Friday, 6 March 2020

pilier des nautes

Rediscovered on this day in 1710 whilst performing excavation beneath Notre Dame for a new crypt, the Pillar of the Boatmen is a monumental Gallo-Roman column made during the first century and found re-used as building material for the fourth century defensive wall of the Île de la Cité.
Originally raised on the embankment of Lutetia (Paris) by the guild of sailors and ship wardens of the Seine as tribute to Jupiter (Iovis Optimus Maximus) the dedication and inscription mix some of the Roman pantheon but the other deities invoked and depicted, one singularly or as part of an ensemble to each side of four stacked blocks, in bas-relief are distinctly Gallic and have Gaulish vocabulary. Aside from Jupiter, and the twins Castor and Pollux, the others bear their native theonyms, as far as the incomplete and reconstructed inscription can be deciphered with certainty, and not epithets for their Roman equivalents, like Cernunnos, the Celtic horned god (second from the top, facing left) of commerce and fertility often portrayed but only named on this artefact—the city’s modern name itself coming from the tribe the Parisii which the Romans displaced with their occupation. The pillar is now displayed in the Thermes de Cluny, the ruins of an ancient spa in the heart of the city, in the bathhouse’s former cold pool—that is the frigidarium.