D) Divine Goddess-Names related to Protection and War

Several goddesses might be related to protection and war on account of the significance of their names, which denote protection, courage, strength, war fury and victory. Relying on etymology* only, however, is problematic. The meaning of some divine names remains uncertain and questionable. In other cases, several etymologies can be accepted for the same name or epithet, such as Belisama, who can be understood as ‘the Most Brilliant’ or ‘the Most Powerful’. Inducing the functions of a goddess from her name when several etymologies are possible is therefore hazardous, but when there is no archaeological evidence (iconography, place of worship, ex-votos, etc) to shed light on the nature and functions of the goddess honoured in the dedication, etymology* is the only science which can bring significant information. In the case of an isolated dedication, i.e. unique and not discovered in its place of origin - because found in re-employment* in a wall for instance - it is important to analyze the various potential interpretations of the divine name. Dismissing a plausible etymology* could prove disastrous for the comprehension of the essence of a goddess.

The war-like aspect of a goddess can also be brought to light by her association with a Roman goddess of war, such as Victory or Minerva, in the inscription, or, in some exceptional cases, by iconographical evidence, such as for Brigantia. When possible, the archaeological and religious contexts should be investigated to determine the nature of the worship. It may be that the meaning of a divine name and the nature of the place of worship do not concur, such as in the case of Segeta, whose name siginifies ‘The Victorious One’ but who was honoured in healing water sanctuaries in Gallo-Roman times. The task is thus complex and the conclusions necessarily conjectural. This shows the complexity of the character of some goddesses, which certainly evolved and became endowed with different features and qualities throughout the centuries, especially at the time of the Roman invasion. Some seem to have been more particularly the embodiment and protectresses of the city or the tribe, while others have names reflecting the qualities needed in war, such as strength, fearlessness, rage and frenzy. Finally, some goddesses personify triumph and seem to have played the part of a leader leading its people to victory.