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The Sacred Spring Of Juturna, Rome

Updated on July 9, 2015
Temple of Juturna at the Campus Martinus
Temple of Juturna at the Campus Martinus | Source

The goddess Juturna

Juturna was a water Nymph,a lesser deity but none the less an ancient one.The waters she presided over were said to give nourishment and health.The name Juturna is said to etymologically derive from "Juvare" (to help or assist- varro on the latin language ). Juturna is said to be either the wife or mother of Janus, the God of beginnings and endings and is the mother of Fontus, the God of fountains.Later myths say she was a mortal woman who was seduced by Jupiter and was made immortal as a nymph in exchange for her virginity.Her original spring and site of devotion was at the foot of the Alban hills and the water was said to be held in such high regard that the waters were brought to Rome for all sacrifices.The spring that welled up within the forum was one of the main sources of water and its proximity to the temples such as the temple of Vesta and the temple of Castor would have meant that the water would have been an important part of the religious ceremonies carried out here.Her feast day,Juternalia, was held on the 11th of January. All those who worked with water such as the Fontani (those who maintained the aqua ducts and fountains) honored the Goddess.

Another temple to Juturna can be found within close proximity to the Pantheon,the temple to all gods.It lies among the ruins of the other temples of the Campus Martius and was likely built around 240 BC. These ruins now function as a cat sanctuary for the many stray cats of the eternal city.

Shrine Adjacent to the pool

Shrine Adjacent to the pool
Shrine Adjacent to the pool | Source

The Shrine

A small shrine (Aedicula) lies to the right of the pool that once contained the cult statue of the Goddess.To the front of the shrine lies a marble well head (puteal), which contains an inscription from a first century BC restoration carried out by Marcus Barbatius Pollio.He was a Curule Aedile ,a person who maintained public buildings.An altar is positioned in front of the well head almost obscuring it from view.This contains a relief of a woman and a man armed with a lance which are thought to represent Juturna and her brother Turnus.This can not be confirmed as this is not the original location of the altar and may instead depict Mars and Jupiter.

The shrine has undergone a number of restorations and modifications over the years. In 168 BC Lucius Aemilius Paulus adorned the basins with statues of the twins castor and pollux (who i will speak of later). A fire in AD 283 partially destroyed the shrine but it was rebuilt using original elements such as the architrave inscribed with IVTVRNAES<ACRUM>

The pool (lactus)

pool of juturna
pool of juturna | Source
close up of altar relief
close up of altar relief | Source

This pool lies close to the spring,between the house of the vestal virgins and behind the temple of castor.It is not known if the curative powers of the goddess were sought from drinking the spring water or from immersion into the pool.It marks the area where a miraculous vision of castor and pollox were seen watering their horses and bringing news of the victory of the battle of Lake Regillus (this sighting led to the building of the temple of castor and also why the statues of the twins were placed there at the pool).The altar that now lies atop the pool was found in the basin during excavations in 1900.Its four faces show the Dioscuri (castor and pollox),Helen(as Selene),Leda and also Jupiter.

The basin was modified a number of times during its lifetime,changing shape a number of times to square,rectangular and it was also outfiitted with marble.The destroyed fragments of the statues of the twins were also found here during excavations and are now part of an exhibit featured till September 2015 in the Temple of Romulus in the Forum.Another Item found nearby also points to the curative powers of the water.This was a statue of a greek god of medicine, Asclepius.

Temple of Romulus Exhibit

The Temple of Romulus in the Roman Forum
The Temple of Romulus in the Roman Forum | Source
statues,altar and top of well head
statues,altar and top of well head | Source
well head for spring of juturna
well head for spring of juturna | Source

Excavated statues and altar exhibit

The Temple of Divas Romulus was,built in AD 309 and was one of the first buildings to be Christianized in the Forum.Fragments of the early christian murals can still be seen on the walls.It now houses a fascinating exhibit that runs from March to September 2015.It showcases the seven marble sculptures found while excavating the Shrine.It is named "Lactus Juturnae,The Sacred Fountain Of The Roman Forum".

These sculptures date from the late 2nd century to the early 1st century Bc and were the statues i spoke of earlier that adorned the pool.They portray Castor and Pollux on their horses, an altar, apollo. and also a well head from which the healing waters of the nymph were drawn from.The exhibit is curated by Patricia Fortini and the National Institute For Archaeology And Art History.

remains of the temple of castor, roman forum.
remains of the temple of castor, roman forum. | Source

Castor and Pollux

Castor and Pollux appear in several prominent Greek and Roman myths.They were worshipped as Gods who helped shipwrecked sailors and ho also brought favourable winds to those who sacrificed to them.They were also the patron gods of horses and of the social order of mounted knights called Equites.The twins are often referred to as the dioscuiri (sons of zeus).

some versions of the myth claim that only Pollux was the son of the god and therefor immortal and that castor was the son of the Greek king Tyndarus.They were great warriors and were noted for their devotion to each other. In one version of the legend, after Castor was killed by Lynceus, Pollux, in accordance with the classical tradition that one of every set of twins is the son of a god and thus immortal, begged Zeus to allow his brother to share his immortality with him. Zeus arranged for the twins to divide their time evenly between Hades and mount olympus, and in their honor he created the constellation Gemini.

The Romans developed a strong cult around the twins that traditionally dates back to 484 B . C . A temple to the twins was built in the Roman Forum in 414 B . C . in thanks for their help in defeating the Latins, an old enemy, in the battle of Regillus several years earlier. The images of Castor and Pollux appear on many early Roman coins.

The phenomenon of St.Elmos fire is also attributed to the twins from a time when they were sailing with a crew in a terrible storm.The twins prayed to the glowing stars appeared on their heads and the storm subsided.This is why St.Elmos fire was a manifestation of the twins.

Roman forum

roman forum:
Roman Forum, Via della Salara Vecchia, 5/6, 00186 Roma, Italy

get directions

The roman forum where the shrine and pool can be found among the other temples mention such as the temple of vesta and also the temple of castor.

the forum

St.Elmos fire


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    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 

      4 years ago

      Excellent overview of the background and history, love the pics as always. Upvoted and will share here on HP and FB :-)

    • shanebroderick profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      thanks polly

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image

      Pollyanna Jones 

      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      What an interesting read! I'm glad you made your way on to here at last. Can't wait to see what else you write up to accompany those brilliant photos of yours. :-)


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