Votive inscriptions were offered by pilgrims who sought the favours of the gods and wished to have their vows granted. The study of the names of the dedicators is particularly interesting, for it brings significant information on the dedicator’s origin and his (or her) social status. Some of the dedicators had Latin names and were Roman citizens, soldiers in the Roman army or people in charge of administrative functions, while others had typical Celtic names and were peregrines, that is free provincial subjects of the Empire who inhabited areas recently conquered by the Romans and who did not hold the Roman citizenship. Inscriptions dedicated by people of Celtic stock are the most significant, for they produce evidence of a pre-Roman worship to Celtic goddesses. Moreover, such evidence indicates that the Celtic beliefs were still vivid among the local population after the conquest and, that, despite the Romanization of the country in terms of administration, politics and religion, people of Celtic origin went on paying homage to their ancient deities.
Firstly, the Celtic origin of a dedicator’s name can be ascertained by Alfred Holder’s Alt-Celtischer Sprachschatz, a work in three volumes published in 1896-1913, and by Xavier Delamarre’s Noms de personnes celtiques dans l’épigraphie classique, released in 2007. Secondly, peregrines distinguished themselves from Roman citizens by the ‘unique name’ or single name they bore. They generally indicated their filiation with the abbreviated term fil(ius) (‘son of’) or fil(iae) (‘daughter of’). Interestingly, different degrees of Romanization can be noted within this group. When the dedicator and the father’s dedicator are both peregrines bearing Celtic names, it evidences their attachment to their Celtic roots and their wish not to become Romanized. When the dedicator is a peregrine but has Latin name, whereas his father has a Celtic name, it indicates that the father deliberately chose a Latin name for his son. This proves his desire to become Romanized - the choice of a Latin name was the first step in the long process of gaining Roman citizenship.48 Finally, it is noticeable that some Roman citizens had a Celtic gentilice* or cognomen*, which provides proof of their Celtic origin. By keeping a Celtic name, they displayed profound respect for their indigenous origins.
Roman citizens can be identified in the epigraphy by the tria nomina (‘three names’) or duo nomina (‘two names’) they bore.49 The official name of a Roman citizen was generally composed of three constitutive elements: the praenomen (‘first name’), the nomen or gentilice (‘second name’) and the cognomen (‘nickname’). While the praenomen and gentilice were usually abbreviated, the cognomen was unabridged, for it was the constitutive element of the name.50 The use of the cognomen became general at the beginning of the 1st c. BC, while the use of the praenomen disappeared in the 2nd c. AD.51 From that time onwards, and more particularly in the 3rd c. AD, Roman citizens usually bore the duo nomina. Finally, some dedicators were freed slaves – they are recognizable by the abbreviated term l(ibertus), which indicated they were freed from their master -,52 while others were soldiers in the Roman army (prefect*, centurion*, optio*, etc) or held peculiar administrative functions (decurio*, tabularius*, etc.). Inscriptions offered by soldiers are particularly attested in Britain, the Roman Province of Belgica and the two Germanies.
Lassère, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 167-168.
Lassère, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 81-94.
The praenomen* was given to men on their 9th day of birth and to girls on their 8th day. The nomen* originally indicated the filiation of the dedicator and the cognomen* was generally attributed at birth and was a distinctive element. It could reflect a physical peculiarity, for example Rufus (‘Red’); the vow of a moral quality, for example Clemens (‘indulgent’) or Maximus (‘the Greatest’); a biographical detail, for example Sospes (‘the one who has avoided a danger’); a craft or profession, for example Mercartor (‘merchant’) and Agricola (‘labourer’); or an animal, for example Taurus (‘Bull’). See Lassère, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 82-102.
Lassère, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 93, 99-100.
For insctance: Cratea Caecili(us) M(arci) l(ibertus), ‘Cratea freed from Caecilius Marcus’. During the Empire, they generally received the praenomen* and nomen* of their ancient master, for example C(aius) Cassius C(aii) l(ibertus) Moderatus, ‘Caius Cassius Moderatus freed from Caius’. See Lassère, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 158-160.