B) Matrebo (‘to the Mother Goddesses’): Nîmes and Glanum

Moreover, the dative plural form matrebo, ‘to the mothers’ is known from two Gallo-Greek inscriptions from Nîmes (Gard) and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (Glanum, Bouches-du-Rhône). These two inscriptions are of great interest, for they honour the divine mothers of those respective cities. The dedication from Nîmes is engraved on a pedestal, which used to be surmounted by a statue: [-]αρταρ[ος ι]λλανουιακος δεδε / ματρεβο ναμαυσικαβο βρατουδε[...], ‘(?)artaros son of Illianus offered (this) to the Mothers of Nîmes, in gratitude (?), on accomplishment of a vow’ (fig. 3).109It was found in 1740 on the site of the temple dedicated to the god Nemausus, known as ‘Temple of the Fountain’. Michel Lejeune asserts that the dating of this inscription cannot be earlier than the middle of the 2nd c. AD, because of the shape of some of the letters.110 Lambert, however, indicates that the Gallo-Greek inscriptions from Narbonese Gaul generally date from the end of the 3rd c. BC to the 1st c. BC.111 It is significant that the father of the dedicator bears a Celtic name: Illianus, the meaning of which is unknown.112 We thus have here a dedicator of Celtic stock, paying homage to divine mothers in the Gaulish language, which is of great significance.

Similarly, the votive altar from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, found in 1954 near the Fanum* of Hercules, offers an inscription bearing the form matrebo ‘to the Mothers’: ματρεβο / γλανεικαβο / βρατουδε- / καντεν, ‘To the Mothers of Glanum, in gratitude (?), on accomplishment of a vow’.113 Henry Rolland suggests that the few epigraphic particularities of this inscription allow us to date the votive stone from the first half of the 1st c. BC, which is previous to the usage of Latin script, appearing in the second half of the 1st c. BC in Glanum.114

Fig. 3: Gallo-Greek inscription from Nîmes dedicated to the ‘Mothers’. Lambert, 1995, p. 86.
Fig. 3: Gallo-Greek inscription from Nîmes dedicated to the ‘Mothers’. Lambert, 1995, p. 86.

It is also interesting to note that a Gallo-Latin inscription from Plumergat (Morbihan), engraved on a boundary stone, bears a very similar word with the exact same inflexion: atrebo, meaning ‘To the Fathers’. This is the dative plural form of the Gaulish word atir, cognate with Old Irish athir, Modern Irish athair, ‘father’.115 The vocative singular form of this word, ater, appears on lines 6-7 of a Gallo-Latin tile discovered in 1997 in Châteaubleau (Seine-et-Marne): ater ixsi, ‘my father belonging to me’.116 The inscription from Plumergat is the following: vrabos iiioovt atrebo aganntobo durneogiapo, which Lambert translates ‘Vrabos (offered?) to the Fathers who mark the boundary of (?)…’, while Gildas Bernier glosses ‘Vrabos erected (this) to the Fathers of the Boundary (or Country) for Giapos, son of Durnos’.117 The scholars do not agree on the meaning of the epithet agannt- describing the Fathers. Lambert and Bernier see an active participle based on *agos, ‘boundary stone’ - these Fathers would thus be deities personifying boundaries of frontiers or properties.118 As for Sterckx, he attempts to translate their epithet as the Fathers ‘who reinforce, who assure the cohesion (of the clan)’ without explaining his theory.119 As far as Lejeune is concerned, he uses the two similar inscriptions from Glanum and Nîmes to demonstrate that this epithet is a toponym* designating the village of Plumergat (territory of the Veneti): ‘To the Fathers of Aganntos’.120


RIG I, 203 ; Lambert, 1995, p. 86.


RIG I, 203.


Lambert, 1995, p. 81.


Delamarre, 2007, pp. 109, 223.


RIG I, 64 ; Lambert, 1995, pp. 87-88.


Rolland, 1958, pp. 114-115 ; RIG I, 65.


Delamarre, 2003, pp. 58-59.


Lambert, 1998-2000, pp. 107-108. The text is eleven-line long.


RIG II-1, 15 ; Lambert, 1995, pp. 62, 107 ; Bernier, 1970, pp. 655-667 ; Schmidt, 1987, pp. 134-135 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 288.


This would relate them to the Deivoi Termonioi (‘Gods of the Boundary’), venerated in Cisalpine Gaul, and to the Termini honoured in Rome. See De Bernardo Stempel, 1995-1996, pp. 101-103.


Sterckx, 1998, pp. 25-26.


Lejeune, 1970, pp. 669-672.