previous next

AUGUSTODURUM (Bayeux) Dept. Calvados, France.

The modern town takes its name from the Baiocasses, the Gallic people for whom the old town served as a capital. The settlement in fact dates from before the Roman conquest. According to a tradition to which Ausonius refers in his eulogy of Attius Patera (Comm. Prof. Burdigalensium 4.7-8), this was once the site of a Druidic cult. More important is the fact that the name Augustodurum kept the Gallic root duruin (fortified place), the emperor's name being added at the beginning of the 1st c. The Baiocasses minted coins. Their territory was centered in the valleys of the Seulles and the Aure, and on this latter river the town was built. It may originally have been included in the city of the Viducasses (cf. Araguena) before forming an autonomous city in the second Lugdunensis province: the civitas Baiocassiuin. Augustodurum is mentioned in the Peutinger Table. At the end of the 3d c., the city withdrew inside an enceinte as a defense against the invasions. A garrison of barbarian conscripts occupied it in the next century. Most probably, it was only in the 4th c. that the town was Christianized and became an episcopal see; there is no serious evidence to support the tradition that an early Christian martyr was tortured there under Maximinus. No doubt it was largely thanks to its role as a diocesan and military center that the city survived.

The ancient site is covered by the modern town. Thus our knowledge of it comes essentially from chance discoveries, few of which have been exploited systematically. In the past, as today, the settlement was centered on a slope exposed to the SE and descending to the left bank of the Aure. It spread out freely on the opposite bank, on the lowest slopes of Mt. Phaunus, and along the roads leading toward Novomagus to the E and Aragenua to the SE. A W road linked Augustoduruin with Cotentin. We can safely say that the main street of Bayeux (rues St-Jean, St-Martin, St.-Malo, and St-Patrice) follows the lie of the great thoroughfare that crossed the ancient city from E to W.

The many small objects casually unearthed over the past 150 years have unfortunately not all been recorded; many are now scattered. Some potsherds and a collection of Gallic and Roman coins have been preserved at the Bibliothèque Municipale de Bayeux; other objects are now in the collections of the Musée Baron-Gerard, Bayeux. The recent chance discovery of amphora sherds has made it possible to locate the site of a shop.

The most important piece of domestic architecture to be traced in the last century is a hypocaust used for heating the baths of a large house; the tile foundations can still be seen underneath the former post office in the rue Laitière. In 1901, fragments of a mosaic are said to have been found in the rue aux-Coqs, no doubt originally belonging to a large house in the E suburb of the town. However, most dwellings were usually built of clay and timber, as they were everywhere at that time in what is now Basse Norinandie (cf. Alauna).

Several architectural remains suggest, by their size and ornament, that they belonged to religious edifices. The only such building located with any certainty is the temple that stood almost exactly on the site of the present cathedral, S of which an important series of carved architectural elements was discovered in 1850 (Dépôt Lapidaire de la Cathédrale, Bayeux). Among these, besides pieces of columns and cornices, is a series of large blocks that look as if they had formed part of the piers and arches of doorways or arcades decorated with carved pilasters and friezes. Sometimes, as in the case of human figures, the carving has a very marked relief. Its style has a strong provincial flavor similar to that of the sculptures found at Sées in 1966 (cf. Sagii), which some have suggested date from the first half of the 2d c. We have no information as to the plan of the building to which they belonged.

Similar carved remains were discovered as early as 1796 in the foundations of the castle of Bayeux, then being demolished. Since then, other finds have been made at different times on the castle site, the most notable including stumps of columns; a capital with the bust of a human figure over the corner volute; a statuette of a person sitting on a throne with right-angled armrests; and the head of a woman or young man finely carved of local limestone (Creully stone), found in 1943 (Musée de la Ville, Bayeux; other fragments at the Musée de la Société des Antiquaires de Norinandie, Caen). These fragments suggest that there were one or several religious buildings dating from the same time as the one located near the cathedral. However, the site is still undetermined, the carved fragments having been reused as foundations.

Similar to the head referred to above, both in material and style, is a headless statue of a figure reclining in the characteristic pose of the river gods. It is impossible at this time to tell precisely where and how it was discovered (Dépôt Lapidaire de la Cathédrale, Bayeux).

Found at the same time as the carved blocks were a number of milestones in the foundations of the old castle and Porte St.-André. They range in date from Marcus Aurelius to Maximinus and are now in the Section Lapidaire of the Musée de la Ville alongside other milestones from the Bayeux region, the oldest of which dates from the reign of Claudius, the latest from that of Constantine. Together, these stones confirm that Augustodurum was an important road junction under both the High and Low Empires.

All these architectural remains were reused in foundations of fortifications from the time of the invasions. Nevertheless, the presence of the Celtic root duruin in the Gallo-Roinan name indicates that Augustodurum never quite lost its military importance in the period before the Roman conquest. Be that as it may, the inediaeval castle of Bayeux seems to have taken the place of a castrum at the highest, SW corner of the city wall (now Place Ch. de Gaulle, 150 m W of the cathedral). The town ramparts formed a narrow quadrilateral whose outer perimeter is now largely followed by rue Larcher (to the B), rue des Bouchers (to the N), rue Royale (to the W), rue de la Poterie and rue Tardif (to the S). Sections of the wall can still be seen inside some private gardens; it has been broken up and half leveled off into terraces supporting houses in the rue Bourbesneur and in the rue General-de-Dais. In typical Roman fashion, the facing is of rubble with a horizontal brick course. The framework of these late 3d c. fortifications was preserved in the mediaeval defenses.

