Roman funerary practices
Roman funerary practices include the Ancient Romans' religious rituals concerning funerals and burials. They were part of the unwritten code from which Romans derived their social norms. Roman cemeteries were located outside the sacred boundary of its cities, they were visited with offerings of food and wine, special observances during Roman festivals in honor of the dead. Funeral monuments appear throughout the Roman Empire, their inscriptions are an important source of information for otherwise unknown individuals and history. A Roman sarcophagus could be an elaborately crafted art work, decorated with relief sculpture depicting a scene, allegorical, mythological, or historical, or a scene from everyday life. Although funerals were a concern of the family, of paramount importance in Roman society, those who lacked the support of an extended family belonged to guilds or collegia which provided funeral services for members. In Greco-Roman antiquity, the bodies of the dead were regarded as polluting.
At the same time, loving duty toward one's ancestors was a fundamental part of ancient Roman culture. The care of the dead negotiated these two opposed attitudes; when a person died at home, family members and intimate friends gathered around the death bed. In accordance with a belief that equated the soul with the breath, the closest relative sealed the passing of spirit from the body with a last kiss, closed the eyes; the relatives began lamentations. The body was placed on the ground and anointed; the placing of the body on the ground is a doublet of birth ritual, when the infant was placed on the bare earth. Mourners were expected to wear the dress appropriate to the occasion, to their station. If the deceased was a male citizen, he was dressed in his toga. Wreaths are found in burials of initiates into mystery religions. After the body was prepared, it lay in state in the atrium of the family home, with the feet pointed toward the door. Other circumstances pertained to those who lived, as most Romans did, in apartment buildings, but elite practices are better documented.
Although embalming was unusual and regarded as an Egyptian practice, it is mentioned in Latin literature, with a few instances documented by archaeology in Rome and throughout the Empire where no Egyptian influence can be assumed. Since elite funerals required complex arrangements, the body had to be preserved in the meantime. "Charon's obol" was a coin placed in or on the mouth of the deceased. The custom is recorded in literary sources and attested by archaeology, sometimes occurs in contexts that suggest it may have been imported to Rome as were the mystery religions that promised initiates salvation or special passage in the afterlife; the custom was explained by the myth of Charon, the ferryman who conveyed the souls of the newly dead across the water — a lake, river, or swamp — that separated the world of the living from the underworld. The coin was rationalized as his payment. In Apuleius's tale of "Cupid and Psyche" in his Metamorphoses, framed by Lucius's quest for salvation ending with initiation into the mysteries of Isis, Psyche carries two coins in her journey to the underworld, the second to enable her return or symbolic rebirth.
Evidence of "Charon's obol" appears throughout the Western Roman Empire well into the Christian era, but at no time and place was it practiced and by all. Although inhumation was practiced in archaic Rome, cremation was the most common burial practice in the Mid- to Late Republic and the Empire into the 1st and 2nd centuries. Crematory images appear in Latin poetry on the theme of mourning. In one of the best-known classical Latin poems of mourning, Catullus writes of his long journey to attend to the funeral rites of his brother, who died abroad, expresses his grief at addressing only silent ash; when Propertius describes his dead lover Cynthia visiting him in a dream, the revenant's dress is scorched down the side and the fire of the pyre has corroded the familiar ring she wears. Inhumation would replace cremation; the care and cultivation of the dead did not end with the funeral and formal period of mourning, but was a perpetual obligation. Libations were brought to the grave, some tombs were equipped with "feeding tubes" to facilitate delivery.
The Romans referred to infants. The Romans did not hold funerals for arpagi, their bodies were not cremated, or interred, no monuments or epitaphs were made for them. Infants who had lived 40 or more days and had cut teeth before their deaths were distinguished from the arpagi. Funeral rites took place at home and at the place of burial, located outside the city to avoid the pollution of the living; the funeral procession transited the distance between the two. A professional guild of musicians specialized in funeral music. Horace mentions the cornu, two bronze trumpet-like instruments, at funerals; the eulogy was a formal panegyric in praise of the dead. It was one of two forms of discourse at a Roman funeral, the other being the
Decline of Greco-Roman polytheism
Religion in the Greco-Roman world at the time of the Constantinian shift comprised three main currents: the traditional religions of ancient Greece and Rome. Early Christianity grew in Rome and the Roman Empire from the 1st to 4th centuries. In 313 it was tolerated and in 380 it became the state church of the Roman Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica. Hellenistic polytheistic traditions survived in pockets of Greece throughout Late Antiquity until they diminished after the triumph of Christianity; the Romans tended towards syncretism, seeing the same gods under different names in different places of the Empire, accommodating other Europeans such as the Hellenes and Celts, Semitic and other groups in the Middle East. Under Roman authority, the various national myths most similar to Rome were adopted by analogue into the overall Roman mythos, further cementing Imperial control; the Romans were tolerant and accommodating towards new deities and the religious experiences of other peoples who formed part of their wider Empire.
