Mercuries without Mercury: On the God’s Independent Gaulish Epicleses

(The following is research organized by Viducos Brigantici. To see more of this work, his website is Deo Mercurio.)

Introduction

While I was working on a recent essay on syncretism, I realized that I had hitherto paid inadequate attention to the distinction between Celtic names that could stand on their own as theonyms and those epithets that served adjectivally to indicate a place, activity, or quality of the deity (cf. the various types of epithets identified by Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel 2006). As a devotee of the Gaulish Mercury, I am particularly curious about which Gaulish epithets of Mercury are also attested as stand-alone names, in what contexts are these found (i.e. in terms of different cultic companions or different iconography), and what their etymologies tell us. 

As Pierre-Yves Lambert observes, Gallo-Roman epigraphy tends to elide the differences that must naturally have existed among the various Celtic names, bynames, kennings, and epithets of deities – all of which would have become simply ‘epithets’ of a Latin-named deity (Lambert 2013, p. 113). Among such epithets, Lambert distinguishes a relatively limited number that are also used on their own, remarking that, “As I see it, this independent usage characterizes a divine ‘epiclesis’, i.e. either a theonym in its own right or else an epithet taken as equivalent to a theonym – one might say, a nickname [surnom] (in the sense of ‘substitute for a name’). These epicleses must probably have enjoyed a distinct favour and cultus, joined perhaps with particular iconography” (Lambert 2013, pp. 114-115, my translation). Lambert in effect is distinguishing between an epiclesis in the sense of a free-standing avatar of the god, and other epithets merely descriptive or relational. 

Caveats

The distinction between an adjective and a noun in many Indo-European languages, including Latin and presumably Gaulish, can be tenuous, and this can apply to divine names as well. For example, the epithet augustus ‘august or venerable’ can be used attributively of Maia, Mercury, or other deities, but it can also stand alone to refer to Augustus, the emperor and adoptive son of Julius Cæsar. In other words, any adjectives potentially could be used as substantives; on the other hand, not all are so attested. What I shall attempt to identify are those names that actually were applied both to Mercury and used independently (or more often used with the word deus ‘god’) on inscriptions from Gaul. Most of these will be in Latin and come from the Gallo-Roman period. I will rely on the Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss/Slaby for inscription searches, and will therefore cite inscriptions by their EDCS IDs. Naturally, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and it is more than possible that other epithets were used independently beyond the ones I will identify below.

1Cf. EDCS-13303254 from Beauvais in Gallia Belgica: Sacrum Mercurio Augusto C(aius) Iulius Healissus / u(otum) s(oluit) l(ibens) m(erito) ‘Gaius Julius Healissus (dedicated this) sacred thing to Mercurius Augustus (and) duly and deservedly fulfilled his vow’ and EDCS-09200602 from Chatte near Vienne in Gallia Narbonensis: Maiae / Aug(ustae) sacr(um) / T(itus) Eppius D(ecimi) f(ilius) / Iullinus / ex uoto ‘Titus Eppius Jullinus, son of Decimus, (dedicated this) sacred thing to Maia Augusta in fulfilment of his vow’.

Epithets and Usages

I first identified epithets of Mercury by referring to the Inventaire des divinités celtiques de l’Antiquité on the website L’Arbre Celtique and pulling down “Mercure” and related search terms from the “Assimilation” pull-down menu. The Inventaire is useful in that it casts a fairly wide net, embracing Celtic deity names wherever they are found, as well as nearly all non-Latin deity names from mainly Celtic countries (thus including Germanic names from far northern Gaul, for example). This can make for some interesting comparisons, even though I focus here primarily on the epithets from Celtic Gaul.h

