Posted by Stella Clark

Smertrios Cover
Smertrios or Smertrius was a god of war worshipped in Gaul and Noricum. In Roman times he was equated with Mars. His name contains the same root as that of the goddess Rosmerta and may mean "The Purveyor" or "The Provider", a title rather than a true name. Smertulitanus may be a variant name for the same god. Smertrius is one of the Gaulish gods depicted on the Pillar of the Boatmen, discovered in Paris. Here is depicted as a well-muscled bearded man confronting a snake which rears up in front of him. The god brandishes an object which has usually been interpreted as a club but which rather resembles a torch or firebrand. The normal interpretation of the god's attribute as a club has led to the identification, by modern scholars, of Smertrius and Hercules. Other evidence links Smertrius with the Celtic version of Mars: at Mohn near Trier, a spring sanctuary was dedicated to Mars Smertrius and his consort Ancamna. Coins found here indicate that there was a shrine here before the Roman period. Another Treveran inscription links Mars and Smertrius. Smertrius himself is known outside Gaul, for example on a fragmentary inscription at Grossbach in Austria.

Smertrios is a god known from several inscriptions across northern Gaul. These have been discovered at Koblenz in Germany (CIL XIII 11975) where the god is associated by Interpretato Romana with Roman Mars and invoked as Mars Smertrios. Here he is invoked along with the deities Vindoridius and Boudena. The deity is also invoked at Grossbuch in Austria (AE 1950, 98) (both these inscriptions lie in the lands of the Treveri and some have proposed that he was a tutelary deity of this people). Most famously he is both named and depicted on the Nautes Pillar of the Parisii, Paris France (CIL XIII 03026), from which the sketch above is derived. We also have a suggestion of the presence of an insular cult of Smertrios in the name of the Smertae tribe who dwelt in the highlands of Scotland. Could these have been the 'People of Smertrios'?

Smertios' persence on the Nautes Pillar (Pillar of the Boatmen) in Paris, indicates that he was considered amongst the ranks of the 'high gods' (he is depicted here along with Cernunnos, Esus and Tarvos Trigaranos and a fragmentary figure that may represent Rosmerta). His name has been interpreted as deriving from the reconstructed proto-Celtic elements *smer- (abundant), *tris- (three) and the masculine ending -os thus Smertrios is the 'Thrice-abundant One' and his equation with Roman Mars in Koblenz is probably in respect of Mars' aspect as a deity of abundance and fecundity. How this relates to Smertrios' iconography as a deity apparently swinging a club at a serpent though it may be that Smertrios is a mythological cognate of Nodons who in his Cymric guise of Lludd is the slayer/banisher of dragons. Serpents are also seem mythologically as beings of healing and abundance and Smertrios may simply be demonstrating his mastery

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This entry was posted on 2 April 2009 at Thursday, April 02, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the .