2) Goddess names in gab-

Divine names comprising the root gab-, such as Gabiae, Gabinae, Garmangabis, Alagabiae and Ollogabiae, are the most striking examples of the difficulty in determining the origin of some Mother Goddesses. The theme gab- exists both in Celtic and Germanic languages, but with a significant difference in meaning. In Germanic indeed gab-, which is identical with Old Norse gefa and German geben, ‘to give’, means ‘to give’, ‘to offer’, while in Celtic gab- is related to Old Irish gaibim, ‘I take’, gaibid, ‘he takes’, and Welsh gafael, ‘to hold’ and thus signifies ‘to take’.331

Therefore, one can wonder whether the Junones or Matronae Gabiae, venerated in Müddersheim, Rövenich, Cologne, Kirchheim, Rohr, Xanten and Iülich (Germany),332 the Gabinae honoured in Bornheim (Germany),333 the Matronae Alagabiae in Buergel (Germany),334 the Ollogabiae in Castell and Mainz (Germany)335 and the goddess Garmangabis, mentioned in an inscription from Lanchester (GB),336 are Celtic or Germanic goddesses.337 According to the origin of their name, the Gabiae and Gabinae could thus be understood as either meaning ‘Those who Give’, ‘Givers’ or ‘Those who Take/Seize’. Considering the Gabiae and Gabinae are Germanic, Kern observes that they are “ladies, dispensers of gifts and munificence”, since their name can be related to Gothic gabei, ‘munificence’, ‘wealth’, gabigs, ‘rich’ and Old Norse göfugr, ‘generous’.338 Kern, referring to Old Norse gifta, which combines the notions of giving and marriage, argues that they could be protectresses of marriage.

As for the themes ala- and ollo-, comprised in the bynames* Alagabiae and Ollogabiae, it seems that ollo-, ‘all’ is Celtic, while ala-, ‘all’ is Germanic.339 Ollogabiae would be thus a Celtic divine name signifying ‘Those who take and keep everything’, ‘All-Seizing’,340 while Alagabiae would be its Germanic counterpart, but with the opposite meaning of ‘Those who give everything’, ‘All Givers’.341As for Régis Boyer, he suggests to relate the Germanic prefix ala- to the root *alu, found in some runic* inscriptions, denoting good luck and tutelary chance.342 According to him, the Alagabiae would therefore be ‘The Good Luck Givers’ or ‘Those who bring good luck’. These Celtic and Germanic prefixes are found in two other goddess names, such as the Matres Ollototae and the Matres Alatervae, honoured in Cramond (Scotland): Matrib(us) Alatervis et Matrib(us) Campestribus coh(ortis) I[I] Tungr(orum), ‘To the Matres Alatervae and to the Matres Campestres of the Cohort II of Tungrorum’ (fig. 27).343 The Alatervae are highly likely to be Germanic, because of the prefix ala-, ‘all’ composing their name. Kern besides points out that the dedicators are Germanic people in the Tungrian cohort* of the Roman army. As regards the etymology* of their name, he proposes the connection to Germanic teru, ‘tree’, cognate with Middle Norse tere and Gothic triu, ‘tree’; a theme which also exists in Celtic (*deru).344 The Matres Alatervae might therefore be the ‘Mother Goddesses of All sorts of Forests’. As far as Delamarre is concerned, he supposes that their name is the same as the Alateivae (possibly *Alante- (Celtic?) or *Ala-dēviā), venerated in Xanten (Germany): Alateiviae ex iussu divos medicu[s].345 Kern relates this title to Anglo-Saxon alatave, calteav, ‘safe’, ‘healthy’, ‘in good health’.346 On account of this etymology* and the dedicator, who is a doctor, he translates their name as ‘Health’ and compares them to the Greek goddess of Health, Cleanliness and Sanitation: Hygieia or Hygeia.347

In the case of the mother-goddesses in ‘gab-’, it is thus difficult to determine their provenance with certainty, for their name can be related to the two languages. The fact that goddess names are identifiable with Celtic as well as Germanic is actually not surprising. The Germanic and Celtic languages are both derived from Indo-European, which means that they have similar roots or words. L. Fleuriot would suggest that Celtic peoples reinterpreted the Germanic radical gab-, which originally signified ‘to give’ rather than ‘to take’.348 A few other examples are worth mentioning here. The Matronae Arvagastae, for instance, venerated in Modersheim, are said to be Germanic (maybe *arvo-gost-), and yet, it is noticeable that the root gassu-, gast-, the meaning of which is unknown, is also found in the Celtic language.349 Similarly, in the name of the Germanic Matronae Gavadiae, honoured in Bettenhofen, München-Gladbach, Roedingen, Iülich, and Thorr (Germany), a Celtic root gavo-, the meaning of which is unknown, is detectable.350 The epithet of the Germanic Malvisae, venerated in Cologne and Nieukerk, might also be related to Celtic malu-, malo-, mallo-, possibly meaning ‘high’, ‘important’, ‘superior’.351

In addition to the occasional similarity in languages, it is clear that the cult of some deities must have been shared by the Germanic and Celtic peoples, who lived side by side along the Rhine, had many contacts and probably exchanged and borrowed many religious ideas and customs from one another. The contiguity between the two peoples must have resulted in goddesses of mixed or hybrid character, reflected in their very names. The most significant examples supporting that idea are very certainly the Matronae Albiahenae, the Matres Mediotautehae and the Matronae Gesahenae. The first elements of their epithets are indeed Celtic, while the endings -henae, -hae are Germanic. We can therefore refer to those ‘hybrid’ Mother Goddesses as ‘Celto-Germanic’.


Lambert, 1995, pp. 123, 173 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 173 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 221 ; Spickermann, 2005, pp. 134, 140 ; Schmidt, 1987, p. 144 ; Neumann, 1987, p. 111 ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 285-286, 412-414 ; Boyer, 1995, p. 64 ; Fleuriot, 1982, pp. 123-124 ; De Bernardo Stempel, 2005a, pp. 185-200.


CIL XIII, 7856, 7937, 7938, 7939: Gabiabus C(aius) Campanius Victor m(iles) l(egionis) I M(inerviae) P(iae) F(idelis) slm, 7940, 8192:Iunoniibus Gabiabus Masius votum retulit, 7950 ; F. 273: Matronis Gabiabus Nelev[----] Cai fi[lius] vslm ; CIL XIII, 7780, 8612: Iunonibus sive Gabiabus m(onumentum), 7865: Gabiabus Iustus Quinti fil(ius) vslm, 7867.


AE 1981, 678: Gabin[i]s sacrum ex im[p]erio ipsar[u]m L(ucius) Fonte[ius] Firmus v[slm]. This inscription dates from the second half of the 2nd c. AD or the first half of the 3rd c. AD.


CIL XIII, 8529: Matroni[s] Alagabiabus Iul(ia) Pusua pro se et Iuli(i)s f(iliis) Peregrino Sperato Severo vslm.


CIL XIII, 7280, 6751: Ollogabiabus Aiiuva Messo[r]. The name of the dedicator, Aiiuva, is Celtic, see Delamarre, 2007, p. 15.


RIB 1074. See Chapter 5 for more information.


Fleuriot, 1982, pp. 123-124.


Kern, 1873-1875, p. 157 ; Fleuriot, 1982, p.123.


Schmidt, 1987, p. 144 ; Schmidt, 1957, pp. 250-251 ; Fleuriot, 1982, p. 123 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 210.


Olmsted, 1994, p. 286 proposes ‘All Controllers’, ‘Great Controllers’, ‘Those who keep everything’ ; Anwyl, 1906a, p. 35 suggests ‘All-seizing’.


Delamarre, 2007, p. 210 suggests that ala- is Germanic but does not give a translation of it ; Olmsted, 1994, pp. 286, 412-413: ‘All Givers’ ; Schmidt, 1987, p. 144: ‘den Allgebenden’ ; Neumann, 1987, p. 111: ‘die Alles Gebenden’.


Boyer, 1995, p. 64.


RIB 2135.


Kern, 1873-1875, pp. 157-158 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 140.


CIL XIII, 8606 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 16, 210.


Kern, 1873-1875, p. 157.


Brill’s, vol. 6, pp. 603-604.


Fleuriot, 1982, p. 124.


CIL XIII, 7855 ; Neumann, 1987, p. 111 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 27, 222 sees a Germanic epithet, which he breaks down as *arvo-gost-, but he also points out the possible connection with the Celtic root.


CIL XIII, 7894, 8536 and AE 1977, 553 ; CIL XIII, 7888, 7885, 7886, 7887, 12067 ; AE 1977, 550 ; Neumann, 1987, pp. 119-120 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 102-103, 222.


CIL XIII, 8208, 8598 ; Neumann, 1987, p. 126 ; Delamarre, 2007, pp. 125, 226 ; De Bernardo Stempel, 2005, p. 146 says that the Malvisae are linked to a county town called Malva situated in the province left to the Danube, and to Malvensis, the name of one of the three regions of Dacia during the reign of Marcus-Aurelius. The Tres Daciae, i.e. Porolissensis called after the city of Porolissum (near Moigrad, county of Salaj), Apulensis called after Apulum and Malvensis called after Malva (unknown location), had a common capital called Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. Malva is apparently derived from a word mal meaning ‘Mount’, ‘Mountain’.