Bellona: The Roman Goddess of War and Artistic Muse

Bellona: The Roman Goddess of War and Artistic Muse

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Linked to war, destruction, conquest, and bloodlust, Bellona was a mighty figure in the ancient Roman pantheon of gods. As a personification of war, Bellona became quite a popular figure in the arts of later ages. The image of the goddess, decked out in armor and wearing a plumed helmet while carrying a shield and brandishing a sword or spear, has graced many paintings and inspired poetry, music, and literature.

She is commonly associated with Mars, the Roman god of war, and had counterparts in other areas of the ancient Mediterranean world. Enyo, the personified spirit of war, for instance, was her equivalent in ancient Greece, whilst the people of Anatolia worshipped a similar goddess known as Ma.

‘Bellona’ (1633) by Rembrandt.

Mythical Connections

Bellona is believed to be the offspring of Jupiter and Jove. As the goddess of war, she is also closely associated to Mars , though this relationship is ambiguous. She has been variously referred to as his wife, sister, daughter, or charioteer. In some cases, she has also been identified with Neria, another ancient war goddess who was the cult partner of Mars.

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It has been speculated that the goddess was originally a deity of the Sabine people, an Italic tribe that once inhabited Central Italy. When Rome was founded, some of the Sabines migrated to the new city and brought Bellona along with them. It is recorded that the first temple dedicated to Bellona was built by the Romans in 296 BC.

‘Bellona Presenting the Reins of his Horses to Mars’ , Louis Jean François Lagrenée, 1766, in the Princeton University Art Museum.

In that year, the Romans were at war with the Samnites, and the consul, Appius Claudius Caecus (nicknamed ‘the blind’), vowed to build a temple in honor of the goddess. This vow was fulfilled, and a temple to Bellona was erected in the southern part of the Campus Martius, not far from the Circus Flaminius.

The Temple of Bellona

The Campus Martius was located outside the city walls of Rome, and, as its name suggests, was dedicated to Mars. Hence, this area was closely associated with soldiers and the army. The importance of the Temple of Bellona, with regards to military matters, can be seen in the fact that it was the place where the Roman Senate would meet generals who were victorious in their campaigns before their Triumphs. It was also at the Temple of Bellona that war would be officially declared.

Bellona with Romulus and Remus by Alessandro Turchi.

There was a column in front of the temple which signified Rome’s frontier and the area around the temple was regarded as foreign soil, thus a symbolic representation of the enemy’s lands. By throwing a javelin over this column in the direction of the enemy’s territory, war was officially declared. As the temple grounds were not considered to be Roman soil, the Temple of Bellona was also used to receive foreign ambassadors, since they were not allowed to proceed beyond the city walls.

The Temple podium.

Bellona was served by a group of priests known as the Bellonarii. The 24th of March was known as dies sanguinis (meaning ‘day of blood’), during which the Bellonarii partook in rituals that involved the shedding of human blood. These priests would wound their own arms and legs, collect the blood that flowed, and either offered it to the goddess, or drank it themselves to enter a war-like fury. In later times, such rituals were reduced to symbolic acts.

Depicting a Goddess of War

It seems that no representation of Bellona in artworks have survived from the Roman period. It is from later European cultures that her depictions are found. These include paintings and sculptures where she is often depicted as a woman in a plumed helmet, clad in armor, and carrying a sword or spear and a shield.

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A statue of the Roman war goddess Bellona by the German Rococo sculptor Johann Baptist Straub, 1770.

Apart from the visual arts, this goddess of war also appears in the performing arts, as well as in literature. For instance, she appears in the Prologue of Rameau’s opera-ballet Les Indes galants , whilst Shakespeare refers to her in several of his plays, including Macbeth and Henry IV, Part I .

Modern representation of Bellona, without the plumed helmet. ( CC BY SA )

Roman Goddesses A-Z 🔱📜

ADDucation&rsquos list of Roman goddesses includes the parents, consorts, siblings, groups and titles of Roman godesses. ADDucation&rsquos mega list of Roman deities also includes siblings, offspring and Greek equivalents. Similarly ADDucation&rsquos other lists on Greek and Roman mythology include key facts, trivia and fascinating insights into the everyday lives of Greek and Roman people.

ADDucation Tips: Click column headings with arrows to sort Roman goddesses. Reload page for original sort order. Resize your browser to full screen and/or zoom out to display as many columns as possible. Click the ➕ icon to reveal any hidden columns. Use the &ldquoFilter table&hellip&rdquo to find any Roman deity quickly. Key: Female entities are in bold+Italics. Male entities are in bold.

