We all know that the Ancient Romans love a good festival – and July not only is the month of Julius Caesar’s birthday (13 July) – but on 22 July, just over a week later, there is another chance to break out the vino rosso and celebrate the Festival of Concordia.
Concordia, as her name suggests, is the goddess of harmony and concord – between anyone or anything.
It could be harmony with your spouse, or a family member – it could be concord between work mates or colleagues. It could be peace within a government – and Julius Caesar will tell you how tricksy senators can be.
It can be any type of harmony at all – so let’s drink to that!
The goddess Concordia not only had a temple on the Capitoline Hill (known as the Arx Capitolina – a fortress, castle or citadel), but also one within the Forum itself, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. There was also another festival to Concordia on 5 February, when more peace broke out.
Julius Caesar and Concordia
There were other shrines to Concordia, including a proposal to build a temple to Concordia Nova (New Concordia) to mark the end of the civil war under Julius Caesar. The senate had voted for it in 44 BC – of course, on 15 March 44 BC, Caesar was very un-cordially assassinated by his senators. It is not known whether the temple was ever built to mark Caesar’s achievement in ending the civil war.
In images, Concordia is depicted between two figures – often from the family of the Emperor – and they would be shaking hands amicably. She wears a long robe and may hold either a sacrificial bowl, known as a patera – or a cornucopia symbolising plenty, or a symbol of peace known as a caduceus.
Image: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.
Love among the emperors
One of Concordia’s main jobs was to promote harmony in marriage, as well as throughout society generally – this is perhaps why her festival takes place just before Lupercalia, the Roman equivalent of our Valentine’s Day.
If peace does not last beyond Valentine’s you get another chance on 22 February – Concordia is part of the festival marked on that day and known as Caristia or Charistia, which is a day of forgiveness or pardon. It was a family festival to help kith and kin kiss and make up for any family grievances or fallouts.
Marriages among the Roman Emperors could be manifold and stormy – just like celebrities today, but with a quite literal dose of poison in some cases. Scholars are still debating whether Emperor Augustus was poisoned by his scheming wife Livia, whose full name was Julia Augusta.
Throughout history, royal families and those with a high opinion of themselves have liked to portray themselves in paintings and statues as divine.
The Imperial family of Rome was no different – below you can compare a statue of Concordia on the left with a statue of Livia portrayed as Concordia.
Livia was deified by her grandson Emperor Claudius. Her son was the infamous Emperor Nero, so hold that thought for a moment…the family DNA was perhaps not quite as cordial as some scholars like to think
However, the goddess Concordia was known as Concordia Augusta, to reflect her links to the Imperial family.
The Ara Pacis Augustae in Rome features images of Concordia on its facade, together with Mother Earth and Pax, Felicitas and Pietas (Peace, Happiness and Piety) – what we now might call Peace, Love and Understanding.
The Ara Pacis was built to mark Emperor Augustus’ success in bringing peace to the Roman Empire. There is a gallery of busts of the Imperial Roman family within the museum, including Livia.
As a goddess, Concordia was often associated with Hercules (strength and security) and Mercury (communication and luck) – all needed for a happy family life!
She is also associated with the stork – ancient deliverer of babies and a symbol of close family ties, fertility, fidelity, new life and creation.
So raise a glass to Concordia on 22 July – as if we really need an excuse!
Buon viaggio e saluti!
All images copyright A. Meredith, except where stated
Featured image: Concordia by Giorces Bardo
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