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The Celtic god Sucellus.
Bronze statue of Sucellus from Vienne.

In ancient Celtic religion, Sucellus or Sucellos was a god depicted in Gallo-Roman art as carrying a hammer or mallet and also a bowl or barrel. He has been associated with agriculture or wine production.


This statue of Sucellus is the earliest known likeness of the god (ca. 1st ct. AD). It is from a Roman home in France and was found in a household shrine (lararium). Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

He is usually portrayed as a middle-aged bearded man, with a long-handled hammer, or perhaps a beer barrel suspended from a pole. His wife, Nantosuelta, is sometimes depicted alongside him. When together, they are accompanied by symbols associated with prosperity and domesticity.

Relief of Nantosuelta and Sucellus from Sarrebourg

In this relief from Sarrebourg, near Metz, Nantosuelta, wearing a long gown, is standing to the left. In her left hand she holds a small house-shaped object with two circular holes and a peaked roof – perhaps a dovecote – on a long pole. Her right hand holds a patera which she is tipping onto a cylindrical altar.

To the right Sucellus stands, bearded, in a tunic with a cloak over his right shoulder. He holds his mallet in his right hand and an olla in his left. Above the figures is a dedicatory inscription and below them in very low relief is a bird, of a raven. This sculpture was dated by Reinach (1922, pp. 217–232), from the form of the letters, to the end of the first century or start of the second century.


At least eleven inscriptions to Sucellus are known (Jufer & Luginbühl p. 63), mostly from Gaul. One (RIB II, 3/2422.21) is from York in England.

In an inscription from Augst (in antiquity, Augusta Rauricorum) Sucellus is assimilated to Silvanus (AE 1926, 00040):

In honor(em) /
d(omus) d(ivinae) deo Su/
cello Silv(ano) /
Spart(us) l(ocus) d(atus) d(ecreto) d(ecurionum)

The assimilation of Sucellus to Silvanus can also be seen in artwork from Narbonensis. (Duval 78)


In Gaulish, -cellos can be interpreted as 'striker', derived from Proto-Indo-European *-kel-do-s whence also come Latin per-cellere ('striker'), Greek klao ('to break') and Lithuanian kálti ('to hammer, to forge').[1] The prefix su- means 'good' or 'well' and is found in many Gaulish personal names.[2] Sucellus is therefore commonly translated as 'the good striker.'

An alternate etymology is offered by Celticist Blanca María Prósper, who posits a derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root *kel- ‘to protect’, i.e. *su-kel-mó(n) "having a good protection" or *su-kel-mṇ-, an agentive formation meaning "protecting well, providing good protection", with a thematic derivative built on the oblique stem, *su-kel-mn-o- (and subsequent simplification and assimilation of the sonorant cluster and a secondary full grade of the root). Prósper suggests the name would then be comparable to the Indic personal name Suśarman-, found in Hindu mythology.[3]


  1. ^ Page 113 of Delamarre, X. (2003). Dictionnaire de la Langue Gauloise (2nd ed.). Paris: Éditions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-237-6
  2. ^ Pages 283-4 of Delamarre, X. (2003). Dictionnaire de la Langue Gauloise (2nd ed.). Paris: Éditions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-237-6
  3. ^ Prósper, Blanca María, "Celtic and Non-Celtic Divinities from Ancient Hispania: Power, Daylight, Fertility, Water Spirits and What They Can Tell Us about Indo-European Morphology", in: The Journal of Indo-European Studies, Volume 43, Number 1 & 2, Spring/Summer 2015, pp. 35-36.

Further reading[edit]

  • Delamarre, X. (2003). Dictionnaire de la Langue Gauloise (2nd ed.). Paris: Éditions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-237-6
  • Deyts, S., Ed. (1998). À la rencontre des Dieux gaulois, un défi à César. Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux. ISBN 2-7118-3851-X
  • Duval, Paul-Marie (1957–1993). Les dieux de la Gaule. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France / Éditions Payot.
  • Jufer, N. and T. Luginbühl (2001). Répertoire des dieux gaulois. Paris, Éditions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-200-7
  • Reinach, S. (1922). Cultes, mythes et religions