Roma is the personification of the city of Rome, and all the qualities and virtues that made Rome great. She was the guardian of the city and the empire, in the same way that the statue of Lady Liberty is the symbolic guardian of Ellis Island, the gateway to America. In many ways Roma is the Goddess of western civilization itself.
There is some debate among scholars about whether She was considered a full-fledged Goddess (dea), as opposed to a spirit of place (genius loci). The Romans believed that just as each person had their own guiding spirit (the Agathos Daimon to the Greeks, and the genius and juno for the Romans), that cities, countries, families, and even companies had their own animating spirit. Truly it is not so important which one Roma is, as in practice it is much the same. We modern folk are obsessed with putting everything in its proper place, giving everything a neat little label. Although I do believe Her to be a full Goddess, for several reasons. The first being that people are still called to honor Her today, even though we are far from Italy and the Rome She knew has long since fallen. The second is that She is not just a spirit of place like the nymphs, but She embodies the unique Roman blend of virtues, ideals, skills and qualities.
Among these are the love of freedom, invention, the firm stance against tyranny, the belief that a man can create his own destiny, and that most unique of Roman traits, the ability to learn from all they met and to adapt and change. In many ways you can see that these are still treasured values in the western world today.
Roma was very prominent in the state cult of Rome, and when the Emperors began to be worshiped as Gods She rose to more prominence. Emperor Hadrian liked to make the pun that Roma reversed was Amor – and Venus was the Goddess of love and the mother of Rome through Aeneas. In fact, Venus and Roma shared a Temple on the Velian Hill in Rome, in a precipitous spot between the Forum and the Colosseum. It was dedicated to Venus Felix and Roma Aeterna. Hadrian himself was architect. Construction started in 121 AD. It was officially dedicated by Hadrian in 135, but was not completely finished until 141 AD.
When Roma appears on Roman coinage, Her symbols are similar to Minerva and She is wearing a helmet. In the early Republican period, only Her face or bust was shown. By the time of the Empire, She was depicted on coins as standing figure, an Amazon type in full armor. Her image was still used in the Christian era, seated on a throne. At that time She was no longer worshiped, but was just a symbol of the empire.
I honor Roma on the days that I offer worship to the spirit of Julius Caesar or on the celebration of the Natalis Urbis, the Birth of the City, the founding of Rome. Her spirit is hard to describe. She is calm and utterly self-assured that She is the Mistress of the World. She is welcoming – Rome welcomed everyone into the city – but in a regal, magnificent kind of way. She is a little bit distant at the same time She welcomes you.
She feels HUGE, truly the spirit of an empire.