Sirona

In Celtic mythology, Sirona was a goddess worshipped predominantly in East Central Gaul and along the Danubian limes. A healing deity, she was associated with healing springs; her attributes were wolves and children. She was the sometimes depicted with Apollo Grannus or Apollo Borvo. She was particularly worshipped by the Treveri in the Moselle Valley.

Etymology of the name

The name of the goddess was written in various ways: Sirona, Đirona, Thirona (Jufer & Luginbühl 2001:62-63), indicating some difficulty in capturing the initial sound in the Latin alphabet. The symbol Đ is used here to represent the "Tau Gallicum", an additional letter used in Gaulish and pronounced st- or ts- (Eska 1998, Mees 2002) - it is not a form of the letter "D".The root is Gaulish "*ster-" ("*h2ster") meaning a star (Markey 2001). The same root is found in Old Irish as "ser", Welsh "seren", Middle Cornish "sterenn" and Breton "steren(n)" (Delamarre 2003:282). The name Đirona combines the root "*ster-" with the "-on-" frequently, but not exclusively, found in theonyms (for example Epona, Matrona) and the usual Gaulish feminine singular "-a" (Hamp 1994).

Evidence for Sirona

The evidence for Sirona is both epigraphic (inscriptions) and representational (sculptures and statues). As the map shows, it is primarily concentrated in east-central Gaul, up to the Germanic limes, and along the Danubian limes as far east as Budapest. A few outliers are seen in Aquitaine, Brittany, and one in Italy. There are no Sirona finds in Britannia, Hispania, or in any of the other Roman provinces.


Inscriptions

Some inscriptions, such as those at Bordeaux (CIL XIII 00582), Corseul (CIL XIII 03143), the three from Ihn in Saarland, Germany (AE 1994, 1256, AE 1994, 1257, AE 1991, 1248), Mainz (CIL 13, 06753), Mühlberg in Baden-Württemburg (CIL 13, 06327) and Trier (CIL 13, 03662) are to the goddess Sirona alone, "deae Đironae".

More usually, Sirona is paired with Apollo, as in this inscription from Graux (CIL XIII, 04661) in the Vosges mountains:

:"Apollini et Si/ronae / Biturix Iulii f(ilius) / d(edit)"

or this inscription from Luxeuil-les-Bains in Franche-Comté (CIL XIII 05424):

:"Apollini / et Sironae / idem / Taurus"

When paired with Sirona, Apollo is often assimilated with a Gaulish deity, such as Apollo Borvo or Apollo Grannus. An example from Sarmizegetusa in Dacia (AE 1983, 00828):

:"Apollini / Granno et / Sironae / C(aius) Sempronius / Urbanus / proc(urator) Aug(usti)"

and another from Augsburg (AE 1992, 01304) where Sirona is given the epithet "sancta" (holy) and is joined by Diana:

:"Apollini / Granno / Dianae / [s] anct(a)e Siron(a)e / [p] ro sal(ute) sua / suorumq(ue) / omn(ium) / Iulia Matrona"

A dedication from Großbottwar in Baden-Württemburg (CIL 13, 06458 = AE 1994, 01305) can be precisely dated to the year 201 CE by mention of the two consuls, L. Annius Fabianus and M. Nonius Arrius Mucianus:

:"In h(onorem) d(omus) d(ivinae) Apo [lli] ni et Sironae / aedem cum signis C(aius) Longinius / Speratus vet(eranus) leg(ionis) XXII Pr(imigeniae) P(iae) F(idelis) et Iunia Deva coniunx et Lon/gini Pacatus Martinula Hila/ritas Speratianus fili(i) in / suo posuerunt v(otum) s(olverunt) l(ibentes) l(aeti) m(erito) / Muciano et Fabiano co(n)s(ulibus)"

Depictions

At the sulphur springs of Alzey in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, a stone bas-relief shows Sirona wearing a long gown and carrying a patera in her right hand and a sceptre in her left. The identification as Sirona is assured by a dedication (AE 1933, 00140) to Apollo and Sirona.

The richly furnished spring sanctuary of Hochscheid (Cueppers 1990; Weisgerber 1975) was decorated with statues of Sirona and Apollo, again confirmed by an inscription (AE 1941, 00089 = AE 1945, 00121) "Deo Apolli/ni et sanc/t(a)e Siron(a)e ..." (to Apollo and holy Sirona ...). The statue of Sirona shows her carrying a bowl of eggs (Green 1986 p.162) and holding a long snake coiled around her lower arm (a link to the iconography of the Greek healing goddess Hygeia, daughter of Asklepios). She wears a long gown and has a star-shaped diadem on her head (a link with the meaning of the name Sirona).

A bronze statue from Mâlain in the Côte d'Or and dating to around 280 CE (Deyts & Roussel 1994; Deyts 1998) shows Sirona naked to the waist and holding a snake draped over her left arm, together with a very classical Apollo with lyre. The inscription ( ILingons-M, 00002) is "Thiron(a) et Apollo".

A stone with an engraved bust of Sirona from Saint-Avold, now in the Musée de Metz, bears an inscription (CIL XIII 04498): :"Deae Đironae/ Maior Ma/giati filius / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)".

At Vienne-en-Val in the Loiret, a square stone pillar depicts Sirona, Apollo, Minerva and Hercules (Debal 1973). Sirona wears a long dress and a diadem, from which falls a veil. Her left hand holds a cornucopia and in her right is a patera which she is offering to a coiled snake. Again there is a similarity with Hygeia, who also carries a snake. Indeed, when a statue has no inscription, it is not clear whether Sirona or Hygeia is depicted, a syncretism demonstrated by the inscription at Wein (AE 1957, 00114) which includes Sirona and Aesculapius, the Roman form of Asklepios::" [I(ovi)] O(ptimo) M(aximo) / Apollini / et Sirona [e] / [Ae] sculap [io] / P(ublius) Ael(ius) Luciu/s |(centurio) leg(ionis) X v(otum) s(olvit) / l(ibens) l(aetus) m(erito)"

A different aspect of Sirona is shown at Sainte-Fontaine, where Sirona holds fruit and corn (Green 1986 p.161).

Temples

Several temples to Sirona are known. Often these were of the Gallo-Roman fanum type, an inner [cella] with an outer walkway or pronaos, and were constructed around thermal springs or wells, as at Augst (Bakker 1990) and Oppenheim-Nierstein (Cüppers 1990).

At Budapest(in antiquity, Aquincum) a healing shrine at the spring which fed the aqueduct was dedicated to Apollo (presumably Grannus) and Sirona (AE 1982, 0806

:"Apolini /et/Serana(e)/ T(itus)Iul(ius) MER/CATOR D(e)C(urio)/V [1] LM"

It was established by the emperor Caracalla when he visited Pannonia, although Dio Cassius says (Roman Histories, 78.15) that the emperor

:"received no help from Apollo Grannus, nor yet from Aesculapius or Serapis, in spite of his many supplications and his unwearying persistence".

Two inscriptions describe the establishment of temples to Sirona. From Ihn-Niedaltdorf an inscription (CIL XIII, 04235 = AE 1991, 1248) records the donation of a building and its furnishings at the dedicant's expense:

:"De [ae Sirona] e / aedem [cum suis or] na/mentis M [3] v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) l(aetus) m(erito)"

At Wiesbaden in Hesse (in antiquity, Aquae Mattiacorum) an inscription (CIL XIII 07570) records the restoration of a temple by a "curator" at his own expense:

:"Sironae / C(aius) Iuli(us) Restitutus / c(urator) templ(i) d(e) s(uo) p(osuit)"

An elaborate shrine and temple complex at Hochscheid (Cüppers 1990) has already been mentioned. It was built in the second century CE around a spring, which filled a cistern in the temple. The remote location is thought to have been a pilgrimage site (Weisgerber 1975). It was destroyed in the third century, probably during the Germanic incursions of 250-270, and was never rebuilt.

Modern astronomy

The asteroid 116 Sirona is named in her honour.

References

* Année Epigraphique (AE), yearly volumes.
* "Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum" (CIL) vol XIII, Inscriptiones trium Galliarum et Germaniarum
* Cüppers, H. (ed) (1990). "Die Römer in Rheinland-Pfalz". Theiss. ISBN 3-8062-0308-3
* Delamarre, X. (2003). "Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise" (2nd ed.). Paris: Editions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-237-6
* Debal, J. (1983) Vienne-en-Val, Divinites et sanctuaires. "Bulletin de la Société Archéologique et Historique de l'Orléanais", 42
* Deyts, S; Roussel, L. (1994) Mâlain, fouilles de Mediolanum: découverte, en juillet 1993, d'un buste de divinité de l'eau dans son contexte. "Revue archéologique de l'Est et du Centre-Est - Dijon", 45 pp. 503-509
* Deyts, S. (1998). "A la rencontre des dieux gaulois, un défi à César". Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux.
* Dio Cassius, "Roman Histories". Earnest Cary (trans), Loeb Classical Library. [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/78*.html Available online]
* Eska, J. F. (1998). Tau Gallicum. "Studia Celtica" 32 pp.115-127
* Green, M. (1986). "Gods of the Celts". Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-1581-1. (Page numbering in reference above is to the 1986 edition, not the 2004 edition, ISBN 0-7509-3479-4)
* Hamp, E.P. (1994). Incidence of Gaulish divine names in -on-. "Studia Celtica Japonica" NS 4, pp. 71-72.
* Jufer, N.; Luginbühl, T. (2001) "Répertoire des dieux gaulois". Paris, Editions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-200-7
* Markey, T.L. (2001). 'Ingvaeonic' *"sterir" 'star' and astral priests. "NOWELE" 39 pp. 85-113.
* Mees, B. (2002). On Gaulish tau. "Studia Celtica" 36, pp. 21-26.
* Weisgerber, G. (1975). "Das Pilgerheiligtum des Apollo und der Sirona von Hochscheid im Hunsruck". Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Press.

External links

* [http://www.altiaia.de/frauennetz/fr2000-2.htm Alzey sculpture] (in German, illustrated) - includes an unreferenced woodcut of a temple to Apollo and Sirona
* [http://jfbradu.free.fr/celtes/vienne/03cadre-pilier1.htm Vienne-en-Val sculptures] (in French, illustrated).


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