Gallo-Roman religion

Gallo-Roman religion was a fusion of the traditional religious practices of the Gauls, who were originally Celtic speakers, and the Roman and Hellenistic religions introduced to the region under Roman Imperial rule. It was the result of selective acculturation.

Gallo-Roman religion
ScriptureGallo-Roman scripture, Nexus-Crest
Epona Auxois
Epona from Auxois
Ex Voto MAN St Germain
A votive offering to an unnamed deity

Deities

In some cases, Gaulish deity names were used as epithets for Roman deities, and vice versa, as with Lenus Mars or Jupiter Poeninus. In other cases, Roman gods were given Gaulish female partners – for example, Mercury was paired with Rosmerta and Sirona was partnered with Apollo. In at least one case – that of the equine goddess Epona – a native Celtic goddess was also adopted by Romans.

The Jupiter Column was a distinctive type of religious monument from Roman Gaul and Germania, combining an equestrian Jupiter overcoming a giant (or sometimes Jupiter enthroned) with panels depicting many other deities.

Eastern mystery religions penetrated Gaul early on. These included the cults of Orpheus, Mithras, Cybele, and Isis. The imperial cult, centred primarily on the numen of Augustus, came to play a prominent role in the public religion of Gaul, most dramatically at the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls at Lugdunum.

Practices

Roman religious practices such as offerings of incense and animal sacrifice, dedicatory inscriptions, and naturalistic statuary depicting deities in anthropomorphic form were combined with specific Gaulish practices such as circumambulation around a temple. This gave rise to a characteristic Gallo-Roman fanum, identifiable in archaeology from its concentric shape.

See also

Sources

  • Burnand, Y. (1999). "Notes sur le vocabulaire épigraphique de la représentation de la divinité en Gaule romaine" in Signa deorum : L'iconographie divine en Gaule romaine. Communications présentées au colloque organisé par le Centre Albert Grenier d'antiquité nationale de l'Université de Nancy II et la direction d'études d'antiquités de la Gaule romaine de la IVe section de l'École pratique des hautes études. Y. Burnand and H. Lavagne. Paris, De Boccard. ‹See Tfd›(in French)
  • Debal, J. (1983) "Vienne-en-Val, divinités et sanctuaires." Bulletin de la Société Archéologique et Historique de l'Orléanais, 42 ‹See Tfd›(in French)
  • Deyts, S. (1998). À la rencontre des Dieux gaulois, un défi à César. Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux. ‹See Tfd›(in French)
  • Faudet, I. (1993) Les temples de tradition celtique en Gaule Romaine. Paris, Éditions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-074-8 ‹See Tfd›(in French)
  • Green, M. (1986) Gods of the Celts. Stroud: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-1581-1.
  • Jufer, N.; Luginbühl, T. (2001) Répertoire des dieux gaulois. Paris, Éditions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-200-7 ‹See Tfd›(in French)
  • Weisgerber, G. (1975). Das Pilgerheiligtum des Apollo und der Sirona von Hochscheid im Hunsruck. Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Press. ‹See Tfd›(in German)
  • Woolf, G. (1998). Becoming Roman: the origins of provincial civilization in Gaul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Alisanos

In Gallo-Roman religion, Alisanos or Alisaunus was a local god worshipped in what is now the Côte-d'Or in Burgundy and at Aix-en-Provence.The inscription from Gevrey-Chambertin in the Côte-d'Or is in the Gaulish language:

DOIROS SEGOMARI

IEVRV ALISANV

Doiros (son) of Segomaros has dedicated (this) to AlisanosThe inscription from Visignot, also in the Côte-d'Or, is in Latin:

DEO·ALISANO·PAVLLINVS ❧

PRO·CONTEDIO·FIL·SVO ❧

V·S·L·M·

Paullinus has freely and deservedly fulfilled his vow to the god Alisanus on behalf of his son ContediusThe root Alisa- of the name Alisanus is phonologically comparable to the Proto-Celtic *alisā, ‘alder’. Green, however, sees the theonym as related to the toponym Alesia, implying that he was a mountain-god.

Ambisagrus

In Gallo-Roman religion, Ambisagrus was a Gaulish god worshipped at Aquileia in Cisalpine Gaul, where he was identified with Jupiter Optimus Maximus.The name may be composed of the Proto-Celtic prefix *ambi- ('around') and root *sagro-.John T. Koch has suggested that this Jovian epithet may originally have applied to Taranis, with allusion to the tendency of thunder near an observer to seem all-surrounding.