Under the Late Empire, the enceinte no doubt did not include the baths in its NE boundaries, near the left bank of the Aure. First recognized in 1760, these baths were excavated in the last century underneath the present Eglise St-Laurent and its old cemetery. Apparently of 2d c. origin, they seem to have been damaged in the first invasions then restored, possibly under Gallienus. Coins found in the ruins range from Trajan to Gratian. The remains were largely destroyed in the course of their discovery, but certain deep foundations are still standing, a section of which was discovered in 1956. A hypocaust, bath-houses, a cold pool, and drains piping off the water toward the Aure have been identified. The two most remarkable elements of the building were an octagonal hall paved in white marble and a large room with a pool and at one end a colonnaded apse of red marble from Vieux (Aragenua). The veneers were likewise of blue marble. The framework of the building was of rubble faced with small blocks of local limestones and bonded with a double row of bricks; the vaults were of local tufa. Some fragments of sculpture decorating the baths have been uncovered: a helmeted head of Minerva, the torso of a young girl, a bas-relief of a man standing beside a bull (Musée de la Société des Antiquaires de Normandie, Caen). Water for the baths was carried by an aqueduct, a fragment of which was found 150 m to the W (rue Genas-Duhomme), from a spring 1700 m from that spot (route de Port-en-Bessin).

Traces of another aqueduct have been discovered in the E section of the settlement underneath the old Halle aux Grains (corner of rue St-Jean and rue aux-Coqs). The channel, trapezoidal in section, was coated on the base and side walls with a cement of crushed brick and covered over with large, juxtaposed stone slabs. This aqueduct is thought to have been fed by a spring at Mondaye, 7 km S of Bayeux; however, it may simply have piped the waters of Bellefontaine (in the street of the same name) just a few hundred meters from the discovery site.

No identifiable remains of a theatre or amphitheater have been located at Bayeux.

The ancient necropoleis stretched out beyond the suburbs on the right bank of the Aure, on the slopes of Mt. Phaunus (rue St.-Floscel, Bayeux, and the adjacent area in the commune of St. Vigor-le-Grand); the tombs of the first bishops were venerated at the E exit of the settlement (Eglise St.-Exupère). Funeral urns of stone and glass are preserved at the Musée Baron-Gerard, Bayeux.


M. Béziers, Histoire sommaire de la ville de Bayeux (1773) passim; M. Surville, Mémoire sur les vestiges des thermes de Bayeux déouverts en 1760 et recherchés en 1821 (1822) 46; E. Lambert, “1er Mémoire sur les constructions antiques et les objets découverts en 1821, lors des fouilles exécutées dans l'ancien cimetière de la paroisse St-Laurent de la ville de Bayeux,” Mem. Soc. Antiq. Ndie 1 (1824) 17-28I; id., “2ème Mémoire sur les themes antiques de la ville de Bayeux,” ibid. 29-49I; id., “3ème Mémoire sur les themes antiques de la ville de Bayeux,” ibid. 2 (1825) 146-56I; id., “Lettre . . . à M. de Caumont sur des débris romains exhumés à Bayeux,” ibid. 5 (1829-30) 331-35; id., “Notice sur les thermes antiques de la ville de Bayeux,” ibid. 14 (1844) 266-97PI; id., “Notice sur l'ancienne nécropole de la cité de Bayeux,” ibid. (1847-49) 437-54; F. Pluquet, Essai historique sur la ville de Bayeux et son arrondissement (1829) passim; A. de Caumont, “Extrait des rapports faits sur les travaux de la Société . . . ,” Mem. Soc. Ant. Normandie VI (1831-33) XXXVII-XXXVIII; id., Statistique Monumentale du Calvados III (1857) 451-59; Abbé Baudard, “Le nom primitif de Bayeux,” Bull. Académie ébroïcienne (1835) 229-33; C. Bourdon, “Vestiges gallo-romains trouvés sous le planître de la cathédrale de Bayeux,” Bull. Monumental 17 (1851) 211-14I; C. Gervais, Catalogue et description des objets d'art de l'Antiquité, du Moyen-Age, . . . , exposés au Musée de la Soc. des Antiq. de Ndie (1864) passim; Doucet, “Lettre à la Soc. des Antiq. de Normandie” (sur les bains privés découverts rue Laitière), Bull. Soc. Antiq. Ndie 11 (1881-82) 609-12; Le Lièvre, “Note sur les édifices romains découverts dans la rue Saint-Laurent à Bayeux,” ibid. 5 (1900) 81-99; G. Villers, “Le sous-sol bayeusain,” Bull. Soc. Sciences, Arts et Belles-Lettres de Bayeux 6 (1901) 61-66 R. N. Sauvage, “Les druides de Bayeux,” Rev. de Cherbourg et de la Basse-Normandie 1 (1906-7) 81-86; id., “La Basse-Normandie gallo-romaine,” Congrès archéologique de France. Caen. (1908) II 502-15; A. Létienne, Catalogue de la section lapidaire du Musée Reine Mathilde (1932) 5-15 (nos. 1-22)I; L. Le Mâle & P. Desprairie, “Les thermes de Saint-Laurent de Bayeux,” Bull. Soc. Antiq. de Ndie 46 (1938) 339-42; A. Grenier, Manuel d'archéologie gallo-romaine. 4e partie: Les monuments des eaux. I. Aqueducs-Thermes (1960) 355-61.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: