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In Gallo-Roman religion, Divona or, in Gaulish, Devona[1] is the eponymous goddess of a sacred spring that was the source of fresh water (fons) for the city of Burdigala (Bordeaux). She is hailed (salve, compare Salve Regina) in a Latin poem[2] by Ausonius, the 4th-century Bordelais scholar-poet who was the tutor of the emperor Gratian.

The word Divona derives from Gaulish deuos, "divinity," and may simply be an honorific title rather than the name of a particular deity.[3] It is a likely origin for place names such as Divona Cadurcorum ("Divona of the Cadurci," modern Cahors, Δηουόνα, Dēvona in Ptolemy), Divonne (Ain) (although other derivations are suggested), and Dionne (Côte-d'Or).[4] The territory of the Celtic Cadurci, in the modern French department of Lot, was noted for its springs in antiquity; Frontinus notes that the Cadurcan town of Uxellodunum was surrounded by a river and had an abundance of freshwater sources (fontes).[5]

In ancient Roman religion, goddesses of freshwater sources are often associated with the deity Fons, god of fountains and wellheads, honored at the Fontinalia for his role in the public water supply for the city. Ausonius invokes fons, the manmade outlet that makes the water available to the people, with a string of adjectives: sacer, alme, perennis, / vitree, glauce, profunde, sonore, illimis, opace,[6] "sacred, life-giving, eternal, / glassy, blue-green,[7] measureless, sonorous, free of mud, shaded." He hails fons as the "Genius of the city" (urbis genius) having the power to offer a healing draught (medico potabilis haustu). In the next line, Ausonius says that this genius or tutelary deity is Divona in the Celtic language (Divona Celtarum lingua), that is, fons added to the divae (plural).[8]

The name also appears in inscriptions.[citation needed]

Further reading[edit]

  • Claude Bourgeois, Divona: Divinités et ex-voto du culte gallo-romaine de l'eau (De l'archéologie à l'histoire, 1991).


  1. ^ Xavier Delamarre, entry on deuos, "deity," in Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise (Éditions Errance, 2003), p. 142.
  2. ^ Ausonius, Ordo nobilium urbium 20.30 and 32 (Loeb Classical Library numbering); Divona appears in line 160 in the numbering of R.P.H. Green, The Works of Ausonius (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 175.
  3. ^ "The Religion and Myths of the Continental Celts of Gaul," p. 193, and "Epona," p. 218 in American, African, and Old European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1993); Delamarre, Dictionnaire, p. 142.
  4. ^ Delamarre, Dictionnaire, p. 142.
  5. ^ Frontinus, Stratagems 3.7.2.
  6. ^ Ausonius, Ordo nobilium urbium 20.30–31 (Green lines 157–158). The adjectives are masculine to agree with fons and appear in the vocative case, as is customary for a Latin invocation.
  7. ^ The color word glaucus (Greek glaukos) evokes a range of grey, green, and blue indeterminately, and can often be translated as "sea-colored" or even "sky-colored." It has divine connotations and is associated with various deities, for instance, as the color of Athena's eyes. See P.G. Maxwell-Stuart, Studies in Greek Colour Terminology: ΓΛΑΥΚΟΣ (Brill, 1981), vol. 1, pp. 40–42, and a brief discussion of the color as associated with Pluto.
  8. ^ The phrase fons addite divis is somewhat difficult to interpret. It is sometimes construed as "fons" addite "divis", that is "Add (plural imperative) the word fons to the word divae/divi" (masculine singular divus). In the plural dative and ablative cases, the masculine and feminine forms are the same, and divis could be either, but Ausonius seems to be connecting the masculine fons to the feminine Divona. In Latin, the word lymphae, plural, means "waters" but is also an Italic word for "nymphs"; a plural divae here might suggest the same tendency to regard water nymphs as both a singular and a plural collective. The verbal form addite, however, can also be construed as a perfect passive participle in the vocative case, parallel in construction with the string of vocative adjectives, that is, "Fons, added to the goddesses." Ausonius "hails" (salve) the "Genius of the city," but genius is not in the vocative case. Fons addite divis is sometimes taken as a proffered etymology: Ausonius may be proposing that the word Divona is formed from the word divus, Gaulish devos, plus fons = -ona, taking fons as the equivalent of a Gaulish word onno, "stream, river," the existence of which is doubtful. The suffix -ona is found in the names of several Gallic goddesses. See Delamarre, Dictionnaire, pp. 142–143 on deuos, including discussion of Divona/Devona; p. 242 on onno; p. 324 on unna, "water(s)". See also George Long, entry on "Divona," Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), vol. 1, p. 780; Edward Anwyl, "Ancient Celtic Goddesses," Celtic Review 3 (1906–07), pp. 43–44; Robert E.A. Palmer, Roman Religion and Roman Empire: Five Essays (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1974), p. 264; Ken Dowden, European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (Routledge, 2000), p. 54.