The names ‘assimilated’ to Mercury according to the Inventaire (with some emendations and simplifications on my part) were Abgatiacus; Adsmerius; Andescociuoucus; Arcecius, Har(cecius); Artaius; Aruernorix, Aruernus; Atepomarus; Biausius; Bigentius; Cambus; Cimbrianus, C(i)mabrianus, Cimbrius; Cimiacinus; Channinus; Cissonius, Cisonius, Cissonius Matutinus, Matutinus; Clauariatis; Coluau ~ Colualis; Cosumis; Dumiatis; Excingiorigiatis; Friausius; Gabrus; Gebrinius; Hranno; Iouantucarus; Iuiacus; Leud(…)anus; Magniacus Vellaunus; Moccus; Naissatis; Seno[…]; Solitumarus; Toutenus; Vassocallis ~ Vassocaletis; Viducus; Visucius, Visuclus, Visugius~Visuceus; and Vosegus, Vasegus. Of these, let us note in passing that Aruernus, Biausius~Friausius, Channinus, Gebrinius, Hranno, and Leud(…)anus are attested only from the Germanic-speaking part of Germania Inferior, where Celtic deities are less in evidence, while Andescociuoucus, Arcecius, Cimiacinus, Coluau~Colualis, Naissatis, and Vasegus – though Celtic in some or all instances – are attested only from outside of Gaul. Neither Esus nor Lugus/Lugoues is attested as an epithet of Mercury in religious inscriptions, although the Bern scholia identify Esus with Mercury in peacetime and Mars in wartime. Conversely, the Inventaire omits two well-attested epithets of Mercury, Kanetonessis and Du(b)nocaratiacus, presumably on the grounds that these are transparently toponymic (cf. Lajoye 2013, pp. 45-46, and Lambert 2013, p. 117, who glosses the latter as belonging to ‘the domain of Dubnocaratios’).

I then looked up each of these attested epithets in the Epigraphik Datenbank Clauss/Slaby to see how each name was used. I could not confirm the use of Biausius, Gabro, Naissatis, or Vasegus. I feel fairly confident that *Biausius originates as a typo or misreading for Friausius, both of which are (said to be) attested in Germania Inferior. Gabrus is not really attested as an epithet of Mercury, but was reported as “GABRO” or “GLABRO” on a tabula ansata accompanying a Mercury-like statue from Strasbourg (Chardin 1856-7, p. 646). But Gabro is as likely to be the name of the dedicant in the nominative as that of the deity in the dative. Apart from these four, I could confirm the use of all the epithets from the Inventaire on inscriptions listed in the EDCS.

I found that the great majority of the other names were used exclusively after Mercurius, deus Mercurius, or Mercurius Augustus. The names in this category are Abgatiacus; Adsmerius; Andescociuoucus; Artaius; Aruernorix, Aruernus; Bigentius; Cambus; Cimbrianus, C(i)mabrianus, Cimbrius; Cimiacinus; Clauariatis; Coluau ~ Colualis; Cosumis; Dumiatis; Excingiorigiatis; Friausius; Gebrinius; Hranno; Iuiacus; Leud(…)anus; Magniacus Vellaunus; Matutinus; Moccus; Seno[…]; Solitumarus; Vassocallis ~ Vassocaletis; and Viducus. Many of these are hapax legomena. Others are attested as names of ordinary mortals on opus figlinæ (such as Atepomaros, which I will come back to presently, and Viducos). I was interested, however, to find that the epithet Gebrinius, copiously attested in Bonn, is found only with Mercurius or deus Mercurius and never on its own. Similarly, Cimbrianus and its variants are used only adjectivally, as would be unsurprising if this ‘Cimbrian Mercury’ refers to the tribe who introduced the worship of this presumably Wōden-esque figure, notably among the Suebi Nicrenses who were reportedly of Germanic origin. Certain names in this category are likely toponymic (for example, Aruernorix, Aruernus, Dumiatis, and possibly Vassocaletis reference the cultus of Mercury at the Puy de Dôme: Beck 2013, p. 60; Mowat 1875), while others refer to animals (Artaius to the bear, Moccus to the pig: Green 1989, pp. 139 and 141; Delamarre 2003, pp. 56 and 227), various descriptors (Cambus ‘bent’, Viducus ‘woodsy’: Delamarre 2003, pp. 99 and 318), or activities (Solitu-maros ‘of great revenues or earnings’: Lambert 2013, p. 116; Excingio-rigi-atis ‘departing to attack’+‘king’+derivational suffix: Delamarre 2003, pp. 169, 259-260 – though this too might simply refer to a place, the domain of Excingiorix [Lambert 2013, p. 119], a name otherwise attested for mortals).

