Sun gods were popular deities in many ancient cultures and the Romans were no exception. While the eastern cult of Sol Invictus– the victorious sun- became popular during the late empire, the Romans also had a much earlier sun god whose festival they marked on the 9th August. That god was Sol Indiges.
Mythology ties Sol Indiges to the very beginnings of the Roman state. But how was Sol important to the Romans- and why?
The Roman Sun God
Not even the Romans were sure of the exact meaning of the “indiges” element of their sun gods name. Some, such as Fowler, have suggested it derived from the name of the Etruscan god of light, Usil. However, it is more likely it relates to the status of Sol as indigenous to the Roman people.
There is no reference to Sol as “indiges” in any of the early Roman calendars, so it could also be assumed that the Romans added this appellation to distinguish the Roman Sol from later foreign imports, such as the god Apollo and the cult of Sol Invictus, which the emperor Elagabalus in the 3rd century AD popularized.
Myths of Sol Indiges and the Romans