Ancamna: Guardian of the Tribe

Ancamna was a protector goddess of the Treveri, a Celtic tribe from the Moselle River area in Germany. Her cult centered on the area around Trier, known to the Romans as Treveri Augustorum (French Trèves).

There altars were set up to Ancamna and her consort, Mars Lenus (a healing god), as well as the genii (spirits) of the pagi (administrative regions) of the Treveri. This would suggest Ancamna was a protector goddess, like Brigantia or Belisama.

Brigantia was a tribal goddess whom the Romans latched onto to promote as a symbol of unity. Ancamna may be another, along with Noreia in Noricum, modern-day Austria.

(Deo Mercurio thinks that the cult of Victoria and Mars at Trier also represents Ancamna and Lenus, since it would make sense for the tribal goddess to be the one linked with Mars. It’s not impossible, as two inscriptions to Brigantia call her Victoria Brigantia.) Both goddesses were also connected to the emperor and his cult, as we shall see below.

The meaning of her name is unclear, although some link her to rivers or water. Given the nearness of her cult to the Moselle, this would make sense. She might have been a river-goddess like Nantosuelta and others, such as Sequana and possibly Belisama. Mars Lenus was a healing god, with his own spring just outside Trier, so it may well be that Ancamna had a healing aspect as well.

Ancamna and Mars Smertios. Wikimedia.

Ancamna and Mars Smertios. Wikimedia.

Deo Mercurio suggests that the two were the Jupiter and Juno of the Treveri, as the frequent invocations of the divine house show. There is an inscription honouring her and Mars from Trier, as well the divine house (of the emperor):

In honorem domus divinae Marti et Ancamnae Caius Serotinius Iustus ex voto posuit. (AE 1983 (1985): 680)

Another inscription, from Ripsdorf, also mentions the divine house along with Mars and Ancamna, and adds the well-being of the empire.

Other inscriptions linking her and just plain Mars appear at Trier and Ripsdorf, but at Möhn he takes on another name, Smertulitanus, whose name comes from the same smert element as Rosmerta and Smertrios. An inscription to the them both reads:

Marti Smertulitano et Ancanmae Caius G. Sec. (AE 1983 (1985): 718. Möhn)

Theirs was a fairly elaborate cult, as the site had two temples and a theatre. One of her worshippers referred to himself as deuas, which probably comes from the Celtic word “godly”. A similar name appears at Worms, in an inscription to another Mars, Loucetius. A devotee of the cult or a priest might well take such a name.

Genii Cucullati from Corinium Museum, Cirencester (Wikipedia)

Genii Cucullati from the Corinium Museum, Cirencester (Wikipedia)

Another interesting facet of the cult were the statuettes left as offerings at their cult centers. At Mohn this included a genius cucullatus, or hooded god. These were the male equivalent of the matres, usually appearing in threes and often found together with the mother-goddesses. They both seem to have been deities of fertility and abundance.

Two other goddesses from the Moselle area were also associated with the god Mars: Inciona and Nemetona. Inciona’s consort was Lenus Mars Veraudunus, while Nemetona paired up with just plain Mars at Trier. (She joins Mars Loucetios at Bath, the shrine of Sulis Minerva, and Klein-Winternheim, near Mainz.) These three are often grouped together as similar goddesses, but we know very little about any of them, and all they have in common is an association with Mars.

At any rate, we know that Ancamna was closely linked with the Treveri people and territory, and that she was important enough that her cult was linked to the imperial cult, and the imperial house. She had devout and prosperous followers, who could set up altars and leave statues as offerings. Her “godly” follower may well have been a priest of her cult. All of this suggests that she was an important deity, at least locally, so it is a pity that we don’t have more information about her.

If you like the image at the top, click here.