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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Atuatuca Tungrorum

Atuatuca Tungrorum (Tongeren or Tongres) Belgium.
Capital of the civitas Tungrorum. The name is written Aduaca in the Antonine Itinerary (378), Atuaca on the Peutinger Table, Atouatoukon by Ptolemy (2.9.4-6). Ammianus Marcellinus (15.11.7; 17.8.3) and the Notitia Galliarum (8) refer to the civitas Tungrorum, Julius Honorius (Cosmographia Occidentis 18-19) to Tungri oppidum, and the Notitia Dignitatum (occ. 42) to Tungri. The town is on the right bank of the Jeker, on the hilltop dominating the entire neighboring region.
  At the time of the Roman conquest, Atuatuca was a fortress of the Atuatuci (the descendants of the Cimbri and the Teutones) in the heart of the territory of their tributaries, the Eburones. Caesar established a winter camp there (BGall. 6.32,35); it was occupied by a legion and a half, commanded by Sabinus and Cotta. In 54 B.C. the Eburones, led by Ambiorix, attacked the camp and massacred the Roman troops. The identification of this Atuatuca Eburonum with the Atuatuca Tungrorum of the Imperial period is still not entirely certain. The pre-Roman remains found at Tongres are very few. The Eburones were exterminated by Caesar and replaced under Augustus by the Tungri, a tribe probably from beyond the Rhine. The newcomers established their main settlement on the site of the fortress of the Atuatuci and retained its name.
  Only in the excavations of recent years have there begun to appear some remains dating to before the revolt of the Batavi in A.D. 69-70. It seems more and more likely that under Augustus there was at Tongres a military camp, since remains of the W side of such an establishment have been found. A V-section ditch with a palisade has been excavated a little to the W of the 2d c. walls. A little farther E, wooden hutting of elongated plan belonged either to this camp or to the canabae. A considerable quantity of sherds of Italic terra sigillata and a large number of Gallic coins with the legend AVAUCIA attest that the civilian vicus already had a certain economic importance. Even at this time Tongres became an important nexus from which roads went out to Bavai, Cassel, Antwerp, Nijmegen, Cologne, Trier, and Arlon. Tongres is situated in the fertile alluvial region of central Belgium with many rich villas whose produce was destined for the Roman armies stationed along the Rhine frontier; it became a very important commercial center. The abandonment of the military camp at the end of the reign of Augustus in no way jeopardized this vitality.
  The checkerboard network of streets dates to the reign of Claudius. The streets were bordered by elongated wooden houses, some of which have been excavated. The large aqueduct dates to the same period. Massive foundations have been found and can be followed for 2.5 km. The revolt of the Batavi under Julius Civilis in A.D. 69-70 had fatal consequences for Tongres; thick burning layers testify to its complete destruction. During the period of the Pax Romana the town was quickly rebuilt and it flourished. It certainly had the rank of municipium and may have been destined to become a colony. Trajan or Hadrian had an impressive enceinte built around the town with a perimeter of 4544 m, ca. 500 m longer than the walls of Cologne. This enclosed the built-up area and an undeveloped district as well, but the project of establishing colonists at Tongres was abandoned. The enclosing wall (2.1 to 2.15 m thick) rested on a foundation of dry masonry and was composed of a core of flint nodules bound by mortar. The wall was furnished with large round towers, 9 m in diameter. The approach to the fortifications was defended by a system of V-section ditches. Several gates passed through the fortifications. At least one had a double arcade and was flanked by two rectangular towers. Four other gates have been located, but there certainly were more.
  The network of streets was composed of seven parallel streets running E-W, with an average width of 5.5 m, cut at right angles by at least seven other streets. The location of the forum is not known for certain. On the forum must have been placed the eight-sided itinerary milestone which mentioned the road network for all N Gaul and lower Germany (CIL XIII, 9158). Unfortunately, only three sides of this black limestone monument have been preserved, and those only partially. One side enumerates the localities between Cologne and Worms along the Rhine, the second those along the Metz-Reims-Amiens road, and the third those along the road from Cassel to the frontier of the Atrebates. The distances are given in Celtic leugne (2.22 km) instead of in Roman miles.
  The most monumental remains excavated to date are those of an impressive sanctuary, located in the N part of the town, near the ramparts. In order to compensate for the slope of the ground an artificial terrace was constructed. This esplanade was surrounded by a portico (112 x 71.5 m wide). A temple with a podium stood in the middle; it had a rectangular cella (13 x 10 m) a pronaos, and a peristyle (about 24 x 29 m). The temple seems to date, in its first stage, to the end of the 1st c. It is exceptional in Gaul, for it differs greatly from sanctuaries in the indigenous tradition, with their square cellae; strong Roman influence is indicated. The temple was remodeled and enlarged during the 2d c. (possibly when the ramparts were built). Of the other remains of a religious character found at Tongres, the following are of note: the torso of a snake-footed giant; the capital of a column, depicting a rider trampling a double snake-footed giant under the hoofs of his horse; a stone with four deities; and a putative statue of Jupiter and Juno which, by certain details, shows that it really depicts the Celtic god Taranis and his cult associate.
  Three large necropoleis extended to the W, N, and E of the town, along the roads going out from it. Thousands of tombs of the Early Empire have been found. Most are cremation burials, but there are also inhumations, beginning as early as the end of the 1st c. The artifacts found as grave goods form the basis of the rich collections in the archaeological museum at Tongres: pottery, glassware, fibulas, jewelry.
  From the middle of the 3d c., the period of the Pax Romana was disturbed by the first barbarian invasions. The town of Tongres was taken and pillaged by the Franks around 275-76. Once the barbarians were pushed back, the defenses of the town were restored by the construction of a new but smaller enceinte. This wall was thicker than the earlier one. It was furnished with a larger number of towers, possibly more than 100, placed only 20 m apart. They served as magazines for ammunition and communicated with the inside of the town by a narrow door. The new wall no longer had ditches in front of it. The facing presents on the outer side a projection surmounted by two rows of tiles and consists of regular ashlar of various kinds of stone. The funerary monuments in the necropoleis were reutilized in the foundations. This new enceinte may date to the last years of the 3d c. or the beginning of the 4th c.
  The civitas Tungrorum, which in the Early Empire had formed part of the province of Belgica, was henceforth attached to Germania secunda and the region took on more and more of a military character. Germanic peoples were authorized to establish themselves in the region and were enrolled in the military. These are the Laeti Lagenses prope Tungros mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum. The town itself never again knew its former prosperity in spite of a long period of relative tranquillity. A certain number of 4th c. tombs are known, all inhumations. Some must be graves of Germanic Laeti and often contain bronze accessories (belt trimmings, etc.) with “excised” geometric (Kerbschnitt) or animal-style decoration. Some tombs show that a part of the population had been converted to Christianity: for example, a funerary cellar with walls decorated with frescos of garlands and doves. Tongres was even the seat of a bishop. However, the center of economic and political gravity of the region shifted to the region of the Meuse. The seat of the bishop was moved to Maastricht. It is even possible that Maastricht also replaced Tongres as the capital of the civitas. We know very little about the end of the Roman period, only that the fall of Cologne in 457-58 also meant the end of the Roman period at Tongres.

S.J. De Laet, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Feb 2006 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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