Ogmios (also known as Ogmius; Ancient Greek: Ὄγμιος; Latin: Ogmius, Ogimius) was the Celtic deity of eloquence. He looked like an older version of Heracles who would use his powers of persuasion to bind men to himself.
About the deity
Even though there is not much on the history of Ogmios, we can tell that he was a powerful deity worshipped by the Gauls, the Celtic people of France. He is attested not only in Lucian's account, but also in archaeological remains, such as coins and statuary, from the time of the Roman conquest of the Gauls.
French specialists give two different explications of the Gaulish name: Philippe Jouët proposed to connect Ogme to the Indo-European root word *Hek- ‘sharp’, ‘stone’, ‘vault’, and to the Greek akmon (meteorite).
Ogmios was recorded by Lucian, a satirical writer in 2nd-century Samosata in his Prolalia-Heraklès. He is described as resembling an older, more tanned version of Heracles, the Greek hero of strength. Ogmios and Heracles both wear lion skins and carry a bow and club in their hands. However Ogmios is depicted with long chains through his smiling mouth that pierce his tongue and attached to the ears of a group of men that willingly and happily follow him. Anne Ross describes dark complexion as "a not uncommon feature of powerful or malevolent supernatural beings".
The most striking aspects of Lucian's image of Ogmios are the thin, long chains running from his tongue to the ears of his followers. The chains, made out of amber and gold, represent Ogmios using his powers of persuasion and eloquence to bind his listeners to his every word. From the description it appears that Ogmios' followers willingly follow him with cheerful faces and try to get as close to Ogmios as they can. This shows that he has the power to change and influence men’s minds so that they want to follow him to the ends of the earth.
Ogmios is considered to be a binding god and a psychopomp, both very powerful positions. As a binding god he has the ability to bind people onto himself and control their actions. He can also create defixiones, which are tablets that have curses which he can bind on to other people. There are two known defixiones, recovered from Bregenz, Austria, that Ogmios is said to have created. Not much is known about the story behind the defixiones, but it is known that one such tablet invokes Ogmios to curse a barren woman so that she can never marry a man.
Comparisons to other cultures
Almost all of the knowledge about Ogmios comes from the comparisons of him to other deities or divine heroes of different ancient cultures. By about 51 B.C. the Roman Empire had conquered Gaul. When the Gauls disappeared so did Ogmios. However the existence of Ogmios can still be seen in Irish mythology. Their deity, Ogma, has many similarities to Ogmios, which could mean that they were once the same deity.
Long after the Romans conquered the Gauls, the Roman satirist Lucian wrote a satirical story about Celtic beliefs. It describes Lucian and a Celtic man looking at a painting of Ogmios. Lucian's description of the painting is the main source of visual representation of Ogmios.
Initially Lucian looks at the painting with horror because the painting says that the Celts liken Ogmios to Heracles. Ogmios appears to be an older version of Heracles, since both Ogmios and Heracles wear lion skins and carry a bow and club. Lucian is shocked to see that “the (bound) men (following Ogmios) do not think of escaping… In fact, they follow cheerfully and joyously, applauding their leader and all pressing him close and keeping the leashes slack in their desire to overtake him; apparently they would be offended if they were let loose!”:p.65
In the story, a Celtic man explains that the painting shows how the Celts believe Ogmios is similar to Heracles, the Greek hero who defeated many things with his strength. Heracles has the power of strength and Ogmios has the power of eloquence. The Celts believe that eloquence is the ultimate power because it can enthrall men and control them more so than strength can.
The Irish deity closest related to Ogmios is Ogma, a warrior of the Túatha Dé Danann who is also credited with inventing the Ogham alphabet. Both Ogmios and Ogma are known as smiling deities of eloquence. Ogma is attested from Old and Middle Irish literature, which dates to significantly later periods than the material for Ogmios.
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- OGMIOS-OGMA, Kernunnos Group of Web Page
- Lucian (1913). The Works of Lucian : with an English translation. Translated by A.M. Harmon. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 63–67.
- Ogmios - A Gaulish and Irish God, also known as Ogma, Ogmia, Celtnet.org UK
- Philippe Jouët, Aux origines de la mythologie celtique
- Xavier Delamarre (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise [Dictionary of the Gaulish Language] (in French). Paris: Errance. p. 238. ISBN 2-87772-237-6.
- Ross, Anne (January 1959). "Chain Symbolism in Pagan Celtic Religion". Speculum. Medieval Academy of America. 34 (1): 39–59. doi:10.2307/2847977. JSTOR 2847977.
- Newell, A. N. (February 1934). "Gallo-Roman Religious Sculpture". Greece & Rome. Cambridge University Press. 3 (8): 74–84. JSTOR 640758.
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- James MacKillop, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 310
- Egger, Rudolf. (1962–63). Römische Antike und frühes Christentum: Ausgewählte Schriften von Rudolf Egger; Zur Vollendung seines 80. Lebensjahres, ed. Artur Betz and Gotbert Moro. 2 vols. Klagenfurt: Verlag des Geschichtsvereines für Kärnten