Flora is the Roman goddess of flowers, fertility and Spring, she was said to protect the early Spring blossoms and was depicted as a beautiful maiden wearing a flowered crown and garlands of flowers.The name Flora is derived from the Latin word ‘floris’ meaning flower. Flora’s twin sister was Fauna, goddess of animals and wildlife, the names of the twin goddesses together are used to this day in the context of Flora and Fauna, to mean plant and animal life.
Flora’s festival Floralia, was held from April 28th until May 3rd. It was a celebration of Spring and the renewal of life to the land. Romans would celebrate by decorating their homes and temples with flowers and wearing bright coloured clothes and flowers in their hair. Floralia was originally a moveable feast that coincided with the blossoming of flowers and trees, it later became a fixed date. The celebrations included chariot races and theatrical performances which were sometimes quite bawdy. A tradition at the start of the festival was to throw lupines, bean flowers and lentils at the crowds, all symbols of fertility. Flora was an ancient goddess originally of the Sabines, a pre-Roman civilization that lived in the Central Apennine mountains that was eventually conquered and assimilated into Rome, bringing their deities and customs with them.
Flora had two temples in Rome, one near Circus Maximus where the chariot races were held and the other on the slope of Quirinal hill. The latter almost certainly built on the site of an earlier altar to her, said to have been dedicated by Titus Titius, King of the Sabines, who ruled alongside Romulus for a time in the very early days of Rome. The temple near Circus Maximus was associated with another nearby temple dedicated to Ceres (grain goddess), Liber and Libera ( god and goddess of the Vine), together these deities were all associated with the fertility of the land and the health of the crops.
A story tells that Flora gave a flower to Juno that allowed her to conceive without the help from a man, the resulting child was Mars god of war.
Flora’s Greek counterpart was Chloris who was originally a nymph connected to spring, flowers and new growth. She was abducted by Zephyrus, God of the west wind, who turned her into a goddess after their marriage.