Friday, March 12, 2010


Flora and the Zephyrs by J.W.Waterhouse

“FASTI” 5: 195-214 by OVID

Tell me, yourself, who you are. Men’s opinions err:
You’ll be the best informant regarding your own name.’
So I spoke. So the goddess responded to my question,
(While she spoke, her lips breathed out vernal roses):
‘I, called Flora now, was Chloris: the first letter in Greek
Of my name, became corrupted in the Latin language.
I was Chloris, a nymph of those happy fields,
Where, as you’ve heard, fortunate men once lived.
It would be difficult to speak of my form, with modesty,
But it brought my mother a god as son-in-law.
It was spring, I wandered: Zephyrus saw me: I left.
He followed me: I fled: he was the stronger,
And Boreas had given his brother authority for rape
By daring to steal a prize from Erechtheus’ house.
Yet he made amends for his violence, by granting me
The name of bride, and I’ve nothing to complain of in bed.
I enjoy perpetual spring: the season’s always bright,
The trees have leaves: the ground is always green.
I’ve a fruitful garden in the fields that were my dower,
Fanned by the breeze, and watered by a flowing spring.
My husband stocked it with flowers, richly,
And said: “Goddess, be mistress of the flowers.”
I often wished to tally the colours set there,
But I couldn’t, there were too many to count.
As soon as the frosted dew is shaken from the leaves,
And the varied foliage warmed by the sun’s rays,
The Hours gather dressed in colourful clothes,
And collect my gifts in slender baskets.
The Graces, straight away, draw near, and twine
Wreaths and garlands to bind their heavenly hair.
I was first to scatter fresh seeds among countless peoples,
Till then the earth had been a single colour.
I was first to create the hyacinth, from Spartan blood,
And a lament remains written on its petals.
You too, Narcissus, were known among the gardens,
Unhappy that you were not other, and yet were other.
Why tell of Crocus, or Attis, or Adonis, son of Cinyras,
From whose wounds beauty springs, through me?

According to ‘FASTI’ V, Flora was the Mother of Flowers who was transformed from the nymph Chloris and who enabled the whole earth to blossom in spring.



Chloris is a Greek Mythology figure.  She was a Nymph associated with spring, flowers and new growth.  She was abducted by Zephyrus, the west wind, who gave her dominion over spring. Zephyrus and Chloris were married and they had a son Carpus  (meaning ‘fruit’ in ancient Greek).  Chloris’s festival, Floralia, was celebrated on April 28 to May 1 until the 4th century.


Photo by Proserpina

Painting of Flora found in Pompei and displayed at the fabulous Anthropology Museum in Naples.

Flora is the Roman Goddess of flowering plants, especially those that bear fruit. Spring is Her season, and She has elements of a Love-Goddess. Fertility, sex, and blossoming are her attributes.  She is an ancient goddess going back to the Sabines , a neighboring tribe eventually conquered by Romans, who named a month after her (today’s April).  She was also known by the Samnites and the Oscans (Among the Oscans she was known as Flusia).  Flora’s husband was Favonius, the wind god, her companion was Hercules.
According to tradition it was Titus Tatius , the king from the Sabine town of Cures, who introduced the cult of Flora to Rome, during the reign of Romulus.

Her name is related to the Latin word floris, meaning flower.  Related meanings are prospering, flourishing, abounding, fresh or blooming.  Flora, a major figure in Roman mythology, had two temples in Rome, one near the Circus Maximus and the other on the Quirinal Hill.  The feast Floralia occurred in April to coincide with the blossoming of plants, later it became a fixed date starting on April 28 and lasting seven days. The festival included chariot races, circus games, and theatrical performances.  During the chariot races it was traditional to let goats and hares loose.  Fertility symbols such as lupines, bean-flowers, vetch, wheat in bloom, and other blossom were scattered in the streets.  The revelers wore brightly colored colors, wore wreaths of flowers especially roses.
Flora was depicted by the Romans wearing light spring clothing, holding small bouquets of flowers, and at times a crown of blossoms.

Flora was very popular among the Renaissance Humanists.


FLORA is the subject of the famous and magnificent painting by Sandro Botticelli called “Primavera”
The painting is based on the unfinished poem “Fasti” by Ovid. The scene is set in the Garden of Venus.  Venus is the most prominent figure in the painting.  At the extreme right is Zephyr (God of Wind) reaching out for the Nymph Chloris.  According to the myth, Zephyr forcefully abducted Chloris and made her his wife.  Feeling guilty for his actions Zephyr transformed Chloris into Flora, the Goddess of Spring.  Flora is also featured in another painting by Botticelli, “Primavera”, as a goddess in floral clothing, spreading flowers as she moves.
The paintings are displayed at Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy.

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Who was OVID?

Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17 0r 18 AD), known as Ovid in the English world, was a Roman poet. He is best known for the Heroides, Amores, Ars Amatoria, Metamorphoses, the Fasti, and Tristia.
The above quote comes from the Fasti.

The FASTI is a six-book Latin Poem, structured as a series of eye-witness reports and interviews with deities. It explains the origins of Roman religious festivals, rites, and their mythological explanations. It also contains brief astronomical notes.

Each book covers one month, January through June, of the Roman Calendar which was revised by Julius Caesar and is known as the Julian Calendar. It is thought that the Poem was not finished because in the year 8 Emperor Augustus exiled him to Tomis (today known as Costanta).

While in exile he wrote a series of poems called Tristia, they illustrate his sadness and desolation that he felt while away from Rome.

After ten years in exile, Ovid died in Tomis. Allegedly he is buried in a nearby town which was renamed Ovidiu in his honor.

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