The word “liberty” is derived from the Latin word Libertas.
She was honored for over two thousands years by the Romans as the Goddess of freedom. Libertas was the original lady of liberty and a first temple was first built in her honor around 238 BCE on Aventine Hill in Rome.
A matron with a torch and a free-flowing robe, she personified freedom from societal and personal restraints. Freedom was one of the most important virtues in the Roman culture and Lady Liberty continues to remind us of that very virtue the pilgrims sought after when arriving on the shores of America.
Unlike many Roman deities, Libertas was disposed to hear personal prayers of those who called to her. Many of the Roman seals and coins of the time bore her image.
How did the Roman Goddess of liberty come to inspire our Lady of Liberty?
Well it all started at a party on the evening of April 21st, 1865 in a small village in Northeastern France. Edouard de Laboulaye, a professor of Law and also a huge partisan of the American political system had invited his friends over to celebrate the secession of Southern states in America. But Napoleon the III, the emperor of France at the time had taken the side of the Southern States. So how could the French, who shared the same liberal ideals as the Northern States, could show their support without offending the emperor?
Edouard de Laboulaye suggests to build a monument that would become a chef d’oeuvre shared by our two nations.
Amidst the invitees of the evening was a certain sculptor by the name of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and he happened to be a fan of the idea. But it would take ten more years before the idea would concretize.
The original name of the statue of liberty was “Liberty Enlightening the World”. The British have called the Goddess of Liberty “Britannia” and She later became known as “Columbia” by the Europeans to symbolize the American freedom through the discovery of Christopher Columbus.