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Epona Inscriptions

The reason that we know Epona's name is because of dedicatory inscriptions (mostly in Latin, a few in Greek) and through passing references in the Latin literature. Although the name Epona is clearly Gaulish, there are no inscriptions to Epona written in Gaulish. The custom of setting up dedications for others to read was introduced to Gaul by the Romans, so the inscriptions use Epona as a foreign name.

Many of the Epona inscriptions are regular Roman altars with a carved focus on top (for libations or other offerings) and an inscription on the front face. The sides may be carved or, in many cases, are plain. Here a representative selection of Epona inscriptions is presented.

Szentendre inscription

The following inscription from Ulcisia Castra (modern town of Szentendre, Pest County, Hungary) [AE 1973 #438, Euskirchen #282] is typical.

Genio t(urmae) et /
Epon(a)e Reg(inae) /
Iul(ius) Victor /
eq(ues) vexi(llarius) coh(ortis) /
n(ova) S(everianae) Gordian(ae) /
S(urorum) s(agittariorum) in honore(m) t(urmae) /
v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) /
Imp(eratore) d(omino) n(ostro) Gordiano /
II et {et} Pomp(eiano) co(n)s(ulibus) /
Kal(endis) Iun(iis)

Dated to 1 June on the inscription itself, and to the year 241 by mention of the consuls, this altar is dedicated 'to the spirit of the squadron' (Genio Turmae) and to Epona, here given the additional epithet of 'Queen'. The military unit was a cohort of mounted archers.

Pförring inscription

This altar from Pförring (Bayern, Germany) [CIL III #5910 and 11909] is dedicated by an ala (auxiliary cavalry wing).

Pforring altar

Altar from Pförring (Bayern, Germany)

Campes(tribus) et /
Eponae Ala I /
Sing(ularium) P(ia) F(idelis) /
C(ivium) R(omanorum Cvi P(rae)est /
Ael(ius) Bassianus /
Praef(ectus) v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)

The inscription says 'To the gods of the parade ground and to Epona, the first corps of equites singulares, pious, loyal, formed of Roman citizens and led by the prefect Aelius Bassianus, in fulfillment of a vow'.

Auchendavy inscription

Another altar, from Auchendavy (Strathkelvin District, Strathclyde Region, Scotland, United Kingdom) is the most northerly Epona dedication and comes from a Roman fort built just west of where the river Kelvin crosses the line of the Antonine wall. The altar was unearthed in 1771 during excavations of the Forth and Clyde canal and is now in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow. [Anderson; CIL VIII #1114b; Keppie p.105 and plate XIII; Reinach 1895 #82]

Auchendavy altar

Altar from Auchendavy (Strathkelvin District, Strathclyde Region, Scotland, United Kingdom)

Marti /
Minervae /
Campestri/bus Herc(u)l(i) /
Eponae /
Victoriae /
M(arcus) Coccei(us) /
Firmus /
|(centurio) leg(ionis) II Aug(ustae)

The altar is dedicated to Mars, Minerva, the Goddesses of the Parade Ground, Hercules, Epona, and Victory by Marcus Cocceius Firmus, a centurion of the 2nd Legion and most likely a member of the emperor Marcus Aurelius' bodyguard [Birley].

Alise-Ste-Reine inscription

A dedicatory inscription from Alesia (modern Alise-Ste-Reine, Côte d'Or, Bourgogne, France) [Ann. Epigr. 1939, #235] on a bronze plaque of a mule cart, was made with small punched dots (a common means of lettering used on military equipment such as helmets, for example):

Dea(e) Epon(a)e. Satigenus Solemni(s) /

'To the goddess Epona, Satigenus son of Solemnis willingly fulfilled his vow'. It is likely that the lettering was applied after purchase, rather than by the same metalworker who created the bronze plaque.

Aptaat inscription

This inscription from Aptaat (Tolbuhin region, Bulgaria) is one of the few inscriptions in Greek [Reinach 1902 p.237; Magnen & Thévenot #33 (inscription) #219 (depiction)]. It does not name Epona explicitly, but is carved on an imperial type stone bas-relief of Epona seated between two horses which face inwards, offering them food from her lap. Passers by were thus expected to recognise the goddess by her attributes alone, the name being considered superfluous.

Θεαν έπηχοον Αίλιος Πανλίν [ος άνεθη]

The inscription reads 'Aelius Paulinus has given this image of the auspicious goddess'. It is from Aptaat (Tolbuhin region, Bulgaria) and is dated to the beginning of the second century ce at the time when cohort II Gallorum was staying in Mosesia (100-122ce). From the name of this unit, it was originally raised in the Gauls, but units recruited locally when they were stationed in one place for any length of time. The native language of this dedicant was clearly Greek, spoken in preference to Latin in the eastern part of the Empire, but a dedication is made to Epona as one of the deities of the unit.

