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Burdigala. The modern Bordeaux; the chief town of the Bituriges Vivisci, on the left bank of the Garumna (Garonne). Under the Empire it was a place of great commercial importance. Ausonius, who was born there, describes it in his little poem entitled Ordo Nobilium Urbium. The only remaining Roman monument in the town is the amphitheatre locally known as the Arenes, or Palais Gallien. It is in a greatly damaged state.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Burdigala (Bordeaux) Dept. Gironde, France.
A port on the estuary of the Garonne, 90 km from the Atlantic, this was the chief city of the Celtic tribe of the Bituriges Vivisci. It was founded in the 3d c. B.C. for the purpose of controlling the Gallic isthmus which was on the route of the tin trade. The city was almost certainly a municipium under Vespasian, then became the capital of the province of Aquitania. Still later, in the period of the Tetrarchy, it was the capital of the second Aquitania province, the vicarius of the diocese of Gaul having his residence there. The Vandals seized it in 409 and the Visigoths in 414.
Very little is known of the town plan of Burdigala or its first monuments; the original forum (on Mont Judaique?) has not been located, and the plan of the streets is conjectural. From Ausonius' writings and from chance finds and excavations we know more about the city rampart: in the Tetrarchy it confined what had been an open city in the Early Empire (125 ha) within an area of only 31 ha. This small castrum formed an almost regular oblong. The river was connected to the inland port by the Navigere gate; the city got its water supply from a tributary of the Garonne, the Deveze, which was canalized. And according to Ausonius, a certain fountain of Divona captured the waters of a sacred spring and spewed forth abundant, swift torrents of water from its 12 bronze mouths. Both the quays and the rampart of the port had strong foundations resting on wooden piles and girders. The foundations were made from the debris of all sorts of monuments, piled up skillfully, as a precaution, into a mass 6 m high and S m thick. The wall proper was 3 m high and built of mortared rubble-work faced on either side with small blocks, every 10 or 12 rows being banded with three rows of brick. The rampart was strengthened by semicircular towers that were set every 50 m; the four corners were fortified by larger towers, the wall having only three gates (Porta lovia to the W and two gates dominating the principal cardo).
Outside the rampart is the amphitheater known now as the Palais Galien, the only monument that has left any lasting trace of the monumental splendor of the Severan age; still visible in the cellars of some Bordeaux buildings today, it was ruined in the Germanic invasions of A.D. 276. Seven rings of arcaded walls of ellipsoidal plan supported the wooden tiers. These walls have a core of rubble faced with small blocks, with a triple band of brick every seven courses. The 15,000 spectators, divided among three caveae, reached their seats by a skillful arrangement of sloping corridors, wooden stairs, and passageways. On the long axis (132.30 m; small, 110.60 m) are some monumental entries over 22 m high, the design of whose inner walls recalls the frontes scenae. They led to some carceres under the podium steps. For draining the arena, which measured 69.80 x 46.70 m, there was a carefully built stone sewer which ran to the foot of the podium.
Another Severan monument, the so-called Piliers de Tutelle, disappeared in the 17th c. These piers have no connection with any temple of Tutela but look as if they belonged to the portico that ran around the Severan forum.
A Christian quarter grew up outside the Porta lovia around the Saint-Etienne church and the necropolis, which flourished in the 4th c. Architectural and sculptural finds are housed in the Musee d'Aquitaine.
R. Etienne, 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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