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Tales beyond belief

Discover the legends and myths and religious beliefs surrounding Juventas, the Roman goddess of Youth. She was a minor Roman goddess whose attributes were regarded by the Romans as applying particularly to the imperishable vigour and immortal glory of the Roman state. She was the tutelar or guardian goddess of young men and particularly worshipped during the period when they approached manhood when they assumed the privileges and responsibilities of a young man.

Her name is derived from the Latin word 'iuvenis' meaning a young person or juvenile. The Greek counterpart of the ancient Roman goddess Juventas was Hebe.

Juventas, the Roman goddess of Youth
The Romans made the Greek goddess Hebe the equivalent to Juventas. 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 Juventas, and her history taken from the poetical myths surrounding the Greek goddess Hebe, and the Roman goddess Juventas and her position in the state religion of ancient Rome. In ancient Rome Hebe was therefore considered as one and the same with the Latin goddess Juventas.

Facts about Juventas
The following information, facts and profile provides a fast overview of Juventas.
  • Roman Name: Juventus
  • Role & Function: The function of Juventus is described as being the cupbearer of the gods. Juventus served the gods with nectar (the drink of the gods) and ambrosia (the food of the gods) until she married
  • Status: Minor Goddess
  • Symbols: The chalice (a bowl-shaped drinking vessel) or a tall pitcher, wings
  • Alternative Names: Dia and Ganymeda
  • Roman Counterpart: The Roman name for Juventas was Hebe
  • Name of Husband: Heracles (Hercules)
  • Name of Father: The father of Juventas was Jupiter
  • Name of Mother: The mother of Juventas was Juno

Juventas, the minor Roman goddess of Youth - Coming of Age ceremony
The Roman goddess Juventus was the counterpart of the Greek goddess Hebe, the goddess of youth. The Romans associated Juventus with the ceremonies and rites of passage of young men as they approached manhood at the age of seventeen years old. The most famous ritual related to the assumption of the toga virilis. The first wearing of the toga virilis was part of the celebrations on reaching maturity. According to Roman Law only male Roman citizens were allowed to wear the toga virilis upon reaching the age of political majority (seventeen). Wealthy, noble young men who were the sons of senators were allowed to wear a toga bordered with purple, called the toga praetexta from the age of fourteen until they were seventeen years of age. At the age of 17 all male Roman citizens wore the pure white toga virilis. The early elements of a boy's coming-of-age ceremony, including the honoring of Juventus, were as follows:

  • The young man dressed in the toga virilis
  • His father, family and friends proceeded in an elaborate procession to the forum where the boy's name was added to the list of Roman citizens
  • The procession went on to the Capitoline temple to make offerings to Jupiter
  • A contribution was made to the treasury of Juventas, in the chapel to Juventus
  • A chapel was dedicated to Juventas, as personifying the eternal youth of the Roman state, in very early times in the cella of Minerva in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus
  • In later years a temple to Juventas was built and the ceremony was transferred to her temple
  • The final stage of the ceremony was a celebratory feast in honor of Juventas

Temple of Juventas - The Sibylline Prophecies
The goddess Juventas was first honored in Rome with a chapel on the Capitoline Hill and replaced by a temple that was built in her honor. The content of the Sibylline Books motivated the construction of the Temple of Juventus, and strongly advised the building of seven other temples. The Sibylline Books (Libri Sibyllini) were a collection of a collection of prophecies from an Oracle named the Sibyl of Cumae, bearing upon Roman religion and the welfare of Romans and the Roman state. A lectisternium was first prepared for Juventas. A lectisternium was a ritual in which a meal was offered to appease gods and goddesses whose images were laid on a couch placed in the street. During the lectisternium in honor of Juventas a public thanksgiving was made to Hercules, an association which shows the influence of the Greek goddesss Hebe, the wife of Heracles and Roman counterpart of Juventas. In 207 Marcus Livius Salinator, following his victory over Hasdrubal, a Carthaginian general in the Second Punic War, vowed another temple to Juventas in the Circus Maximus, which was dedicated in 191 by Licinius Lucullus. The temple to Juventas was destroyed by fire in 16 BC. and rebuilt by the Emperor Augustus.

Juventas - Personification of the Emperors
In imperial times, Juventas personified, not the youth of the Roman state, but became the personification of the emperor, who assumed the attributes of a Roman god.

Festival of Juventas
A festival was dedicated to Juventas, as the personification of the emperor, by Caligula. The Dies Juvenalis, the Juvenalia, celebrated a day for the young on December 22 which was added to the festival of Saturnalia

Gods and Deities
Roman Goddesses
Roman Gods and Deities

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