I) Etymology of their generic name

Numerous inscriptions from the Rhineland,98 Gaul, Britain and Cisalpine Gaul, dating mainly from Gallo-Roman times, are dedicated to divine female figures called Matres and Matronae,99 who were honoured in groups, as their designation in the plural form shows. This designation is sometimes said to be Latin,100 for it can be related to the Latin feminine word māter (‘mother’), plural matris; mātrōna being an extended form of this term, meaning ‘woman, spouse, wife of a Roman citizen’, that is the housewife who was in charge of the household and the children.101 Others point out that these terms are a mix of the Gaulish and Latin languages.102 They are thus to be understood as ‘Celtic Latinized forms’, which would enhance the Gallo-Roman character of those female deities. While their name can be connected to Latin, it can also be related to Gaulish mātīr (‘mother’); the existence and inflections of which have been revealed in various early Gallo-Greek and Gallo-Latin inscriptions, i.e. inscriptions in Gaulish language with Greek or Latin lettering. Gaulish mātīr (‘mother’), cognate with Old Irish máthair (‘mother’), gen. máthar, derives from Indo-European *mātēr (‘mother’), like Latin māter and Greek mētēr.103 According to Eric Hamp and Olmsted, Mātr-ǒna is the derived form, but it is clear that the term Matrona is Latin.104


The Rhineland (Rheinland in German) designates the land situated on both sides of the river Rhine in the west of Germany.


Matrae, with the Latin inflexion –ae, is a vulgarism.


Brill’s, vol. 8, p. 481.


Brill’s, vol. 8, p. 483.


Deyts, 1992, p. 60 ; Duval, 1957, p. 52 ; Cléber, 1970, p. 254.


Delamarre, 2003, p. 220 ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 287-288, 361-362.


Hamp, Eric, ‘Varia’, in EC, 27, 1990, p. 182 ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 288, 362: the Gaulish plural form corresponding to Matronae would be *Matronas (*Matronabo).