The Gods of Belgium

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The Gods of Belgium

Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun Mar 26, 2006 2:01 pm

Salvete omnes

I have been doing a survey of Roman inscriptions as part of a research project. I thought the Belgae here might be interested...

These are the names of various deities found on Roman inscriptions inside Belgica. The numbers indicate how frequently they are found, and thus give some idea of their relative importance to the Romans

Aesculapus 1, Ammaca (Gamaleda) 1, Ancamna (w/Mars) 9, Apollo (Borvonis 9, Grannus, Libentius, Vindonnus) 50, Aveta 3, Bellona 3, Britus 1, Caiva 1, Camloriga 1, Deus Caprionis 2, Cautopatis (Castor &Pollux) 2, Deus Cerunincus 2, Chrodoara 1, Cissonius 1, Concordia 1, Deus Cretonis 2, Damona 9, Diana (Nemetona) 15, Dirona Silvinis (w/Apollo) 3, Epona 4, Fons 1, Fortuna (Domestica, Redux) 7, Geni loci 19, Genius 3, Genius centuriae 1, Gesacus 1, Hecate 11, Hercules (Magisus, Saxanus) 35, Icovellauna 5, Isis Myrionyma 1, Dea Januaria 1, Jupiter O M: 57, Jupiter Dolichenus 2, Juno 7, Liber 1, Luna 1, Magna Mater 1, Maia 1, Mars (Bivis, Camulus, Cicolluis, Cnabetius, Intarbus, Iovantucarus, Litavus, Quadrivis, Smerulitanus, Trivis, Vegnius, Volmionis) 65, Matres 5, Mercurius (Attaedius, Bigentius, Iovanturcus, Moccus, Recmus, Visucius) 97, Minerva 13, Mithra 9, Mogontia 1, Nantosuelta (Sucellus) 1, Nemesis 3, Nennicus Adcenecus 1, Neptunus 1, Nymphae (Divinis aequis) 5, Obela 1, Oglaius 1, Deus Ouniorigis 1, Proserpina 2, Ritona Pritona 4, Rosemerta 17, Sabazius 1, Sequana 1, Serapis 1, Silvanus 2, Sinquatus 1, Sirona (Thirona) 6, Sol 2, Sol Invictus 5, Sucellus 5, Sulevis Junones 4, Veraudunus (et Inciona) 1, Vertumus (Pisintus) 2, Vesta 1, Victoria 5, Videtillus 1, Vihansa 1, Dea Virathetis 1, Virtus 1, Visucia 1, Deus Vorionis 3, Vulcanus 2, Deus incertus 27.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Jun 24, 2006 3:46 pm

Salvete Sodales, cultores Deorum, et omnes

In addition to Belgium, I have been strolling through Latin inscriptions of all the other provinces of the Roman empire, passing through over 80,000 inscriptions by now, with only certain parts of Italy to complete. I was just a bit curious over something Pliny wrote:

"Throughout the whole world, in all places and at all times, Fortuna alone is invoked, alone commended, alone accused and subjected to reproaches; deemed volatile and indeed, by most men, blind as well, wayward, capricious, fickle in Her favours and favouring the unworthy."

Almost get the impression that Pliny was in the stands watching some of the games, and the fans, of the Copa Mundiale. But, just curious, who were the more popular Gods and Goddesses of the Romans? One way to look, although only at a very small portion of the Roman populace, is to survey the names of deities found on Roman inscriptions. Lots of surprises, especially from one province to the next, but think for a moment who might be some of your favorite deities and then take a look below. Did you favorite Goddess make it into the Top Twenty?

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Jupiter 2477
xxxxxxxxxxxxx Mecurius 645 (26%)
xxxxxxxxxxx Mars 557 (22%)
xxxxxxxx Silvanus 417 (17%)
xxxxxxx Juno Regina 369 (15%)
xxxxxxx Bona Fortuna 346 (14%)
xxxxxxx Hercules 341 (14%)
xxxxxxx Diana 327 (13%)
xxxxxx Mithra 299 (12%)
xxxxxx Apollo 297 (12%)

xxxxx Minerva 236 (10%)
xxxx Nymphae 182 (7%)
xxx Liber Pater 168 (7%)
xxx Victoria 168 (7%)
xxx Jupiter Dolichenus 163 (7%)
xxx Dea Nehalennia 151 (6%)
xxx Castor & Pollux 138 (6%)
xxx Aesculapius 134 (5%)
xx Magna Mater 118 (5%)
xx Sol Invictus 114 (5%)


The numbers are the aggregate number of times Their names appear in inscriptions (outside Italy) and the percentage is a comparison with the aggregate for Jupiter. Not included above are all the inscriptions to a Genius Loci 357. Along with that perhaps we could also include the inscriptions dedicated to local deities - Celtic, Germanic, and Celtiberian - as they appear very frequently. Taken as Geni Loci, they would be second only to Jupiter Optimus Maximus. One appeared so frequently that She made it into the Top Twenty on Her own. Dea Neahalennia was a Germanic Goddess found mostly around the mouth of Rhine and some inscriptions in Britannia, mainly protecing travel across the North sea
http://www.livius.org/ne-nn/nehalennia/nehalennia.html Another Goddess of some importance was Sirona, and at this site there is a map showing the distribution of Roman inscriptions dedicated to Her. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirona

Although I haven't yet completed the survey of inscriptions inside Italy, If I did include those figures for what I have already collected (from a review of an additional 20,000+) what changes is the Hercules rises to fifth position, above Juno, and the rest remain relatively the same. Why keep Italy out of it? Well, for one thing, the inscriptions outside Italy first began appearing during the time of Augustus, so this is more or a less a picture of the Imperial Periods.

One thing of interest here is trying to assess, in a sort of statistical way, the relative importance of different deities in comparison to what some Roman authors had to say. For example, Juvenal complained about the influence of Syrian deities at Rome in his day by saying that the Orontes was pouring into the Tiber, but really the Dea Syria appears only a third as often as such Goddesses as Tutela, Dea Sunuxalis, Vacallinelis, and Atufranehis. Isis appears (among Latin inscriptions) only slightly more often than do these Celtic and Germanic Goddesses, although in southern Italy and in the Eastern provinces (where Greek was the common language) Her Hellenist cultus was more significant.

You also have to qualify some of this "statistical" information. Mithra shows up prominently in above list, but then erecting inscriptions was very much a part of that cultus so that the numbers are probably inflated over His actual importance. Likewise with Mars and Mercurius (and Apollo), since several of the Celtic and Germanic Gods were equated with these Greco-Roman Gods, Their appearance in raw numbers is rather inflated as well. No other deities compare with Jupiter, but as far as popularity goes, after Jupiter, Goddesses out numbered Gods by almost five to one, and that doesn't include all the dedications made to Nymphae, Matrones, and the Junones Matres. Wherever the Romans went they adopted the local deities as their own, and most frequently the local Goddesses. After Jupiter, the most significant God was Silvanus, which makes a great deal of sense among Roman colonists carving out homesteads in the wildreness. Surveying the Latin inscriptions offers a number of surprises, and an entirely different perspective of the religiousity of the Romans from what you usually get by reading historical accounts based on just Roman texts.

Valete et vadete in pace Deorum
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