The more philosophical outlook of the Hellenic parts of the Roman empire led to a renaissance of intellectual religious thought around the start of the 2nd century. Writings pseudepigraphically attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, discussing esoteric philosophy and alchemy, began to spread from Roman Egypt throughout the empire. Although such hermetica was written with the theological aim of spiritual improvement, each text had an anonymous and spontaneous origin, rather than being part of an organised movement. A more organised form of alatrist henotheistic panentheism emerged in parallel to Hermetism. In the 1st century BC Cicero's friend Nigidius Figulus made an attempt to revive Pythagorean doctrines, an effort, successful under Apollonius of Tyana in the 1st century. At least one major meeting place for followers of this neopythagoreanism was built in Rome itself, near Porta Maggiore, to a design similar to Christian churches, though subterranean. In the 2nd century, Numenius of Apamea sought to fuse additional elements of Platonism into Neopythagoreanism, a direction which Plotinus continued, forming neoplatonism, a religion of theistic monism.
Neoplatonism began to be adopted by prominent scholars such as the Christian theologian Origen and the anti-Christian Porphyry. During the rule of Gallienus, the imperial family themselves gave patronage to Plotinus, encouraged his philosophical activities. Neoplatonism was further developed by Iamblichus, who believed that physical invocations would be able to produce soteriological results, therefore added religious ritual to the philosophy. Emperor Julian tried to unify traditional Roman religion by mixing it with Iamblichus' form of neoplatonism. At some time around the first century, the members of the Roman military began to adopt the mystery cult of Mithraism; as the Roman legions moved around, so too Mithraism spread throughout the Roman Empire. Mithraism wasn't exclusive - it was possible and common to follow Mithraism and other cults simultaneously, it became popular within Rome itself gaining members among the more aristocratic classes, counting some of the Roman senators as adherents.
Although, for reasons unknown, Mithraism excluded women, by the third century it had gained a wide following. From the reign of Septimius Severus, less gender-specific, forms of sun-worship increased in popularity throughout the Roman Empire. Elagabalus used his authority to install El-Gabal as the chief deity of the Roman pantheon, merging the god with the Roman sun gods to form Deus Sol Invictus, meaning God - the Undefeated Sun, making him superior to Jupiter, assigning either Astarte, Urania, or some combination of the three, as El-Gabal's wife, he rode roughshod over other elements of traditional religion, marrying a Vestal Virgin, moved the most sacred relics of Roman religion to a new temple dedicated to El-Gabal. As much as the religiously conservative senators may have disapproved, the lavish annual public festivals held in El-Gabal's honour found favour among the popular masses on account of the festivals involving the wide distribution of food. Nearly half a century after Elagabalus, Aurelian came to power.
He was a reformer, strengthening the position of the sun-god as the main divinity of the Ro
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of English painters and art critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three founders were joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner to form the seven-member "brotherhood", their principles were shared by other artists, including Ford Madox Brown, Arthur Hughes and Marie Spartali Stillman. A medievalising strain inspired by Rossetti included Edward Burne-Jones and extended into the twentieth century with artists such as John William Waterhouse; the group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. Its members believed the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". In particular, the group objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts, whom they called "Sir Sloshua".
To the Pre-Raphaelites, according to William Michael Rossetti, "sloshy" meant "anything lax or scamped in the process of painting... and hence... any thing or person of a commonplace or conventional kind". The brotherhood sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art; the group associated their work with John Ruskin, an English critic whose influences were driven by his religious background. The group continued to accept the concepts of history painting and mimesis, imitation of nature, as central to the purpose of art; the Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform movement, created a distinct name for their form of art, published a periodical, The Germ, to promote their ideas. The group's debates were recorded in the Pre-Raphaelite Journal; the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in John Millais's parents' house on Gower Street, London in 1848. At the first meeting, the painters John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt were present.
