This article focuses on the possible connections which can be established between the Roman goddess Juno as the protector deity of marriages and married women and the rites and rituals associated with the sacred feast of the Lupercalia. The role of other Italic gods associated with these sacred ceremonies is also analyzed, such as the rustic god Faunus, as well as Jupiter, Mars, and Romulus-Quirinus (albeit in secondary roles; for example, the name Luperci given to the young Roman men involved in the ritual flogging of the Roman women of fertile age is linked with lupus, the Latin name of the wolf, animal sacred to the god Mars and forever bound to the Twins Romulus and Remus, the mythical and heroic founders of Rome). The amiculum Iunonis or the garment of Juno is in fact the name given to the ritual objects used by the Luperci in the act of symbolic fecundation of the Roman young women, namely the leather thongs carved out of the skin of a sacrificed goat. The he-goat (Latin hircus) is also connected with the ancient Roman and Latin god Faunus (the Italic divine counterpart of the ancient Greek Πᾶν). As a final acknowledgment, I hereby thank Professor Attilio Mastrocinque who had the idea of this study and whose book revealed to me the hidden links between Juno, Bona Dea, and the feast of the Lupercalia, normally associated with the god of wild nature, Faunus-Pan. I owe also a debt of gratitude to the patience and unremitting help of Professor Patricia Johnston, whose observations greatly improved my conclusions.
The main concepts used in this article are the dichotomy and differences between the two main groups of theories regarding the origins of the Roman mystery cult of Mithras: namely the school of the great Belgian scholar Franz Cumont, who considered Mithraism in the Roman world as an essentially Iranian cult adapted to the new cultural Hellenistic-Roman context and the theory of the 19th century German scholar K. B. Stark, respectively (revived in the seventies of the 20th century by academics like R. Beck, J. R. Hinnells, St. Insler, R. Gordon, and A. Bausani), who considered that the Roman cult of the solar god Mithras was a new mystery cult, which was born in the Roman world because of the Hellenistic scientific discovery of the precession of the equinoxes. My conclusion is that the Roman cult of Mithras, fused with the cult of Sol Invictus (the Hellenistic-Roman cult of the Unvanquished Sun), has more things Iranian than the name of the central deity of this initiation-mystery cult (despite its undeniable Hellenistic-Roman and astrological-astronomical elements).
The guiding idea of my article is to see the mythical and political ideology conveyed by the western side of the Ara Pacis Augustae in a (hopefully) new light. The Augustan ideology of power is in the modest opinion of the author intimately intertwined with the myths and legends concerning the Primordia Romae. Augustus strove very hard to be seen by his contemporaries as the Novus Romulus and as the providential leader (fatalis dux, an expression loved by Augustan poetry) under the protection of the traditional Roman gods and especially of Apollo, the Greek god who has been early on adopted (and adapted) by Roman mythology and religion.