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Salus was the epitome of health and safety. Its Greek counterpart was Hygiea. The daughter of Asclepius – the god of medical art; she belonged to his retinue. Also called Salus Publica Populi Romani.
In 304 BCE, during the Samnite Wars, her temple was built, commissioned by Gaius Brutus. It was consecrated on August 5, 302 BCE and decorated with frescoes by the order of Fabius Pictor. Every year, on August 5, the Augurium Salutis ceremony was held to preserve the continuity of the Roman state. The ceremony was celebrated only when Rome was not waging wars. In the late republic, this rite could not be performed due to constant civil wars. She returned to public life after Octavian Augustus took power.
The cult of Salus spread throughout Italy. She was associated with Fortuna and Spes, as well as with Valetudo – the goddess of personal health, who corresponded to the Greek Hygieia. Her feast day fell on March 30.
In art, she is usually depicted as a young woman with the attributes – a bowl (or a cup or a cup) and a snake (due to her moulting – “rebirth” – symbolizing continuous self-renewal of life, healing, longevity, healing) – which are now a symbol of pharmacy. On the reverse of Roman coins, it is depicted a sceptre and a platter from which a snake wrapped around the altar is fed.