This week’s word is money. Not because I’ve found a horde of gold. Nor because it’s a particularly fun word to say. But because its word origins are interesting.
First, a quick recap on your Greek and Roman gods. You probably remember the Greek god Zeus (big beard, lightening bolt, king of the gods, the works). He’s known as Jupiter or Jove to the Romans.
Jupiter was married to his sister, Juno (known as Hera to the Greeks). She had the month of June named after her and was patron of marriage.
There was a flock of sacred geese kept in the temple of Juno in Rome. The story goes (according to Livy, a Roman historian who lived 400 years later) that around 390 B.C. the Gauls (a.k.a the French) tried a night attack on Rome but the noisy geese raised the alarm and saved the city. The Gauls were sneaking up on the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter (dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva) which contained the gold, silver, and bronze treasury of ancient Rome. Basically it was a heist gone wrong on the wealth of the most powerful empire in the Western world.
After this incident Juno got a new title – Juno Moneta – Juno who warns – and in 344 B.C. a temple to Juno Moneta was built in Rome as the new treasury and mint. I’ll bet they hired in a few more geese at the same time.
Monetary, money, and mint all come from the word moneta. Apparently the temple’s columns and walls were gilded and the money was stored beneath. It must have shone in the Italian sunshine. Sadly that splendour is no more but you can visit its exterior on a tour of the Roman Forum, as I did last month.
Until next time, happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,