Artio

Artio (Dea Artio in the Gallo-Roman religion) was a Celtic bear goddess. Evidence of her worship has notably been found at Bern.

Her name is derived from the Gaulish word for "bear", artos.

Arvernus

In Gallo-Roman religion, Arvernus was the tribal god of the Arverni and an epithet of the Gaulish Mercury. Although the name refers to the Arverni, in whose territory Mercury had at important sanctuary at the Puy-de-Dôme in the Massif Central, all of the inscriptions to Mercury Arvernus are found farther away along the Rhenish frontier. The similar name Mercury Arvernorix, ‘king of the Arverni’, is also recorded once. Compare also the title Mercury Dumiatis (‘of the Puy-de-Dôme’), found in the territory of the Arverni. The name, like the name of the Arverni and of Auvergne, appears to derive from a Proto-Celtic compound adjective *φara-werno-s ‘in front of alders’.

Aveta

In Gallo-Roman religion, Dea Aveta was a mother goddess, also associated with the fresh-water spring at Trier in what is now Germany. Aveta is known mainly from clay figurines found at Toulon-sur-Allier in France and at Trier. These figurines show the goddess with infants at the breast, small lap-dogs, or baskets of fruit. There was a temple dedicated to Aveta in the Altbachtal complex at Trier.

Her name is also known from inscriptions found in Switzerland, and the Côte-d'Or (France).

Bricta

In Gallo-Roman religion, Bricta or Brixta was a Gaulish goddess who was a consort of Luxovius, god of the waters of Luxeuil-les-Bains (in antiquity, Luxovium). Nicholson (1999) has suggested however that if "Bricta is a title incorporating Bríg, it may actually be a title assigned to Sirona rather than a separate goddess".

Buxenus

In Gallo-Roman religion, Buxenus was an epithet of the Gaulish Mars, known from a single inscription found in Velleron in the Vaucluse.

Damona

In Gallo-Roman religion, Damona was a goddess worshipped in Gaul as the consort of Apollo Borvo and of Apollo Moritasgus. Mary Jones interprets Damona's name as "Divine Cow" based on its resemblance to damos or "cow". She has sometimes been linked with the Irish goddess Boand on the basis of this bovine association. Van Andringa describes Damona and Bormana as the patron deities of the hot springs at Bourbonne-les-Bains and Saint-Vulbas, respectively. Some seventeen inscriptions dedicated to Damona have been recovered, including nine from Bourbonne-les-Bains and four from Bourbon-Lancy, both spa towns in eastern France. In one inscription from Saintes, she has the epithet Matubergini.

Fagus (god)

For Fagus, the genus of trees, see beech.In Gallo-Roman religion, Fagus was a god known from four inscriptions found in the Hautes-Pyrénées. The language of this Aquitanian region has been linked to Proto-Basque, rather than to Celtic. Fāgus is Latin for beech. It is generally believed that Fagus was the god of babies and child worship. Redheads were considered sacred to Fagus, and often his druids were red haired to signify his lust for the color red Fagus was also prayed to in protection of a child's birth or for an early abortion.

Icaunis

In Gallo-Roman religion, Dea Icaunis was the goddess of the river Yonne in Gaul. She is known from a single inscription, found at Auxerre in Burgundy.

Interpretatio graeca

Interpretatio graeca (Latin, "Greek translation") or "interpretation by means of Greek [models]" is a discourse used to interpret or attempt to understand the mythology and religion of other cultures; a comparative methodology using ancient Greek religious concepts and practices, deities, and myths, equivalencies, and shared characteristics.

The phrase may describe Greek efforts to explain others' beliefs and myths, as when Herodotus describes Egyptian religion in terms of perceived Greek analogues, or when Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Plutarch document Roman cults, temples, and practices under the names of equivalent Greek deities. Interpretatio graeca may also describe non-Greeks' interpretation of their own belief systems by comparison or assimilation with Greek models, as when Romans adapt Greek myths and iconography under the names of their own gods.

Interpretatio romana is comparative discourse in reference to ancient Roman religion and myth, as in the formation of a distinctive Gallo-Roman religion. Both the Romans and the Gauls reinterpreted Gallic religious traditions in relation to Roman models, particularly Imperial cult.

