Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros35Actes du XVIe colloque internatio...Fortuna, Games, and the Boundarie...

Actes du XVIe colloque international du CIERGA (partim)

Fortuna, Games, and the Boundaries of the Divine: From Cicero to Boethius

Daniele Miano
p. 163-183


L’article discute la relation entre la déesse Fortuna et les jeux, en se concentrant tout particulièrement sur la période allant de la fin de la République romaine à l’Antiquité tardive. Il semble exister une tension insoluble entre le statut divin de Fortuna et le caractère aléatoire des « jeux de hasard » (ludus fortunae), dans la mesure où, quand le ludus apparaît, fortuna peut être personnifiée, mais n’est jamais clairement identifiée comme divinité. Une telle tension sémantique a été exploitée par un certain nombre d’auteurs pour éprouver et redéfinir les limites entre le hasard et la volonté divine.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1 Hamayon (2020), p. 438.
  • 2 Clark (2007); Miano (2019).
  • 3 The question of Tyche will be addressed by V. Pirenne-Delforge in the second part of the present (...)

1In a recent article on the role of chance in games, Roberte Hamayon has argued that in gambling practices there is a tension between the belief that mysterious powers are able to influence games, and the impossibility to identify clearly these powers. In her own words “[a]ll attempts to personify these invisible forces fail in the end. The ancient Greeks and Romans created the entities Tyche and Fortuna, who had previously been only common names. As goddesses, they were late and short-lived, unlike the figures who went on to preside over destiny.”1 Hamayon’s interesting observations need some qualification: personification, in antiquity as in modern times, is a common rhetorical and literary technique, which has a connection with polytheistic practices and divine status, only to the extent that rhetoric and language are, in general, essential to defining such practices.2 Moreover, neither Tyche3 nor Fortuna are late or short-lived. In fact, one can see in Fortuna several elements of an impressive continuity, which goes from archaic Latium to early modern Europe.

2Before discussing the connection between Fortuna and games with regard to antiquity and late antiquity, I would like to briefly address its broader cultural context. Why should one think that there must be a connection between Fortuna and games? Fortuna in antiquity was worshipped in an impressive variety of contexts, and was associated with a number of meanings, ranging from good luck, victory in battle, success in general, chance and randomness, and many others, but not obviously with gaming practices.

  • 4 For early modern lotteries and Fortuna Raux (2021); also Buttay (2004) and (2017).
  • 5 Tasso (1959), p. 225: “Una contesa di fortuna e d’ingegno fra due e fra più.

3The connection between Fortuna and games was, on the other hand, formulated very explicitly in early modern Europe. An important context in which this occurred was the iconography connected with early modern lotteries, in which Fortuna as an allegory is attested at least from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century.4 But, more generally, some early modern texts made direct and unquestionable claims about the connection between Fortuna and games. The most notable of these texts is probably Gonzaga secondo, ovvero del giuoco, composed between 1581 and 1582 by Torquato Tasso. This dialogue represents three characters debating different theories on the nature of games. Fortuna is a recurring theme of the dialogue, and this starts already from the first, provisional definition of game, given by the character Annibale Pocaterra. A game is “a contest of good luck and skill between two or more people”.5 Fortuna as a goddess is explicitly discussed by the character Margherita Bentivoglia. The ancients were wrong, Margherita explains, and Fortuna is not a goddess, but just a vain name without substance, as theologians teach us. Yet, the character Giulio Cesare insists, if her existence can be doubted in theology, she is unquestionably present in games. There is, therefore, a profound connection between games and fortuna for Tasso, a connection that exploits the ambiguity and the fluid boundaries between Fortuna deity and fortuna concept, and which peripherally touches issues of theological importance.

  • 6 Clark (2020), p. 37.

4But if the connection between Fortuna and games appears very solidly in the early modern period, and not prominently in antiquity, are we to conclude that it is a modern innovation? This article will show that it is not the case, and that some of the tensions in Tasso between Fortuna, fortuna, deities and games, have a long history in Roman and early Christian literature. Therefore, Tasso can be used as the starting point of a process of reception in reverse: reading a modern author can help to understand better ancient texts.6

  • 7 Dasen — Vespa (2021).

5Back to the argument of Roberte Hamayon, these early modern examples show that an element in the connection between fortuna and games makes it difficult to make the further connection between games and the deity. This suggests a semantic tension between games, randomness and divine will. But how should one conceptualise this tension? A potential model to understand the connection between deities and games might be that of “producers of play”. Dasen and Vespa have recently argued that “producers of play” are certain key figures that are outside play and operate by setting its rules; such figures might also include “the decisional power of a god”.7 Could it be the case for Fortuna?

  • 8 Miano (2018), p. 179–196.

6This article explores the Roman history of the image of the ludus fortunae, to demonstrate that fortuna is not connected with games played by men, and that the ludus fortunae is not compatible with an identification between the playing fortuna and the deity. It will build up on my previous work on Fortuna, and on my argument that the capacity of attributing to Fortuna a multiplicity of meanings included the possibility of negotiating the limits of the deity and even her divine nature.8 Taking things further, we will see how the theme of the ludus fortunae, and the criticism of the divine nature of Fortuna developed in the imperial period and in late antiquity because of her association with randomness (temeritas or casus).

7I shall start by revising some key points on the ambiguity of the goddess Fortuna, focusing in particular on the works of Cicero, while relating them to the issue of games. Subsequently, I shall discuss how, especially in literary contexts, these hints concerning Fortuna and games have been transformed in the trope of the ludus fortunae. The three following sections of the paper will discuss how the criticism of the divine nature of the goddess Fortuna because of her randomness has been developed in subsequent literature, from Pliny the Elder to Augustine. The article will end with a discussion of Boethius’ Consolatio, which ambiguously creates a lasting image of the ludus fortunae, while subtly hinting at its illusory nature.

Republican Fortuna and her ambiguities

  • 9 Doing so, Cicero builds up on a metaphor he had already used in a previous work: in the Paradoxa (...)
  • 10 Cicero, De diuinatione 2.85–87 (quotation: chapter 85).

8In the present special issue, Jörg Rüpke discusses what he called Cicero’s “ludic view” of divination. To complement his discussion, it must be added that, in Cicero, this theme is profoundly intertwined with fortuna and Fortuna: the criticism of divination by the character Marcus (2.15) focuses precisely on its impossibility to deal with the randomness of fortuna, which is spelled out—with a degree of rhetorical redundancy, but also with an attempt to give the broader outline of the concept using multiple words—as fors, fortuna, casus, euentus, all things—Marcus says—that are against a proper inquiry of the causes of events (ratio). The debate on divination between Quintus and Marcus rests precisely on how to resolve this tension between randomness and the possibility of rational inquiry. The difference in the positions of the two characters is that Quintus considers randomness as directed by divine will, whereas Marcus does not. As Rüpke shows, Cicero uses games to illustrate this tension.9 The tension that one sees between divine will and randomness in De diuinatione does not involve only the concept of fortuna, casus, etc., but also the goddess Fortuna herself. In fact, the key passage in which the character Marcus connects the extraction of lots with games, also takes up the foundation story of the most renowned Italian sanctuary in which lot extraction was practiced, that of Fortuna Primigenia at Praeneste:10

Quid enim sors est? Idem prope modum quod micare, quod talos iacere quod tesserae, quibus in rebus temeritas et casus non ratio nec consilium ualet. Tota res est inuenta fallaciis aut ad quaestum aut ad superstitionem aut ad errorem.