  • Antevorta
  • Postvorta
  • Carmenta / Carmentis
  • Egeria /Aegeria.

Notes and FAQ about ADDucation Roman Goddesses A to Z list:

  • [1] Di selecti: 20 main Roman goddesses and gods.
  • [2] Di flaminales: 15 Roman goddesses and gods with devoted flamens (priests, plural &ldquoflamines&rdquo).
  • [3] Indigitamenta: Roman deities primarily known by name alone, or as an epithet of a major god or a minor entity or epithets of major gods. The College of Pontiffs maintained the indigitamenta list to ensure the correct names were invoked in public prayers.
  • [4] Abstract deity: Divine personification of a virtue which can be invoked in prayer or used as an epithet &ldquobyname/nickname&rdquo.
  • [6] Chthonic deity: Underworld &ldquosubterranean&rdquo god/goddess or spirit.
  • This list of Roman deities is primarily compiled from the works of Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 BC) and Roman poet Ovid (43 BC


June 4th - Secular Games (non-annual), birth of Socrates in 468 BC, & Trajan leaves Rome in 105 AD for Romania at the start of the 2nd Dacian War.

1) 468 BC: The philosopher Socrates' birthday. Socrates was put to death at the age of 82 by a democratic vote in Athens. Having questioned all forms of authority for years, he was finally charged with being an atheist by his enemies, although no evidence was given.

"His (Socrates') formula for prayer was simple: 'Give me that which is best for me,' for, said he, the Gods know best what good things are - to pray for gold or silver or despotic power were no better than to make some particular throw at dice or stake in battle or any such thing the subject of prayer, of which the future consequences are manifestly uncertain."

2) On this day in 105 AD the Emperor Trajan left Rome for Mosia and to wage the second Dacian War against King Decebalus, resulting in the acquisition of a new trandanubian province in 107AD. The spoils from this conquest helped build Trajan's forum and the column describing the two campaigns within. The Dacian treasure has been estimated to have been enough to fund the entire Roman Army for 22 years without demands being made through central taxation.

3) In 7 BC the Ludi Saeculares continued into the fourth day.

There is a gap in the Acta Sacrorum Saecularium Celebratorum on what exactly was performed on 4 June. However an edict was issued either on the third or forth extending the Ludi:

"And an edict was issued in the following words: The quindecimviri sacris faciundis decree: We have added seven extra days of games to the holy rites of the games, and we shall commence them on the Nones of June (5 June) with plays in Latin in the wooden theatre which is next to the Tiber at the second hour Greek shows in the theatre of Pompey at the third hour Greek stage plays in the theatre which is in the Circus Flaminius at the fourth hour."

Emperor Claudius celebrated the Ludi Saeculares again in 47 AD to mark the 800th anniversary of the Founding of Rome. Domitian celebrated them again in 88 AD, roughly one hundred years after they were instituted by Augustus. Then in 204 AD Severus marked the second hundredth years and in 248AD Philippus again celebrated the Ludi Saeculares.

Bedford Roman Villa Project

ante diem XVI Kalendas July (16th Day to the Kalends of July)
June 16th - On this day in 391 Emperor Theodosius' Edict of Aquilea closing of all non-Christian temples in Egypt, beginning the end of the toleration of all non-Christian religions in the empire.

1) In 390 AD the arrest of a popular charioteer led to a revolt in Thessalonica. In retaliation, Theodosius order a massacre of 7,000. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, then excommunicated Theodosius until such time as he would expiate himself of the crime. On Christmas day 390 Theodosius was once again allowed to take communion, and afterward he began to use his imperial power against the culti Deorum expatriae. On 24 February 391 CE Theodosius issued an edict from Milan that said, "No one is to go to the sanctuaries, walk through the temples, or raise his eyes to statues created by the labor of man." Then on 16 June 391 another edict of similar provisions was issued from Aquilea to the military governor of Egypt (Codex Theod. 16.10.10-11).

Theophilus, the Bishop of Alexandria, immediately set out, under the authority of the edict, to destroy the sanctuaries in and around Alexandria. Seizing a temple, he mocked the sacred articles he discovered there within. This caused an uprising of non-Christians in Alexandria, who took refuge in the main temple of the city, the Serapeum, which they fortified into a citadel. Imperial soldiers surrounded and assaulted the Serapeum, destroying it in their attack.

The immediate consequence of this end of toleration of non -Christian religions was the flight of scholars from Alexandria the burning of the great library, and the end of Alexandria as the leading intellectual centre of the ancient world.

