The Roman goddess Maia, ‘mother’ or ‘nurse’,893 is the other usual consort of Mercurius, mainly in Alsace, the valley of the Rhine and in the south-east of Gaul. In Greek mythology, Maia, who is the eldest of the seven Pleiades, the daughters of Atlas and Pleione, is a minor figure.894 She is actually not the wife of Hermes/Mercury, as depicted in the Gallo-Roman iconography, but her mother. The Romans held her in high esteem and added to her legend the persecution by Juno and her transformation into a star by her lover.
Mercurius and Maia are honoured together in dedications from Germany895 and from the territory of the Allobroges, notably in Villaz (Haute-Savoie): Mercurio et Maiae T(itus) Coelius, ‘To Mercurius and Maia, Titus Coelius (offered this)’,896 and in Saint-Hillaire (Isère): Mercurio et Maiae G. Verrius Aurelius ex voto, ‘To Mercurius and Rosmerta, G. Verrius Aurelius offered (this stele*).897 In those two inscriptions, the dedicators are Roman citizens, for they bear the duo and tria nomina. The couple is also venerated in the valley of the Rhine, such as in Mertzwiller (Bas-Rhin): Mercurio et Maiae sacrum Sennaus Le[…] filius Gnata Lutevi filia […]ratulla filia Rufino et Quadrato cos.898 This altar is interesting, for the dedicator Sennaus (*Sennāgo-) has a Celtic name,899 as well as his mother Gnata (‘Daughter’)900 and his grandfather Lutevius (‘Swamp Dweller’).901 A fragment of a stele*, discovered in 1845 between the villages of Pfaffenhoffen and Ringeldorf (Bas-Rhin), might have represented the heads of Mercury and Maia with an inscription identifying them: [Mer]c(urio) et Maiae [I]lliomarus [Toc?]issae filius vslm, ‘To Mercurius and Maia, Illiomarus son of Tocissa(?) paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.902 This relief* is now destroyed. The name of the dedicator Illiomarus ‘Great- (?)’ is Celtic,903 as well as the name of his mother: Tocissa is mentioned in another inscription from Strasbourg.904 Their unique name indicates they were peregrines.
Like Rosmerta, Maia is sometimes venerated on her own, such as in the inscriptions from Germersheim (Germany),905 Neustadt (Germany) (see fig. 30),906 Saintes (Charente-Maritime),907 Grenoble (Isère)908 and Lyons (Rhône).909 In Lyons, the inscription [M]aiae aug(ustae) s(acrum), ‘Sacred to the August Maia’, is engraved under a very damaged relief* representing the goddess seated and draped, wearing shoes and probably holding a basket of fruit in her hands.910 Interestingly, Maia is honoured in triple form in a stele* from Metz (Moselle), which echoes the cult of the Matres and Matronae: In Honore[m] Domus Divinae Dis Maiiabus Vicani Vici Pacis.911 Under the inscription stand three veiled goddesses; the two on the left used to hold an apple in their hands. This is the only existing example of a tripled Maia.
Grant & Hazel, 2002, p. 210.
Grant & Hazel, 2002, pp. 210, 275-276 ; Guirand & Schmidt, 2006, pp. 190, 273. Zeus loved her in a cave on Mount Cyllene, and she gave birth to Hermes (Mercury). She was also the nurse of Arcas, son of Zeus and Callisto. An obscure passage of Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius’s Saturnalia (I, 12, 16) tells that she is the goddess after whom the month of May (Maius) is called, see Fowler, William Warde, The Roman festivals of the period of the Republic, London, Macmillan and Co., 1899, p. 100 ; Webster, 1986, p. 58.
Hatt, MDG 2, pp. 165-166 ; CIL XIII, 1769, 6157, 7532, 7533, 11678b.
CIL XII, 2557. Villaz is situated between Aoste and the Lake Léman. The stone is in the Musée Château d’Annecy. Coelius could be either Celtic or Latin, see Delamarre, 2007, p. 69.
CIL XII, 2570. Saint-Hilaire is situated between Aoste and the Lake Léman.
CIL XIII, 6025.
Delamarre, 2007, p. 165.
Delamarre, 2007, pp. 105, 222 ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 181-182.
Delamarre, 2007, p. 121 ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 211-212.
RG 5623 ; CIL XIII, 6018 ; LIMC, vol. VII.1, p. 645, n°13.
Delamarre, 2007, p. 109.
CIL XIII 5969 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 182 ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 189, 218.
CIL XIII, 6095: DEAE MAIIAE / AEDEM A SOLO FE / CIT G ARRIVS PA / TRVITVS BF COS / V S L L M.
CIL XIII, 6095 ; RG 5977.
CIL XIII, 11064: Mai(a)e (H)el(e)nu(s) A(uli) Lycii s(ervus).
CIL XII, 5867, 5870, 2194.
CIL XIII, 1748.
RG 1751. The relief was discovered at ‘rue Pareille, quartier St-Vincent’ in 1873.
CIL XIII, 4303.