  • 11 Trans. W.A. Falconer, Loeb Classical Library.

What is a lot? It is much like playing at morra, knucklebones or dice, in which recklessness and luck prevail rather than reflection and judgement. The whole scheme of divination by lots was fraudulently contrived from mercenary motives, or as a means of encouraging superstition and error.11

  • 12 Cic., Diu. 2.86–87. On Fortuna at Praeneste, see Miano (2018), p. 17–46.
  • 13 Fr. 262 Schierl.

9In this passage the character Marcus continues the same argumentative pattern seen above: just like games, lot extraction is the domain of randomness (temeritas et casus), not the one of rational inquiry (non ratio nec consilium). The foundation story of the sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia illustrates this point: Numerius Suffustius, the founder of the sanctuary, is a character of comedy, digging rocks because he is instructed to do so in dreams, to the amusement of his fellow Praenestini.12 Nothing certain, Marcus argues, can be discovered in the lots extracted by a child, and to believe that divine will has engraved the lots on oak wood and buried them under a rock is likewise profoundly naïve. Cicero was not the first to associate Fortuna with temeritas in critical terms. A different formulation of this relationship can be found in a fragment of Pacuvius: some philosophers, the fragment says, claim that Fortuna stands in precarious balance on a rock, ready to move in the random direction dictated by the boulder, blindly and cruelly.13 Other philosophers, the fragment continues, think that Fortuna does not exist, and there is only Temeritas, blind chance. If the logical consistency is dubious—in fact, the fragment is quoted by the auctor ad Herennium as an example of a faulty argument (2.36)—the rhetoric is clear. There is a complicated relationship of affinity and opposition between temeritas and fortuna, which rests on the question of whether random events are expressions of divine powers.

10Back to the late works of Cicero, fortuna and temeritas play a significant role also in De natura deorum. Balbus, the Stoic character in the dialogue, asserts that certain concepts (Fides, Mens, Virtus, Ops, Concordia, Libertas, Victoria) should be deities because the benefits they bring to humanity are so great that a godhead must be granting them (2.60). Cotta’s academic critique of Balbus’ argument, in the following book, is centred on Fortuna:

Nam mentem fidem, spem, uirtutem, honorem, uictoriam, salutem, concordiam ceteraque huiusmodi rerum uim habere uidemus, non deorum. Aut enim in nobismet insunt ipsis, ut mens, ut spes, ut fides, ut uirtus, ut concordia, aut optandae nobis sunt, ut honos, ut salus, ut uictoria; quarum rerum utilitatem uideo, uideo etiam consecrata simulacra; quare autem in iis uis deorum insit, tum intellegam, cum ex te cognouero. Quo in genere uel maxime est fortuna numeranda, quam nemo ab inconstantia et temeritate seiunget, quae digna certe non sunt deo.

  • 14 Cic., De natura deorum 3.61 (trans. P.G. Walsh, Clarendon Press).

Mens, Fides, Spes, Virtus, Honos, Victoria, Salus, Concordia, and others of the same kind we must envisage as having the power of things, not of gods; for they are either qualities that reside within us, such as mens, spes, fides, uirtus, and concordia, or they are aims to which we aspire, like honos, salus, uictoria. I appreciate that these are beneficial qualities, and I note that statues are dedicated in their honour; but why divine powers should reside in them I shall understand only when my researches reveal it. Fortuna has the strongest of claims to inclusion in this category of deities, yet no one will claim to distinguish it from what is fickle and random, and these are qualities quite unworthy of a deity.14

11Fortuna, who must definitely be considered a deity of the same genus, is impossible to distinguish from inconstantia and temeritas; as these things are unworthy of deities, Fortuna herself cannot be considered one. After a critique of Stoic etymologies of divine names (62), Cotta goes back to Fortuna: Stoic theology would rest on a confusion between natural phenomena and deities, and the extreme conclusion of this thinking is that even destructive things (res perniciosae) are called deities and are worshipped (63). Such is the case, Cotta continues, of Febris on the Palatine, Orbona near the temple of the Lares, and Mala Fortuna on the Esquiline. We can see here that the porous boundaries between deity and concept can be renegotiated: one is able to question the existence of the deity because one of the meanings attributed to her is randomness and fickleness, therefore Fortuna does not have the benevolence one expects from gods and goddesses. But this argument has larger consequences: Cotta implies that, if Fortuna is not a goddess, also the other deities of the same genus cannot be genuine goddesses.

  • 15 Cic., Pro leg. Man. 45.

12In these later Ciceronian works, therefore, Fortuna—deity and concept—plays an important argumentative role with regard to divination and theology, and in both instances the point concerns the ambiguity of her position in the tension between the benevolence and the rationality that one expects from deities and her association with randomness and fickleness. In my previous work, I observed that in extant Latin literature from the republican period this critique of the benevolent nature of Fortuna is presented in contexts that tend to marginalize it. Pacuvius attributes the view to groups of foreign philosophers, whereas Cotta’s position is counterbalanced by Balbus’ arguments. In Ciceronian speeches, meant for a broader audience, Fortuna is associated with the usual range of meanings. Depending on the contexts, she is frequently connected with political success and military victory. This is the case, for example, of Pro lege Manilia, the speech delivered to the people in 66 BCE to support a law extending Pompey’s imperium to Asia so that he could fight against Mithridates. The rhetorical structure of the speech is largely constructed around Pompey’s fortuna and felicitas. Fortuna is associated with military success but she also appears as Fortuna publica populi Romani, whose divine will (diuinitus) sent Pompey to Asia in that particular moment.15 This shows very clearly the political significance that Fortuna could have in the rhetorical formulations of empire at the time: at least since the second century BCE, Greek and Roman writers debated the role of F/fortuna / T/tyche in Roman imperialism. Pro lege Manilia shows that this association was already transferred from fortuna concept to Fortuna deity. This would make formulating a radical critique of Fortuna for her randomness, such as the Cotta character does, politically charged, and one can see the significance of this within the context of the turbulent years in which Cicero’s theological trilogy was composed. In De diuinatione the tension between the divine nature of Fortuna and her association with randomness is focused on the practice of divination by lots in her Praenestine sanctuary, and is expressed with the metaphor of the game. In this work, these two themes intersect, albeit briefly and indirectly: the metaphor showing the randomness of fortuna as a sort of game, and a criticism of her divine status because of this randomness. I shall now discuss how, in subsequent centuries, these two themes have a life of their own, before intersecting again decisively half a millennium later.

Ludus fortunae

  • 16 A brief discussion in Miano (2018), p. 179–182. For a more extensive treatment of Fortuna in lite (...)
  • 17 Stobaeus, 4.34.60: τύχης παίγνιον.

13If Fortuna and games played a role in the arguments brought forward by the characters of De diuinatione, it is in Horace that we find a full development of the image of the ludus fortunae. One cannot exclude that the metaphor was older: the randomness (fors, temeritas, casus) and instability (inconstantia) of Fortuna was a recurring topos in early Latin poetry, as we know from multiple examples, and developing the metaphor of games from this basis would have been easy.16 In a fragment attributed to Aristotle by Stobaeus, humankind is described as “a toy of tyche”, so the image might be inspired by Greek precedents.17 The first clear reference of a playing Fortuna appears in Book 11 of the Aeneid, in the context of a speech attributed to Turnus:

multa dies uariique labor mutabilis aeui / rettulit in melius, multos alterna reuisens / lusit et in solido rursus Fortuna locauit.

