Aura (mythology)

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Aura velificans, caryatid from the agora of Thessalonica (late 2nd–early 3rd century)

Aura, in ancient Greek and ancient Roman religion, is the divine personification of the breeze. The plural form, Aurae, "Breezes," is often found. They are the daughters of the Anemoi:[1]

  • Boreas, the god of the north wind.
  • Eurus, the god of the east wind.
  • Zephyrus, the god of the west wind.
  • Notus, the god of the south wind

The most well-known Aurae is Chione; a daughter of Boreas (the North Wind); Chione is also a goddess of Winter(time) and snow.

The velificatio, a billowing garment that forms an arch overhead, is the primary attribute by which an Aura can be identified in art. A pair of velificantes (figures framed by a velificatio) that appear on the Augustan Altar of Peace have sometimes been identified as Aurae.[2] Pliny describes statues of the Aurae velificantes sua veste, "making a sail with their garment," at the Porticus Octaviae in Rome.[3] Aurae can resemble Nereids, from whom they are distinguishable mainly by the absence of marine imagery.[4]

The Augustan poet Ovid introduces Aura into the tragic story of Cephalus and Procris, playing on the verbal similarity of Aura and Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn who was the counterpart of Greek Eos.[5]

The Dionysiaca of Nonnus (early 5th century) presents the most extended mythology of Aura, though Nonnus is both late and idiosyncratic. In the Dionysiaca, Aura was the daughter of Lelantos and Periboa and mother of Iacchus by Dionysus.

Aurae are also said to partially resemble ghosts, and can become part of the breeze, or can prevent it. They appear to disappear into the air, which, along with the fact that they glide, is why they are often mistaken for spirits of the departed. They are also said to sometimes work with Aeolus, Master of Winds, and are the more gentle cousins of the Harpies.

Aura, the goddess of such breezes, appears in Sandro Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus.


  1. ^ AURAE : Nymphs of the breezes ; Greek mythology ; pictures : AURAI
  2. ^ Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (University of Michigan Press, 1988, 1990), pp. 240–241.
  3. ^ Pliny, Natural History 36.29.
  4. ^ Babette Stanley Spaeth, "The Goddess Ceres in the Ara Pacis Augustae and the Carthage Relief," American Journal of Archaeology 98 (1994), pp. 77–78.
  5. ^ Ovid, Ars Amatoria 3.687–746 and Metamorphoses 7.672–862; Peter Green, From Ikaria to the Stars: Classical Mythification, Ancient and Modern (University of Texas Press, 2004), pp. 253–254. See also Servius, note to Aeneid 6.445.