The Celtic City of Glanum - Sarah Woodbury

The Celtic City of Glanum

The Celts in France were known to the Romans as Gauls, though in their own language they called themselves Celtae and are the origin of the name that came to be applied to all the peoples who shared their language and culture. The city of Glanum was established by the 6th century BC when the villagers built ramparts on the hills surrounding their village to protect themselves from invaders.

The hallmark of the town was a sacred spring known for its healing powers and was dedicated to the Celtic water god, Glanis, one of several Celtic gods worshipped in the city. Archaeologists view the city as having a vibrant Celtic culture, using characteristic pottery, cooking utensils (boiling rather than frying), and a penchant for displaying the heads of their enemies at the city gate.

As with the Britons, we know a great deal about Glanum because of the people who encountered them rather than because of their own writings. For Glanum, the Greeks were influential first, and the town developed something of a syncretic Gallo-Greek Culture. The Greeks didn’t take over the city, however, just influenced its architecture and art.

In earlier videos, I talked about the Roman takeover of Britain, which began in the first century AD. Southern France was significantly more accessible to the Roman legions than Britain, and Rome began moving into Celtic Gaul around 120 BC. The conquest was completed under the rule of Julius Caesar, starting around 50 BC, and by 22 BC, Glanum achieved the status of oppidum Latinum, which meant Glanum’s aristocracy acquired Roman citizenship. Even then, the city did not entirely abandon its Celtic religious beliefs.

This can be seen in an altar built in the first century AD by M. Licinius Verecundus, a Celt who was also a Roman legionnaire. The altar was dedicated first to the Celtic healing god, Glanis, and then to the Glannicae, the ancient Celtic ‘mothers’ who watched over the city. Although the Glannicae are specific to the city of Glanum, they are one example of the practice of worshipping of goddesses in groups of three that was common throughout the Celtic world.

Finally, the altar is dedicated to the Roman goddess Fortuna Redux, who was responsible for the safe return of those far from home.

The inscription reads: “To the god Glanis, and the Glanicae, and to Fortuna Redux: Marcus Licinius Verecundus, of the tribe Claudia, veteran of the XXI Legion Rapaces (meaning predators) – has accomplished his vow with gratitude and good faith.”


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