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In the Celtic polytheism of classical antiquity, Grannus (also Granus Mogounus Amarcolitanus) was a deity associated with spas, healing thermal and mineral springs, and the sun. He was regularly identified with Apollo as Apollo Grannus. His worship was not infrequently in conjunction with Sirona, Mars and other deities.
In the early twentieth century, the name was connected with the Irish grian, ‘sun’. Along these lines, the god was often linked to the Deò-ghrèine and the character Mac Gréine of Irish mythology. However, the Irish grian, ‘sun’ is thought to be derived from Proto-Celtic *greinā ‘sun’ and the Proto-Celtic *greinā is unlikely to have developed into Grannos in Gaulish and other Continental Celtic languages. Derivation from a Proto-Celtic root *granno- ‘beard’ (cf. Middle Welsh grann ‘chin; beard, hairs’ and Old Irish grend ‘beard, hairs’) has enjoyed some scholarly support, from which Jürgen Zeidler dissents, proposing a different root *granno- with "probable reference to the sun's heat and healing properties". Ranko Matasović, in his Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, has tentatively proposed that the root of this theonym comes from Proto-Celtic *gwrenso-, which means "heat"; however, Proto-Celtic initial gw- yields b- in Gaulish (cf. the name Brennus).
In all of his centres of worship where he is assimilated to a Roman god, Grannus was equated with Apollo, presumably in Apollo’s role as a healing or solar deity. In Trier, he is identified more specifically with Apollo Phoebus.
Centres of worship
One of the god’s most famous cult centres was at Aquae Granni (now Aachen, Germany). Aachen means ‘water’ in Old High German, a calque of the Roman name of "Aquae Granni". The town’s hot springs with temperatures between 45 °C and 75 °C lay in the somewhat inhospitably marshy area around Aachen's basin-shaped valley region. Aachen first became a curative centre in Hallstatt times. The Roman Emperor Caracalla (188 AD to 217 AD) visited the shrine of ‘the Celtic healing-god’ Grannus during the war with Germany in about 215.
In the early twentieth century, the god was said to have still been remembered in a chant sung round bonfires in Auvergne, in which a grain sheaf is set on fire, and called Granno mio, while the people sing, “Granno, my friend; Granno, my father; Granno, my mother”. However, granno may simply be a derivative of an Occitan word of Latin origin meaning "grain" (compare Auvergnat gran "grain", grana "seed" and Languedocien grano, from Latin grānum "grain").
A 1st century AD Latin inscription from a public fountain in Limoges mentions a Gaulish ten-night festival of Grannus (Latinized as decamnoctiacis Granni):
- POSTVMVS DV[M]
- NORIGIS F(ilius) VERG(obretus) AQV
- AM MARTIAM DECAM
- NOCTIACIS GRANNI D(e) S(ua) P(ecunia) D(edit)
Translation: "The Vergobretus Postumus son of Dumnorix gave from his own money the Aqua Martia ("Water of Martius [or Mars]", an aqueduct) for the ten-night festival of Grannus".
The name Grannus is sometimes accompanied by those of other deities in the inscriptions. In Augsburg, he is found with Diana and/or Sirona and again with Sirona at Rome, Bitburg and Baumberg. At Ennetach he is with Nymphs, at Faimingen with Hygieia and Cybele and at Grand with Sol. At Limoges, he is found with Mars and at Astorga with Serapis, Isis, Mars-Sagatus and Core.
- J. A. MacCulloch. 1911. "The Gods of Gaul and the Continental Celts." The Religion of the Ancient Celts.
- Xavier Delamarre (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Éditions Errance, Paris, pp. 182-183. The quoted text is «référence probable à la chaleur du soleil et ses propriétés curatives».
- R. Matasović, Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic (Leiden, 2009) p. 147, s.v. *gwrīns- / *gwrenso-
- Zeidler, Jürgen, "On the etymology of Grannus", Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, Volume 53 (1), de Gruyter. 2003, p. 86.
- Patrice Lajoye. Un inventaire des divinités celtes de l’Antiquité. Société de Mythologie Française. See also the inventory's introduction. (French)
- Dr. Rita Mielke. History of Bathing. Aachen.
- AE 1989: 521; AE 1991: 1222.
- Laurent Lamoine, Le pouvoir local en Gaule romaine, Presses Univ Blaise Pascal, 2009, p. 114-115.