A special category of epithets was applied both to Mercury and to other deities. A priori, these bid fair to be generic descriptors. They are Atepomarus (found as genio Apollinis Atepomari at Mauvières and deo Mercurio Atepomaro at Rennes); Channinus (Mercurius Channinus at Rohr, Matronæ Channinæ at Merzenich); Iouantucarus (usually found as Mars Iouantucarus, as at Trier, but as deus Mercurius Iouantucarus at Tholey and as Iouantucarus alone at Kreimbach-Kaulbach); and Vosegus (attested solo as Vosegus at Bad Bergzabern and Neustadt an der Weinstraße, as Mercurius Vosegus at Le Donon, and as Vosegus Sil [= Silvester? Silvanus?] at Gœrsdorf and Zinswiller). Atepomarus, as we have seen, is well-attested as a personal name for mortals; it has been glossed as ‘great in protection’ (Lambert 2013, p. 116). Vosegus refers to (the god of) the Vosges ( 2010, p. 410); for a wooded massif, an epithet siluester ‘woodsy’ or syncretism with Silvanus would obviously fit, while the identification with Mercury is more surprising, though Mercury of course is often associated with mountains and pastoralism. Iouantucarus is understood to mean ‘lover of youth’ or ‘carer for the young’ (Lambert 2013, p. 116). My guess regarding Channinus is that (a bit like Vosegus) it has a toponymic reference.

The category of multi-deity epithets furnishes, as we have seen, our first instances of a Mercurial epithet used as an independent epiclesis, namely Vosegus and Iouantucarus, though neither of these names clearly belonged to a primarily Mercurial deity. But three other such epithets, whenever identified with a Roman god, are identified exclusively with Mercury. These are Cissonius, Visucius, and Toutenus. Each of these names is also used on its own, albeit not very often. We find deus Cissonius at Creutzwald, the château of Hohenbourg, and Strasbourg; Visucius alone at Heidelberg and Rheinzabern; and deus Toutenus (Auentus?) at Speyer. Here we have prima facie evidence of syncretism, properly speaking: a god Cissonius, Visucius, and Toutenus who can also appear on his own is instead more regularly syncretized with Mercury. We shall go into further detail regarding these three deities below. But first, one final instance of a possible Mercurial epiclesis ought to be noticed: deus Mercurius Arcecius from Bregenz, who might correspond to a deus Har on an altar also from Bregenz. Whether Har has been correctly expanded here to Har(cecius), I shall not stop to inquire, since Bregenz – lying east of Lake Constance – probably belongs to Rætia rather than Gaul, and is therefore outside of the primary scope of our investigation.

The remainder of this essay will analyze the names, iconography, and distribution of these three (real or apparent) Mercurial epicleses in Celtic Gaul, namely Cissonius, Visucius, and Toutenus. For iconography, I looked up the photographs of depictions linked from each inscription on the EDCS. (Since not all inscriptions have such links, there may be a few depictions out there that I have not examined.)

 2The hapax legomena are Abgatiacus; Adsmerius; Andescociuoucus; Artaius; Bigentius; Cambus; Clauariatis; Coluau ~ Colualis; Cosumis; Dumiatis; Excingiorigiatis; Friausius; Hranno; Iuiacus;
Leud(…)anus; Magniacus Vellaunus; Moccus; Seno[…]; Solitumarus – though see below for an additional possible attestation; and Vassocallis ~ Vassocaletis.
3But in contrast to the other toponymic epithets mentioned here, the god Vosegus is assuredly the divinized massif, comparable to other deities who are manifested in natural features, such as Rhenus Pater (for the river Rhine), Dea Bibracte (for the hill-fort of Mont-Beuvray), or Oceanus. Another divinized massif is the goddess Abnoba (for the Black Forest, 2010, p. 410).