Entrains-sur-Nohain inscriptions

An inscription dedicating an Epona temple from Entrains-sur-Nohain (Nièvre, Bourgogne, France), in antiquity Intaranum and the civitas capital of the Aulerci Brannovici tribe, clients of the Aedui. [Caesar, DBG 7.75]

Augusto sacrum deae /
Eponae /
Connonius Icotasgi fil(ius) /
templum cum suis orna/
mentis omnibus de suo donavit l(ibens) m(erito)'

The inscription reads "To the August Goddess Epona, Connonius, son of Icotasgus, gave this temple with all its decor, at his own expense" and is dated to the early second century [AE 1897, 0014; CIL 13, 02902; ]. It was found in the ruins of a temple[Thévenot ]. Other temples at Intaranum were dedicated to Jupiter, Apollo Borvo, to Mithras, and to an unknown deity. The Epona temple was built on or close to the source of the river Nohain, the course of which formed the north-western edge of Aedui territory. [Goudineau]

A second dedicatory inscription from the same location [AE 1897, 0015; CIL 13, 2903] reads:

Aug(usto) sac(rum) /
deae Epona(e) /
Marcellus /
Maturi f(ilius) in/
[c]ol(a) d(e) s(uo) d(edit) v(otum) s(olvit) [m(erito)]

"Consecrated to the August Goddess Epona, Marcellus, son of Maturus, in this place, freely at his own expense, gladly and deservedly fulfilled his vow". Based on the letterforms, to the epigrapher Hirschfeld dated this inscription to the end of the first century [Boucher; Thévenot ].

Guidizzolo inscription

A rustic calendar inscribed on stone at Guidizzolo (Mantova, Lombardia, Italy) mentions the feast of Epona. [Boucher 1999, ILS 4917, RA 1892] It is now in the church of St. Martini. Guidizzolo is south-west of Verona and north-west of Mantua, and thus falls in the area of northern Italy which was formerly the province of Gallia Cisalpina.

'XV Kalendas Ianuarius Eponae'

The fifteenth day before the kalend (first) of January is 18 December.

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Anderson, J. (1771) 'Of the Roman Wall between the Forth & Clyde; and some Discoveries which have lately been made upon it' Andersonian Library, University of Strathclyde, Anderson MS 22A, ff. 93-119

Année Epigraphique (1897), #14

Année Epigraphique (1939), #235

Année Epigraphique (1973), #438

Birley, E Marcus Cocceius Firmus: An Epigraphic Study Antiq. Scot. X 1935

Boucher, Stéphanie (1984). L'inscription d'Entrains CIL XIII, 2903 et l'apparition du culte d'Epona en Gaule au I siècle de notre ère. Hommages à Lucien Lerat. W. H. Paris, Les Belles Lettres: 131-134.

Boucher, Stéphanie (1999) Notes Sur Epona pp. 15-22 in Burnand, Yves and Lavagne, Henri Signa deorum. L'iconographie divine en Gaule romaine, De Boccard (Gallia romana). ISBN: 2701801230

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL), 17 volumes

Dessau, Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, Ferialia. ILS 4917

Euskirchen, Marion. Epona in Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission Deutsches Archäologisches Institut., (1994) 74 pp. 607-838. Francfurt am Main. ISBN 3-8053-1485-X. ISSN 0341-9312

Goudineau, C. and C. Peyre (1993). Bibracte et les Eduens: à la découverte d'un peuple gaulois. Paris Glux-en-Glenne, Editions Errance; Centre archéologique européen du Mont-Beuvray.

Keppie, Lawrence (1998) Roman Inscribed and Sculptured Stones in the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow, Britannia Monograph Series No. 13, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. Calalogue number 36.

Magnen, René; Thévenot , Emile (1953) Épona : déesse Gauloise des chevaux, protectrice des cavaliers.. Delmas, Bordeaux.

Revue Archéologique (1892), II p.146

Reinach, Salomon (1895, 1898, 1899, 1902, 1903) Épona. Revue archéologique 1895, part 1, 113, 309. Addenda ibid 1898, part 2, 187; 1899, part 2, 61; 1902, part 1, 227; 1903, part 2, 348.

Thévenot , Emile (1949) Les monuments et le culte d'Épona chez les Éduens. L'antiquite classique, 18, 385-400

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