Deity of the Month: Flora


Primavera, by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1477–82; in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.









Flora was the ancient Roman goddess of flowers. Her story is chronicled in Ovid’s Fasti, Book V, when a nymph, Chloris, was kissed by the West Wind, Zephyrus, and was turned into Flora. This myth is the subject of Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera, above; Flora is the one decked in flowers, third from the right. Flora had her own festival, the Floralia, which was celebrated from April 27 to May 3 with dances, games and theatrical performances that were often lewd farces. It was considered good luck to joyfully welcome the onset of spring by offering the goddess milk and honey. Flowers decked both public and private buildings, and people wore wreaths around their necks and flowers in their hair. According to Ovid, Flora played the pivotal role in Juno’s immaculate conception of Apollo, by giving her a magic flower.

Image: Scala/Art Resource, New York.