Deus Cissonius

Cissonius and Visucius are, along with Gebrinius in Bonn, the native epithets of Mercury most widely attested in religious inscriptions. Cissonius is attested on sixteen or so inscriptions, one of which (at Saintes) uses the variant spelling Cisonius (as Mercurio Cisonio). Elsewhere, we have Deo Cissonio at Creutzwald (EDCS-10601466), Deo Cisonio at the Château de Hohenbourg (EDCS-11000113, again with just one s), and D. Cissonio at Strasbourg (EDCS-12300112); Mercurio Cissonio at Cologne (EDCS-01200075), Trier (EDCS-10600427), Rheinzabern (EDCS-05200532 and EDCS-05200533), Heddernheim (EDCS-11001455), Stettfeld (Ubstadt-Weiher, EDCS-11000355), and Promontogno (EDCS-04900757); Mercurio Cissonio Matutino also at Promontogno (EDCS-04900758); and finally Deo Mercurio Cissonio at Besançon (EDCS-10800778), Avenches (EDCS-12200140), and Rheinzabern (EDCS-11000079). At Kaiseraugst, all that survives of the god’s name is Cis… (EDCS-55701948), but as we shall see, a Mercurial identification is assured from the accompanying depiction.

Dedicants of religious inscriptions to Mercury Cissonius included peregrines (as at Cologne and Strasbourg) as well as Roman citizens (as at Avenches and Rheinzabern). The dedicant in Besançon identifies herself as a woman from Syria. A number of dedications were made in fulfilment of a vow (e.g. at Cologne, Rheinzabern, and Avenches). One of the dedications at Promontogno was made pro bono ‘for the good of’ someone in particular (the name starts with Cami-; EDCS-04900757). Our Syrian woman in Besançon specifies that she has restored a temple and portico that had fallen down with age.

An intriguing connection of Mercury Cissonius with Mithras is noted by Phyllis Pray Bober: “In the Mithraeum at Koenigshoffen an altar was unearthed with a dedication to Cissonius, one of the indigenous Celtic divinities whose names are often found as epithets of Mercury” (Bober 1946, p. 82). Bober highlights Mercury’s Mithraic tie-in in connection with his role as foster-father of the infant Bacchus on Nysa – a motif attested with unusual frequency on over a dozen depictions from the area of Alsace-Lorraine (Bober 1946, pp. 76-77, 79-80). She connects this motif with the life after death promised by the mysteries of Mithras: Mercury as psychopomp would lead the soul into the blessèd afterlife where Bacchus reigns, a heavenly Nysa that is also an Isle of the Blest (Bober 1946, pp. 79-80). Bober attributes this particular theology to the Legio VIII Augusta stationed at Strasbourg, which was deeply imbued with Mithraism (Bober 1946, pp. 80-82). While Mercury/Mithras connections are not uncommon, it is interesting that this legion should have specified that it extended to the local Mercury Cissonius who was indigenous to their Gaulish base.

The nomen Cissonius was also used by mortals, though generally not in the same areas where a cultus to Mercury Cissonius is attested: Madrid (EDCS-20301084), Rome (cf. EDCS-22300128), Pompei (EDCS-28300464 inter alia), various other sites in Italy, and Yalvaç in Galatia (EDCS-26900081 and EDCS-28400846).

There are a number of depictions of Mercury Cissonius, none of which diverge substantially from the canons of his classical iconography. The depictions from Kaiseraugst and Rheinzabern are tolerably complete, while that from Saintes has considerable fragments. The god (beardless at Kaiseraugst, bearded at Saintes) wears a winged hat (Kaiseraugst, Rheinzabern, Saintes) or even has wings growing out of his head (Rheinzabern? Saintes?); he has a cloak over his shoulders but is otherwise naked (Kaiseraugst, Rheinzabern); he is accompanied by a ram (Rheinzabern, Saintes) and a rooster (Rheinzabern, Saintes); in his hands he holds a caduceus (Kaiseraugst, Rheinzabern) and a money bag (Kaiseraugst) or (at Saintes) possibly a cup – the one iconographic element that might diverge from the ordinary, unless at Rheinzabern the bird is not a rooster but some other species (the stone is too worn for this to be entirely certain). As we have seen from Bober, some of the Alsatian depictions of Mercury with the infant Bacchus may have had Mercury Cissonius in mind.

