The Religion of the Ancient Celts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 445 pages of information about The Religion of the Ancient Celts.

[43] Tacitus, Agric. ii.

[44] If Celtae is from qelo, “to raise,” it may mean “the lofty,” just as many savages call themselves “the men,” par excellence.  Rh[^y]s derives it from qel, “to slay,” and gives it the sense of “warriors.”  See Holder, s.v.; Stokes, US 83. Galatae is from gala (Irish gal), “bravery.”  Hence perhaps “warriors.”

[45] “Galli” may be connected with “Galatae,” but D’Arbois denies this.  For all these titles see his PH ii. 396 ff.

[46] Livy, v. 31 f.; D’Arbois, PH ii. 304, 391.

[47] Strabo, iv. 10. 3; Caesar, i. 31, vii. 4; Frag.  Hist.  Graec. i. 437.

[48] Caesar, ii. 4.

[49] Strabo, xii. 5. 1.

[50] Polybius, ii. 22.

[51] Caesar, i. 2, 1-3.

[52] On the subject of Celtic unity see Jullian, “Du patriotisme gaulois,” RC xxiii. 373.



The passage in which Caesar sums up the Gaulish pantheon runs:  “They worship chiefly the god Mercury; of him there are many symbols, and they regard him as the inventor of all the arts, as the guide of travellers, and as possessing great influence over bargains and commerce.  After him they worship Apollo and Mars, Juppiter and Minerva.  About these they hold much the same beliefs as other nations.  Apollo heals diseases, Minerva teaches the elements of industry and the arts, Juppiter rules over the heavens, Mars directs war....  All the Gauls assert that they are descended from Dispater, their progenitor."[53]

As will be seen in this chapter, the Gauls had many other gods than these, while the Roman gods, by whose names Caesar calls the Celtic divinities, probably only approximately corresponded to them in functions.  As the Greeks called by the names of their own gods those of Egypt, Persia, and Babylonia, so the Romans identified Greek, Teutonic, and Celtic gods with theirs.  The identification was seldom complete, and often extended only to one particular function or attribute.  But, as in Gaul, it was often part of a state policy, and there the fusion of cults was intended to break the power of the Druids.  The Gauls seem to have adopted Roman civilisation easily, and to have acquiesced in the process of assimilation of their divinities to those of their conquerors.  Hence we have thousands of inscriptions in which a god is called by the name of the Roman deity to whom he was assimilated and by his own Celtic name—­Jupiter Taranis, Apollo Grannus, etc.  Or sometimes to the name of the Roman god is added a descriptive Celtic epithet or a word derived from a Celtic place-name.  Again, since Augustus reinstated the cult of the Lares, with himself as chief Lar, the epithet Augustus was given to all gods to whom the character of the Lares could

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The Religion of the Ancient Celts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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