  • 18 Vergil, Aeneid 11.425–427 (trans. H.R. Faiclough, G.P. Goold, Loeb Classical Library).

Many an ill has been repaired by time and the shifting toil of changing years; many a man Fortune, fitful visitant, has mocked, then once more set up upon firm ground.18

  • 19 Verg., Aen. 11.410–415.

14Fortuna played (lusit) with many men, Turnus says, only to eventually take them back to safety. The game of Fortuna is contrasted with stability (in solido), and the broader context of Turnus’ speech connects it with the unpredictability of military matters.19 Horace used this image more extensively. In Odes 2.1, he claims that the ludus fortunae was one of the prominent themes of Asinius Pollio’s historiographical work on the civil wars:

Motum ex Metello consule ciuicum / bellique causas et uitia et modos / ludumque Fortunae grauisque / principum amicitias et arma / nondum expiatis uncta cruoribus, / periculosae plenum opus aleae, / tractas, et incedis per ignis / supositos cineri doloso.

  • 20 Horace, Odes 2.1.1–8 (trans. N. Rudd, Loeb Classical Library).

The civil strife that began with Metellus’ consulship, the causes, and blunders, and phases of war, Fortune’s sport, the protagonists’ deadly friendships, weapons smeared with still unexpiated blood—that is your theme, a dangerous gamble at every point; you walk over fires still burning beneath the treacherous ash.20

  • 21 Miano (2018), p. 143–145 on the civil war, where Caesar connects fortuna primarily with Pompey.
  • 22 Plutarch, Caesar 32, a discussion of the relationship between this poem and Pollio’s work is in H (...)

15It is not surprising that a history of this sort used the instability of fortuna as a topic, since already Caesar used this theme extensively to construe the narrative of his commentarii.21 As in the passage of Virgil, there is a military context for the image of the ludus fortunae. The reference to alea is most likely also a Caesarian allusion, as Pollio was present at the crossing of the Rubicon.22

  • 23 Nisbet — Rudd (2004), p. 345.

16Although it is likely that this poem partially reflects Pollio’s proem, we cannot know surely if the ludus fortunae was in Pollio’s work. A further instance of the expression in the Odes might suggest that it could rather have been introduced by Horace. In a further poem, possibly written in “a time before Augustus’ return from Spain in 24” BCE, the poet addresses Maecenas and invites him to leave aside his political worries and join him for a simple meal at his estate in the country.23 Horace exhorts Maecenas to live day by day, and to not worry about a changeable and capricious fortuna:

Fortuna saeuo laeta negotio et / ludum insolentem ludere pertinax / transmutat incertos honores, / nunc mihi, nunc alii benigna. / Laudo manentem; si celeris quatit / pennas, resigno quae dedit et mea / uirtute me inuoluo probamque / Pauperiem sine dote quaero.

  • 24 Hor., Odes 3.29.49–56 (trans. N. Rudd, Loeb Classical Library).

Fortune, revelling in her cruel business, and determined to play her high-handed game, switches her fickle favours, kind now to me, now to someone else. I praise her while she stays, but if she shakes her swift wings, I return her presents, wrap myself in my virtue, and go in search of honest Poverty, though she brings no dowry.24

  • 25 Nisbet — Rudd (2004), p. 346, argue that it is “predominantly Epicurean”.

17The tone of the passage is moralizing and philosophizing, although it is not entirely clear what would be its position in the context of the philosophical currents of the time.25 What is more relevant to our discussion is that Horace seems to bring together well-established semantic associations in a novel way, thus creating the image of a fickle, cruel, and playing fortuna, here clearly personified, but not obviously identified with the goddess. It must be underlined that fortuna plays with human lives, randomly distributing honores. Humans are merely passive objects of this game, and this image is wholly negative. Unlike the previous two passages, this does not appear in a military context, and I wonder if Horace here might be alluding to politics as a form of war.

18The poem addressed to Pollio makes clear also the potential political undertones of this image. If, in the Pro lege Manilia, the goddess Fortuna publica is the benevolent guarantor of the Roman Empire, who had dispatched Pompey to fight against Mithridates to increase its glory, in this poem the personification fortuna is cruelly responsible for the catastrophe of the civil wars.

  • 26 Seneca the Elder, Controuersiae 2.1.1. See supra, n. 8.
  • 27 Petr., 13.1.
  • 28 Seneca, Dialogues (De tranquillitate animi); (Ad Polybium de consolatione); Ep(...)

19In spite of its evocative power, the metaphor of the ludus fortunae remains rare. Seneca the Elder, in a controuersia calls wealth ludibria fortunae.26 Petronius calls the chance re-discovery of a stolen tunic with the pockets still full of coin a lusus fortunae mirabilis, in this case with a happy ending.27 The powers of fortuna, and her cruelty and randomness, are a recurring topic in the works of Seneca the Younger, and yet he uses the metaphor of the ludus only three times.28 Juvenal uses it in Satires 3, where the character Umbricius, who wants to retire to Cumae, complains that there are no honest men left in Rome:

cum sint / quales ex humili magna ad fastigia rerum / extollit quotiens uoluit fortuna iocari.

  • 29 Juv. 3.38–40 (trans. S. Morton Braun, Loeb Classical Library, modified).

they’re the type that Fortune raises up from the gutter to a mighty height whenever she wants to play.29

20Here, we can see that the moralizing and philosophizing theme can also be connected with social satire. An essential point for the subject at hand is that none of these texts explicitly identifies the fortuna who plays with the goddess Fortuna.

A Godless Goddess: Pliny the Elder

21If the ludus fortunae remains relatively marginal in the Latin literature of the imperial period, the argument that a random Fortuna, expression of casus and temeritas, cannot be a goddess, as stated by the character Cotta in De natura deorum, will have a certain success. It is picked up by Christian authors as a form of criticism to the existence of polytheistic gods and goddesses.

  • 30 Beagon (2005) shows that the content of Book 2 is strongly associated with that of Book 7.
  • 31 Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.13: principale naturae regimen ac numen.

22Pliny the Elder significantly develops Cotta’s arguments in Book 2 of the Natural History, focused on the topic of nature. This is a particularly important book in the architecture of the work, as it is, in fact, its real opening after the table of contents of Book 1.30 The book starts with a statement of the divine nature of the world (1) and a description of its size, shape, movement, and beauty (2–9). Pliny continues with a discussion of the elements, and of the celestial bodies (10–12). The discussion of the sun (13) gives it a special place in the cosmos, and identifies it with the soul and mind of the world, “supreme ruler and deity of nature”.31 From this belief in a divine nature, Pliny formulates a critique of the existence of traditional gods, which starts precisely with conceptual deities:

Innumeros quidem credere atque etiam ex uitiis hominum, non uirtutibus tantum, ut Pudicitiam, Concordiam, Mentem, Spem, Honorem, Clementiam, Fidem, aut (ut Democrito placuit) duos omnino, Poenam et Beneficium, maiorem ad socordiam accedit. Fragilis et laboriosa mortalitas in partes ista digessit infirmitatis suae memor, ut portionibus coleret qui quisque maxime indigeret. Itaque nomina alia aliis gentibus et numina in iisdem innumerabilia inuenimus, inferis quoque in genera discriptis, morbisque et multis etiam pestibus, dum esse placatas trepido metu cupimus. Ideoque etiam publice Febris fanum in Palatio dicatum est, Orbonae ad aedem Larum et ara Malae Fortunae Esquiliis.

