Thursday, May 30, 2013

Roman Weapons and Armour in Water as a Religious Ritual

Classical accounts, the presence of specific water deities, and the archaeology of Celtic groups in Britain and Gaul suggest that soldiers stationed in the western Roman provinces witnessed and eventually adopted a strong religious tradition of water veneration, whereby individuals dedicated valuable military gear in water. Unlike the Celtic material, Roman helmets far exceed swords, and the highest concentration of Roman gear is found along the Rhine River, the frontier between Rome and Germany.

The hybrid Romano-Celtic deities and the similar practices in the deposition of arms and armor in water paints an interesting picture of Roman and Celtic religion and interaction from the first century B.C.E. to first century C.E. The religious practices of the Roman army did not take over and replace native Celtic forms nor did Celtic religion remain the same. The Roman practice of offering military gear in water was a result of Celtic interaction. The purpose and belief systems behind such a tradition varied across time and space. Celtic culture saw water as a life force, key to wellbeing and fertility. It is impossible to determine if Roman soldiers who dedicated their gear perceived water or their newly adopted ritual in the same way. Although generally, in practice, the Roman and Celtic traditions concerning water appears similar, different cultural and ideological backgrounds gave the ritual a distinctively different meaning.     

2011 Brandon Olsen article, Anthrojournal

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