(Famars) Nord, France.
In the Belgica province of Gaul. Situated on a narrow
strip of land extending N-S between the marshy valley
of the Escaut and the Rhonelle, 5 km S of Valenciennes.
This spot, which had previously been the site of a Celtic
settlement (Gallic coins) was a crossroads on two ancient routes from Tournai and Mons. In the first half of
the 1st c. A.D., at the latest, two monuments were erected
here: a temple dedicated to Mars, after whom the site
was named, and a large group of bath buildings. In the
Late Empire the baths were damaged by fire, probably
during the Germanic invasions of the second half of the
3d c., and partly torn down to serve as the foundations
of a castellum. This fortress was a purely military installation, not a rampart designed for an existing civilian
settlement; the seat of the praefectus laetorum Nerviorum
. 11.2), it also provided quarters for some of
the troops under the magister peditum praesentalis. The
invasion of Clodion, king of the Franks, which led to the
capture of Tournai and Cambrai in 431, probably signified the end of the Roman presence at Famars.
The sanctuary has not been located, but excavations
carried out in the early 19th c. and resumed during WW
I have uncovered the remains of the bath buildings and
part of the Late Empire walls. Part of the rampart can
still be seen. The dimensions and plan of the complex
suggest that these were public bath buildings connected
with the Temple of Mars. Various structures have been
identified: the heated rooms, cold pools, draining channels, and great sewer and, especially in the W section,
some very large basins. The finds made at Famars (terra
sigillata, fibulas of the first half of the 1st c.) indicate
that the Roman occupation of the site goes back to the
beginning of the Empire; the baths, which were restored
on several occasions, are probably later (2d c.). The
water supply may have come from the aqueduct at Artres
(9 km S of Famars).
The remains of the W part of the castellum are still
standing (the wall is preserved to a height of 2.5 m, and
the tower was reused in the corner tower of the Chateau
de Pailly). The study of these remains and the continuing excavations give a fairly clear idea of the general
plan of the rampart. It was more or less square (105 m
to the N, 140 m to the E, 110 m to the S, and 165 m to
the W where the wall becomes slightly convex, probably
allowing for the presence of buildings next to the baths),
and enclosed an area of ca. 1.8 ha. The rampart includes
an original wall, relatively narrow (less than 1.8 m), the
foundations of which are laid on large quarry-stones and
reused architectural blocks.
This first rampart is duplicated over a large part of
the original perimeter by a second one, wider (2.3 m)
and more carefully built (a mortar of crushed bricks).
At the same time some semicircular towers were put up
which projected on the outside (every 24 m on the N
side). The first wall, hastily built, was probably a makeshift, but the second seems to have been erected according to a systematic design. The fact that the baths, now
destroyed, were not yet filled in by the beginning of the
Constantinian period (coins) means that the construction
of the castellum in its first form dates at the earliest
from the end of this period, a time of relative peace
when elaborate fortifications were not necessary. On the
other hand, we may date the reinforcing of the castellum from the middle of the 4th c., when the recurring
Germanic invasions forced Julian, and especially Valentinianus I, to put the defenses of the Empire in order—
or, less likely, at the very beginning of the 5th c., the
period of the penetration of the Rhine (406).
H. Guillaume, “L'aqueduc romain de
Famars,” Revue du Nord
42 (1960) 353; G. Bersu &
W. Unverzagt, “Le castellum de Fanum Martis,” Gallia
19 (1961) 159.