Jan Assmann considers the polytheistic approach to internationalizing gods as a form of "intercultural translation":

The great achievement of polytheism is the articulation of a common semantic universe. ... The meaning of a deity is his or her specific character as it unfolded in myths, hymns, rites, and so on. This character makes a deity comparable to other deities with similar traits. The similarity of gods makes their names mutually translatable. … The practice of translating the names of the gods created a concept of similarity and produced the idea or conviction that the gods are international.

Pliny the Elder expressed the "translatability" of deities as "different names to different peoples" (nomina alia aliis gentibus). This capacity made possible the religious syncretism of the Hellenistic era and the pre-Christian Roman Empire.

Litavis

Litavis—also known as Litauis, Litaui, Litauia, and Llydaw—is a goddess in Celtic mythology worshiped by the ancient Gauls. Her name is found in inscriptions found at Aignay-le-Duc and Mâlain of the Côte-d'Or, France, where she is invoked along with the Gallo-Roman god Mars Cicolluis in a context which suggests that she might have been his consort. Also, a Latin dedicatory inscription from Narbonne (which was in the far south of Gaul), France, bears the words “MARTI CICOLLUI ET LITAVI” ("To Mars Cicolluis and Litavis").

Loucetios

In Gallo-Roman religion, Loucetios (Latinized as Leucetius) was a Gallic god known from the Rhine-Moselle region, where he was invariably identified with the Roman Mars. Scholars have interpreted his name to mean ‘lightning’. Mars Loucetius was worshipped alongside the goddess Nemetona.

Luxovius

In Gallo-Roman religion, Luxovios, Latinized as Luxovius was the god of the waters of Luxeuil, worshipped in Gaul. He was a consort of Bricta. The thermal spring sanctuary at Luxeuil produced evidence of the worship of other deities, including the sky-horseman who bears a solar wheel, and Sirona, another deity associated with healing springs.

Naria

Naria was a goddess in Gallo-Roman religion who appears to have been venerated only in what is now the western part of Switzerland. Her nature and responsibilities remain obscure.She is mentioned only twice in known inscriptions from the Gallo-Roman era. One, on a stone altar from Cressier, reads Nariae Novsantiae T. Frontin. Hibernvs V.S.L.M, that is: "To Naria Nousantia, Titus Frontinius Hibernus willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow". The epithet "Nousantia" is otherwise unknown. The other inscription is on the base of a statuette from the Muri statuette group. That inscription, Deae Nariae Reg(io) Arvre(nsis) Cvr(ante) Feroc(e) L(iberto), translates as: "The Aar area association dedicated this to the goddess Naria; the freedman Ferox served as curator."

The Muri statuette is also the only known depiction of Naria. It shows her in a long-sleeved dress and with a diadem in her hair. The hands which held her divine attributes are missing. This depiction of Naria follows a generic style then used in Italy mostly for depictions of the goddess of luck, Fortuna. This indicates that Naria might also have been conceived of as a goddess of good luck and blessings.

Robor

In Gallo-Roman religion, Robor or Roboris was a god invoked alongside the genius loci on a single inscription found in Angoulême.

Rosmerta

In Gallo-Roman religion, Rosmerta was a goddess of fertility and abundance, her attributes being those of plenty such as the cornucopia. Rosmerta is attested by statues, and by inscriptions. In Gaul she was often depicted with the Roman god Mercury as her consort, but is sometimes found independently.

Segomo

In Gallo-Roman religion, Segomo ("victor, mighty one") was a war god worshipped in Gaul. In Roman times he was equated with Mars and Hercules. He may be related to Cocidius, a similar god worshipped in Britain. He is commonly associated with the eagle or hawk. The name of the legendary High King of Ireland Nia Segamain, which translates as "sister's son or champion of Segamon", may be related.

Vosegus

Vosegus (sometimes Vosagus or Vosacius) was a name used in the Roman Empire for a Celtic god of hunting and forestation. On rare known artefacts Vosegus is shown with a bow and shield, accompanied by a dog. The centre of area where Vosegus was worshiped was around the Donon. On top of a hill there was a temple dedicated to Vosegus.Later in Gallo-Roman religion, Vosegus was the patron god of the Vosges in eastern Gaul. His name is attested in about five inscriptions from western Germany and eastern France, twice in the form Vosego Silv(estri) and once as Merc(urio) Vos(ego).

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