  • 32 Plin., NH 2.14–15 (trans. H. Rackam, Loeb Classical Library).

To believe in gods without number, and gods corresponding to men’s vices as well as to their virtues, like the Goddesses of Pudicitia, Concordia, Mens, Spes, Honos, Clementia and Fides—or else, as Democritus held—, only two, Poena and Beneficium, reaches an even greater height of folly. Frail, toiling mortality, remembering its own weakness, has divided such deities into groups, so as to worship in sections, each the deity he is most in need of. Consequently, different races have different names for the deities, and we find countless deities in the same races, even those of the lower world being classified into groups, and diseases and also many forms of plague, in our nervous anxiety to get them placated. Because of this there is actually a Temple of Febris consecrated by the nation on the Palatine Hill, and one of Orbona at the Temple of the Lares, and an Altar of Mala Fortuna on the Esquiline.32

23The possibility of a direct derivation from De natura deorum 3.61–63 is very strong. In particular, the list of the harmful deities appears exactly in the same order presented by the Cotta character. Moreover, the argument follows the same lines. Pliny, however, opts to leave aside the critique of Fortuna formulated by Cotta. Whereas Cotta singles out Fortuna because she is able to show the contradictions of the whole category through her association with randomness and fickleness, Pliny gives her an even more prominent place in the discussion:

Inuenit tamen inter has utrasque sententias medium sibi ipsa mortalitas numen, quo minus etiam plana de deo coniectatio esset: toto quippe mundo et omnibus locis omnibusque horis omnium uocibus Fortuna sola inuocatur ac nominatur, una accusatur, rea una agitur, una cogitatur, sola laudatur, sola arguitur et cum conuiciis colitur: uolubilis, a plerisque uero et caeca existimata, uaga, inconstans, incerta, uaria indignorumque fautrix. Huic omnia expensa, huic omnia feruntur accepta, et in tota ratione mortalium sola utramque paginam facit; adeoque obnoxii sumus sorti, ut sors ipsa pro deo sit, qua deus probatur incertus.

  • 33 Plin., NH 2.22 (trans. H. Rackam, Loeb Classical Library).

Nevertheless, mortality has rendered our guesses about God even more obscure by inventing for itself a deity intermediate between these two conceptions. Everywhere in the whole world at every hour by all men’s voices Fortune alone is invoked and named, alone accused, alone impeached, alone pondered, alone applauded, alone rebuked and visited with reproaches; deemed volatile and indeed by most men blind as well, wayward, inconstant, uncertain, fickle in her favours and favouring the unworthy. To her is debited all that is spent and credited all that is received, she alone fills both pages in the whole of mortals’ account; and we are so much at the mercy of chance that Chance herself, by whom God is proved uncertain, takes the place of God.33

  • 34 Beagon (1992), p. 33.
  • 35 Beagon (1992), p. 33, 96–97.
  • 36 Beagon (1992), p. 119–123, cf. Plin., NH 7.32.

24In the preceding passage, Pliny explained that there are some people who pay no regard to the gods, and some others who pay excessive attention to them. The belief in Fortuna, Pliny argues, is something in between these two positions, so that to some people the cause of all events rests in the powers of a random and fickle Fortuna. Pliny’s own position consists in the belief that divine powers must be identified with nature, and in this context he elaborates his critique of traditional religion. To put it in Mary Beagon’s words, “his definition of God as the whole of nature is so wide as to make it only one step from Plinian pantheism to atheism”.34 Ratio is a central concept in Pliny’s cosmology, as this is the shared characteristic of nature and humans.35 In this sense, one can see that the rejection of Fortuna as a goddess is based on the idea that deities cannot be associated with inconstantia and caecitas. One can clearly see that this argument is developed in strong dialogue with the Ciceronian passages discussed above. There is no ludus fortunae in Pliny. However, there is also the awareness that nature is not always benevolent. Beagon has observed that Pliny tends to attribute to nature a range of images and associations that are typical of Fortuna. The crucial passage here is in Book 7, in which Pliny comments that nature creates populations with bizarre characteristics as a form of amusements (ludibria), which, as Beagon argues, might suggest that Pliny replaced the ludus fortunae with a more providential and benevolent ludus naturae.36

A Godless Goddess: Arnobius and Lactantius

  • 37 Opelt (1966). Champeaux (1996), for Varro.
  • 38 Arnobius, Aduersus nationes 3.6–7. On the date of the work, see Simmons (1995), p. 93. Also Paneg (...)

25In the early fourth century CE, Christian authors took up several of these themes. This is unsurprising: the academic sections of De natura deorum provided several solid arguments that could be used to attack traditional religion.37 In his work Aduersus nationes, probably composed between 302 and 305 CE in Sicca Veneria, Arnobius referred to De natura deorum, claiming that Cicero used the book to sincerely express what he thought of traditional polytheism, and that some Romans wished the Senate to decree its destruction.38 Arnobius, consciously and misleadingly, identified Cicero’s opinion with the arguments brought forward by the Cotta character, but this statement is nevertheless revealing of the importance of De natura deorum to Arnobius’ own work. We can detect this influence, among many other passages, in the opening of Book 4, which builds up on Cotta’s argument on conceptual deities.

26Arnobius starts by asking whether the Romans think that Pietas, Concordia, Salus, Honos, Virtus and Felicitas, normally considered deities and to whom magnificent temples are constructed, have divine power (uis diuina), or they are simply good things (bona), that humankind wishes to possess (4.1). The answer to the rhetorical question is that considering these things divine is nothing but a childish game (istud puerile sit ludicrum). According to which ratio, he insists, can these things be considered gods? They are, Arnobius continues, following Cotta’s arguments, qualities that reside within men (4.2). All these good things, however, have negative opposites, and this shows that they must depend merely from human agency and random affections:

Quod a nobis uerissime dici ex contrariis promptum est oppositionibus noscitare, infelicitate discordia obliuione iniquitate impietate ignauia pectoris et ualetudine corporis minus fausta. Vt enim haec accidunt hominum que sunt posita in actionibus, adfectibus fortuitis, ita quod illis aduersum est <et> ex qualitatibus benignioribus nominatur, in aliis necesse est haereat, ex quibus ita formatis figuratio ista concepta est nominum.

  • 39 Arnob., Adu. nat. 4.2 (trans. H. Bryce, H Campbell, Anti-Nicene Fathers).

Now it is easy to perceive that, in speaking thus, we speak most reasonably when we observe the contrary qualities opposed to them, misfortune, discord, forgetfulness, injustice, impiety, baseness of spirit, and unfortunate weakness of body. For as these things happen accidentally, and depend on human acts and chance moods, so their contraries, named after more agreeable qualities, must be found in others; and from these, originating in this wise, have arisen those invented names.39

  • 40 Miano (2018), p. 133–147.
  • 41 DePalma Digeser (2000), p. 135.
  • 42 Lactantius, Institutiones Diuinae 3.29.1: fortuna ergo per se nihil est: nec sic habendum est, ta (...)
  • 43 Lact., Inst. diu. 3.29.7.

27The role that Fortuna had in Cotta’s argument is here taken up by Felicitas, a conceptual deity which had a substantial semantic overlap with Fortuna, already in the republican period.40 As felicitas, she is less sharply separated from the rest of the divine genus, unlike in Pliny. Although Fortuna does not appear, the argument is similar to that formulated by the Cotta character: all these good things have negative counterparts that are generated randomly by human deeds and fortuitous moods (adfectibus fortuitis). Therefore, they cannot be genuine deities. There is no ludus fortunae here, but a negative connotation of games emerges in this passage, when Arnobius disqualifies the belief in conceptual deities as childish and ludic (puerile sit ludicrum); significantly, this happens, again, in opposition with an inquiry into the ratio of conceptual deities, to reinforce the contrast between ratio and ludus. Arnobius’ pupil Lactantius discusses Fortuna explicitly in Book 3 of his Institutiones Diuinae, whose first redaction was composed between 305 and 310 CE and which is dedicated to the confutation of philosophical ideas.41 Chapter 29 is entirely devoted to fortuna. Lactantius, referring to several authorities, including Cicero, explains that fortuna in itself is nothing but the result of mere accident.42 She is believed to be a goddess, but it cannot be the case because of all the evil that she brings to humanity.43

28So far, I have observed that the metaphor of the ludus Fortunae seems to be only indirectly connected with a criticism of the existence of the goddess Fortuna. In many ways, this criticism seems to be part of the reception of Cicero’s works, and De natura deorum in particular. The only first-century-CE author who elaborates a radical criticism of the goddess is Pliny, not without some ambiguities. At the time of Pliny, the rhetorical connection between the powers of Fortuna and the Roman empire was still very strong. In fact, probably in the later part of the first century CE, we have its clearest formulation in Plutarch’s work De fortuna romanorum, with a complete and explicit identification between the tyche responsible for the Roman empire and the goddess Fortuna. The criticism of the existence of the goddess Fortuna seems to take up a new significance in Arnobius and Lactantius. Both authors probably wrote the works under discussion between Diocletian’s persecution of 303 CE and the edict of toleration of Constantine and Licinius of 313 CE. If Fortuna could have a strong connection with the Roman empire in certain rhetorical formulations, however, Arnobius and Lactantius do not explicitly bring up any political undertone to the criticism of her existence.

Augustine, Fortuna and Felicitas

  • 44 Clark (2021), p. 3–7.
  • 45 Clark (2021), p. 9.

29Augustine is the first author who explicitly connects a criticism of Fortuna and a political argument on the existence of the Roman empire. He does so in particular in Book 4 of De ciuitate dei. As it is well known, the general context for the composition of this work is related to the aftermath of the Visigoth sack of Rome of 410 CE; the Roman aristocrat and former governor Volusianus decided to move to Africa, and he raised some doubts concerning Christian teaching.44 Although Volusianus did not suggest directly a connection between the sack of Rome and the policy of Christian emperors, the first five books of De ciuitate dei have a strong apologetic tone, with the purpose “to defend the city of God against those who prefer their own gods […], and in particular against those who think that the Christian religion is to blame, because it prohibits sacrifices to the gods, for disasters affecting the Roman state”.45

  • 46 Clark (2021), p. 173
  • 47 Walsh (2007), p. 1–13; Hammer (2019); Clark (2021), p. 173–177, do not address the significance o (...)

30Book 4 was composed together with Book 5 in 415 CE, shortly after the publication of Books 1–3.46 If the first three books aimed at proving that disasters had occurred to the Roman state well before the prohibition of sacrifices, Book 4 argues that the Roman empire was not bestowed by Roman gods, while Book 5 argues that everything, including the empire, is given by the true God. The arguments that Augustine develops in Book 4 vary greatly, and they range from satirical observations of specialised gods in Roman polytheism to direct polemics against individual Roman authors. Felicitas is, in fact, one of the main overarching concepts on which the rhetoric of the whole book is built.47 This is relevant because Felicitas and Fortuna have a large semantic overlap and, in fact, Augustine himself clearly states that they can hardly be distinguished from one another (4.18).

  • 48 The topic comes back in ch. 15.

31Augustine evokes felicitas already in 4.3, immediately after the summary of the previous books, when he questions whether it is sensible to glorify the greatness of the empire, when one cannot demonstrate that the continuous wars and bloodshed needed for its conquest and maintenance bring happiness to men (hominum felicitatem). He reinforces this point comparing empires with peoples: it is obvious that a poorer person can have more felicitas than a richer individual who has a life full of worries, ambition and preoccupations, and the same goes for two kingdoms. In the rest of chapter 3, and in chapters 4–5, Augustine discusses how kingdoms must be just in order to justify their power.48

  • 49 Miano (2018), p. 117–119.

32Chapters 6–7 use Justin’s epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus (1.1) to discuss the topic of greed of power (cupiditas imperii), which would have started with the Assyrian King Ninus. In chapter 7, in particular, Augustine discusses the concept of succession of world empires: if empires are established because of the favour of the gods, what does it imply when one empire is replaced by another? According to Augustine, this idea raises up several issues that cannot be satisfactorily solved. Moreover, he makes a comparison between the end of the Assyrian empire and the sack of Rome; as Christianity did not appear, it is absurd to think that it was responsible for the fall of the Assyrian empire. Therefore, Augustine asks, why should one think that it is responsible for the sack of Rome? Augustine, here, refers in general to divine favour, but it is important to underline that the succession of empires from the Hellenistic period was most frequently attributed to Tyche or Fortuna.49

  • 50 Aug., Ciu. 4.9: turba minutorum deorum.

33Augustine moves on to discuss which god might have been responsible for the greatness of the empire; certainly, it could not be one of the crowd of small gods.50 The first deity considered is Jupiter, but he, not unlike other major deities, has mythical stories attached to him that cannot be considered worthy of a deity, and the allegorical and cosmological explanations of their divine powers are indefensible, because they seemingly contradict one another (9–12). Moreover, if Jupiter grants victory, why is Victoria herself a goddess, what is her relationship with Jupiter, and why are regnum or triumphus not deities (13–14, and again 16–17)?

34At this point Augustine starts a long section (18–23) on Felicitas and Fortuna. Augustine starts by observing that Felicitas is considered a goddess, and, in this case, she should alone be worshipped, as she would bring all the other benefits with her (18 and 21). Subsequently, Augustine asks why one should worship Fortuna and to what extent Fortuna and Felicitas are different. Augustine employs the usual argument to underline that, as Fortuna can be both good or bad, she cannot genuinely be a goddess (18). Even if she was a goddess, worshipping her would be ineffective, as she would provide her rewards randomly. After a satirical chapter on Fortuna Muliebris and Virilis (19), Augustine moves on to criticize conceptual deities. Augustine asks why certain good qualities, such as Virtus and Fides, are goddesses, whereas others, such as temperantia or fortitudo, are not so (20–21). Augustine moves away from the Ciceronian criticism, also used by Arnobius, that these deities are, in fact, human qualities rather than godheads, as he makes the point that all these virtues and qualities are gifts of the true God.

  • 51 Aug., Ciu. 4.23.

