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The Temple of Juno Sospita

The Temple of Juno Sospita

Giunone Sospita (in Latin Iuno Sospita, "favorable") was a divinity particularly venerated in the ancient Lanuvium. Is usually represented with a goat hide on the head, a spear in his hand and accompanied by a snake.

The main center of worship of Giunone Sospita was precisely the sanctuary of Lanuvio, near Rome. Cicero testifies how Lanuvio was a place rich of many religious buildings, but that between these spiccasse the Temple of Juno Sospita Lanuvina (so called for the goatskin with which was coated his statue), whose cult went back to very ancient times. Built on the acropolis of the ancient city of Latin origin-etruscan, that the Romans thought was founded by the Greek hero Diomedes, this great temple in style tuscanic, consisted of a series of monumental structures.

It was almost completely destroyed in the V sec. d.C., but portions still exist and the archaeological excavations have allowed us to identify five construction phases which came from the end of the VII to the half of the I century B.C. very probably the portico of the temple was on two floors with times coated with precious mosaics. At the bottom of the porch there was a door that led to a series of underground tunnels, that some believe they were the cave where it was guarded the serpent sacred to Giunone Sospita. Properzio narrates in fact that in the sanctuary were held every spring a very peculiar propitiatory rite for agriculture, during which a group of fair young virgins should offer loaves to a big serpent, which was found inside a cave. If the serpent accepted the gift is prospettavano collected fruitful; if the refused, a maiden impure, i.e. the one who had lost her virginity, was sacrificed to avert the famine.

The importance of this shrine is testified by the historical documents: when the Romans defeated the Latin league in the IV century, accepted the covenant with the citizens of Lanuvio, only if these in exchange they had shared with them the famous sacred place dedicated to Giunone Sospita.

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