Perhaps the most familiar etymology for ‘Cissonius’ connects his name with the light two-wheeled carriage – a curricle or gig – whose Celtic name was borrowed into Latin as cisium or cissium (Delamarre 2003, p. 117). P.-Y. Lambert argues for this derivation on the theory that the -i- might have shifted its position for some reason, thus “cission + –onos > *Cissionos > Cissonius”; he also compares this epithet with the deo Carpanto/Carpento ‘to the waggon-god’ dedications found in southern Gaul (Lambert 2013, p. 122), although these have no Mercurial connection as far as I know. A god of travel may well be interested in vehicles, and the fast, stylish cission is as Mercurial as any; however, this etymology is not without its problems. The weird mobility of -i- is unexplained, and the total lack of attested variants beginning with Cissi– as well as of any carriage imagery, must leave this derivation intriguing but by no means proven.

The word *cission is thought to derive from a Celtic word for basket (on analogy with the curricle being like a light basket on wheels), and Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel derives ‘Cissonius’ more straightforwardly from this root, specifically with reference to the baskets used for bringing goods to market (or presumably for taking one’s purchases back home) (de Bernardo Stempel 2006). Thus, *Cissonios would mean ‘he of the great/divine basket’. Again, we have the problem that there are no basket depictions. While not fully convincing, de Bernardo Stempel’s etymology probably deserves no less consideration than Lambert’s.

A truly fantastic etymology is reported by X. Delamarre (2006) and perhaps first appears with him there: he derives Cissonius from cit-souno- ‘bringer of dreams’ (p. 279). However, there are no attestations of spellings like *Cissounius with the diphthong that would make one think of ‘dreams’; nor are there any spellings in –ÐÐ- or –SS– that would clearly verify a –ts– etymology. Moreover, this cit- prefix, also familiar from Welsh as cyd-, actually means ‘joint’ or ‘fellow’ rather than ‘bringer of’, as Delamarre notices elsewhere (p. 117). Thus, *cit-soun-i-os would mean something like ‘he of the fellow dream’. Although the classical Mercury certainly has a connection with dreams, it is puzzling why Delamarre would try to infer a connection with soun- when there is an attested, phonetically unproblematic root son- in soniti ‘chases away (?)’ (p. 277). While possible etymologically, *cit-son-i-os ‘fellow chaser-away’ is about as strange semantically as ‘fellow-dreamer’. On the whole, I am unconvinced by this line of inquiry.

As we have seen, two inscriptions are dedicated Mercurio Cissonio at Promontogno in faraway Rætia (now in an Italian-speaking part of the Swiss canton of Grisons). Both of these are fragmentary, but one uses the additional epithet ‘Matutinus’ (as Mercurio [Ci]ssonio [M]a[t]utino, EDCS-04900758). The same epithet for Mercury is also attested on two additional inscriptions from Switzerland, this time at Baden or Aquæ Heluetiorum in the Aargau (clearly in EDCS-10800641 and fragmentarily in EDCS-10800640). A fourth Matutinus inscription from Augsburg, is dedicated [In h(onorem) d(omus)] d(iuinae) / [… M]atutino (EDCS-31300298), so we cannot know if the three missing letters were MER ‘to Mercury’ or DEO ‘to the god’. Since it is linked to Mercury Cissonius, I will delve a little further into the epithet Matutinus. This might include the Celtic roots *matu-/mati– ‘good’ and/or *matu– ‘bear’ (cf. Delamarre 2003, p. 220 – and recall that we also have a Mercury Artaius as a bear-god: Green 1989, p. 139); however, I’d also like to point out that matutinus is a perfectly ordinary Latin adjective meaning ‘of the morning, matinal’, which would entail no fancy footwork in explaining the *tino– part of the putatively Celtic epithet. What Mercury might have to do with the morning may at first seem puzzling; however, the planet Mercury can only be viewed from Earth for a brief pre-dawn interval – or at other times of year, a brief post-dusk interval – so the epithet may refer to the planet as it appears in the early morning. Then again, many travellers begin their journeys at first light. Finally, given the associations of Mercury Cissonius with rebirth into the afterlife, as noted by Bober, there is an intriguing analogy between morning and rebirth.

