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AREGENUA (Vieux) Calvados, France.

Site of the chief city of the civitas of the Viducasses, in the commune of the Evrecy canton on the left bank of the Guine, a tributary of the Orne, 10 km SE of Caen. The valley of the Guine was occupied at a very early date and three prehistoric stations have been located: Mousterian at the confluence of the Orne and the Guine, Robenhausian in the fields beside the Saint-Germain road, and Chellean at La Croix des Flandriers.

Aregenua is mentioned on Ptolemy's map and in the Peutinger Table. The ancient remains have been known for centuries but there has been no systematic excavation. The city, though not large, had a temple, several baths, a theater, private houses, underground water pipes, an aqueduct, and burial grounds on its outskirts. It was never walled. Traces of the old city have been found N and S of the Chemin Haussé, the ancient Roman road, and in subfoundations in the Saint-Martin and Bas de Vieux quarters.

On the Chemin Haussé SE of Vieux a dump was found containing more than 40,000 kg of animal bones, piled up with coins, potsherds, and fragments of glass and iron. On the other side of the Chemin Haussé was the spot where the aqueduct ended; it passed underneath the old Château de la Palue and then down, to the SE, to the Fontaine des Mareaux. A mosaic was found to the left of the Chemin Haussé, but all that was left was the mortar section that supported it. Two small border fragments, however, are in the museum of the Société des Antiquaires in Caen; it is a mediocre work of irregular cubes of red standstone and white dice.

Some baths were uncovered to the W, in the Champ des Crêtes, in the mid-19th c. A first group of buildings (62 x 30 m) had two parts: the baths, with remains of marble facings and a semicircular, carefully paved pool with three steps leading into it, then a rectangular courtyard terminating in a semicircular wall that served as a palestra. A huge bowling ball of micaceous quartz was found in it. The second group (29.45 x 6.50 m) contained two circular pools surrounded by several small narrow rooms, along with a drainage pipe going down to the Guine, and a large paved room. Later another series of rooms was found, with some hypocausts and heating pipes in the walls.

To the NE of the Champ des Crêes, near the Chemin Haussé, were found traces of cement floors and subfoundations of ancient houses; one room had a hypocaust. To the right of the Chemin Haussé beneath the choir of the Eglise Notre-Dame were found what may be the remains of a temple along with some sculptures. A corner capital was discovered amid the debris, as well as a stone decorated with two badly damaged bas-reliefs.

The site of a large monument oriented S has been recognized in the garden of the Château La Palue; the ruins have not yet been identified. To the E, in the Jardin Poulain, are the foundations of the theater. The site is inclined slightly NE-SW and dominates the surrounding area. The tiers faced SW. Masonry has been found below ground at depths ranging from 0.2 to 1.5 m. Excavation was carried out down to the 2 m level, the usual depth of the wall bases, which were set on a mortar floor 0.4 m thick. The stage, orchestra, and hemicycle of tiers were uncovered. Three corridors, to the right and left of the stage and in the middle of the hemicycle, led to the orchestra. The vertical sections were probably built largely of wood. The monument measured 236 m around, 80 m at its widest point and 67 m at the narrowest. The stage was 60 by 18 m, the orchestra was oval, 30-35 m in diameter, and the podium gallery was 55 m in circumference and 5 m wide. The tiers were raised 20 m high and measured 80 m around; the theater could seat 3500. The walls of the orchestra formed a complete circle, so that the theater could serve as an amphitheater and the orchestra as an arena. A study of the masonry, however, has shown that the Vieux theater was not originally built for a double purpose: the S semicircular wall of the orchestra-arena is not nearly as well built as the right rear wall, which it joins; it may be a later addition. Two more peculiarities have been noted: the inner wall of the circular gallery at the top of the hemicycle is 2.2 m thick for 22 m to the E, but not more than 0.9 m thick everywhere else. There may have been a box at this point. Also, six semicircles of stone, 0.75 m thick and well built on both sides, are supported by the S end of the E wall. These structures have not been identified.

In the Saint-Martin quarter N of the village, on Le Grand Champ, some column stumps have been excavated, along with several fragments of Corinthian friezes, and a rectangular building 13 by 9 m. Its function has not been determined.

The city was destroyed at the end of the 3d c., probably by Saxon pirates; the proximity of the Orne probably facilitated these raids. A few families may have gone on living in the ruins, judging from the 4th and 5th c. coins found on the site. Some Merovingian tombs found in eight places seem to represent burials of a later period (end of the 7th and 8th c.), but at present it is not known whether or not the city was abandoned from the 5th to the 7th c.


“Fouilles de lintendant Foucault,” MémAcInscr 1 (1717) 290-94; Mercure de France, June 1730; A. Charma, Rapport sur les fouilles de Vieux, 1852-1854, Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Normandie 20 (1853) 458-85; M. Besnier, “Histoire des fouilles de Vieux,” ibid. (1909) 225-335, or MAntFr 69 (1910) 225; Doranlo, “Sur la destruction d'Aregenua,” Bulletin de la Société Antiquaires de Normandie 38 (1928-29) 472-75.


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