Roman and Germanic gods

Statue of Hercules MagusanusToday, Dr Ruurd Halbertsma of the archaeological museum told about Roman and Germanic religions in what is today The Netherlands (I have to note that is still uncertain whether tribes living there in Roman times spoke Germanic or Celtic languages).

According to Halbertsma, the Roman empire was quite tolerant towards non-Roman, mainly polytheistic like themselves, religions in conquered regions.

Though it did suppress human sacrifice in regions like Carthage and Gaul.

And people had to swear allegiance to the emperor (a religious problem with Jews, and later with Christians).

There was mutual influence between Roman and Germanic religions, which expressed itself, eg, in gods with two names, a Latin and Germanic one.

An example was identifying the Batavian god Magsan with the Roman demigod Hercules, as Hercules Magusanus.

Also, gods from other Roman provinces were worshiped in The Netherlands.

Like Isis from Egypt, of whom an image was found.

Also images were found of animals sacrificed to the gods, including chicken, sheep, and dogs.

Archaeologists have found altars with inscriptions (Germanic people made practically no inscriptions before Roman times).

Like with much else in antiquity, there used to be images in bright colours in those altars.

However, these are lost now.

The goddess Nehalennia, worshiped by traders and sailors going from the Dutch province of Zealand to England, was not identified with a Roman deity.

Nevertheless, traders from all over the empire worshiped her.

4 thoughts on “Roman and Germanic gods

  1. ‘Dutch’ Batavians more Roman than thought

    October 23rd, 2009

    The Batavians, who lived in the Netherlands at the start of the Christian era were far more Roman than was previously thought. After just a few decades of Roman occupation, the Batavians had become so integrated that they cooked, built and bathed in a Roman manner. Dutch researcher Stijn Heeren discovered this during archaeological research.

    Heeren studied excavated artefacts and traces of settlements and burial fields in the neighbourhood of Tiel. In Dutch history, the Batavians are often presented as a brave people who resisted a cruel oppressor. But Stijn Heeren has now demonstrated that these ‘simple people’ also adopted a lot of Roman customs. According to him the small farming communities changed into villages where Roman practices made their entrance.

    Roman food and bathing

    By studying the chronology of the excavation site and by analysing several specific categories of finds, Heeren could show how and when the locals started to participate in the economic, military and cultural structures of the Roman Empire. The archaeologist discovered that within a few decades of Roman occupation, the Batavians used Roman ingredients in their cooking, that the farmers used makeup and oil in the same way as the Romans in their baths and that they built their farms according to the Roman style.

    Money and war

    Heeren believes that two important facts fuelled the Batavian integration. The Roman army camps were an important source of income for the Batavians. The Batavian farmers produced food for the Roman soldiers and in so doing could acquire Roman utensils as well. The Batavian economy therefore became dependent on that of the Romans. Yet the role played by the Batavians in the Roman army was possibly even more important for their integration. Many young men did 25 years of service in the Roman army and brought Roman objects and customs with them after completing their service.
    Although Heeren’s study is limited to the rural community of Tiel-Passewaaij, these communities could serve as a model for rural communities elsewhere in the Batavian world.

    Heeren’s research is part of the research programme ‘Rural communities in the civitas Batavorum and their integration into the Roman Empire’, led by Prof. Nico Roymans. This research programme is part of ‘The Harvest of Malta’, a series of research programmes funded by NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research).

    Provided by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)


  2. Pingback: Ancient Greek and Roman graves | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  4. Pingback: Roman bathhouse discovery in Dutch Limburg | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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