We may be in the middle of winter, sure, but our weekly Women's Wednesday does not wait: our guest this time is Flora, goddess of spring and flowers. Or... was she?

Boccaccio, in fact, portrays a woman that is very different from the noble, fair nymph that we usually see in art - like in the Primavera by Botticelli. According to the author, Flora was no more than an unscrupulous prostitute who, having managed to gain a huge amount of riches, donated them all to the city of Rome upon her death. Wanting her name to be remembered in glory, she asked for a yearly festival, the Floralia, to be instituted with her money: during these games, prostitutes would dance around naked or offer some kind of striptease. As time went by, however, Romans eventually grew ashamed of the origins of the festival: because of this, they made up the story of Flora being a beautiful nymph who became a proper goddess after her marriage with Zephyrus, the god of wind.

“Flora”, illumination from the manuscript “De Mulieribus Claris”, decorated by Robinet Testard, ms. Français 599, f. 56v, 1488-1496, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Paris.

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