Paganism in Roman Germany (ca. AD 69 - 260 +)
According to The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Roman Germany (eds. Simon James & Stefan Krmnicek), paganism in the German provinces of the Roman Empire developed as follows:
Phase One: Conquest
Local gods were revered alongside imported deities. The Roman settlers of this period were largely mitary personnel who held a preference for gods of warfare, such as Mars. Religious devotion to their gods and imperial princes was adopted by the locals, who continued to worship the tribal deities and culture heroes of the Germans and the Gauls. The Matronae, for example, were local ancestral goddesses of fertility and household prosperity who were honoured and celebrated by German clans.
Phase Two: Consolidation of Roman Rule
Intensified urbanisation and militarisation saw the introduction of Mithras veneration. This was in turn countered by a rise of pre-Roman cults in rural areas, including the expansion of Matronae cults. Jupiter, Minerva, Juno, Mercury, and Hercules were also prevelant. Pillars dedicated to Roman gods were built in sanctuaries of Iron Age Celtic gods.
Personal note: Jupiter was often depicted as overcoming a giant during this period. I interpret this as the civilising power of Rome overcoming the land spirits of Barbaricum.
Phase Three: Intensive Romanization
Consecration stones become as popular as grave stones. Mithras, Jupiter, and the Matronae remain popular (varying by area and demographic).
Phase Four: Resolution and Transformation
The mystery cult of Mithras and the veneration of the Matronae remain popular. Christianity begins to take root, but is unpopular until the fourth century.
This is an archaeological reconstruction. Little survives of pre-Roman German paganism and material culture.
In regards to magical practice, lead curse tablets, phallic amulets, foundation sacrifices, wax / wool dolls, and belief in the evil eye were also widespread in Roman Germany.
Note: Baths were dedicated to Diana (Abnoba) and Apollo Grannus (a Celtic water god adopted into the Roman pantheon) in the Black Forest. A temple of Isis was erected in Mainz. Epona was worshiped in Rhineland-Palatinate (and beyond), as was the Celtic bear goddess Artio.
Jupiter absorbed the German sky-gods Taranis, Dinar, and Ziu. Bonus Eventus, Dionysus, Neptune, and Victory were also revered. Reliefs of hammer gods, equated to Jupiter and Vulcan, may have represented the Celtic Sucellus, the Teutonic Donar, or the Norse Thor. Jupiter, the Matronae, and the Asiatic Great Mother Cybelle shared sanctuaries.
Celtic Rosmerta was deemed the consort of Mercury, while the Celtic victory goddess Ancamna was depicted alongside Lenus-Mars. Mars-Thingsus emerged as a deity of legal assembly (probably) and Mercury-Cimbrianus evolved from a tribal god of the Germanic Cimbri.
The bizarre cult of Jupiter Sabazius (Sabaoth) made its way to the German provinces via Greek-speaking Roman soldiers, as did Jupiter Dolichenus (Baal) via Syrian soldiers serving in the Roman army. Roman soldiers brought bronze statues of the Egyptian bull god Apis to Bavaria.
Paganism in Roman-era Germany was a melting pot of European, Asian, and Egyptian deity veneration.
- Romans on the Rhine (Paul MacKendrick)
- Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World (Phillip Shaw)