Visucius

Visucius is attested on about eight inscriptions: as Visucio in the dative at Heidelberg (EDCS-11000418); as Visucio Mercurio at Hockenheim (EDCS-11000357); as Merc(urio) Aug(usto) Visucio at Bordeaux (EDCS-10400747), as [Mer]curio [Visu]cio at Trier (EDCS-10600428), as Deo Mercurio Visucio at Köngen (EDCS-11000395). At Tholey among the Treveri (EDCS-10601226), the epithet [Vi]sucio is attested, as it is as Visuclo [sic] at Hérapel among the Mediomatrici (EDCS-10601444), but whether DEO or MER would have preceded it in either case is unknown. Finally, at Rheinzabern among the Nemetes he is attested as Visu[cio] on an inscription (EDCS-10801401) that also honours Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Apollo, Sol, and a deity whose name begins with T – unless indeed Soli T should here be read as Solit(umaro), as the Inventaire implies. Solitumarus, as we saw above, has been interpreted to mean ‘of great revenues or earnings’ (Lambert 2013, p. 116). 

The dedicants are (at Bordeaux) the freedman of a Roman citizen, possibly a Roman citizen at Tholey, Roman citizens and decurions of the ciuitas at both Heidelberg and Köngen, probably a peregrine at Hockenheim, and unknown in the other inscriptions. Clearly Visucius or Mercury Visucius was a sufficiently prestigious deity to engage the interest of high-status individuals as well as civic authorities over a broad swath of territory, though these attestations are mainly concentrated among near neighbours in the Rhine/Moselle/Neckar region.

Visucius has a feminine counterpart in Visucia, attested on her own at Trier as Dea Visucia (EDCS-10600433) and at Köngen as Sancta Visucia in conjunction with Deus Mercurius Visucius on a sandstone slab apparently once used as the basis of a statue (EDCS-11000395). Köngen is in the Agri Decumates: this very inscription makes clear that the area belonged to the Ciuitas Sumelocennensis. To the best of my knowledge, this would have been one of the ciuitates inhabited primarily by settlers from Gaul. One may well wonder whether Visucia is best thought of as Mercury Visucius’ divine spouse, daughter, sister, mother, or even a gender-shifting second self. Unfortunately, the evidence is not of a nature to let us say with certainty.

I could not find any depictions of Visucius. The inscriptions are on aniconic altars, tabulæ ansatæ, and the like.

On the altar at Hockenheim, the god is invoked as Visucius Mercurius – one of the rare instances where a Latin theonym is placed after a Celtic one. Curiously, Hockenheim and also Heidelberg are in the territory of the Suebi Nicrenses – in other words, the very area where the cultus of Mercury Cimbrianus is best attested. Here, I cannot help but feel that we are witnessing a redoubled syncretism among Roman Mercury, Celtic Visucius, and Germanic *Wōđanaz.

There seem to be two main etymological explanations for the name ‘Visucius’. One, using the root uid- ‘know’, would mean something to do with wisdom. Passing through the intermediate form *uitsu– → *uissu-, this root is attested as Visu- in a number of personal names such as Visurix and Visuius (Delamarre 2003, p. 317). I also wonder if Visucius might therefore be an etymology doublet of Viducus, in the event that the latter uses the same root uid– ‘know’ rather than uidu– ‘tree’ (recall that Viducus is attested once as an epithet of Mercury from Bordeaux: EDCS-10400746). There is an obvious aptness to naming a Mercury-like deity after his knowledge or wisdom. Knowledge is a hard thing to evoke iconographically (after all, ancient Gauls could not draw lightbulbs!), which might explain why Visucius depictions all seem to be aniconic.

The other etymology – perhaps the more widely entertained of the two? – derives Visucius from *uisuco– ‘crow’, a word reconstructed as the etymon for the Irish fiach ‘raven’ (Delamarre 2003, p. 321). Hence, a god Visucios would be a god ‘of the Raven’. This association would especially fit if Mercury in Gallia Belgica shared with Óðinn the characteristic of being accompanied by ravens – and Mercury Visucius, as we have seen, is found in an area overlapping with the Mercury Cimbrianus whom we take to represent *Wōđanaz. The problem with the raven explanation, however, is that we again find no raven depictions with Visucius. Still, the Gaulish Mercury is no stranger to corvids. The Lyon silver goblet depicts Mercury with just such a bird: the god, recognizable from his money-bag and his turtle, lounges at table counting coins, while above him we see a crow flapping its wings (Wuilleumier 1936, 48-49). This remarkable artifact also shows us a wild boar and mistletoe growing on a tree (both in the vicinity of Mercury) as well as a seated Cernunnos, an eagle, and a python on other panels – in other words, a trove of Celtic and semi-Romanized motifs on a single object. Still, it is a unique object, and Lyon is not very close to Visucius’ main cultic centres in Gallia Belgica.

