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As the main deity of the Germanic1 Cimbrians, Merkur is only known to us by his Roman Interpretatio of Mercurius Cimbrianus,2 and is said to be the chief deity of the Cimbrians.
Originating in Himmerland in what is now Denmark,3 the Cimbrians roamed far and wide alongside the Teutons and the Ambrones, starting in the 2nd century BCE. Their migrations took them first to Southeastern Europe, from where they visited Italy, Gaul, Spain, Gaul again and finally Italy, where they were defeated by Roman legions.4 To this day, there are people speaking a Germanic language in Northern Italy who refer to themselves as Cimbrians or Tzimbar.5 They left remnant populations wherever they traveled, and one such tribe is said to be the Aduatuci, who Caesar describes as the people who could or would not cross the Rhine,6 and who possessed a mighty fortress, likely located in the present-day Bois du Grand Dieu near Thuin.7
The origin of the name Cimbri is unknown. One etymology is PIE *tḱim-ro- “inhabitant”, from tḱoi-m- “home” (> English home), itself a derivation from tḱei- “live” (> Greek κτίζω, Latin sinō).8 Derivations from Welsh or Cimmerian exist but they’re highly suspect. The Aduatuci don’t have a clear derivation either, but Delamarre gives us a derivation *ad-uātu-cā, ‘place of the Vates, place of prophecy’.9,10 When these Cimbrians settled, there was no doubt a Celtic substrate already present, and the resulting tribe would be a mixture of Celtic and Germanic influences.
Even though He’s the main deity of the Cimbrians, Merkur himself is rather poorly attested, mostly from areas in Germany that saw a fair degree of Romanization, on the Heiligenberg, the Miltenberg and a location near Mainz. The inscriptions themselves do not reveal a great deal about the character of the God.11
Merkur, as we characterize Him, “is hight Agidruhtin (Awe-Drighten) and Stîfgrîp (Stiff-Grasp). Likewise, hight Êrakôpman (Honoured-Merchant), Aldavernâri (Old-Avernian), Urhimbrâri (The First-Cimbrian), Waganhêrro (Wagon-Lord), Swînhirdi (Swineherd), Ravanfader (Raven-Father). He is Berodrêfa (Bear-Driver) in the hour of war. His beard is woven together, made of every road leading to Rome. His mind is kept sharp by the playing of games.” His day is Merkursfol.12
“In that age when Sigifrith was but a man, Grâdagwrêth (Greed-Wroth) the wretched worm also hight Nesso was brought to an end. To Sigifrith, Merkur granted the talents of beasts. In so doing, that prince severed the ilk’s tendons and the world was showered with gold, silver, garnets and opals. Each of these are the realm of the Alagevan, each a scale from his lich.”
He is a staunch defender of His people, both on the road and in their townships and fortresses, watching over them in their hours of need, inspiring them with stratagem and insight, and would be an excellent choice for someone interested in the Aduatuci and their descendants the Tungri, as well as a strong God for those with Frankish inclinations.
1 The Cimbri are characterized as Germanic by Julius Caesar (B. G. 1.33.3-4), Strabo (Geographica 4.4.3 and 7.1.3), Pliny (Nat. Hist. 4.100), and Tacitus (Germania 37, Histories 4.73), but as Celtic by Appian (Civil Wars 1.4.29, Illyrica 8.3).
2 Kauffmann, Friedrich (1909). “Mercurius Cimbrianus”. Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie. 38: 289–297.
3 Jan Katlev, Politikens etymologisk ordbog, Copenhagen 2000: 294
4 Sampson, Gareth S. (2010). The crisis of Rome: the Jugurthine and Northern Wars and the rise of Marius. Pen & Sword Military. p. 175.
5 Wurzer, Bernhard (1983). Die deutschen Sprachinseln in Oberitalien. Athesia, Bozen.
6 Caesar, Julius. De Bello Gallico, 2.29.
7 Roymans, Nico; Creemers, Guido; Scheers, Simone (2012). Late Iron Age Gold Hoards from the Low Countries and the Caesarian Conquest of Northern Gaul. Amsterdam University Press.
8 Vasmer, Russisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, 1958, vol. 3, p. 62; Z. Gołąb, “About the connection between kinship terms and some ethnica in Slavic”, International Journal of Slavic Linguistics and Poetics 25-26 (1982) 166-7.
9 Delamarre, Xavier (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise: Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental (in French). Errance. p. 308.
10 Toorians, Lauran (2013). “Aduatuca, ‘place of the prophet’. The names of the Eburones as representatives of a Celtic language, with an excursus on Tungri” (PDF). In Creemers, Guido (ed.). Archaeological Contributions to Materials and Immateriality. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren. p. 111.
11 The inscriptions from the Heiligenberg are (A) CIL XIII, 6399, dating to the 2nd century CE; (B) CIL XIII, 6402, also dating to the 2nd century CE; and (C) AE 1921, 52, dating from 171 to 250 CE. Those from the Miltenberg are (A) CIL XIII, 6604, dating to the consulship of Apronianus and Bradua in 191 CE, and (B) CIL XIII, 6605, dating to 189 or 212 CE. The Mainz ones are (A) CIL XIII, 6742 and (B) AE 1990, 742, from sometime from 171 to 250 CE.