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SANXAY Vienne, France.

The rural sanctuary of Sanxay in Herbord is 35 km SE of Poitiers on the road from ancient Limonum, on the N side of the Sinus Pictonum, to the center of the Pictonic territory. It forms, with Vendeuvre and Vieux-Poitiers, a group of rural sanctuaries at some distance from the capital and did not, therefore, play the role of sanctuary-frontier between two cities like La Terne, Chassenon, or St. Léomer.

The buildings are on both banks of the Vonne, a small tributary of the Clain which must have influenced the original choice of a site for the native cult. On the left bank, three terraces rise from W to E, that on which the temple was located dominating those of the forum and the baths. Below, the populated quarters spread along the river. The theater and a small fanum have been discovered to the S on the right bank.

Temple: the rectangular peribolos, oriented E-W, consists of two parallel walls forming a courtyard in the center of which was the temple. The W side of the peribolos was a long building, reached from the outside by a ramp. To N and S the inner wall of the peribolos supported the colonnade of a portico; traces of the bases have been found. To the E the colonnade was probably higher, and the exterior wall was probably reinforced by buttresses. Monumental steps on this side led to the temple. Two secondary sets of steps at each end of the gallery led directly to the N and S porticos. In the center, an octagonal structure like that at Chassenon was reinforced with pilasters at its interior angles. It had at least two entrances, at E and W. Around the octagon, walls 1.25 m thick form a Greek cross, the E arm of which was connected to the portico by a monumental rectangular vestibule. It has been suggested that these walls formed the stylobate of a colonnade, but it is more likely that they were the foundations for walls lower than those of the octagonal cella. Fragments of Corinthian and composite capitals found on the site perhaps belong to the temple. They are of a developed type, with a high cylindrical bell of acanthus leaves, volutes partially hidden by the leaves, and high striated abaci.

Forum: extending the terrace on which the temple is built, and below it, stretches a vast esplanade (88 x 94 m) bordered with walls and including a courtyard on the S and E sides. In the center is a small circular edifice 7 m in diameter which has sometimes been called the Tomb of the Hero. Nothing supports such an identification. The esplanade doubtless served as a gathering place, but it is not certain that it fulfilled all the roles of a forum. The finds identify it as being, like the temple, from the 2d c.

Baths: on the E, and off axis to the N, a third esplamade (60 x 110 m), runs E-W. It was bordered by porticos stretching from the W to the N and E. A large palestra has been identified in the W part, and in the NW section were the baths. The original building was a double bath building. To the E was a large swimming pool, with three apses to the N to which were attached a caldarium, a tepidarium with a hypocaust, and a frigidarium. To the W, two rooms with hypocaust and subsidiary rooms formed a second group. In a later remodeling, a third room with a hypocaust was built on to the W half of the large swimming pool. The original plan was further modified by other rooms with hypocausts added to the N on each side of the entrance vestibule. The original construction was 2d c., the modification at the end of the 3d.

Theater: S of the river the theater is built against a steep slope facing NW. A vast structure 90 m in diameter, it consisted of stone foundations and wooden tiers, like most rural theaters in Gaul. The cavea was considerably more than a semicircle. The tiers in the central section were cut into the rock, but only the lower ones were covered with masonry—the seats for important guests. The others had a wooden superstructure. On the sides can be seen the foundations of a double circular exterior wall, of three precinctions, and of the podium wall. All the vomitoria are strangely oriented, parallel to the long diameter of the theater and to the stage wall. To the S two narrow ones serve the upper tiers. Two others, towards the center, lead to the podium. The main entrances were two large corridors behind the stage wall, divided into four compartments by extensions of the precinct walls, on either side of the orchestra. The orchestra is very large, and almost perfectly circular, the diameter varying from 37.4 to 37.7 m. Remains of an oval structure are perhaps those of an earlier arena. The stage is small, with two doors opening onto the orchestra, and forms a projection in the exterior of the stage wall. Such an arrangement would seem to reduce the role of the actors to a minimum, while permitting audience participation, unless one postulates a wooden proscenium extending into the orchestra. The theater dates from the 2d c. A.D.

Residental area: one neighborhood extended along the river at the foot of the temple-forum-bath ensemble, but separated from it by extended terraces. There were four great buildings with a central peristyle courtyard which have been identified as hostelries for pilgrims, besides more modest houses. Another ensemble has been partially uncovered to the NE, behind an E-W street. Buildings with large courtyards have also been found along the Vonne, and simpler dwellings higher up. Finally, some isolated structures to the W and N hint at an extension of the settlement. It is hard to maintain that there was a real town at Sanxay, however. It is probable that here, as at Vendeuvre, the residential quarters were built after the public buildings.

Artifacts: common ware and terra sigillata, including some beautiful pitchers with handles, numerous iron tools, iron and bronze keys, and objects of personal ornament. The most important finds are two bronze statuettes, a Mercury with a purse and an Attis with double axe, as well as a terracotta from the Allier district decorated with a Venus pudica.


P. C. de La Croix, Mémoire archéologique sur les découvertes d'Herbord, dites de Sanxay (1883); id., Mémoire de la Société des Antiquaires de l'Ouest (1883) 7; J. Héron de Villefosse, “Inscriptions romaines de Sanxay,” Revue poitevine et saintongeaise (15 Jan. 1885) 341ff; G. Chauvet, “Le temple romain de Sanxay et le culte des Empereurs,” Bulletin de la Société des Antiquaires de l'Ouest (1922-23) 381-428; H. Koethe, “Die keltische Rund- und Vielecktempel,” RGKomm 23 (1933) 68-174; J. Formigé, “Le sanctuaire de Sanxay,” Gallia 2 (1944) 43.97PI; F. Eygun, “Liste des objets recueillis à Sanxay par le P. de La Croix,” ibid. 98-120; Grenier, Manuel III:1, 54-55I; III:2, 939-43I; IV:2, 553-67PI.


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