I) The Goddess as the Embodiment of the Land

A) Gaulish Litavi (‘the Earth’)

In Gaul, there are five inscriptions from Mâlain and Aignay-le-Duc (Côte d’Or), in the territory of the Lingones, dedicated to a goddess called Litavi, whose name in Gaulish literally signifies ‘Earth’, meaning: ‘the Vast One, the Broad One’.606 Rudolf Thurneysen has demonstrated that Litavi’s name was similar to that of the Indian goddess of the Earth Prthvī, Prthivī, ‘Earth’ in Sanskrit.607 The ancient names designating Brittany or Armorica, i.e. Welsh Llydaw, Old Breton Letau, Old Irish Letha and the Latinized form Letavia, all come from a Celtic *Litavia, ‘the Earth par excellence’, ‘the Country’.608 As for Le Bohec, he proposes to gloss Litavi’s name as ‘the door towards the otherworld’, but he does not explain this etymology*.609

The first inscription discovered in Mâlain reads: Marti Cicolluis et Litavi […], ‘To Mars Cicolluis and to Litavi (…)’.610 Another dedication, dating from the 2nd c. AD, was found there: [Marti Cicollui] e[t] Li[t]a[vi] Cresce[ns ?] Sen(n)i(i) M[ar]tialis [fil(ius)] [v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) ?],‘To Mars Cicolluis and to Litavi, Crescens (?), son of Sennius Martialis, paid his vow willingly and deservedly (?)’.611 Crescens and Martialis are Latin cognomina*, while Sennius is a Latinized gentilice* of Celtic origin.612 Another altar, dating from the 2nd c. AD, was found at a place known as ‘En Magnotte’ in Mâlain in 1884: [Ma]rti Ci[co]llui et Litavi L. Mattius Aeternus Ex voto, ‘To Mars Cicolluis and to Litavi, L. Mattius Aeternus (offered this monument) after making a vow’.613 The dedicator bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens, but his gentilice* Mattius may be of Celtic origin.614 An inscription engraved on a monument, probably dating from the 2nd c. AD, was discovered in 1637, in the cemetery of ‘Sous la croix dressée’ in Mâlain: [Marti Cicolluis] et Litavi ex voto suscepto v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘To Mars Cicolluis and to Litavi, having made a vow, paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.615 The dedicator is anonymous, unless his name was written at the beginning of the inscription, but this is highly unlikely, for this practice was uncommon. Finally, an altar in yellow limestone, dating from the end of 2nd c. or the beginning of 3rd c. AD, was found in re-employment* in the cemetery at Aignay-le-Duc: Aug(ustis) sac(rum) deo Marti Cicolluis et Litavi P. Attius Paterc[l]u[s] [v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)], ‘Sacred to the August deities, to the god Mars Cicolluis and to Litavi, P. Attius Paterculus paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.616 The dedicator bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens. His gentilice*Attius and cognomen*Paternus are Latin.617 It is worth noting that Attius is also attested as a Celtic name in other parts of Gaul.618

As the dedications show, Litavi is always partnered with Mars Cicolluis, whose epithet, attested in other inscriptions from Mâlain, Xanten (Germany) and Dijon (Côte d’Or), might mean the ‘Fierce Striker’ or the ‘Very Muscular’.619 Four of the inscriptions being discovered in Mâlain, it can be induced that this city was the chief place of worship of the divine couple. Interestingly, Mars Cicolluis is associated with the Roman goddess Bellona in a dedication from Mâlain: [Mar]ti Cic[ollui] [e]t Bell[onae], ‘To Mars Cicolluis and to Bellona’.620 From this, it can be deduced that Litavi was assimilated to Bellona in Gallo-Roman times.621 In Roman mythology, Bellona is the personification of war, as her name derived from bellum, ‘war’ indicates. According to various traditions, Bellona is the sister, daughter or wife of the Roman war god Mars.622 She escorts him on the battlefield, takes part in the fighting and enjoys the carnage. She is often represented brandishing a spear or sword in her hand, wearing a helmet and driving Mars’s cart. Bellona is similar to the Greek goddess Ényo, the messenger of Ares who delights in hearing the screams and pain of the wounded or dying warriors.623 The lack of information does not enable us to affirm that Litavi is a goddess related to war. The association of Mars Cicolluis and Bellona could be due to the fact that Cicolluis was certainly a war god as his name tends to prove.

Another interesting Celtic epithet related to Litavi is that of Apollo Cobledulitavus, mentioned in a single inscription from Périgueux (Dordogne): Deo Apollini Cobledulitavo, ‘To the god Apollo Cobledulitavus’.624 According to Delamarre, his byname* can be broken down as Cob-ledu-litavus (*Com-lēdu-litavus), with com, ‘with’, ledu, of unknown significance, and litavus, ‘earth’.625 As for Olmsted, he less convincingly proposes to gloss his name as ‘With Great Feasts’.626

As her name evidences, Litavi is the embodiment of the Earth par excellence. This aspect is greatly illustrated in Irish medieval literature, which portrays a trio of goddesses incarnating the isle of Ireland and bearing names directly referring to the land: Ériu, Banba and Fótla.


Delamarre, 2003, pp. 204-205 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 225 ; De Vries, 1963, p. 138 ; O’Rahilly, 1946a, p. 13 ; Holder, ACS, vol. 2, p. 423 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 421 ; Hatt, MDG, 2, pp.106, 108, 131.


Thurneysen, in Indogermanische Forschungen, 4, pp. 84-85.


Delamarre, 2003, p. 204 ; Lambert, 2006, p. 54 ; Mackillop, 2004, p. 297 ; Anwyl, 1906a, p. 37: a lake lying at the bottom of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, is also calledLlyn Llydaw.


Le Bohec, 2003, p. 44 refers to Guyonvarc’h, Christian-Jacques, in Ogam, XX, 1-2, 1968, pp. 490-494.


CIL XIII, 5599 ; Drioux, 1934, p. 74, n° 263 ; Le Bohec, 2003, pp. 45-46, n°28.


CIL XIII, 5600; Drioux, 1934, p. 74, n° 265; Le Bohec, 2003, pp. 44-45, n°25.


Delamarre, 2007, p. 165 ; Le Bohec, 2003, p. 45.


CIL XIII, 5601 ; Drioux, 1934, p. 74, n° 266 ; Le Bohec, 2003, p. 44, n°23.


Delamarre, 2007, p. 129 ; Solin & Salomies, 1994, p. 115.


CIL XIII, 5602 ; Drioux, 1934, p. 74, n° 264 ; Le Bohec, 2003, p. 44, n°27.


CIL XIII, 2887 ; Drioux, 1934, p. 74, n° 267 ; Le Bohec, 2003, p. 176, n°295.


Solin & Salomies, 1994, pp. 26, 376.


Delamarre, 2007, p. 32.


CIL XIII, 5597, 5598, 5604 (Mâlain), 5479 (Dijon) ; AE 1981, 690 (Xanten) ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 116 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 65 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 343.


CIL XIII, 5698 ; Drioux, 1934, p. 74, n° 262; Le Bohec, 2003, p. 45, n°26. Bellona is also partnered with an indigenous Mars in Trier (CIL XIII, 3637) and in Mayence (CIL XIII, 6666). Other dedications to Bellona come from the sanctuary of Villard d’Hériat: CIL XIII, 5337, 5352 ; see Hatt, MDG 2, p. 134.


Le Bohec & Sapin, in Bulletin de la société archéologique et historique de Langres, XXII, 324, 1996, pp. 64-681996, pp. 64-68.


Brill’s, vol. 2, pp. 589-590 ; Roescher, I, 1884-1890, col. 774-777 ; LIMC, III, pp. 92-93.


Guirand & Schmidt, 2006, pp. 249, 632, 681 ; Reinach, 1913, p. 255.


CIL XIII, 939.


Delamarre, 2007, pp. 68, 224, 225 ; Anwyl, 1906a, p. 38.


Olmsted, 1994, pp. 396-397.