Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Ambiamarcae and Ambiorenses, Germanic Matron Goddesses from Western Germany and the Netherlands

In the German city of Köln (Cologne) in Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia) there is a Roman votive stone dating back to 252CE with the following inscription:


This translates as:

"In honour of the divine house and the protective spirits of this place, Ambiamarca, Ambiorenae, the victorious Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Ceres and for all the gods and goddesses."

One of the interesting things about this inscription is the honouring together of Roman Gods (Mars, Mercury, Neptune and Ceres) with native Germanic deities;  the Ambiamarcae and Ambioreneses. Clearly the Romans understood the importance of not angering the local native Gods and realised that they should be given all due honour along with their own Gods. The Ambiamarcae are also referred to on an inscription from Wardt in western Germany, dating back to 218CE. Rudolf Simek (Dictionary of Northern Mythology) is of the opinion that :

"The whole group probably belongs to the place-names *Ambia (nowadays Embt)."

However he also concedes that an alternative interepretation for the name could be 'the fenced in marchlands'. This is an opinion that appears to be shared by GardenStone in his remarkable Gods of the Germanic Peoples. From Roman times to the Viking Age Volume 1. He states that the name is "often considered a mix of Celtic and Germanic fragments." He points out that the word ambe is  Celtic and  means a 'river' or 'stream' whilst the second part of the name is indicative of the Germanic 'mark'-borderland. In other words the Ambiamarca or Ambiamarcae may be a single Goddess or a group of Goddesses (Matronae) whose responsibility is to guard the river which acts as a tribal borderland. I am inclined to agree with him.

GardenStone also applies similar etymology for the Ambiorenses but the latter part of the name reneses is interpreted as the Latin translation of the Germanic Rina/Rinaz meaning the river Rhein (Rhine). Rudolf Simek interprets this name as 'the matrons who live (or are worshipped?) on either side of the Rhine.'

Rudolf Simek also indentifies a similar inscription from Remagen in the Netherlands. The relevant part of the inscription is as follows:

"I.O.M. et Genio loci, Marti, Herculi, Mercurio, Ambriomarcis...."


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