Vihansa: name of native goddess, venerated by the Tungri in what is now eastern Belgium.

Dedication to Vihansa

The evidence for the existence of a deity named Vihansa consists of one small piece of bronze, about fifteen centimeters wide, that can be seen in the Royal Museums for Art and History in Brussels. It was excavated in Sint-Huibrechts-Hern, a village in eastern Belgium, just north of Tongeren, the ancient capital of the Tungri.

Q(uintus) Catius Libo Nepos
centurio leg(ionis) III
Cyrenaicae scu-
tum et lanceam d(onum) d(edit)

To Vihansa
[has] Quintus Catius Libo Nepos,
centurio of the Third Legion Cyrenaica, his shi-
eld and spear donated as a gift.

Vihansa is not a common Latin name. Her name looks Germanic and may have been derived from two Germanic words, *wīga, “to fight”, en *ansu, “deity”. That her name means something like “War Goddess” or “Lady Battle” is quite plausible, but not proved: the two asterisks indicate that the words are reconstructions of an early linguistic stage. So, there is some room for uncertainty.

Still: it would have feen fitting that an officer leaves a sacrifice in the sanctuary of a war goddess. Moreover, it’s not a normal present: he laid down his weapons. This was not a common thing for a Roman officer to do. Granted, we have evidence for this type of sacrifice from Greece, where collections such as Olympia show that it was expected that victorious commanders left behind helmets and weapons in sanctuaries. Another region where arms could be donated to the gods, was Northwestern Europe. The sanctuary in Empel (Netherlands) is an example: at the end of their military career, veterans of Rome’s Batavian auxiliary units visited that place to lay down their old, worn weapons, and sacrifice to Magusanus, who had protected these soldiers. It is likely that Quintus Catius Libo Nepos did something similar and that Vihansa protected warriors.

This page was created in 2015; last modified on 10 October 2020.