A Gaulish God, also known as Mars Lenus, Mars Laenus: Healer of (infected) wounds

Lenus (Mars Lenus, Mars Laenus) is a Gaulish god known from sixteen inscriptions found in Germany, Britain, Belgium and France. In all these inscriptions he is associated with Roman Mars but is found in both Military and Agrarian contexts. He would seem to be a healer god, similar to Lenumius.

Lenus is a primarily Gaulish deity assimilated with Roman Mars by Interpretato Romana. He is known as Laenus from an inscription at Pommern in Germany (AE 1981, 676). With the spellig Lenus this deity is known from several other sites in Germany: Welschbillig (CIL XIII 04122) and Pommern (the site of a healing spring), as well as Trier (AE 1985, 679; AE 1915; 70; AE 1924; 15; AE 1932, 40; AE 1989, 549; CIL XIII 03654; a healing-spring site) where his consort is given as Roman Victory; however in Feyen his consort is given as Ancamna. He is also known from Fleißem, Germany (CIL XIII 04137) where he is assimilated with Mars Arterancus. In Belgium he is invoked at Virton (CIL XIII 03970) and assimilated with Mars Exsobinus. In Belgium he is invoked at Mersch (CIL XIII 04030) and in Luxembourg at Mensdorf where he is assimilated with Mars Veradunus and his consort is given as Inciona. Two other inscriptions possibly dedicated to Lenus come from Ripsdorf (CIL XIII 04122) in Germany where his companion, once again, is given as Ancamna and another from Le Donon, Bas-Rhin, France (CIL XIII 04522) where he is assimilated with Roman Mercury.

This deity is also known from two inscriptions in Britain. The first of these comes from Venta Silurum, the tribal city of the Silures, Caerwent, Gwent where the inscription reads DEO MARTI LENO SIVE OCELO VELLAVN ET NVM AVG M NONIVS ROMANVS OB IMMVNITAT COLLEGNI D D S D GLABRIONE ET HOMVLO COS X K SEPT (For the god Mars Lenus or Ocelus Vellaunus¹ and the Spirit of the Emperor, Marcus Nonius Romanus, due to the privileges granted him by the guild [of magistrates], dedicated this out of his own funds, ten days before the Kalends of September when Glabrio and Homulus were consuls) and he is invoked along with that other martial deity Mars Ocelos. The stone also bears the remnant of image of Lenus (however only the feet survive) accompanying the god are the webbed feet of a giant bird, probably those of a goose. The second inscription to Mars Lenus comes from the Chedword Romano-British villa and temple complex, Gloucestershire. The description LEN MARTI (To Mars Lenus) was found on a carved stone relief from the temple site.

The various inscriptions and images of Mars Lenus paint a contradictory image of the deity. Certainly, he was equated with Mars the Roman god of war, but the Celtic version of Mars was also conflated with Mercury and had healing as well as martial properties. In the great temple complex at Trier the iconography strongly suggests that Mars Lens was viewed as a healer deity, possibly employing his warrior strength as a protector against illness and death. An epithet associated with him there, Iovantucarus shows his special role as a protector of the young. At Chedworth Mars Lenus is associated with the ram-headed serpent, iconography associated with the healing aspect of this deity. The goose, associated with Lenus in the Caerwent stone is a bird associated with war in Celtic iconography; this and the association of Lenus with Roman Victory in the inscription from Trier suggests that Lenus had a martial as well as a healing aspect, though the healer form of the deity seems to represent the majority of extand depictions.

No satisfactory etymology for Lenus’s name has been proposed. However there are a number of roots in the reconstructed proto-Celtic lexicon that may be relevant: *li-n-a- (stick to, but which also has the connotation of ‘dirty, pollute’), *lī-no- (pus), *lī-no- (linnen) and *linomn- (blot,erasure). These are all words associated with wounds and infection and possibly the bandaging or treatment of those wounds. Lenus might therefore have been a deity associated with the healing of wounds and this might account for his popularity in both agrarian and military contexts.