EPONA.net - a scholarly resource

Geographical Distribution of Epona

In the course of our researches, we have compiled a list of all the Epona depictions or inscriptions tha we could find - starting with the ones listed in [Reinach 1895] and [Magnen & Thévenot ], adding from major catalogues such as [Espérandieu] and individual finds as we came across references to them. This list is currently being compared against the recent major listing by [Euskirchen]. For each Epona artefact, we have researched the findspot - not always an easy task, as names of towns and villages have changed over the last century - and noted the lattitude and longitude. This allows us to plot a distribution map.

The first distribution map shows all known Epona inscriptions or depictions worldwide. Sidesaddle depictions are in red and imperial depictions are in green; other types of depictions (including ones where the type is not currently known) are in grey. A white ring indicates an inscription; where the inscription does not have an accompanying depiction (the usual case) the symbol is a black circle with a white ring, otherwise the colors previously mentioned are used.

Larger versions of each map open in a separate window.

overview map

Epona distribution map - overview

It is immediately apparent that Epona is a goddess of Western Europe, with only a single representation on the north coast of Africa and none in the Near East. Furthermore, there are no Epona representations or inscriptions outside the borders of the Roman Empire at its widest extent; worship of Epona was not carried out, it appears, outside the Empire.

There is a clustering of Epona artefacts right up to the limes, the defensive structure erected by Hadrian to link to Rhine and Danube rivers and protect the northern approaches to Italy. This clustering at defended borders, plus the unit designations on Epona inscriptions such as altar dedications, tells us that the Roman military were including Epona among the deities to whom they gave worship, made vows, and so on. Dedications by military personnel have also been found on or near Hadrian's wall (representation at Maryport), the Antonine wall (altar dedication at Auchendavy), the Danube bend, and other border areas.

overview map

Epona distribution map - the Three Gauls

The second distribution map concentrates on the Gauls and the Germaines, and shows a strong concentration in that part of the Three Gauls which Caesar referred to in 58 BCE as Gallia Celtica, bounded by the river Garonne to the south west and the rivers Seine and Marne to the north east; Gallia Belgica is much less represented and Aquitania hardly at all. The later boundary revisions under Augustus that took Aquitania northwards to the Loire, and created Germania Superior and Germania Inferior, correspond less well to the distribution.

There are also no Epona finds in the area between the Rhine and the Elbe, which would have corresponded to the attempts to capture further Germanic territory up to 9 CE. This might be because it was not held long enough, or it might be because the dates at which it was held were before the cult of Epona had formed. There is a concentration of Epona findspots in other areas which were captured after 100 CE and later lost, such as the Agri Decumantes behind the limes (roughly 100 to 260 CE) and in Dacia. This tells us that the cult of Epona was flourishing at some time between these dates. Further dating evidence is given in the timeline.

overview map

Epona distribution map - Epona heartland

The third map shows what might be termed the heartland of Epona in terms of numbers of depictions and inscriptions - the north-eastern part of the Three Gauls, and Germania Superior. Looking at this area in detail, three clusterings can be seen and have been highlighted by pale ovals. The first of these, to the west of the map, is centered on the lands of the Aedui - one of the most powerful Gaulish tribes - now roughly corresponding to the French département of Bourgogne. The second, further east and north, covers the valley of the Moselle and the lands of the Treveri. This area is now on the border of France, Germany and Belgium and includes Luxembourg. The third, furthest east, contains the limes fortifications which connected the Rhine and Danube rivers, and the associated civilian support infrastructure of the Agri Decumantes.

In addition to geographical clustering, these three zones show differences in the types of Epona depictions. The Aedui zone has a higher incidence of Epona and foal depictions and a lower incidence of imperial type throned Eponas; there are few inscriptions. The Treveri zone contains many of the rare Epona depictions where the goddess rides astride the horse rather than sidesaddle. The Limes zone contains more military inscriptions, as would be expected, and more imperial type, throned Eponas.

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Espérandieu, É. (1907) Recueil général des bas-reliefs de la Gaule romaine. Paris, Imprimerie nationale.

Euskirchen, M. (1993) “Epona”. Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission Deutsches Archäologisches Institut., 74: 607-838.

Magnen, René; Thévenot , Emile (1953) Épona : déesse Gauloise des chevaux, protectrice des cavaliers.. Delmas, Bordeaux.

Reinach, Salomon (1895, 1898, 1899, 1902, 1903) Épona. Revue archéologique 1895, part 1, 113, 309. Addenda ibid 1898, part 2, 187; 1899, part 2, 61; 1902, part 1, 227; 1903, part 2, 348.