4While Promontogno and Baden im Aargau are both in Switzerland, one of these sites would have belonged to the Helvetii, the other to the Ræti, while large and difficult mountain ranges separated them.
5Like Promontogno, Augsburg would have been in the province of Rætia, but in the portion belonging to the Vindelici rather than the Ræti (hence its ancient name Augusta Vindelicorum).

Deus Toutenus 

Far less widely attested than either Cissonius or Visucius are Deus Toutenus and Mercury Tou(tenus?). Only two fragmentary monuments appear to honour this possible epiclesis. From Neustadt an der Weinstraße comes the fragmentary inscription Deo Touteno Auento… on a broken sandstone altar. The Epigraphic Database Heidelberg reads Avento as the name of the dedicant, which is certainly possible, although it might also be (part of?) an additional epithet of the god. The altar from Bingen connects Toutenus with Mercury, though in reality we can only see MERC on the first line and TOV on the next, so the reading ‘Toutenus’ might be imperfect: TOV might even belong to the name of the dedicant (as, for example, a name such as Toutissa, which Delamarre considers ‘frequent’: Delamarre 2003, p. 294). The sides of the Bingen altar are adorned with stylized trees that can be seen plainly enough.

The only real reason to connect these two altars is that Bingen and Neustadt are in the same general vicinity (perhaps 80 km as the crow flies). Even here, however, there are problems. Bingen is thought to have belonged to the Aresaces, Neustadt to the Nemetes. Except by secondary or back roads, the two cities would most easily have been accessed by boat through the many meanders of the middle Rhine and then via an overland journey through hilly country to Neustadt – all very pleasant, but not very direct.

The name ‘Toutenus’ evidently contains the root tout- ‘tribe or people’, which is most famously associated with Mars Toutatis; the same root is also found in Apollo Toutiorix and Jupiter Teutanus (Brachet 2006, p. 875; Delamarre 2003, p. 294). The derivational suffix -en- is otherwise attested with appellations of appurtenance, sometimes with a geographic reference (Lambert 2013, p. 120). ‘Toutenus’ thus belongs to a family of epithets with a common, fairly reference: ‘belonging to the tribe’, ‘leader of the tribe’, and the like. 

It is just possible, however, that the reference of Toutenus is more specific. While elliptical, the description of the Bingen altar inscription in the Année Épigraphique as a “pendant” of Mercury Cimbrianus ( 1940, p. 42) is evidently intended to allude to the interpretation of this epithet as ‘Teutonic’ and therefore analogous to the Cimbri (the Cimbri and Teutones having jointly irrupted into Gaul in the late 2nd century BCE). This Mercury Tou(tenus) would therefore be yet another guise of the quasi-*Wōđanaz otherwise attested among the Suebi. Possibly the Nemetes, who had “undoubted Germanic origins” according to Tacitus (Germania 28), might have had the opportunity to be introduced the cultus of *Wōđanaz through their Germanic connections. In the case of the Aresaces of Bingen, such a line of transmission might be due less to migration than to personal and commercial links across the Rhine, which are known to have existed. If Mercurius Tou(tenus) is meant to be understood as ‘Teutonic Mercury’, it has evidently been influenced by the Celtic root tout- noticed above. In other words, this would be a ‘Teutonic’ deity brought across the Rhine and there subject to Celtic influence (even if only phonetically!).

The altar in Neustadt an der Weinstraße certainly attests a cultus to Deus Toutenus. But the evidence connecting this Deus Toutenus to Mercury is unsatisfactory, and I don’t feel confident drawing any strong conclusions about this god as a possible Mercurial epiclesis.

6We know that the continental Wōden was anciently identified with Mercury on the strength of days of the week (Latin dies Mercurii = Old High German Wuotanestag ‘Wednesday’). Similarly, as mentioned earlier, Mercurius Cimbrianus probably attests to the Swabian worship of a Wōden-like deity as Mercury.

