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Colonia Ulpia Traiana Götter & Kulte * Michael Zelle (ISBN: 3792717840)

Colonia Ulpia Traiana was a Roman city and is nowadays Xanten in Germany. Xanten is not too far from the Dutch border near Nijmegen, which was also a Roman city a few thousand years ago. I thought to have information that a Mithras-temple has been found in Xanten (see my article on this subject), so I visited what is nowadays the archeological park Colonia Ulpia Traiana. On this site the ancient city is slowly excavated and the findings are partly rebuild, and visitors can walk around and look at the remains of a massive temple, smaller temples, a large amphitheatre and other buildings. There proved to be no Mithraeum in Xanten, but since my interest is raised over the question whether Mithraism mixed with local beliefs (as Cumont suggests), I was delighted to find this publication from the archeological park.

Götter & Kulte is written in German and is a square book of 150 pages. It starts with a nice account of the different peoples in low Germany of the Roman period. There were not only Germans/Teutons there, but also Gaulls (?: “Gallier”). Zelle tells a bit about the belief of the Germans and then about the beliefs of the Romans. Then follows a piece about the Gaulls and the Romanisation of the German and Gaullish faiths. It is interesting to see how syncretistic the Roman conquerers were.

The main part of the book is of course about the religions and cults in the city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Zeller speaks at length about the findings, links it with pieces in different museums and explains everythings wonderfully. Typical Roman, but also German and Gaull cults are dealt with, because they were obviously still practiced, both ‘in pure form’ as mixed with Roman (folk)beliefs. The most interesting part is about “oriental cults” being the mystery-religions that were practised. Unfortunately not all known mysteries were practised in CUT, so you get information about Mithraism, the Dionysus/Bachus-mysteries and Iupiter Dolichenus, but for example not the mysteries of Isis or Kybele.

Also space is made free for family- or personal religious practises and then how all this developed towards Christianity. Zeller is open about the questions that he could not answer and things that need further investigation and ends with a magnificent overview of all the gods and goddesses that something has been found off in and near CUT. The origin, nature, iconography and findings of a long range of gods and creatures is given: Aesculapius (Greek god), Alateivia (only known in CUT), Ambiamarcae (probably German goddesses), Amor (Roman god), Apollo (Greek god), Apollo Dysprus (local military god), Bacchus (Italian/Roman god), Bonus Eventus (Roman god), Ceres (Italian/Roman goddess), Concordia (Roman god), Diana (Italian goddess), Dioskuren (Greek twin-gods), Epona (Celtic goddess), Fides (Roman god), Fortuna (Italina/Latin goddess), Gabiae (German goddesses), Genius (Roman gods), Gorgo (Greek goddesses), Hercules (Italian god), Hercules Magusanus (Germanic mix), Hludana (Germanic goddess), Isis (Egyptian goddess), Iuno (Italian/Roman goddess), Iunonae (Gaull/Germanic gods with Roman name), Iuppiter (Roman god), Iupiter Ammon (mix with Egyptian god), Iupiter Dolichenus (mix with Syrian god), Lar (Roman creatures), Luna (Italian goddess), Kybele (small-asian goddess), Mars (Roman god), Mars Cicollvis (mix with probably Gaull god), Matres (goddesses in both Gaull and German folk beliefs), Matres Annanptae (probably Germanic), Matres Marsacae (Germanic), Matres Brittae (Brittish), Matres Frisaviae Paternae (Frisian), Matres Treverae (Gaull), Matronae (Germanic), Matronae Aufaniae (Germanic), Mercur (Italian/Roman god), Methe (Ebrietas) (Greek), Minerva (Roman version of Italian goddess), Mithras (“originally a Persian god”), Neptunes (Italian/Roman god), Numen (Roman creatures), Pan (Greek god), Pluto (Italian/Roman), Priapos (small-Asian god), Quadruviae (Latin/Germanic gods), Silen (Greek), Silvanus (Italian god), Sol (Italian), Spes (Roman goddess), Tarvos Triganaros (Celtic), Tellus (Roman goddess), Venus (Italian/Roman goddess), Vesta (Roman goddesses) and Victoria (Roman goddess).

Very informative booklet!

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