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The Religion of the Ancient Celts

Page: 15

Cæsar 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 {23} 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 be ascribed, e.g. Belenos Augustus. Cults of local gods became cults of the genius of the place, coupled with the genius of the emperor. In some cases, however, the native name stands alone. The process was aided by art. Celtic gods are represented after Greco-Roman or Greco-Egyptian models. Sometimes these carry a native divine symbol, or, in a few cases, the type is purely native, e.g. that of Cernunnos. Thus the native paganism was largely transformed before Christianity appeared in Gaul. Many Roman gods were worshipped as such, not only by the Romans in Gaul, but by the Gauls, and we find there also traces of the Oriental cults affected by the Romans.

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