Two Names for a Single God?

The names Visucius and Cissonius are used in an overlapping area. Indeed, notwithstanding geographic outliers such as Cisonius at Saintes and Visucius at Bordeaux, they are both concentrated in the same area: Belgica Prima and the adjacent Agri Decumates. Moreover, both are found in several of the same sites: Trier, Rheinzabern, and Heidelberg. As we have seen, nothing can distinguish them in terms of iconography (although this is admittedly an argumentum ex silentio in that our Visucius depictions are aniconic). Neither can I see a pattern of difference in the purposes of Cissonius or Visucius dedications. Both deities, as we have seen, are syncretized exclusively with Mercury.

All of this leads me to consider the possibility that Visucius and Cissonius might be two names used for the same god. Comparatively speaking, using two names for one deity is nothing unusual: the Roman Minerva is frequently referred to as Pallas or Tritonia, while the Roman Mercury can also be Cyllenius or Atlantiades – and this is just in Ovid’s Metamorphoses! Bynames and kennings are at least as abundant for Germanic deities – witness, for example, the many names of Óðinn. Different names, in other words, can be used for the same deity, particularly if they refer to aspects of a well-known mythos. 

Still, there may be identifiable points of divergence between Visucius and Cissonius. As we have seen, Visucius has a female consort or analogue in Visucia as well as possible syncretism with *Wōđanaz in the Agri Decumates. Cissonius evidently has a link with Mithraism and with Bacchus on the one hand and with Mercury Matutinus on the other, as well as better-attested iconography (which basically adheres to the canons of classical Mercury). Would such distinctions have been sufficient to demarcate two distinct Mercurial deities among the Treveri, Nemetes, or other communities that worshipped both? It seems possible, but by no means a slam dunk.

Implications

A variety of pagan theologies have laid out explanations for how gods might emanate from one another, participate in the natures of other or higher deities, and manifest themselves in diverse forms. Without insisting on any Neoplatonic or Neopythagorean formulations in particular, it is clear that, for worshippers of the Gaulish Mercury in Roman antiquity, Mercury could be found variegated into a number of aspects, designated by multiple epithets. A very few of these are also attested as independent theonyms. This is clearly the case of Cissonius and Visucius and less certainly that of Toutenus. The names Vosegus and Iouantucarus belong to other deities as much as to Mercury, while Har(cecius?) – another uncertain case – is found outside of Gaul.

Yet the two theonyms that have the clearest status as independent Romano-Celtic epicleses – Cissonius and Visucius – are also paradoxically hardest to separate from one another. Both are found in the same region, among the same tribal groups, and even in the same settlements. To be sure, there are identifiable subtleties distinguishing Cissonius from Visucius, and these will be useful in guiding the worshipper’s approach to them. But whether it is best to regard these as separate Mercurial deities, or as distinct nuances in the presentation of the same god, may depend on which side of Occam’s razor one chooses to cut with. 

7Óðinn, for example, is referred to as Alfǫðr, Báleygr, Bǫlverkr, Farmaguð, Fjǫlnir, Gautr, Grímnir/Grímr, Hárbarðr, Her(ja)fǫðr/Herjan, Hjálmberi, Hnikarr, Hroptr/Hroptatýr, Kjalarr, Síðhǫttr, Sigfǫðr/Sigtýr, Sváfnir, Sviðurr, Þriði, Þundr, Valfǫðr, Viðrir, Viðurr, Yggr – and these are just the names of Óðinn attested in at least four different sources, according to the Wikipedia article ‘List of names of Odin’.
8The name ‘Cissonia’ is also attested, but for private persons in Italy (e.g. EDCS-10700691) rather than as a goddess.

Works Cited

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Année épigraphique (2010 [2013]). Pages 387-426. Presses Universitaires de France.

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Author: Toutâ Galation

Toutâ Galation is an organization dedicated to the expression, revival, and growth of Gaulish Polytheism. Our goal is to bring together Gaulish Polytheists to share knowledge, network, and potentially practice together. We are proud to be a part of reviving Gaulish Polytheism and culture in the present, and helping to carry both forward into the future.

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