2) This is the first day of June on which marriages could take place with the blessings of fortune.

3) In Ancient Greece, every four years, this was the second day of the Olympic Games.

4) On this day the Egyptians celebrated the “Night of the Teardrop,” the original name for the festivities surrounding the flooding of the Nile each year, in remembrance of the extent of the Goddess Isis' lamentation of the death of her lover Osiris, her tears so plentiful they caused the Nile to overflow. This is now celebrated annually by Egyptian Muslims and is called "The Night of the Drop".

Bedford Roman Villa Project

ante diem XVII Kalendas July - Seventeenth day before the Kalands of July (June 15th)

The "Quando Stercus Delatum," the ancient Egyptian New Year & first day of the ancient Olympic Games.

1) The "Quando Stercus Delatum." This day concludes the previous weeks of religious celebration and purification associated with Vestalia ends with the final act of purification of the temple. On this day, too, the accumulated trash of the festivals was thrown, ceremoniously, into the Tiber. This was as symbolic of final purification as it was necessary by this time.

2)This is the ancient Egyptian New Year's Day. On this day the Dog Star (Sirius) rises for the first time just before dawn. This event heralded the first flooding of the Nile (usually). The precision with which this particular day could be identified in the clear skies and open horizons of Egypt led the Egyptians to declare the year had 365 days several centuries before the first Dynasty or sometime around 3500 BC.

3) This day saw the start of the Olympic Games every four years in ancient Greece.

The ancient Olympic Games were originally a festival, or celebration of and for Zeus later, events such as a footrace, a javelin contest, and wrestling matches were added.

The earliest myths regarding the origin of the games are recounted by the Greek historian, Pausanias. According to the story, the dactyl Heracles (not to be confused with the son of Zeus and the Roman god Hercules) and four of his brothers, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius and Idas, raced at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus. He crowned the victor with an olive wreath (which thus became a peace symbol), which also explains the four year interval, bringing the games around every fifth year (counting inclusively). The other Olympian gods (so named because they lived permanently on Mount Olympus) would also engage in wrestling, jumping and running contests.

Since these myths were documented by historians like Pausanias, who lived during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the AD 160, it is likely that these stories are more fable than fact. It was often supposed that the origins of many aspects of the Olympics date to funeral games of the Mycenean period and later. Alternatively, the games were thought to derive from some kind of vegetation magic or from initiation ceremonies. The most recent theory traces the origins of the games to large game hunting and related animal ceremonialism.

The first Olympics is traditionally dated to 776 BC. They continued to be celebrated when Greece came under Roman rule, until the emperor Theodosius I suppressed them in AD 393 as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of Rome. The games were held every four years, or olympiad, which became a unit of time in historical chronologies.

During the celebration of the games, an Olympic Truce was enacted so that athletes could travel from their cities to the games in safety. The prizes for the victors were olive leaf wreaths or crowns. The games became a political tool used by city-states to assert dominance over their rivals. Politicians would announce political alliances at the games, and in times of war, priests would offer sacrifices to the gods for victory. The games were also used to help spread Hellenistic culture throughout the Mediterranean. The Olympics also featured religious celebrations. The statue of Zeus at Olympia was counted as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Sculptors and poets would congregate each olympiad to display their works of art to would-be patrons.

The ancient Olympics had fewer events than the modern games, and only freeborn Greek men were allowed to participate, although there were victorious women chariot owners. As long as they met the entrance criteria, athletes from any Greek city-state and kingdom were allowed to participate, although the Hellanodikai, the officials in charge, allowed king Alexander I of Macedon to participate in the games only after he had proven his Greek ancestry The games were always held at Olympia rather than moving between different locations as is the practice with the modern Olympic Games. Victors at the Olympics were honored, and their feats chronicled for future generations.


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Minerva, in Roman religion, the goddess of handicrafts, the professions, the arts, and, later, war she was commonly identified with the Greek Athena. Some scholars believe that her cult was that of Athena introduced at Rome from Etruria. This is reinforced by the fact that she was one of the Capitoline triad, in association with Jupiter and Juno. Her shrine on the Aventine in Rome was a meeting place for guilds of craftsmen, including at one time dramatic poets and actors.

Her worship as a goddess of war encroached upon that of Mars. The erection of a temple to her by Pompey out of the spoils of his Eastern conquests shows that by then she had been identified with the Greek Athena Nike, bestower of victory. Under the emperor Domitian, who claimed her special protection, the worship of Minerva attained its greatest vogue in Rome.

