Celtic religions in antiquity is a lively area of research at UWTSD. The latest article by UWTSD Classics Senior Lecturer Dr Ralph Häußler presents his work on the Voconces, a Celtic people in Gaul.

Objets de cultes gaulois et romains entre Rhône et Alpes. Autour des Voconces, Book cover
Objets de cultes gaulois et romains entre Rhône et Alpes. Autour des Voconces, Book cover

In the article ‘Vaison et la colline de Puymin : évolution d’un espace sacré (Ier siècle av. n. è. – IIe siècle de. n. è.), published in the edited volume “Objets de cultes gaulois et romains entre Rhône et Alpes. Autour des Voconces” by Nicolas Rouzeau and Michele Bois, Dr Häußler, along with Joël-Claude Meffre, Jacques du Guerny and Claude Malagoli explores the religious landscape of the Voconces.

This publication represents the results of four years of research on the Voconces – a Celtic people that inhabited the mountainous regions of southern Gaul, east of the Rhone Valley. Ralph Häußler’s contribution focuses on the religious aspects. Specifically, Dr Häußler writes on efforts to understand the sacred space and the cult practices of the Romano-Celtic city of Vasio (modern-day Vaison-la-Romaine). The paper also discusses the relationship of the cult places in Vasio and its territory, focussing on the period between the late Iron Age and the Roman Empire (2nd c. BC – 2nd c. AD).

Inscription mentioning 'nemeton'.
Inscription mentioning ‘nemeton’.

Of particular interest is an inscription in a Celtic language, but written in Greek letters, dating to c.50 BC, some 70 years after the Roman conquest, which refers to a ‘nemeton’ dedicated to the goddess Belesama. ‘Nemeton’ is a Celtic word for sanctuary.This Celtic terminology and epigraphy disappeared completely within the next two generations.

"montre anguipede" from Vaison
“montre anguipede” from Vaison

Does this mean that the Roman Minerva took the place of the Celtic Belesama? To answer this and other questions, Dr Häußler scrutinised all available archaeological and epigraphical evidence in order to understand how people’s religious understandings were developing around Vasio and how new Romano-Celtic syncretisms were shaped, building on native cognitions. Religious syncretism in antiquity is the ‘blending’ of beliefs and cults between different cultures.

Students in the second-year module “Roman Britain” and the third-year module “Ancient Religions” will find some of this material familiar, as religious syncretism, particularly during the Roman Empire. Dr Häußler’s students in the MA in Ancient Religions will also find this article interesting.

This altar depicts "Gallo-Roman" mother goddesses - Museum of Vaison-la-Romaine
This altar depicts “Gallo-Roman” mother goddesses – Museum of Vaison-la-Romaine

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