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The Cover
April 2, 2008


Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2008;299(13):1515. doi:10.1001/jama.299.13.1515

If the earth is a mother, then April is surely her opening womb, springtime her abundant breasts. This youthful and fertile earth has many names, among them Flora, for the Roman goddess of gardens and flowers. The husband of her springtime is Zephyrus, the gentle west wind who was said to produce flowers and fruits by the sweetness of his breath. Flora, who is sometimes called a nymph, sometimes a courtesan, was worshiped by the Sabines, long before the founding of Rome, and by the Phoceans, also before the founding of Rome. Games were instituted in Flora's honor at the time of Romulus, but they did not become an annual event until nearly six hundred years later. By that time, the games, called Floralia, had become noted for their licentiousness. The abstemious Cato, who held the important Roman office of Censorius (he drank only water, it is said, and was moderate in all other things even to the extent of believing the fine arts would corrupt the people), was so repulsed by the proceedings the first time he attended the Floralia that he left while they were still under way, never to return. Though there is no record that the games were stopped or future games banned, it is reported that the spectators applauded him for conforming his deeds to his beliefs. Flora's Greek counterpart is Chloris (from whom we derive our word chlorophyll). Her husband, too, was Zephyrus.