Roman Goddesses

Names of Roman Goddesses
The roles and names of Roman Goddesses. There were many female deities and divinities of ancient Rome and their names and roles are detailed in the charts in this article. According to ancient Roman mythology there were 6 major gods and six major goddesses collectively called the 'Dei Consentes' who sat on the Council of Gods and their names are the most famous. However, the charts also include the names of the primeval deities and the names of the Titans and the names of goddesses who were considered the lesser or minor deities. Additional interesting facts and information about the mythology of individual gods and goddesses of these ancient civilizations can be accessed via:

Picture of Ceres mourning the loss of Proserpina

Roman Goddesses
The Roman Goddesses are a combination of Roman deities and those of different civilizations, mainly the Greeks. The Romans habitually assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the goddesses that were worshipped by the ancient Greeks. When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC many of the Greek goddesses were adopted by the Romans who changed their names to Latin equivalents. Examples of the counterparts of Greek and Roman Goddesses are Juno and Hera, Demeter and Ceres, Hestia and Vesta, Artemis and Diana, Athena and Minerva, Aphodite and Venus and Persephone and Proserpina.

Names of Minor Roman Goddesses
The names of some of the notable, but minor Roman Goddesses were as follows:

  • Abundantia was the Goddess of Abundance and Prosperity
  • Aurora, goddess of the dawn
  • Bellona goddess of war
  • Bubona was the Goddess of cattle
  • Candelifera was the Goddess of childbirth
  • Carmenta was the Goddess of Childbirth and Prophecy
  • Clementia was the Goddess of forgiveness and mercy
  • Cloacina was the Goddess who presided over the sewers in Rome
  • Concordia was the Goddess of agreement
  • Cybele, fertility goddess
  • Deverra was the Goddess of midwives and women in labor
  • Discordia was the Goddess of Strife and Discord
  • Edesia was the Goddess of food who presided over banquets
  • Fama was the Goddess of fame and rumor
  • Fauna was the Goddess of Animals
  • Felicitas was the Goddess of good luck and success
  • Fides was the Goddess of loyalty
  • Flora was the Goddess of Flowers and Spring
  • Fortuna was the Goddess of Fortune
  • Hekate the Roman Goddess of Magic
  • Hespera was the Goddess of dusk
  • Hippona was the Goddess of horses
  • Invidia was the Goddess of envy or jealousy
  • Iris was the Goddess of the rainbow
  • Justitia was the Goddess of justice
  • Juventas was the Goddess of youth
  • Latona, motherhood and modesty
  • Libertas was the Goddess of freedom
  • Libitina was the Goddess of death, corpses and funerals
  • Luna was the Goddess of the moon
  • Mater Matuta, goddess of dawn and childbirth, patroness of mariners.
  • Muta was the Goddess of silence
  • Necessitas was the Goddess of destiny
  • Nemesis was the Goddess of revenge
  • Ops was the Goddess of Fertility
  • Pietas was the Goddess of duty
  • Pomona was the Goddess of fruit trees
  • Spes was the Goddess of hope
  • Tempestes was the Goddess of storms
  • Tranquillitas was the Goddess of peace and tranquillity
  • Trivia, goddess of magic and crossroads
  • Veritas was the Goddess of virtue and truth
  • Victoria was the Goddess of victory
  • Voluptas was the Goddess of pleasure

Roman Goddesses and the Roman Gods Family Tree
The Principle Roman Goddesses and the relationships between the different generations of the principle goddesses are illustrated on the Roman Goddesses and Gods Family Tree and Genealogy:

Ancient Rome and Roman Goddesses
The ancient Roman religion and the worship of Roman Goddesses significantly differed from that of the Greeks. The Roman Goddesses were more practical as opposed to the romantic notions of the Greeks. Every vocation and every household transaction had its presiding Roman goddesses. Roman religion was officially endorsed by the state and exerted considerable influence over the government of Rome. The Roman Goddesses and gods were consulted before important decisions were made, such as going to war. Rites and ceremonies were practised to interpret the will of the gods and goddesses by studying various omens such as the the entrails of animals, the flight patterns of the birds and the interpretation of dreams and natural phenomena. The Romans also practised blood sacrifices.

List of Warrior Goddesses

Andraste (British) – Goddess of victory in battle and ravens.

Anut (Egyptian) - A warrior Goddess, defender of the Sun God and protector or the king in battle.

Athena (Greek) - A great battle strategist however disliked pointless wars and preferred to use her wisdom to settle disputes. She also sponsored many of the heroes in Greek mythology.