Hunt and Millais were students at the Royal Academy of Arts and had met in another loose association, the Cyclographic Club, a sketching society. At his own request Rossetti became a pupil of Ford Madox Brown in 1848. At that date and Hunt shared lodgings in Cleveland Street, Central London. Hunt had started painting The Eve of St. Agnes based on Keats's poem of the same name, but it was not completed until 1867; as an aspiring poet, Rossetti wished to develop the links between Romantic art. By autumn, four more members, painters James Collinson and Frederic George Stephens, Rossetti's brother and critic William Michael Rossetti, sculptor Thomas Woolner, had joined to form a seven-member-strong brotherhood. Ford Madox Brown was invited to join, but the more senior artist remained independent but supported the group throughout the PRB period of Pre-Raphaelitism and contributed to The Germ. Other young painters and sculptors became close associates, including Charles Allston Collins, Alexander Munro.
The PRB intended to keep the existence of the brotherhood secret from members of the Royal Academy. The brotherhood's early doctrines, as defined by William Michael Rossetti, were expressed in four declarations: to have genuine ideas to express; the principles were deliberately non-dogmatic, since the brotherhood wished to emphasise the personal responsibility of individual artists to determine their own ideas and methods of depiction. Influenced by Romanticism, the members thought responsibility were inseparable, they were fascinated by medieval culture, believing it to possess a spiritual and creative integrity, lost in eras. The emphasis on medieval culture clashed with principles of realism which stress the independent observation of nature. In its early stages, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood believed its two interests were consistent with one another, but in years the movement divided and moved in two directions; the realists were led by Hunt and Millais, while the medievalists were led by Rossetti and his followers, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.
The split was never absolute, since both factions believed that art was spiritual in character, opposing their idealism to the materialist realism associated with Courbet and Impressionism. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was influenced by nature and its members used great detail to show the natural world using bright and sharp focus techniques on a white canvas. In attempts to revive the brilliance of colour found in Quattrocento art and Millais developed a technique of painting in thin glazes of pigment over a wet white ground in the hope that the colours would retain jewel-like transparency and clarity, their emphasis on brilliance of colour was a reaction to the excessive use of bitumen by earlier British artists, such as Reynolds, David Wilkie and Benjamin Robert Haydon. Bitumen produces unstable areas of an effect the Pre-Raphaelites despised. In 1848, Rossetti and Hunt made a list of "Immortals", artistic heroes whom they admired from literature, some of whose work would form subjects for PRB paintings, notably including Keats and Tennyson.
The first exhibitions of Pre-Raphaelite work occurred in 1849. Both Millais's Isabella and Holman Hunt's Rienzi were exhibited at
In Greek mythology, Persephone called Kore, is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead, she becomes the queen of the underworld through her abduction by and subsequent marriage to Hades, the god of the underworld. The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis and Osiris, in Minoan Crete. Persephone as a vegetation goddess and her mother Demeter were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which promised the initiated a more enjoyable prospect after death. In some versions, Persephone is the mother of Zeus' sons Iacchus, or Zagreus; the origins of her cult are uncertain, but it was based on old agrarian cults of agricultural communities. Persephone was worshipped along with Demeter and with the same mysteries.
To her alone were dedicated the mysteries celebrated at Athens in the month of Anthesterion. In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed carrying a sheaf of grain, she may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was represented in the process of being carried off by Hades. In Roman mythology, she is called Proserpina. In a Linear B Mycenaean Greek inscription on a tablet found at Pylos dated 1400–1200 BC, John Chadwick reconstructed the name of a goddess, *Preswa who could be identified with Persa, daughter of Oceanus and found speculative the further identification with the first element of Persephone. Persephonē is her name in the Ionic Greek of epic literature; the Homeric form of her name is Persephoneia. In other dialects, she was known under variant names: Persephassa, Persephatta, or Korē. Plato calls her Pherepapha in his Cratylus, "because she is wise and touches that, in motion". There are the forms Periphona and Phersephassa; the existence of so many different forms shows how difficult it was for the Greeks to pronounce the word in their own language and suggests that the name may have a Pre-Greek origin.
