25 March 2007

Roman-Celtic Religion

Above is an image of the god Sulis from the Romano-Celtic shrine at Bath. Most of our knowledge of Romano-Celtic religion comes from temple ruins, such as those at Aquae Sulis and at Lydney Park. After the Roman conquest of Gaul the religion of the Celts remained essentially the same, except for one aspect: the Druids were gone. As leaders of their people they were powerful resistors of Roman influence and as such were eliminated by the Roman military. That is a very sad fact indeed as so much lore and wisdom went with them. Of the Roman gods the one held in highest esteem by the Celts was Mercury, god of trade and profit. After him was Apollo, god of the sun, learning and medicine; Mars, god of war; Jupiter, the surpreme weather-father god and Minerva, goddess of love and desire.

There was also plenty of blending of Roman and Celtic deities as is evident in their unique names: Mercury Visucius, Lenus Mars, Jupiter Poeninus and Sulis Minerva. In purely Celtic times Epona was a major goddess of fertility as well as animal husbandry; in Gallo-Roman times she was somewhat reduced to a protectress of horses, donkeys and mules. She was especially loved by the Roman calvary and many stables contained her shrines. She was the only Celtic deity to make it to Rome in a purely Celtic, not Romanized, form.

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