1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Epona

EPONA, a goddess of horses, asses and mules, worshipped by the Romans, though of foreign, probably Gallic, origin. The majority of inscriptions and images bearing her name have been found in Gaul, Germany and the Danube countries; of the few that occur in Rome itself most were exhumed on the site of the barracks of the equites singulares, a foreign imperial body-guard mainly recruited from the Batavians. Her name does not appear in Tertullian’s list of the indigetes di, and Juvenal contrasts her worship unfavourably with the old Roman Numa ritual. Her cult does not appear to have been introduced before imperial times, when she is often called Augusta and invoked on behalf of the emperor and the imperial house. Her chief function, however, was to see that the beasts of burden were duly fed, and to protect them against accidents and malicious influence. In the countries in which the worship of Epona was said to have had its origin it was a common belief that certain beings were in the habit of casting a spell over stables during the night. The Romans used to place the image of the goddess, crowned with flowers on festive occasions, in a sort of shrine in the centre of the architrave of the stable. In art she is generally represented seated, with her hand on the head of the accompanying horse or animal.

See Tertullian, Apol. 16; Juvenal viii. 157; Prudentius, Apoth. 197; Apuleius, Metam. iii. 27; articles in Daremberg and Saglio’s Dict, des antiquités and Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie.