Aurora – Roman Goddess of Dawn

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In Roman mythology, several deities were associated with the different stages of the day and night. Aurora was the goddess of dawn, and alongside her siblings, she set the beginning of the day.

Who Was Aurora?

According to some myths, Aurora was the daughter of the Titan Pallas. In others, she was the daughter of Hyperion. Aurora had two siblings – Luna, the goddess of the moon, and Sol, the god of the sun. Each one of them had a particular role for the different parts of the day. Aurora was the goddess of the dawn, and she announced the arrival of the sun every morning. Aurora is the Latin word for dawn, daybreak, and sunrise. Her Greek counterpart was the goddess Eos, and some depictions show Aurora with white wings like the Greek goddess.

Aurora as the Goddess of Dawn

Aurora was in charge of announcing daybreak by crossing the sky in her chariot. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Aurora was ever young and was always the first one to wake up in the morning. She rode her chariot across the sky before the sun did, and she had a purple mantle of stars that unfolded behind her. In some myths, she also spread flowers as she passed. 

In most accounts, Aurora and Astraeus, the father of the stars, were the parents of the Anemoi,  the four winds, who were Boreas, Eurus, Notus, and Zephyrus.

Aurora and Prince Tithonus

The love story between Aurora and Prince Tithonus of Troy has been written about by several Roman poets. In this myth, Aurora fell in love with the prince, but their love was doomed. In contrast to the ever-young Aurora, Prince Tithonus would eventually grow old and die.

To save her loved one, Aurora asked Jupiter to grant immortality to Tithonus, but she made one mistake – she forgot to ask for eternal youth. Although he didn’t’ die, Tithonus continued to age, and Aurora finally transformed him into a cicada, which became one of her symbols. According to some other accounts, the goddess fell in love with Tithonus as a punishment by Venus who was jealous that her husband Mars was attracted by the beauty of Aurora.

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Symbolism and Importance of Aurora

Aurora was not the most worshipped goddess in Roman mythology, but she represented an important part of the day. She symbolized new beginnings and the opportunities that the new day offers. Today, her name is present in the stunning aurora borealis. People believe that these magical colors and light effects come from Aurora’s mantle as she rides across the sky. 

Aurora has been mentioned in numerous works of literature, spanning centuries. Some notable mentions include the Iliad, Aeneid and Romeo and Juliet.

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s situation is described by his father, Montague, in this way:

But all so soon as the all-cheering sun

Should in the furthest east begin to draw

The shady curtains from Aurora’s bed,

Away from the light steals home my heavy son…

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In Brief

Although she might not be as well-known as other goddesses, Aurora was noted for her role in ushering in the day. She’s popular in literature and art, inspiring writers, artists and sculptors.