BMCR 2007.02.20

Mars en Occident: Actes du colloque international “Autour d’allonnes (Sarthe). Les sanctuaires de Mars en Occident”. Le Mans, Université du Maine, 4-6 Juin 2003. Archéologie et Culture

, , , Mars en Occident : actes du Colloque international "Autour d'Allones, Sarthe, les sanctuaires de Mars en Occident", Le Mans, Université du Maine, 4-5-6 juin 2003. Archéologie et culture. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, DL 2006. 1 vol. (337 p.-[8] p. de pl.) : ill., couv. ill. en coul. ; 28 cm.. ISBN 2753502072 €34.00 (pb).

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The core of this collection of essays is the assessment of the sanctuary of Mars Mullo at Allones (Sarthe) set alongside the wider consideration of Mars in the west, including in particular Spain and parts of Germany. The volume will be of particular interest to students of Roman religion in the west, the ongoing debate about Romanization, and the development of the western provinces. Well-produced, with good maps and illustrations, the volume will help others develop more nuanced and complete accounts, but lacks a final conclusion to draw together the interesting ideas which are raised. In the absence of surviving textual evidence the volume relies heavily on epigraphic and archaeological data; the bibliography perhaps misses engagement with some lively debates in Anglo-American and especially German scholarship on the nature of Roman religion (or religions) in the western provinces.

The volume is divided into three parts; the first gives a series of overviews of Mars in the west; the second considers particular sanctuaries; the third claims to be concerned with methodology. Bérard’s opening essay examines the epigraphic corpus for Mars Mullo (at Rennes, Allones, Nantes and Les Provenchères), and demonstrates the relationship with city and pagus; there are some interesting suggestions about the relationship between the various subdivisions of the city, and about the relationship between the predominance of Mars Mullo and other versions of Mars in the west. Scheid’s essay compares Mars Mullo with Mars Lenus at Trier, and asks a series of important questions about the significance of such a central single deity both in a location and its hinterland, and why Mars had such attraction over other potential deities, which he answers by reference to the self image of the Treviri as warriors. Raepsaet-Charlier offers another kind of overview for Gallia Belgica, and this is followed by accounts of Mars in Helvetica, Gallia Narbonensis and Spain. Inevitably we start to move onto the issue of imperial intervention; le Roux, Marco Simón and Gury all reflect on the potential use which the emperors may have made of the cult of Mars, and the reasons for the local adoption of this deity. On the whole the essays seem to bear out a current model of a mutual discourse to the advantage of both sides, with local elites talking over a Roman cult with helpful connotations for the imperial authorities.

The second part begins with an attempt by Brouquier-Reddé and Gruel to identify a coherent architectural model for Mars sanctuaries from the second century AD, and monumental temples with a round cella are clearly important for this typology. Equally important is the development of these spaces at this late first century to early second century moment, as borne out also by a number of other essays; many can also show continuity of activity through to the fourth century. There is thus a clear chronological shape to the phenomenon, though no indication within the volume of other phenomena which follow the same trajectory. Naveau discusses a temple complex of an earlier, Flavian date with deep roots and a profound impact on the provincial capital and road network.

This section concludes with the account of the subsequent discussion at the conference, which itself raises a number of issues; to what extent was there continuity with previous religious activity (the answer is that a number of sites do show prior activity, which also allows one to speculate about syncretism); the development of the sites around the sanctuary; and the relationship to the city — Mars is often left slightly outside, as befits the exclusion of war from the civic community, but this is perhaps an idea deriving more from the Roman exclusion of the army from within the pomerium, and it seems difficult to establish how conscious the imitation was.

The third section is not as methodological as the title would suggest. Álvarez Martínez and Nogales Bassarrate give an interesting account of the important temple at Merida, with a fairly full account of the temple, its temenos and cryptoporticus, and other examples in Spain, concluding that its architectural details and artistic programme would indicate a link with the imperial cult and some reminiscence of the Forum of Augustus, which may well be plausible, but does not take us very close to Mars. A detailed discussion of a possible temple of Mars at Barzan near the Gironde river (another circular temple) notes also that the temple may have been visible from the river estuary — on the whole this volume rather lacks the kind of detailed landscape contextualization which might have further demonstrated the significance of the construction of these temples as part of the architecture of Roman power. Two accounts of the development of the Corinthian order, noting local variations of the general theme, preface two discussions of the sanctuary of Mars Mullo at Allones itself, the one focusing on its Corinthian order, the other on the architectural decoration and the wide variety of stone used. L’Huillier and Bertrand’s essay on the end of pagan sanctuaries in western Gaul should not be missed; it has a substantial amount of archaeological evidence, but is fraught with the grave difficulty (of which the authors are aware) of trying to match scanty historical sources with imprecise archaeological chronologies. The concluding chapters are full of questions rather than answers — and there are some interesting issues about the capacity of Mars to stand alone as a poliadic deity, and the role of Mars when war returned, brutally, to the area as Roman control dwindled.

Few of the authors question why Mars was an appropriate deity in the height of the empire, but the general answer seems to be that it fits in with issues of the imperial cult. How do defeated peoples effectively associate themselves with the god of war, without referring to the superiority of their conquerors? One might claim that it is simply a matter of translation, Mars being most attractive as a calque for warrior deities in indigenous culture, but is there also some self-identification with the military mission of the centre? There is also little explicit discussion of the reasons for the circular temple form, since it clearly does not fit with the Forum of Augustus, (though it does with the round temple of Mars Ultor on the Capitol, attested in coins, which contained the Parthian standards). There is also nothing here of the developments in Britain, even as a comparison, or a justification of why Spain is used as a comparandum, and so this volume must be taken for what it is; a comprehensive, well-produced and interesting account of aspects of the worship of Mars in western France, with reference to some other case studies. It will be invaluable for the specialist, and may underpin more general accounts of the religion of the Roman west.


D. Briquel, Préface

M-C. Huillier, V. Brouquier-Reddé, K. Gruel, E. Bertrand, Avant-propos


F. Bérard, Mars Mullo Un Mars des cités occidentales de la province de Lyonnaise

J. Scheid, Réflexions sur le Mars trévire

M-T Raepsaet-Charlier, Les cultores de Mars en Gaule belgique

T. Luginbühl, Mars Caturix: Numen et sanctuaries du Mars helvète

M. Christol, Mars en Narbonnaise: Quelques remarques

P le Roux, Mars dans la Péninsule ibérique au haut-empire romain

F Marco Simón, Mars Tricornis des Pyrénées

F. Gury, Mars en Gaule romaine: Images d’un dieu investi par l’idéologie impériale

A. Bouthier, Mars Bolvinnus de Bouhy (Nièvre)


V. Brouquier-Reddé, K. Gruel, Variations autour d’un plan type de sanctuaire

A-M. Jouquand, P. Neury, A. Wittman, Le temple circulaire gallo-romain à Aulnay (Charente-Maritime)

É. Gillet, L. Demarez, N. Paridaens, Le sanctuaire de Blicquy “Ville de Anderlecht” (Province de Hainaut, Belgique)

D. Magnan, Le complexe cultuel, protostorique et gallo-romain du chef-lieu de la cité des Meldes (Meaux, Seine-et-Marne)

J. Naveau, Le sanctuaire suburbain de Jublains (Mayenne)

H. Sellès, Le sanctuaire de la capitale Carnute, Chartres – Autricum (Eure et Loir)

F. Gury, L. Guyard, Le sanctuaire central du Vieil-Évreux (Eure) et le bronze à l’épaule cuirassée

C. Lambert, J. Rioufreyt, Le sanctuaire d’Aubigné-Racan (Sarthe)

J. Biarne, Le sanctuaire des Perrières à Allonnes (Sarthe)

Discussion, Les sanctuaries provinciaux: Normes romaines et particularités régionales


J. M. Álvarez Martínez, T. Nogales Bassarrate, Le Temple dit “de Diane” à Mérida (Extrémadoure, Espagne): Un sanctuaire du culte imperial

P. Aupert, L’architecture du temple de Mars (?) à Barzan (Charente-Maritime)

J-C Golvin, Le problème de la restitution des hauteurs et la recherch de l’image pertinente des edifices cultuels

D. Tardy., Variantes du corinthien en Gaule de l’ouest

C. Lefèvre, La restitution de l’ordre du temple de Mars Mullo à Allones (Sarthe)

S. Cormier, L’architecture d’applique du quadriportique du sanctuaire de Mars Mullo (Allones, Sarthe)

M-C. Huillier, E. Bertrand, La fin des sanctuaries païens dans l’ouest des Gaules: Réflexions autour d’une histoire à écrire


G. Aubin, L’archéologie des grands sanctuaries: Quelle programmation?

P. le Roux, Autour de Mars Mullo, Bilan et problèmes.