Survivals of the Cult of the Matronae into the Early Middle Ages and Beyond

Survivals of the Cult of the Matronae into the Early Middle Ages and Beyond

By Alex G. Garman

Anistoriton Journal, vol. 11 (2007)

Introduction: From the late first century to the beginning of the fifth century CE, the area now referred to as the Rhineland was under Roman occupation. During this period, thousands of altars were carved and dedicated by individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds, in honor of divine beings known as the Matres in Gaul and the Matronae in Germania Inferior. Based on the archeological evidence, these divine beings have been grouped together as goddesses or ancestral spirits. The quantity and quality of the evidence suggest that this was a very important religion for the inhabitants of the region, whether they were Celtic, Germanic, or Roman.

When the Romans moved into these areas, they brought with them their distinctive artistic methods of portraying the divine. Because Romans associated local deities with their own, they portrayed the goddesses of Gaul and Germany using Roman artistic techniques and gave the goddesses a Roman epithet as part of their identities. From the inscriptions on the altars, historians and archaeologists know that most of them were dedicated by Roman citizens, primarily military men and other officials.

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