Belisama

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In Celtic polytheism, Belisama (epigraphically Bηλησαμα) was a goddess worshipped in Gaul. She is identified with Minerva in the interpretatio romana.

The etymology of her name has been taken to translate to "brightest one", i.e. containing a superlative suffix -isama attached to the root bel "bright"; based on this she has also been speculatively claimed as companion of Belenus, whose name seems to contain the same root.[1] But the root bel has also (for either deity) been interpreted differently, e.g. as bel "strong".[2]

photograph of the "Segomaros" inscription
photograph of the Saint-Lizier inscription

A Gaulish inscription found at Vaison-la-Romaine in Provence (RIG G-172) shows that a nemeton was dedicated to her:[3]

СΕΓΟΜΑΡΟС/ ΟΥΙΛΛΟΝΕΟС/ ΤΟΟΥΤΙΟΥС/ ΝΑΜΑΥСΑΤΙС/ ΕΙѠΡΟΥ ΒΗΛΗ/СΑΜΙ СΟСΙΝ/ ΝΕΜΗΤΟΝ
Segomaros Ouilloneos tooutious Namausatis eiōrou Bēlēsami sosin nemēton
"Segomarus Uilloneos, citizen [toutius] of Namausus, dedicated this sanctuary to Belesama"[4]

The identification with Minerva in Gallo-Roman religion is established in a Latin inscription from Saint-Lizier (anciently Consoranni), Ariège department (CIL XIII, 8):[5]

Minervae / Belisamae / sacrum / Q(uintus) Valerius / Montan[us] / [e]x v[oto?]

The French toponyms Beleymas and Bellême (found in the Dordogne and Orne departments, respectively) are based on the theonym.[citation needed]

The presence of the goddess in Britain is more difficult to establish. Based on Ptolemy listing a "Belisama estuary",[6] River Ribble in England seems to have been known by the name Belisama in Roman times.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Helmut Birkhan, Kelten. Versuch einer Gesamtdarstellung ihrer Kultur p. 613.
  2. ^ Delamarre, Xavier, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, Errance, 2003, p. 71.
  3. ^ Michel Lejeune. Receuil des Inscriptions Gauloises (RIG) 1: Inscriptions Gallo-Grèques. G-153.
  4. ^ Xavier Delamarre (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Éditions Errance, p.299.
  5. ^ Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) 13: Tres Galliae et Germanae. 0008
  6. ^ The identification of Ptolemy's Belisama aest. with River Ribble is due to William Camden's Britannia (1586); see also Bill Thayer's "Ptolemy at Lacus Curtius" page
  7. ^ Ronald Hutton (1991). The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 218. Hutton also suggests that the name of Samlesbury may derive from a corruption of the name.

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