The Goddess Fortuna

Fortuna, on a Roman denarius


"Some means must be found to restore the Goddess of Plenty to the role of benefactress-in-chief that was hers without question under a simpler economy. A business machine that is disabled by its own productivity will not long endure in this restless and dissatisfied world"

Benjamin Graham, Storage and Stability (1937: p.17)

A favorite subject in ancient art, the goddess Fortuna is usually depicted holding a rudder in one hand and a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, in the other. The rudder signified that she guides the destiny of the world; the cornucopia, that she was the provider of abundance.  Known as Tyche to the Greeks, Fortuna was worshipped extensively throughout the Roman Empire and had oracular shrines at Antium and Praeneste (now Anzio and Palestrina).  At first, she was regarded as a kind of fertility goddess or bearer of prosperity, and later was invoked for good luck - or lamented to, as in the "Ode to Fortuna", the famous opening of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.  

The Roman coins below exhibit the image of Fortuna with her rudder and cornucopia.   The first coin is a the reverse of a Jula Domna denarius while the second is a Trajan denarius.  More details can be obtained from  Jay King's website at from where these images were borrowed.

fortuna2.gif (31509 bytes)

fortun1.gif (60583 bytes)

We have used the Fortuna, Roman denarius as a motif for our bufferstock project because it conflates by metaphor several ideas which are interlinked with the research we are doing.

(1) The denarius is ancient.  The Commodity bufferstock idea, set in practice in many ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptian, Chinese and Roman.

(2) It is a coin.  An international commodity-backed currency is one answer to the stabilization of countries terms of trade. Benjamin Graham put this view forcefully in his book World Commodities and World Currency.

(3) Fortuna is the goddess of plenty. The use of commodity buffer stocks "buffers" against fluctuations in output, in particular it eliminates the deleterious effect of excess production and surpluses of commodities on economic activity and therefore makes abundance a source of wealth, as it should be.   This is in contrast to older economic theory that considers general gluts and abundance as mostly harmful.

(4) Fortuna is the goddess of luck and destiny.   Commodities are notoriously susceptible to unpredictable fluctuations in prices and volume due to weather, and inelasticities of supply.  The prices of commodities usually depends on the "luck" of current market conditions.

(5) Fortuna "steers" with her rudder.   Several metaphors here: (i) the use of commodity buffer stocks require the planned and concerted efforts on the part of producers, marketing boards and governments, (ii) fluctuations in commodity prices and outputs tend to steer fluctuations in other prices and outputs, (iii) by eliminating fluctuations with commodity buffer stocks, economic activity becomes more steady and predictable.  We believe that policy can direct the economy towards abundance, growth and full employment.

undrcons.gif (1169 bytes)
| Home | Search | Introduction | Theory | Benjamin Graham |
| Library | Data | Links | Contact | Frames |