35Felicitas is the greater benefits of all, but the goddess Felicitas cannot be responsible for the greatness of the Roman empire, because her temple was founded only in the middle of the second century BCE, when the Roman empire had already expanded considerably.51

36Augustine concludes that Felicitas, as all the other conceptual deities, is not a goddess but a gift of a god, who is the only one that ought to be worshipped. This starts an exploration of which god could have granted Felicitas, which goes into the topic of the relationship between deities and the things they grant, and in which the views of Cicero, Scaevola and Varro on the topic are discussed and criticized (24–32). The book closes with Augustine’s solution: felicitas is not a goddess, but a benefit granted by the Christian god:

Deus igitur ille felicitatis auctor et dator, quia solus est uerus deus, ipse dat regna terrena et bonis et malis, neque hoc temere et quasi fortuito, quia deus est non fortuna, sed pro rerum ordine ac temporum occulto nobis, notissimo sibi; cui tamen ordini temporum non subditus seruit, sed eum ipse tamquam dominus regit moderatorque disponit; felicitatem uero non dat nisi bonis.

  • 52 Aug., Ciu. 4.33 (trans. P.G. Walsh, Aris and Phillips Classical Texts).

Thus the one who creates and bestows happiness, since he alone is the true God, is the one who apportions earthly kingdoms to good and evil men alike. Because he is God and not fortune, he does not do this in a random and capricious way, but according to the dispensation of affairs and eras, which is hidden from us, but wholly known to him. He is not subject to or controlled by this sequence of eras, but rules, directs, and apportions it as its master. As for happiness, he bestows it only on the good.52

37Augustine is at pain to stress that felicitas is not granted randomly by fortuna, but by God through an occult, unintelligible logic (ordo rerum ac temporum). One can see that, in spite of its wide-ranging content, Book 4 in fact presents itself as substantially built around the connection between Fortuna, Felicitas, and the Roman empire. In building up this argument, Augustine uses several lines that can be traced back to Cicero, but he does so in a novel way. First, he replaces the traditional criticism of the existence of conceptual deities as human qualities with the assertion that they would rather be gifts of God. Moreover, he is the first author to openly bring up the political implication of the criticism of the existence of Fortuna within the context of the rhetorical trope of the connection between Fortuna/Felicitas and the Roman empire. If Fortuna does not exist, because she is random and capricious as deities cannot be, it follows that the Roman empire could not have been created by the powers of Fortuna. This paves up the way for Augustine to argue, as he does in Book 5, that the empire, too, must be considered a gift of God.

  • 53 Van Reyn (2004), p. 179–180.

38It is difficult to speculate about the reasons why Augustine chose to focus on Felicitas rather than Fortuna. In 4.18, he explains that he considers them almost synonyms, and he also discusses Fortuna in the book. A good reason why he might have wanted to do so is that, had he used Fortuna, who is unquestionably a very old Roman deity, he could not have made the point that the greatness of the Roman empire cannot depend on Felicitas as she was introduced as a goddess relatively late, and the point that the introduction of the goddess Felicitas happened not long before the civil unrest of the Gracchan period. An innovation of Augustine is that he replaces the opposition between ratio and fortuna with one between the ordo rerum dominated by God and fortuna: although events might appear random, in fact they are an expression of God’s providential plan. This is a rather drastic change from the perspective formulated in Augustine’s early work De academicis where, as Van Reyn has shown, Fortuna is needed to obtain the appropriate circumstances for Christian philosophy.53 The reason for this change in perspective might be the rhetorical argument of De ciuitate dei: denying the existence of fortuna would have given more strength to the assertion that the greatness of the Roman empire could not depend on her.

Boethius and the ludus fortunae

  • 54 Marenbon (2003), p. 9–10 (96–163 for a detailed discussion of the Consolatio). Essential also Fra (...)
  • 55 Marenbon (2003), p. 96, and 159; Magee (2009), p. 184.
  • 56 Marenbon (2003), p. 150–151; Magee (2009), p. 182.

39Boethius’ Consolatio was composed c. 523/526 CE during the captivity of the author, a prominent figure at the court of the Gothic King Theoderic, who was accused and eventually executed for alleged treason.54 The work is a dialogue between the literary alter ego of Boethius, the character of the Prisoner, and Philosophia. Having enjoyed and subsequently lost wealth, success, power and fame, the Prisoner laments the vicissitudes of chance, and is visited and consoled in his cell by Philosophia. The whole dialogue takes place, in a mixture of prose and verse, between Philosophia and the Prisoner, while she attempts to persuade him that through his life-long attachment to study, he is prevented from genuine unhappiness, while he wavers between accepting her various arguments and being unconvinced by them. It has been observed multiple times that Philosophia’s arguments develop in different directions over the course of the work, and that they are not always consistent.55 Marenbon and Magee have shown that the architecture of the dialogue is built around a circular structure.56 Fortuna plays an extremely important role in the Consolatio: the Prisoner’s lament for his misfortune is the core of his affliction, which Philosophia aims of curing through a recurring therapeutic metaphor.

  • 57 Boethius, Consolatio 2 p 1.10: hi semper eius mores sunt, ista natura.
  • 58 Boeth., Cons. 2 p 1.19: Tu uero uoluentis rotae impetum retinere conaris? At, omnium mortalium st (...)

40Boethius’ main discussion of Fortuna takes place in Book 2. Philosophia argues that the Prisoner cannot complain for the changeability of Fortuna as this is, in fact, her nature, stable in her instability.57 In the past, the Prisoner had enjoyed many of her favours, and he should not complain now that she has turned her back on him. At this point, Boethius introduces the image of the wheel of fortune: Philosophia asks rhetorically whether the Prisoner wishes to stop this rotating wheel and accuses him to be a fool. If the wheel would stop, chance would be no more.58

  • 59 Boeth., Cons. 2 m 1.3–4: dudum tremendos saeua proterit reges / humilemque uicti subleuat fallax (...)
  • 60 Boeth., Cons. 2 m 1.7: sic illa ludit.
  • 61 Frakes (1988), p. 39.

41This prose section is followed by a poem dedicated to the wheel of fortune (2 m 1). Fortuna is described as proudly spinning her wheel, cruelly destroying powerful kings and deceptively raising the humble to glory.59 She does not listen to the miserable and she laughs at the wails of those who suffer (2 m 1.5–6). This activity of turning upside down human life is described in the poem as a game.60 In the ensuing prose section, Philosophia decides that she is going to impersonate Fortuna for the Prisoner, so that she could answer herself to his complaints towards her (2 p 2). This personified “Fortuna”, who is never referred to as a goddess, reinforces the points made directly by Philosophia in 2 p 1.61 As the Prisoner knew her, and for most of his life has enjoyed plenty of her benefits, he should not be surprised by her sudden reversal. “Fortuna” goes back to the image of the ludus:

Haec nostra uis est, hunc continuum ludum ludimus: rotam uolubili orbe uersamus, infima summis, summa infimis mutare gaudemus. Ascende, si placet, sed ea lege, ne uti ludicri mei ratio poscet descendere iniuriam putes.

  • 62 Boeth., Cons. 2 p 2.9, trans. mine.

For this is my power, and I play this endless game: I spin the capricious wheel, and I enjoy bringing up those who are down, and down those who are up. Go up, if you like, but with this condition: do not take offense when you have to go down according to the rules of my game.62

42This passage reinforces the idea that Fortuna does not exist, in spite of the conflicting arguments that Philosophia and the Prisoner make about her. The fact that Boethius has a personification of Philosophia in turn personifying Fortuna through a rhetorical prosopopeia is a clear indication of this. What is important for the present purpose is that Boethius takes up the established image of the ludus fortunae and, for the first time, he uses it to argue that fortuna is illusory, a fiction within the fiction of Philosophia’s prosopopeia.

