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The worship of the Goddess of Chance, Fortuna, was introduced among the Romans from Greece during the reign of Servius Tullius, and soon became very popular. Indeed, at one period Fortuna was the chief Italian divinity, and the plebeians and slaves held an annual festival on the twenty-fourth day of June in honor of her who could bestow riches and liberty. Pliny wrote that the Chance or Fortune by means of which we acquire so much is a divine power; and Plutarch, in his work on the Fortune of the Romans, attempts to show that the great achievements of that people were to be attributed to good luck rather than to sagacity or prowess. As an example he cites their escape from invasion by the opportune death of Alexander the Great at Babylon, B.C. 323, at a time when he was preparing to overwhelm Italy with his armies.

The Roman biographer, Cornelius Nepos, in speaking of the Greek general, Emenes the Cardian (B.C. 361-317), said that, even if the favors shown him by Fortune had been commensurate with his great abilities, he would not for that reason have been more eminent; for great men should be measured by their qualities, and not by their good or bad fortune. The Dutch savant, Desiderius Erasmus, wrote that Diogenes was wont to rebuke with asperity those who blamed the goddess when their affairs did not prosper; and he also severely criticised the prevalent habit of craving at the hands of Mistress Fortune, not such things as were substantually good, but rather such as seemed to be so in the fancy of the petitioners. Philip of Macedon, on the receipt of the news of great victories won by his generals, thanked Fortune for her great goodness, modestly beseeching of her only some "light and shrewd turn again at another season." And Erastus, commenting on Philip's moderation and good sense in not being unduly elated by prosperity, quaintly remarked that this great king, having profound wisdom and experience, did not insolently leap and skip about on the receipt of joyful tidings, but rather mistrusted the pampering of Fortune, whom he knew to be a fickle jade.

Next: III. The Character Of Fortune