Bast (Egyptian) - The war Goddess of the Lower Niles, she protected the Pharaoh and his warriors during battle.  As the cat Goddess she is also very protective of the young.

Badb (Irish) - A shape- shifting goddess who symbolises life, death, wisdom and inspiration. She is an aspect of the Goddess Morrigan.

Bellona (Egyptian) – Goddess of destructive warfare and sibling/partner of the war God Mars.

Durga (Hindu) – Fierce demon fighting Goddess and protector.

Enyo (Greek) – Goddess of Destructive warfare and sibling/partner of the war God Ares.

Freya (Norse) – As the Goddess of war she was entitled to the souls of half of the bravest warriors. They spent the afterlife with her in the land of Folkvangr.

Kali (Hindu) – Dark Goddess of death, destruction and time. She is depicted with four arms, in one she carries a sword and another the head of a demon. She wears jewellery made from skulls and blood adorns her breasts.

Macha (Irish) – The wild Goddess who battles against injustice to woman and children.

Menhit (Egyptian) - Considered by many historians to be an aspect of Sekhmet. Her name translates as “she who slaughter.”  Also known as Menchit.

Minerva (Roman) – Roman equivalent of the Goddess Athena.

Morrigan (Irish) – A terrifying crow Goddess associated with war and death.

Nike (Greek) – Personification of victory in both battle and peaceful competitions.

Pele (Hawiian) – Jealous, volcano goddess of destruction and violence.

Sekhmet (Egyptian) – The lioness headed Goddess of Upper Egypt her name means “powerful one.” Also known as the “lady of slaughter” because in her aspect as the “eye of Ra” she stained the battlefields red with the blood of humans.

Victoria (Egyptian) – She is the Egyptian version of the Greek Goddess of Victory.



[1.1] ZEUS & MNEMOSYNE (Hesiod Theogony 1 & 915, Mimnermus Frag, Alcman Frag 8, Solon Frag 13, Apollodorus 1.13, Pausanias 1.2.5, Diodorus Siculus 4.7.1, Orphic Hymns 76 & 77, Antoninus Liberalis 9, Cicero De Natura Deorum 3.21, Arnobius 3.37)
[1.2] ZEUS (Homer Odyssey 8.457, Homeric Hymns 32, et al)
[1.3] MNEMOSYNE (Pindar Paean 7, Terpander Frag 4, Aristotle Frag 842, Plato Theaetetus 191c)
[2.1] OURANOS & GAIA (Alcman Frag 67, Mnaseas Frag, Diodorus Siculus 4.7.1, Scholiast on Pindar, Aronobius 3.37)
[2.2] OURANOS (Mimnermos Frag, Pausanias 9.29.1, Cicero De Natura Deorum 3.21)
[2.3] ZEUS & PLOUSIA (Tzetzes on Hesiod 35)
[3.1] APOLLON (Eumelus Frag 35, Tzetzes on Hesiod 35)
[4.1] PIEROS & ANTIOPE (Cicero De Natura Deorum 3.21, Tzetzes on Hesiod 35)


[1.1] KLEIO, EUTERPE, THALEIA, MELPOMENE, TERPSIKHORE, ERATO, POLYHYMNIA, OURANIA, KALLIOPE (Hesiod Theogony 75, Apollodorus 1.13, Diodorus Siculus 4.7.1, Orphic Hymn 76)
[1.3] POLYMATHEIA (Plutarch Symposium 9.14)
[2.1] MELETE, AOEDE, MNEME (Pausanias 9.39.3)
[2.2] MELETE, AODE, ARKHE, THELXINOE (Cicero De Natura Deorum 3.21, Tzetzes on Hes. 23)
[3.1] NETE, MESE, HYPATE (Plutarch Symposium 9.14)
[3.2] KEPHISO, APOLLONIS, BORYSTHENIS (Eumelus Frag 35, Tzetzes)

Anthony van Dyck – Rachel de Ruvigny, Countess of Southampton, as Fortune (c 1638)

Rachel de Ruvigny, Countess of Southampton, as Fortune by Van Dyck (1638). Photograph: The Fitzwilliam Museum

The goddess Fortune survived from antiquity through the middle ages because she symbolised so vividly the ups and downs of business and wealth. Rachel de Ruvigny has become this lucky goddess. As Van Dyck makes all too clear in his cosmic shimmer of silver and sapphire, she is fortunate indeed, a woman of wealth and taste and, through the blessing of art, a divine power in her own lifetime.

Watch the video: Bellona - Roman Goddess of War


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