  • 63 Boeth., Cons. 3 p 12.30: Ludisne, inquam, me inextricabilem labyrinthum rationibus texens, quae n (...)
  • 64 Boeth., Cons. 3 p 12.36–37.
  • 65 There seems to be a parallel to the interplay between Fortuna and Natura in Pliny the Elder, see (...)

43The image of the game re-emerges once in the work, but this time the Prisoner accuses Philosophia of playing argumentative games with him, going around in circles.63 To this, Philosophia replies that no, she is not playing a game, and that by the gift of God she has shown him the most important thing, namely that divine nature itself is circular, as Parmenides claimed.64 Of course, this will also prove to be only a temporary conclusion. This partial overlap of Philosophia and ‘Fortuna’ seems to be at the argumentative and rhetorical core of the Consolatio, and the ludus is an integral part of it.65

  • 66 On this, see Dasen — Vespa (2020).

44The concept of ludus acts at multiple levels in the Consolatio: the most immediate one is that of the power of a cruel Fortuna, but this is proved to be an illusion. Subsequently, Philosophia is suspected of playing, “spinning an insolvable labyrinth of arguments”, but this might also be an illusion. At the end of this process of dispelling cycles of illusory ludi, Philosophia reveal that the Prisoner can learn about the divine nature. So, although both ludi are illusory, they have an elevated pedagogical purpose.66 If Boethius takes up the ludus fortunae from the texts discussed above, he gives to it a new significance in the complex architecture of the Consolatio. Moreover, the theme of the ludus is, for the first time, openly connected with the question of the illusory nature of the power of fortuna.


45The discussion above has showed that the theme of ludus could be used to create a tension between ratio, temeritas and casus, and that at the core of this tension lays the concept of fortuna, and whether she is a goddess or not. The image of the ludus in this context intersects the theme of a criticism of Fortuna in the works of Cicero. Subsequently, Virgil and, more extensively, Horace create the trope of the ludus fortunae, a powerful image with a certain success, particularly in literary contexts, but never explicitly related to the goddess Fortuna. The criticism of the goddess Fortuna because of her connection with casus and temeritas was taken up by Pliny the Elder and Arnobius, in strong continuity with the Ciceronian tradition. They both peripherally use ludic images, but these images do not have the significance that they had for Cicero. Augustine developed these themes with a great degree of originality focusing on Felicitas and arguing that she is not a goddess but a gift of God. Finally, Boethius took up the literary theme of the ludus fortunae, and, for the first time since Cicero, explicitly brought it together with the theme of the criticism of fortuna, who is personified but still never explicitly identified as a goddess.

46It is time to evaluate the discussion in light of the observations that Roberte Hamayon made on divine agents in games in antiquity. If some of her points needed correction, this discussion has proved her main argument to be essentially correct. There is an irresolvable tension between the goddess Fortuna and the ludus fortunae, ultimately depending on one of the meanings attributed to the concept of Fortuna and, by extension, to the goddess, the notions of chance and randomness. Several ancient authors realized that the ultimate consequence of this tension was a redefinition of the divine status of Fortuna herself. Whenever the ludus fortunae appears, fortuna might be personified but is never explicitly identified as a goddess. There is a quality of the ludus, chance and randomness, which is not compatible with Fortuna’s divine status, to the extent that the two never appear in the same text. Moreover, Fortuna does not seem to be a “producer of play”: she does not set the rules of games or determine the circumstances that allow a player to win. In the ludus fortunae there is no real winner and no real player. Fortuna is the only player, and the instability of human life her only game, in an irresolvable tension between divine power and brutal randomness.

Haut de page


M. Beagon, Roman Nature: The Thought of Pliny the Elder, Oxford, 1992.

M. Beagon, The Elder Pliny and the Human Animal, Natural History Book 7, Oxford, 2005.

F. Buttay, Fortuna. Usages politiques d’une allégorie morale à la Renaissance, Paris, 2008.

F. Buttay, “La Fortune victime des Lumières ? Remarques sur les transformations de Fortune aux xviie et xviiie siècles”, in A. Brendecke and P. Vogt (eds.), The End of Fortuna and the Rise of Modernity: Contingency and Certainty in Early Modern History, Berlin/Boston, 2017, p. 192–209.

J. Champeaux, Fortuna. Le culte de la fortune à Rome et dans le monde romain, 2 vols, Paris, 1982–1987.

J. Champeaux, “Arnobe lecteur de Varron (Adu. nat. III)”, Revue d’études augustiniennes et patristiques 40–2 (1994), p. 327–352.

A.J. Clark, Divine Qualities: Cult and Community in Republican Rome, Oxford, 2007.

F. Clark, The First Pagan Historian: The Fortunes of a Fraud from Antiquity to the Enlightenment, Oxford, 2020.

G. Clark, Commentary on Augustine, City of God, Books 1–5, Oxford, 2021.

P. Courcelle, La Consolation de philosophie dans la tradition littéraire : antécédents et postérité de Boèce, Paris, 1967.

V. Dasen and M. Vespa, “Bons ou mauvais jeux ? Pratiques ludiques et sociabilité”, in V. Dasen and M. Vespa (dir.), Dossier Bons ou mauvais jeux ? Pratiques ludiques et sociabilité, Pallas 114 (2020), p. 13–20.

V. Dasen and M. Vespa, “Ancient Play and Games: In Search of a Definition”, in V. Dasen and M. Vespa (eds.), Play and Games in Classical Antiquity: Definition, Transmission, Reception/Jouer dans l’Antiquité classique : Définition, Transmission, Réception, Liège, 2021 (Jeu/Play/Spiel, 2), p. 5–16.

E. DePalma Digeser, The Making of a Christian Empire: Lactantius & Rome, Ithaca/London, 2000.

M.J. Edwards, “Some Theories on the Dating of Arnobius”, EThL 92.4 (2016), p. 671–684.

J.C. Frakes, The Fate of Fortune in the Early Middle Ages: the Boethian Tradition, Leiden/New York, 1988.

J. Gruber, Kommentar zu Boethius De consolatione philosophiae, Berlin/New York, 1978.

R. Hamayon, “Gambling; or, the art of exploiting chance to nullify it”, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 10–2 (2020), p. 435–439.

D. Hammer, “Books 4 & 5: Roman Religion and Just Power”, in D.V. Meconi (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Augustine’s City of God, Cambridge, 2021, p. 81–101.

S. Harrison, Horace: Odes Book II, Cambridge, 2017.

J. Magee, “The Good and Morality: Consolatio 2–4”, in J. Marenbon (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Boethius, Cambridge, 2009, p. 181–206.

J. Marenbon, Boethius, Oxford, 2003.

D. Miano, Fortuna: Deity and Concept in Archaic and Republican Italy, Oxford, 2018.

D. Miano, “Divinités conceptuelles et pouvoir dans le polythéisme romain”, Pallas 111 (2019), p. 95–112.

R.G.M. Nisbet and N. Rudd, A Commentary on Horace, Odes, Book III, Oxford, 2004.

