(Avenches) Vaud, Switzerland.
Near the W end of Lake Morat, probably the successor of a fortified oppidum of the Helvetii on Mt.
Vully, at the NE end of the lake. The Celtic name
Aventicuin is known from ancient sources (Tac. Hist
1.68; It. Ant
. 352.4; Tab. Peut
.; Amm. Marc. 15.11.12).
The town, founded ca. 16-13 B.C., was the administrative
center of the Helvetii on the Swiss plateau. Probably in
A.D. 73-74 Vespasian founded the colonia Pia Flavia
Constans Emerita Helvetiorum Foederata (or colonia
Helvetioruin) on the same site. The colonists were veterans, who were to guard the military highway from
Italy via the St. Bernhard pass to the Rhine after the
troubles of A.D. 69 (Tac. Hist
. 1.67-70). Until then
Aventicum had had a military post guarding arterial
roads and the harbor. The city was destroyed by the
Alamanni (Fredegar 2.40), but the site was not abandoned. In the 6th c. Aventicum was the seat of a bishop,
who was later transferred to Lousonna. The mediaeval
town on the hilltop W of the amphitheater has existed
since the 12th c.
The Pre-Roman oppidum on Mt. Vully controlled the
waterways in the area of Lakes Neuchâtel, Bienne, and
Morat, but the Roman military road from the Rhone
to the Rhine, completed under Claudius, ran farther S,
through Aventicum. The harbor, identified but not fully
explored, was used for the shipment and the preparation
of building stones from the quarries in the Jura mountains.
The town plan reflects several building periods: 1) to
ca. A.D. 45 earth and timber constructions, including
many warehouses and workshops, indicate a population
mainly of merchants and artisans; 2) from A.D. 45 to
73-74 the buildings were gradually transformed into
stone, and the artisans' quarters moved to the periphery
of the settlement. The more urban aspect in this period
may reflect a greater Roman influence, since the army
was then working on the highway from the St. Bernhard
pass to Vindonissa; 3) the foundation of the colonia
brought a complete rebuilding of the town and the first
city walls; 4) during the 2d c. A.D. the main sanctuaries
and the theaters were rebuilt or enlarged. The first orientation corresponds to the Claudian period (2), but the
definitive system dates from the foundation of the colonia, and accounts for some irregularities in the size
and shape of adjacent insulae.
The settlement is in a shell-shaped depression sloping
NW to the lake and the marshy plain of the river Broye.
The town was built in the flat area on the edge of the
plain, but its walls (5.7 km long) followed the crest of
the hills and enclosed an area more than twice the size
of the town (2.33 sq. km). In the flat, marshy areas both
walls and buildings were bedded on wooden piles. The
following description applies mainly to period 3 and
later. The walls (at least 4 gates; 73 towers set at intervals of 70-90 m) are of two periods. The second, affecting perhaps only the towers and the main E and W gates,
probably dates from the late 3d c. The wall was ca. S in
high to the sentry walk (av. width 2.3 m, foundations
2.95 m), and the crenellations rose ca. 2 in higher. The
average depth of the foundations was 1.5 in (in the
marshy sections 2.4-3 m). The horseshoe-shaped towers
(original ht. unknown) were set against the inside of
the wall; in the first period they may have been semicircular. They had two stories, with access from ground
level. There was a berm (2 in wide) and ditch (3.8 m
wide, 1.6 m deep) except in the marshy plain, where
the number of posterns was increased instead. The E and
W gates were flanked on the outside by two towers
(round in plan, but polygonal on the exterior), they had
a double central thoroughfare through a court for vehicles, and a smaller passageway on each side for pedestrians.
Over 40 insulae have been identified. Their average size
is 110 by 70 m, measured from the middle of the streets,
which are 3.6 or 4.5 m wide and frequently bordered
by porticos 2.4 in wide. The still unexcavated forum
comprises two insulae (140 x 110 m). A temple of
Jupiter, scholae, shops, and a curia are as yet attested
only by inscriptions. The baths of insula 19, built ca.
A.D. 60, were, according to an inscription, connected with
a sphairisterium, or covered building for ballgames. The
Flavian baths, found near the Forum at En Perruet, occupied one insula and included a palaestra and an open
pool, later given up. The baths of insula 18, built in the
late 2d c., are remarkable for the size of the tepidarium as compared with the caldarium and for sumptuous
marble revetments. A number of geometric and figured
mosaics from private houses, mainly from the late 2d
and 3d c. A.D., are in the museum.
Some sanctuaries and the theaters are on the W edge
of the town. The temple called La Grange du Dime dedicated perhaps to Mercury and/or the Matronae, is of
Gallo-Roman type (peristyle 21 x 20 m; cella 9.8 m
on a side), and stands on a high podium approached
by a wide stairway. Before the foundation of the colony
it was perhaps part of a larger sanctuary which included
the forerunner of the nearby temple called Le Cigognier.
Completely rebuilt in the 2d c., together with the theater
with which it shares the main axis, Le Cigognier is part
of a monumental architectural complex. The cella is
square and probably Gallo-Roman; it stood on a high
podium. The pronaos and facade were incorporated into
the center of a double portico, built on a podium of
the same height and bordering three sides of a square
court (105 m on a side). The fourth side, towards the
theater, was closed off by a fence with a gate in the
center, to allow a view of the facade of the theater. The
altar stood on the paved processional way leading from
the temple to the gate, and perhaps farther, towards the
theater. The theater in its latest period had a capacity
of ca. 9000 (105 x 74 m). The center rear wall of the
stage building could perhaps have been fitted with removable screens, to open up the view of the temple and
its altar. Apparently here, as at Augusta Raurica, temple
and theater formed an architectural and functional unit.
The amphitheater, built in the late 2d c., had a capacity
of 8000 (115 x 87 m).
The cemeteries lie along the arterial roads, and those
in the plain were sporadically explored in the 19th c.
Best known is the one outside the W gate, from which
almost all extant tombstones come. One of its tombs,
dated to the middle of the 4th c., contained an inscribed
glass beaker, early evidence of Christianity in Switzerland.
The monuments visible are stretches of the walls, the
tower called La Tornallaz, the E and W gates, the theater and amphitheater, and the baths En Perruet. The
museum is in a mediaeval tower built above the main
entrance to the amphitheater.
F. Staehelin, Die Schweiz in römischer
(3d ed. 1948) 604-11 & index s.v. Aventicum, bibl.
to 1948; G. T. Schwarz, “Les scholae et le forum d'Aventicum,” Bull. Ass. Pro Aventico
7 (1957) 13-80PI
“Aventicum, Neue Beobachtungen zu Stadtmauer und
Toranlagen,” Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte
; id., Die Kaiserstadt Aventicum
; id., “Die flavischen Thermen ‘en Perruet’ in Aventicum,” Bull. Ass. Pro Aventico
20 (1969) 59-68PI
; V. v. Gonzenbach, BonnJbb 163 (1963) 84-91P
; E. Meyer, Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte
54 (1968-69) 91; id.,
Handbuch der Schweizergeschichte
(1972) 73-75; Pro
Aventico, ed., Plan archéologique
(1972); excavation reports: Bull. Ass. Pro Aventico
1- (1888-) esp. 15- (1951-); bibl. & summaries, Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f.
beginning 50 (1963).
V. VON GONZENBACH