Hercules Magusanus is a god who was honored in several places within Celtic Europe. His name indicates the interaction between Germanic/Celtic and Roman culture. The name Magusanus can be interpreted as Germanic or Celtic. It may even have been a transition from Celtic to Germanic. The name is probabaly a collection of the words Magus* (young/youth) and Senos* (old). This seems a contradiction, and points towards a magical, mythical origin. The meaning of this name has been interpreted (as read in Herman Clerinx, see below) as ‘vivid elder’ or ‘youth with the experience of an elder person’.
In the Netherlands, traces of his worship can be found in the ancient Roman border area in the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Gelderland.
The Dutch Temple of Empel in Noord-Brabant (Netherlands) was dedicated to Hercules Magusanus. The Temple of Empel stood in an oak grove on a sandhill. The fact that it could be found within an oak grove is considered significant, since the rest of this area is mainly covered by willow trees.
Shown below is an 8 cm. tall bronze statue of the god, found in the temple of Empel, and currently kept in the Noord-Brabants Museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Another temple dedicated to Hercules Magusanus stood in Elst (Gelderland, the Netherlands). This temple did service between ca. 100 – 300 CE. Before there was a Gallo-Roman temple, the site was likely an open-air sanctuary, since traces of older religious practices have been found. Elst was a very important center to the Batavian people, and it is therefore thought that Hercules Magusanus could have been their main god.
Herman Clerinx (see source) names two reasons for the worship of Hercules Magusanus by the Batavians:
- this connecting of an indigenous god to a Roman god showed that the Batavians were not mere ‘barbarians’. In stead, they were a part of the civilised Roman elite.
- Like many Celtic gods, Hercules was a protector of cattle. But he was also the god of cattle raid, an important means of collection riches in the Iron Age.
Clerinx, Herman. Kelten en de Lage Landen. Davidsfonds. 2005.