I. Opelt, “Ciceros Schrift De natura deorum bei den lateinischen Kirchenvätern“, A&A 12.1 (1966), p. 141–155.

K. Panegyres, “The Rhetoric of Religious Conflict in Arnobius’ Adversus Nationes“, CQ 69.1 (2019), p. 402–416.

S. Raux, “The Game of Art and Chance: Lottery, Fortune, and Fatum in the Low Countries in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries”, in O. Akopyan (ed.), Fate and Fortune in European Thought, ca. 1400–1650, Leiden/Boston, 2021, p. 148–179.

M.B. Simmons, Arnobius of Sicca: Religious Conflict and Competition in the Age of Diocletian, Oxford, 1995.

T. Tasso, Prose, a cura di E. Mazzali, Milan/Naples, 1959.

C.O. Tommasi, Arnobio, Contro i pagani, Rome, 2017.

G.M.N. van Reyn, Fortuna Caeca: Symptom of Ideological Failure in Roman Society and Augustine’s Christian Alternative, 2004, PhD thesis, Swansea University.

P. Walsh, Augustine, De Ciuitate Dei, Books III and IV, Liverpool, 2007.

Haut de page


1 Hamayon (2020), p. 438.

2 Clark (2007); Miano (2019).

3 The question of Tyche will be addressed by V. Pirenne-Delforge in the second part of the present dossier, in Kernos 36 (2023).

4 For early modern lotteries and Fortuna Raux (2021); also Buttay (2004) and (2017).

5 Tasso (1959), p. 225: “Una contesa di fortuna e d’ingegno fra due e fra più.

6 Clark (2020), p. 37.

7 Dasen — Vespa (2021).

8 Miano (2018), p. 179–196.

9 Doing so, Cicero builds up on a metaphor he had already used in a previous work: in the Paradoxa stoicorum (1.9), he told an anecdote concerning Bias of Priene, one of the Seven Sages, who called his possessions “toys of fortuna(ludibria fortunae), and did not consider them truly his own.

10 Cicero, De diuinatione 2.85–87 (quotation: chapter 85).

11 Trans. W.A. Falconer, Loeb Classical Library.

12 Cic., Diu. 2.86–87. On Fortuna at Praeneste, see Miano (2018), p. 17–46.

13 Fr. 262 Schierl.

14 Cic., De natura deorum 3.61 (trans. P.G. Walsh, Clarendon Press).

15 Cic., Pro leg. Man. 45.

16 A brief discussion in Miano (2018), p. 179–182. For a more extensive treatment of Fortuna in literature, see Champeaux (1982–1987), II, p. 87–116, 171–202.

17 Stobaeus, 4.34.60: τύχης παίγνιον.

18 Vergil, Aeneid 11.425–427 (trans. H.R. Faiclough, G.P. Goold, Loeb Classical Library).

19 Verg., Aen. 11.410–415.

20 Horace, Odes 2.1.1–8 (trans. N. Rudd, Loeb Classical Library).

21 Miano (2018), p. 143–145 on the civil war, where Caesar connects fortuna primarily with Pompey.

22 Plutarch, Caesar 32, a discussion of the relationship between this poem and Pollio’s work is in Harrison (2017), p. 44–49.

23 Nisbet — Rudd (2004), p. 345.

24 Hor., Odes 3.29.49–56 (trans. N. Rudd, Loeb Classical Library).

25 Nisbet — Rudd (2004), p. 346, argue that it is “predominantly Epicurean”.

26 Seneca the Elder, Controuersiae 2.1.1. See supra, n. 8.

27 Petr., 13.1.

28 Seneca, Dialogues (De tranquillitate animi); (Ad Polybium de consolatione); Ep. 74.7.2

29 Juv. 3.38–40 (trans. S. Morton Braun, Loeb Classical Library, modified).

30 Beagon (2005) shows that the content of Book 2 is strongly associated with that of Book 7.

31 Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.13: principale naturae regimen ac numen.

32 Plin., NH 2.14–15 (trans. H. Rackam, Loeb Classical Library).

33 Plin., NH 2.22 (trans. H. Rackam, Loeb Classical Library).

34 Beagon (1992), p. 33.

35 Beagon (1992), p. 33, 96–97.

36 Beagon (1992), p. 119–123, cf. Plin., NH 7.32.

37 Opelt (1966). Champeaux (1996), for Varro.

38 Arnobius, Aduersus nationes 3.6–7. On the date of the work, see Simmons (1995), p. 93. Also Panegyres (2019), p. 307–308; Tommasi (2017), p. 13–18; Edwards (2016).

39 Arnob., Adu. nat. 4.2 (trans. H. Bryce, H Campbell, Anti-Nicene Fathers).

40 Miano (2018), p. 133–147.

41 DePalma Digeser (2000), p. 135.

42 Lactantius, Institutiones Diuinae 3.29.1: fortuna ergo per se nihil est: nec sic habendum est, tamquam sit in aliquo sensu, siquidem fortuna est accidentium rerum subitus atque inopinatus euentus.

43 Lact., Inst. diu. 3.29.7.

44 Clark (2021), p. 3–7.

45 Clark (2021), p. 9.

46 Clark (2021), p. 173

47 Walsh (2007), p. 1–13; Hammer (2019); Clark (2021), p. 173–177, do not address the significance of Felicitas in this text. More helpful is Van Reyn (2004), esp. p. 280–301, although he does not discuss specifically Book 4.

48 The topic comes back in ch. 15.

49 Miano (2018), p. 117–119.

50 Aug., Ciu. 4.9: turba minutorum deorum.

51 Aug., Ciu. 4.23.

52 Aug., Ciu. 4.33 (trans. P.G. Walsh, Aris and Phillips Classical Texts).

53 Van Reyn (2004), p. 179–180.

54 Marenbon (2003), p. 9–10 (96–163 for a detailed discussion of the Consolatio). Essential also Frakes (1988), Courcelle (1967) and Gruber (1978).

55 Marenbon (2003), p. 96, and 159; Magee (2009), p. 184.

56 Marenbon (2003), p. 150–151; Magee (2009), p. 182.

57 Boethius, Consolatio 2 p 1.10: hi semper eius mores sunt, ista natura.

58 Boeth., Cons. 2 p 1.19: Tu uero uoluentis rotae impetum retinere conaris? At, omnium mortalium stolidissime, si manere incipit, fors esse desistit.

59 Boeth., Cons. 2 m 1.3–4: dudum tremendos saeua proterit reges / humilemque uicti subleuat fallax uultum.

60 Boeth., Cons. 2 m 1.7: sic illa ludit.

61 Frakes (1988), p. 39.

62 Boeth., Cons. 2 p 2.9, trans. mine.

63 Boeth., Cons. 3 p 12.30: Ludisne, inquam, me inextricabilem labyrinthum rationibus texens, quae nunc quidem qua egrediaris introeas, nunc uero quo introieris egrediare, an mirabilem quendam diuinae simplicitatis orbem complicas? Magee (2009), p. 182–183.

64 Boeth., Cons. 3 p 12.36–37.

65 There seems to be a parallel to the interplay between Fortuna and Natura in Pliny the Elder, see above.

66 On this, see Dasen — Vespa (2020).

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Daniele Miano, « Fortuna, Games, and the Boundaries of the Divine: From Cicero to Boethius »Kernos, 35 | 2022, 163-183.

Référence électronique

Daniele Miano, « Fortuna, Games, and the Boundaries of the Divine: From Cicero to Boethius »Kernos [En ligne], 35 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 février 2024, consulté le 16 avril 2024. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Daniele Miano

Universitetet i Oslo

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search