Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn (aka Mater Matuta)
The indigenous Roman goddess was Mater Matuta whom the Romans eventually made equivalent to Aurora. The Romans habitually adopted the gods and goddesses of conquered nations which at times makes the study of the Roman deities confusing. This article therefore combines both elements of Aurora, and her history taken from the poetical myths surrounding the Greek goddess Eos, and the Roman goddess Mater Matuta and her position in the state religion of ancient Rome. In ancient Rome Aurora was therefore considered as one and the same with the Latin goddess Mater Matuta.
Goddess Aurora as Matuta
Facts about Aurora combined with the Roman Goddess Mater Matuta
The following information and facts relate to Aurora who was combined by the Romans with their ancient goddess Mater Matuta, the Roman goddess of growth, the ripening of grain and childbirth.
The Temple of Aurora (Mater Matura)
Aurora as Matuta became a dawn-deity and a protector in childbirth had a temple dedicated to her that was situated at the foot of the Capitoline Hill in ancient Rome. This was the area of the Forum Boiarum that housed a market that specialised in agricultural goods and livestock. Sacred zones were interspersed with the market area and in a sacred precinct were the twin temples of Fortuna and Matuta (Aurora). The twin temples were established by Servius Tullius in the sixth century BC. The temple of Aurora represented the goddess of dawn who protected children as they grew to maturity. The temple was richly adorned with images of Eos, Minerva and Hercules and the entrance to the temple was through magnificent gilded arches. The Temples of Aurora and Fortuna were destroyed by fire but rebuilt by Marcus Furius Camillus in 396 B.C. The location of the Forum Boiarum provided access to the River Tiber and served as a trading center and gateway to the city of Rome and the goddess was therefore also associated with the sea harbors and ports.
The Festival of Aurora - The Matralia
The festival to Aurora was called the Matralia, the festival of the matrons, and celebrated on June 11 in her temple at the Forum Boarium in Rome. As the goddess of growth, childbirth, motherhood and the raising of children the goddess was honored by the matrons of the city and all mothers were honored on this day by their husbands and children. During the Matronalia women prayed to the goddess Aurora for the safety and blessing of their children and nephews and nieces. The people who might be present in the various Roman festivals were rigidly determined and men were excluded from the Matronalia. In addition only free women in their first marriage were allowed to participate in the rituals of the Matralia. The honored role of decorating the cult statue of Aurora was therefore only allowed to free women in their first marriage. A univira, a wife of a first marriage, was selected for this role. Offerings were made to Aurora in the form of testuacia (toasted sacred cakes) that had been cooked in special earthenware containers called 'testu'. Slaves were allowed to a share in certain festivals such as the Saturnalia and the Compitalia (the festival of the Lares) but were forbidden from entering the temple or participating in the ceremonies of the Matralia. All except for one slave. The rituals conducted during Matralia included the re-enactment of a myth relating to the goddess Aurora. According to ancient mythology she killed her own son in rage when she discovered a trusted slave was sleeping with her husband. The one female slave allowed to enter the temple of Aurora (Matuta) during the festival of the Matralia was for the express purpose of being significantly driven away. The feast of Matralia celebrated the coming dawn of the longest day in the year (summer solstice 21st June), thus the Matralia was essentially the feast to celebrate the dawn of the second half of the year.
Picture of Aurora, the Roman goddess of Dawn