Persephatta is considered to mean "female thresher of grain". A popular folk etymology is from φέρειν φόνον, pherein phonon, "to bring death"; the Romans first heard of her from the Aeolian and Dorian cities of Magna Graecia, who used the dialectal variant Proserpinē. Hence, in Roman mythology she was called Proserpina, a name erroneously derived by the Romans from proserpere, "to shoot forth" and as such became an emblematic figure of the Renaissance. At Locri uniquely, Persephone was the protector of marriage, a role assumed by Hera. In a Classical period text ascribed to Empedocles, c. 490–430 BC, describing a correspondence among four deities and the classical elements, the name Nestis for water refers to Persephone: "Now hear the fourfold roots of everything: enlivening Hera, shining Zeus. And Nestis, moistening mortal springs with tears."Of the four deities of Empedocles' elements, it is the name of Persephone alone, taboo—Nestis is a euphemistic cult title—for she was the terrible Queen of the Dead, whose name was not safe to speak aloud, euphemistically named as Kore or "the Maiden", a vestige of her archaic role as the deity ruling the underworld.
The epithets of Persephone reveal her double function as vegetation goddess. The surnames given to her by the poets refer to her character as Queen of the lower world and the dead, or her symbolic meaning of the power that shoots forth and withdraws into the earth, her common name as a vegetation goddess is Kore, in Arcadia she was worshipped under the title Despoina, "the mistress", a old chthonic divinity. Plutarch identifies her with spring and Cicero calls her the seed of the fruits of the fields. In the Eleusinian mysteries, her return is the symbol of immortality and hence she was represented on sarcophagi. In the mystical theories of the Orphics and the Platonists, Kore is described as the all-pervading goddess of nature who both produces and destroys everything, she is therefore mentioned along or identified with other mystic divinities such as Isis, Rhea, Ge, Pandora and Hecate; the Orphic Persephone is further said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysus, Iacchus and the little-attested Melinoe.
As a goddess of the underworld, Persephone was given euphemistically friendly names. However it is possible that some of them were the names of original goddesses: Despoina "the mistress" in Arcadia. Hagne, "pure" a goddess of the springs in Messenia. Melindia or Melinoia, as the consort of Hades, in Hermione. Melivia Melitodes Aristi cthonia, "the best chthonic". Praxidike, the Orphic Hymn to Persephone identifies Praxidike as an epithet
The Capitoline Triad was a group of three deities who were worshipped in ancient Roman religion in an elaborate temple on Rome's Capitoline Hill. It comprised Jupiter and Minerva; the triad held a central place in the public religion of Rome. The three deities who are most referred to as the "Capitoline Triad" are Jupiter, the king of the gods; this grouping of a male god and two goddesses was unusual in ancient Indo-European religions, is certainly derived from the Etruscan trio of Tinia, the supreme deity, his wife, Menrva, their daughter and the goddess of wisdom. In some interpretations, this group replaced an original Archaic Triad. Jupiter and Minerva were honored in temples known as Capitolia, which were built on hills and other prominent areas in many cities in Italy and the provinces during the Augustan and Julio-Claudian periods. Most had a triple cella; the earliest known example of a Capitolium outside of Italy was at Emporion. According to Ovid, Terminus had a place there, since he had a shrine there before it was built and, as the god of boundary stones, refused to yield.
Although the word Capitolium could be used to refer to any temple dedicated to the Capitoline Triad, it referred to the temple on the Capitoline Hill in Rome known as aedes Iovis Optimi Maximi Capitolini. The temple was built under the reign of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the last King of Rome prior to the establishment of the Roman Republic. Although the temple was shared by Jupiter and Minerva, each deity had a separate cella, with Juno Regina on the left, Minerva on the right, Jupiter Optimus Maximus in the middle, it included a tetrastyle pronaos. Another shrine dedicated to Jupiter, Juno Regina and Minerva was the Capitolium Vetus on the Quirinal Hill, it was thought to be older than the more famous temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill, was still a landmark in Martial's time, in the late 1st century
In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the grain, harvest and nourishment, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. Her cult titles include Sito, "she of the Grain", as the giver of food or grain, Thesmophoros, "Law-Bringer", as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society. Though Demeter is described as the goddess of the harvest, she presided over the sacred law, the cycle of life and death, she and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a religious tradition that predated the Olympian pantheon, which may have its roots in the Mycenaean period c. 1400–1200 BC. Demeter was considered to be the same figure as the Anatolian goddess Cybele, in Rome she was identified as the Latin goddess Ceres, it is possible that Demeter appears in Linear A as da-ma-te on three documents, all three dedicated in religious situations and all three bearing just the name. It is unlikely. On the other hand, si-to-po-ti-ni-ja, "Potnia of the Grain", is regarded as referring to her Bronze Age predecessor or to one of her epithets.
