on the Nonae Caprotinae for the women to run or be chased from the Temple of Juno to the fig-grove where a feast was held.

Goats, figs, and a fleeing populace are the common threads in these traditions; also located near the Palus Caprae (which is the name given to that area only in the legend of Romulus' disappearance) were the Aedicula Capraria, the Shrine of the Goat, and the Vicus Caprarius, a road literally named "Goat Street", which was probably named so because it led to the Aedicula Capraria. It is not known if the Aedicula Capraria was used in the festivities of the Nonae Caprotina, though that would seem likely. And yet another tradition names the invading army that frightened the populace so as being from Ficulea or Ficulnea, an ancient Sabine town whose name means "Of the Fig-Tree".

The various and confused explanations given for the two related festivals point to both their importance and their ancient origins. Probably they are both linked to the fig-harvest, which takes place in Italy in June and July, and to Juno as a Goddess of the fig tree who ensured a bountiful crop. The milk-like sap of the fig tree connects it with fertility, both of Juno as the Mother Goddess—who was after all equated with the Greek Hera, whose spilled breast milk was said to have formed the Milky Way—and of goats themselves, who were often kept for milk (even now a bowl of goat's milk is a part of the traditional breakfast offered in Rome). The fertility of the figs and goats brought by Juno Caprotina was probably seen as encouraging the fertility of the women, as certain of the rites of the Nonae Caprotinae compare with the Lupercalia, a festival also dedicated to fertility. The other major theme of the Poplifugia and the Nonae Caprotina (as well as the Lupercalia) was the ritual spiritual cleansing of the city: the fig was known in ancient times as a purgative, and thus associated with the driving out of evil (as both figs and fig-branches were used in the Greek rite of the Thargelia, when Athens was symbolically cleansed), so that the people and the crops might prosper. The Flight of the People (enemy army or panicky populace) may also connect to a symbolic driving out of enemies or bad spirits.

Juno Caprotina was usually depicted with goats, naturally enough: on one coin She rides a biga, a two "horse" chariot in this case drawn by a pair of goats; Her dress flows in the wind of Her speed and She holds what looks like a riding crop. On another coin, on which Her portrait is stamped, She wears a head-dress made of goat-hide, with the goat's head over Her own so that the horns are preserved in the back, and the lower jawline of the goat runs along Her own.

Alternate spelling: Capratina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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