The town of Antwerp
had its origin in a Gallo-Roman vicus, whose existence
has been known for certain for only about ten years.
Since the 16th c., however, numerous finds of the Roman
period (mostly individual artifacts) have been reported
at several localities in the town, the most important
being a necropolis near the Abbey of St. Michael. In
1610, 1774, and at the beginning of the 19th c., cremation tombs were found there; they date to the 1st and 2d
c. A.D. Among the finds of 1610 was an ornate white
marble sarcophagus with a funerary inscription (CIL
VI, 29507). However, most archaeologists consider that
it was not found in situ but had been brought from Rome
during the Renaissance. Still, the finds of 1774 and later
at the same spot indicate that the authenticity of the
find must not be discounted a priori. The existence of
the vicus was proved beyond doubt by the excavations
conducted in the old town near the Scheldt from 1952
to 1961. Wooden houses and streets of the Carolingian
period were found; under this mediaeval layer, beds of
fill, stuffed with sherds of pottery and glassware of
Roman date, were used to raise the level of the ground.
The Roman remains date to the period between A.D. 140
and the second half of the 3d c. The end of Roman occupation can be attributed either to the invasions of the
Franks during the second half of the 3d c. or to the
Dunkirk II marine transgression (around 300), which
flooded the low ground all along the Scheldt.
The Roman vicus was succeeded by a Merovingian
settlement, evangelized by St. Amand in the 7th c. The
course of the road from Bavai N goes through Asse,
Rumpst, and Kontich, and then can be traced no farther.
It probably passed through the vicus of Antwerp and
then continued N by Rijsbergen and Utrecht to the
Netherlands. Other roads linked Antwerp to Bruges
(to the W) and Tongres (to the E).
The abundant bibliography may be
found in M. Bauwens-Lesenne, Bibliografisch repertorium der oudheidkundige vondsten in de provincie Antwerpen
(1965) 1-14. For the recent excavations: O. Vandenborn, “Gallo-romeinse vondsten te Antwerpen,” Helinium
5 (1965) 252-83.
S. J. DE LAET