c) Chassenay (Côte d’Or)

In 1896, an inscription, composed of dotted letters and engraved at the top of the belly of a golden bronze vase, was found forty-one-foot deep in a well at Chassenay, a village located near Aignay-le-Duc (Côte d’Or). It reads: Aug(usto) sacr(um) deo Albio et Damonae Sext(us) Mart(ius) Cociliani f(ilius) ex jussu ejus [v(otum)] s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘Sacred to Augustus, to the god Albius and to Damona, Sextus Martius, son of Cocilianus, at his (the god’s) order, willingly offers (this object) for accomplishing his vow’.2052 The dedicator bears the duo nomina of Roman citizens and Latin names, while his father is a peregrine* with a Latin name.

In this dedication, Damona is partnered with the god Albius, who is known by this single inscription: his character and functions are thus undetermined. Albius’s name is derived from a Celtic root alb- signifying ‘white’, ‘celestial’.2053 The significance of his name relates him to the indigenous healing god Vindonnus - associated with Apollo in various inscriptions from Essarois (Côte d’Or) - whose name comes from the Gaulish vindo, ‘white’ and vindonos, ‘fair’.2054 Another healing god with a Latin name, Candidus, mentioned with Borvo in an inscription from Entrains-sur-Nohain (Nièvre),2055 also has a name denoting brightness. As Vindonnus and Candidus are gods related to brightness and curative springs, it is probable that Albius’s worship was attached to healing waters. This idea is supported by his association with Damona, the goddess presiding over salutary springs.

It might be possible that the waters of the well had some curative virtues or were regarded as sacred in ancient times.2056 This is highly likely, since, in addition to the inscribed bronze vase, many ancient objects were discovered in the well: various vases of different sizes, the bottom part of two small columns; several bronze dishes; Roman coins extending from Nero (1st c. AD) to Gratianus (4th c. AD);2057 a vase in bronze on which the signature of its bronzier appears;2058 a large heavy patera*, the handle of which is decorated with a ram’s head; a statuette of a mother goddess wearing a heavy cloak and giving her breast to two nurslings; and pieces of a statue in marble, which has a snake coiled up around an arm, representing Hygia or Esculape.2059 In all likelihood, these objects come from a small temple, possibly erected in honour of the couple in the area of Chassenay. This remains nonetheless a hypothesis, since no archaeological evidence proves the existence of such a small place of devotion.

Damona and Albius may have been the deities presiding over the waters of this fountain or possibly over thermal waters in the area. The renowned thermal spring of Maizières, situated five kilometres from the village of Chassenay, might have been protected by the couple. A bronze statuette representing a character seated on a rock, as well as coins and potteries discovered on the site, prove that the spring was already known and used in Gallo-Roman times, but there is no evidence attesting to the worship of the couple on this site.2060


CIL XIII, 2840 = CIL XIII, 11233 ; RE, vol. 3, p. 464, n°1198 and p. 435, n°1176 ; Vaillat, 1932, p. 27 ; Troisgros, 1975, pp. 27-28 ; Lhote-Birot, 2004, vol. 2, p. 145.


Delamarre, 2003, pp. 37-38 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 16, 210 ; Lhote-Birot, 2004, p. 97 ; Mackillop, 2004, pp. 425, 231 ; Troisgros, 1975, pp. 27-28.


CIL XIII, 5644-5646 ; RG 3414, 3415 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 394 ; Delamarre, 2003, pp. 319-320. The Gaulish god Vindonnus and the mythical Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhaill are etymologically related. Fionn mac Cumhaill’s name is derived from Old Irish find, Middle Irish finn, Modern Irish fionn, signifying ‘fair’, ‘bright’, ‘white’, similar to the Gaulish vindos ‘bright’, ‘fair’. For more details about that etymology* and the hero, see Ó hÓgáin, 1994, pp. 21-22, 24 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 238-249.


CIL XIII, 2901. A statue representing Apollo was also found in Entrains, see RG 2243.


Lhote-Birot, 2004, vol. 1, p. 97.


The Roman Emperor Lucius Domitius Claudius Nero reigned from 54 to 68 AD and Flavius Gratianus reigned from 375 to 383 AD.


RE, vol. 3, pp. 435-436, n° 1177: I(ulii) Ianuaris m(anu), i.e. ‘by the hand of Julius Januaris’.


RE, vol. 3, pp. 435, 464 ; Bourgeois, 1991, p. 120 ; Green, 1992a, pp. 75-76. This statue parallels the statue found in Alise-Sainte-Reine, representing a goddess associated with a snake. This snake might have been a symbol of curing through water.


RE, vol. 3, p. 464 ; Grenier, 1984, p. 329 explains: “The thermal establishment is outside town, in the middle of a huge park crossed by the river Arroux (…). The spring of Maizières was already known and used in Gallo-Roman times, but no thermal buildings had been built before 1961.”