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DERVENTUM (Drevant) Cher, France.

A village 2 km S of Saint Amand-Montron, on the Cher. The river separates it from the La Groutte spur, which was the site of a very large Campignian station; this was succeeded in the Bronze Age by an oppidum that was still inhabited in the Early Iron Age and probably in the Late Iron Age.

The name Derventum comes from the Celtic dervos, one of the words for oak. After Caesar's conquest the settlement was probably transferred from the left to the right bank of the Cher. In Imperial times Derventum acquired a forum, a theater, and two sets of baths.

The forum is roughly square, 80 m on each side, and surrounded by a portico 3 m wide that was covered with tiles and had a concrete floor. The main entrance was in the middle of the E portico, outside of which was a terrace 6 m wide, reached by a flight of steps opposite the gateway giving onto the portico. The gateway had two bays separated by a pier; the socket holes and bolt frames are still visible. The S portico had three gateways to the outside, on one level; only the middle one had a matching, vaulted entrance on the square.

At each of the four outer corners of the building was a pavilion. The two framing the main facade on the E side are rectangular and divided into several rooms. The pavilion at the SE corner probably served essentially to take the thrust of the structure since its rooms have curved walls tangent to one another like the buttresses of the theater (see below). The three rooms in the NE pavilion have doors facing N. These two pavilions flanking the E portico gave the facade an appearance similar to that of many villa facades. The two on the W face are square; the S one, which is reached from the gallery, contained a well. The N pavilion apparently had no openings.

Towards the middle of the N half of the surrounding wall was a temple. The cella was 7 m square with a gallery 3 m wide around it. The facade has two antae framing a flight of steps, and faces W. The orientation of the temple wall is different from that of the forum enclosure.

The Theater of Drevant is one of the best preserved of the rustic theaters of Gaul, because of the size of the substructures supporting the cavea. The latter surrounds a horseshoe-shaped orchestra with a podium 2.6 m high around it. Encircling the outside of the cavea is a galleried passageway with seven vomitoria, three of which descend to the praecinctio. The lower part of the structure is strongly supported by two trapezoidal masses of masonry divided on the inside into vaulted galleries. The stage is a rectangular building (20 x 5 m). Moderate in dimensions (the greatest outer diameter is 85 m), this monument is a theater-amphitheater, as the presence of a podium proves.

Derventum had two, almost contiguous, bath buildings, between the theater and the forum. Hardly any traces of them can be seen today, but the plans have been recovered. The first (ca. 50 x 35 m) belongs to the category of imperial bath buildings. Apparently there was no natatio, unless it has not yet been located, but the cella maxima, which opens onto two symmetrical frigidaria, each with an apse on the exterior, can be clearly made out, as well as the caldarium, which had three pools. In the second bath building a smaller frigidarium and the tepidarium and caldarium are aligned on one side of a vast porticoed courtyard. It has been suggested that these were double baths, intended for men and women, but they might also be summer and winter bath buildings.

The nature of the Derventum settlement has been the subject of much discussion, particularly as to whether the large space surrounding the temple should be identified as a forum or as the temenos of a sanctuary. Derventum, however, may well belong to the series of conciliabula, the complexes at Sanxay, Tours Mirandes in Poitou, Chassenon in Charente, Champlieu S of the Forêt de Compiègne, and Genainville in Vexin, to mention only the best known. Derventum shows all the characteristics of this architectural family peculiar to central and W Gaul. It is situated on the edge of the territory of the Bituriges, in a wooded, damp area beside a river. It contains typical urban monuments but no residential settlement of any importance. We have a description of a complex of this type in the inscription at Vendoeuvre en Brenne, which shows that the nucleus of these complexes was in fact a forum. At both Sanxay and Tours Mirandes the forum is of a type very common in Gaul, and Augusta Rauracorum (Augst) has the best-preserved example. The Forum of Derventum is of a less highly developed type, like that of Champlieu.

Some scholars have taken the conciliabula to be pilgrimage sanctuaries. I would suggest, however, that they may have been civic centers designed for a rural population of small landowners, and that they had been established from the Flavian period on in the outskirts of cities, on the site of public meeting places which were semi-sacred in character and dated back to the time of independence. The Vendoeuvre en Brenne inscription referred to above contains the deed setting up one of these conciliabula which was also a part of the city of the Bituriges Cubi.


A. Grenier, Manuel d'archéologie gallo-romaine II, 2 (1934) Archéologie du sol, 720-21; III, 1 (1958) L'urbanisme 359-62; II, 2, Ludi et circenses, 929-36; IV, 1 (1960) Monuments des eaux, 294-97.


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