Acaunos/Saxanus

Etymology:

It is almost without question that Saxanus, the name under which this deity appears in Noricum, is of Latin origin (“of the stones”) and that His cult originated in Central Italy.[1] However, His relation to other deities with semantically similar names is still up in the air. De Bernardo Stempel essentially describes “Saxanus” as a Latin parallel of an indigenous Celtic theonym from Pannonia Superior: Agaunus/Agannus (from Acaunos = “of the stones”).[2] This connection, however, is only valid semantically. Upon realizing that de Bernardo Stempel is referrencing the Vindobona altar[3] in this line, it becomes obvious that the deities are unrelated. The altar itself is erected at the confluence of the Danube and the Wien river, which was once called the Acaunus river. This, along with a newer reading of the theonym in the altar as Acaunus, makes it clear that the deity in question is the patron god of the “stony river”[4], not a parallel with Saxanus. In another piece, de Bernardo Stempel relates Saxanus to another Celtic theonym, Carnios.[5] This is, as far as can be understood without an inline citation, a referrence to the theonym Carneus Calantice(n)sis from Lusitania. This is a particularly difficult position to reconcile, since in 2013 de Bernardo Stempel seems to accept Prosper’s identification of Carneus as the Celtic theonym Karnios (“of the cairns”)[6], but yet in 2014 seems to reject it.[7] Regardless, semantically, both Acaunos and Carnios are acceptable Celtic epithets for the deity called Saxanus in Noricum.

Function:

The connection of the epithet Saxanus with Hercules is best explored through His connection with Roman military units serving in quarries and mines. This connection was identified fairly early on, at least when Saxanus was still considered of either Germanic or Celtic origin[8] and not, as He is now understood, certianly Roman.[9][10] There are a few inferences to draw from the etymology of His name, and the nature of His cult practice. The first, obviously, is that of a patron of quarrymen, miners, and masonry.[11] The second, as Derks describes is related to the quality of Hercules as “conqueror of mountains.”[12] The final, and possibly most appealing, is related to Hercules’ role as a patron of career (or general fortune-bringer), and given an appropriate epithet by worker-legionaries in the Roman military.[13]

In Practice:

Within Bessus Noricon, this deity shall be referred to as Acaunos. The Celtic word *acaunon is attested in toponyms (and a hydronym, as previously explored) in the general region of Noricum[14], and is an appropriate Celtic alternative to a Latin epithet. He is a patron of quarrymen and miners, a patron of laborers and labor itself, as well as a patron of career and bringer of fortune.

Interpretatio:

Hercules

Iconography:

Apart from the typical tools of a quarryman/miner (such as the pickaxe), it is not unreasonable to assume He also would be associated with the typical trappings of a Hercules figure (such as the club).

Sources

  1. Hercules Saxanus: Germanisch, keltisch oder römisch? by Krešimir Matijević, 2016, p. 56

  2. Die sprachliche Analyse keltischer Theonyme by Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, 2003, p. 46

  3. CIL III, 14359, 27

  4. Eine umstrittene Altarinschrift aus Vindobona by GÉZA ALFÖLDY, 2011, p. 1

  5. Interpretatio Romana vel indigena im Spiegel der Götterformulare by Manfred Hainzmann & Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, 2013, p. 217

  6. Lenguas y religiones prerromanas del occidente de la Península Ibérica by Blanca Maria Prosper, 2002, pp. 173-175

  7. Matres Endeiterae, Deus Sanctus Endovelecos, Dea Nave, and Other Indigenous and Classical Deities in the Iberian Peninsula by Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, 2014, pp. 193-194

  8. The cults of Cisalpine Gaul as seen in the inscriptions by Joseph Clyde Murley, 1922, p. 85

  9. Gods, Temples, and Ritual Practices: The Transformation of Religious Ideas and Values in Roman Gaul by Ton Derks, 1998, p. 77

  10. Celtic Theonymy at the 14th F.E.R.C.AN. Workshops by Blanca María Prósper, 2018, p. 243

  11. The Cult of Hercules in Central-Eastern Transpadana by Paola Tomasi, 2017, p. 404

  12. Gods, Temples, and Ritual Practices: The Transformation of Religious Ideas and Values in Roman Gaul by Ton Derks, 1998, p. 77

  13. Gallic images of Hercules by Olivier Hekster, 2014, p. 7

  14. Dictionnaire de la Langue Gauloise by Xavier Delamarre, 2003, p. 30