Demeter's character as mother-goddess is identified in the second element of her name meter derived from Proto-Indo-European *méh₂tēr. In antiquity, different explanations were proffered for the first element of her name, it is possible that Da, a word which corresponds to Ge in Attic, is the Doric form of De, "earth", the old name of the chthonic earth-goddess, that Demeter is "Mother-Earth". This root appears in the Linear B inscription E-ne-si-da-o-ne, "earth-shaker", as an aspect of the god Poseidon. However, the dā element in the name of Demeter is not so equated with "earth" according to John Chadwick; the element De- may be connected with Deo, an epithet of Demeter derived from the Cretan word dea, Ionic zeia —variously identified with emmer, rye, or other grains by modern scholars—so that she is the Mother and the giver of food generally. Wanax was her male companion in Mycenaean cult; the Arcadian cult links her to the god Poseidon, who substituted the male companion of the Great Goddess.
An alternative Proto-Indo-European etymology comes through Potnia and Despoina, where Des- represents a derivative of PIE *dem, Demeter is "mother of the house". Demeter was associated with images of the harvest, including flowers and grain, she was sometimes pictured with her daughter Persephone. Demeter is not portrayed with any of her consorts. Demeter is assigned the zodiac constellation Virgo the Virgin by Marcus Manilius in his 1st century Roman work Astronomicon. In art, constellation Virgo holds Spica, a sheaf of wheat in her hand and sits beside constellation Leo the Lion. In Arcadia, she was known as "Black Demeter", she was said to have taken the form of a mare to escape the pursuit of Poseidon, having been raped by him despite her disguise, dressed all in black and retreated into a cave to mourn and to purify herself. She was depicted with the head of a horse in this region. A sculpture of the Black Demeter was made by Onatas. In epic poetry and Hesiod's Theogony, Demeter is the Corn-Mother, the goddess of cereals who provides grain for bread and blesses its harvesters.
This was her main function at Eleusis, became panhellenic. In Cyprus, "grain-harvesting" was damatrizein; the main theme in the Eleusinian mysteries was the reunion of Persephone with her mother Demeter, when new crops were reunited with the old seed, a form of eternity. According to the Athenian rhetorician Isocrates, Demeter's greatest gifts to humankind were agriculture of cereals, the Mysteries which give the initiate higher hopes in this life and the afterlife; these two gifts were intimately connected in Demeter's myths and mystery cults. In Hesiod, prayers to Zeus-Chthonios and Demeter help the crops grow strong. Demeter's emblem is a bright red flower that grows among the barley. Demeter was zeidoros arοura, the Homeric "Mother Earth arοura" who gave the gift of cereals. In addition to her role as an agricultural goddess, Demeter was worshiped more as a goddess of the earth. In Arcadia, she was represented as snake-haired, holding a dove and dolphin to symbolize her power over the underworld, the air, the water.
In the cult of Flya, she was worshiped as one who sends up gifts from the underworld. There was a temple of Demeter under this name in Phlius in Attica. In Sparta, she was known as Demeter-Chthonia; the Athenians called the dead "Demetrioi", this may reflect a link between Demeter and ancient cult of the dead, linked to the agrarian-belief that a new life would sprout from the dead body, as a new plant arises from buried seed. This was a belief shared by initiates in Demeter's mysteries, as interpreted by Pindar: "Happy is he who has seen what exists under the earth, because he knows not only the end of life, but his beginning that the Gods will give". In the mysteries of P
Interpretatio graeca is a discourse in which ancient Greek religious concepts and practices and myths are used to interpret or attempt to understand the mythology and religion of other cultures. It is thus a comparative methodology that looks for shared characteristics; the phrase may describe Greek efforts to explain others' beliefs and myths, as when Herodotus describes Egyptian religion in terms of perceived Greek analogues, or when Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Plutarch document Roman cults and practices under the names of equivalent Greek deities. Interpretatio graeca may describe non-Greeks' interpretation of their own belief systems by comparison or assimilation with Greek models, as when Romans adapt Greek myths and iconography under the names of their own gods. Interpretatio romana is comparative discourse in reference to ancient Roman religion and myth, as in the formation of a distinctive Gallo-Roman religion. Both the Romans and the Gauls reinterpreted Gallic religious traditions in relation to Roman models Imperial cult.
Jan Assmann considers the polytheistic approach to internationalizing gods as a form of "intercultural translation": The great achievement of polytheism is the articulation of a common semantic universe.... The meaning of a deity is his or her specific character as it unfolded in myths, rites, so on; this character makes a deity comparable to other deities with similar traits. The similarity of gods makes their names mutually translatable. … The practice of translating the names of the gods created a concept of similarity and produced the idea or conviction that the gods are international. Pliny the Elder expressed the "translatability" of deities as "different names to different peoples"; this capacity made possible the religious syncretism of the Hellenistic era and the pre-Christian Roman Empire. Herodotus was one of the earliest authors to engage in this form of interpretation. In his observations regarding the Egyptians, he establishes Greco-Egyptian equivalents that endured into the Hellenistic era, including Amon/Zeus, Osiris/Dionysus, Ptah/Hephaestus.
In his observations regarding the Scythians, he equates their queen of the gods, Tabiti, to Hestia and Api to Zeus and Gaia and Argimpasa to Aphrodite Urania, whilst claiming that the Scythians worshipped equivalents to Herakles and Ares, but which he doesn't name. Some pairs of Greek and Roman gods, such as Zeus and Jupiter, are thought to derive from a common Indo-European archetype, thus exhibit shared functions by nature. Others required more expansive theological and poetic efforts: though both Ares and Mars are war gods, Ares was a minor figure in Greek religious practice and deprecated by the poets, while Mars was a father of the Roman people and a central figure of archaic Roman religion; some deities dating to Rome's oldest religious stratum, such as Janus and Terminus, had no Greek equivalent. Other Greek divine figures, most notably Apollo, were adopted directly into Roman culture, but underwent a distinctly Roman development, as when Augustus made Apollo one of his patron deities.
In the early period, Etruscan culture played an intermediary role in transmitting Greek myth and religion to the Romans, as evidenced in the linguistic transformation of Greek Heracles to Etruscan Hercle to Roman Hercules. The phrase interpretatio romana was first used by the Imperial-era historian Tacitus in the Germania. Tacitus reports that in a sacred grove of the Nahanarvali, "a priest adorned as a woman presides, but they commemorate gods who in Roman terms are Castor and Pollux." Elsewhere, he identifies the principal god of the Germans as Mercury referring to Wotan. Some information about the deities of the ancient Gauls, who left no written literature other than inscriptions, is preserved by Greco-Roman sources under the names of Greek and Latin equivalents. A large number of Gaulish theonyms or cult titles are preserved, for instance, in association with Mars; as with some Greek and Roman divine counterparts, the perceived similarities between a Gallic and a Roman or Greek deity may reflect a common Indo-European origin.
Lugus was identified with Nodens with Mars as healer and protector, Sulis with Minerva. In some cases, however, a Gallic deity is given an interpretatio romana by means of more than one god, varying among literary texts or inscriptions. Since the religions of the Greco-Roman world were not dogmatic, polytheism lent itself to multiplicity, the concept of "deity" was expansive, permitting multiple and contradictory functions within a single divinity, overlapping powers and functions among the diverse figures of each pantheon; these tendencies extended to cross-cultural identifications. In the Eastern empire, the Anatolian storm god with his double-headed axe became Jupiter Dolichenus, a favorite cult figure among soldiers. Roman scholars such as Varro interpreted the monotheistic god of the Jews into Roman terms as Caelus or Jupiter Optimus Maximus; some Greco-Roman authors seem to have understood the Jewish invocation of Yahweh Sabaoth as Sabazius. Interpretatio germanica is the practice by the Germanic peoples of identifying Roman gods with the names of Germanic deities.
According to Rudolf Simek, this occurred around the 1st century AD, when both cultures came into closer contact. Some evidence for interpretatio germanica exists in the Germanic translations of the Roman names for the days of the week: Sunday, the day of Sunnǭ, the sun, was earlier the day of Sol Invictus, th