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AVENTICUM (Avenches) Vaud, Switzerland.

Near the W end of Lake Morat, probably the successor of a fortified oppidum of the Helvetii on Mt. Vully, at the NE end of the lake. The Celtic name Aventicuin is known from ancient sources (Tac. Hist. 1.68; It. Ant. 352.4; Tab. Peut.; Amm. Marc. 15.11.12). The town, founded ca. 16-13 B.C., was the administrative center of the Helvetii on the Swiss plateau. Probably in A.D. 73-74 Vespasian founded the colonia Pia Flavia Constans Emerita Helvetiorum Foederata (or colonia Helvetioruin) on the same site. The colonists were veterans, who were to guard the military highway from Italy via the St. Bernhard pass to the Rhine after the troubles of A.D. 69 (Tac. Hist. 1.67-70). Until then Aventicum had had a military post guarding arterial roads and the harbor. The city was destroyed by the Alamanni (Fredegar 2.40), but the site was not abandoned. In the 6th c. Aventicum was the seat of a bishop, who was later transferred to Lousonna. The mediaeval town on the hilltop W of the amphitheater has existed since the 12th c.

The Pre-Roman oppidum on Mt. Vully controlled the waterways in the area of Lakes Neuchâtel, Bienne, and Morat, but the Roman military road from the Rhone to the Rhine, completed under Claudius, ran farther S, through Aventicum. The harbor, identified but not fully explored, was used for the shipment and the preparation of building stones from the quarries in the Jura mountains.

The town plan reflects several building periods: 1) to ca. A.D. 45 earth and timber constructions, including many warehouses and workshops, indicate a population mainly of merchants and artisans; 2) from A.D. 45 to 73-74 the buildings were gradually transformed into stone, and the artisans' quarters moved to the periphery of the settlement. The more urban aspect in this period may reflect a greater Roman influence, since the army was then working on the highway from the St. Bernhard pass to Vindonissa; 3) the foundation of the colonia brought a complete rebuilding of the town and the first city walls; 4) during the 2d c. A.D. the main sanctuaries and the theaters were rebuilt or enlarged. The first orientation corresponds to the Claudian period (2), but the definitive system dates from the foundation of the colonia, and accounts for some irregularities in the size and shape of adjacent insulae.

The settlement is in a shell-shaped depression sloping NW to the lake and the marshy plain of the river Broye. The town was built in the flat area on the edge of the plain, but its walls (5.7 km long) followed the crest of the hills and enclosed an area more than twice the size of the town (2.33 sq. km). In the flat, marshy areas both walls and buildings were bedded on wooden piles. The following description applies mainly to period 3 and later. The walls (at least 4 gates; 73 towers set at intervals of 70-90 m) are of two periods. The second, affecting perhaps only the towers and the main E and W gates, probably dates from the late 3d c. The wall was ca. S in high to the sentry walk (av. width 2.3 m, foundations 2.95 m), and the crenellations rose ca. 2 in higher. The average depth of the foundations was 1.5 in (in the marshy sections 2.4-3 m). The horseshoe-shaped towers (original ht. unknown) were set against the inside of the wall; in the first period they may have been semicircular. They had two stories, with access from ground level. There was a berm (2 in wide) and ditch (3.8 m wide, 1.6 m deep) except in the marshy plain, where the number of posterns was increased instead. The E and W gates were flanked on the outside by two towers (round in plan, but polygonal on the exterior), they had a double central thoroughfare through a court for vehicles, and a smaller passageway on each side for pedestrians.

Over 40 insulae have been identified. Their average size is 110 by 70 m, measured from the middle of the streets, which are 3.6 or 4.5 m wide and frequently bordered by porticos 2.4 in wide. The still unexcavated forum comprises two insulae (140 x 110 m). A temple of Jupiter, scholae, shops, and a curia are as yet attested only by inscriptions. The baths of insula 19, built ca. A.D. 60, were, according to an inscription, connected with a sphairisterium, or covered building for ballgames. The Flavian baths, found near the Forum at En Perruet, occupied one insula and included a palaestra and an open pool, later given up. The baths of insula 18, built in the late 2d c., are remarkable for the size of the tepidarium as compared with the caldarium and for sumptuous marble revetments. A number of geometric and figured mosaics from private houses, mainly from the late 2d and 3d c. A.D., are in the museum.

Some sanctuaries and the theaters are on the W edge of the town. The temple called La Grange du Dime dedicated perhaps to Mercury and/or the Matronae, is of Gallo-Roman type (peristyle 21 x 20 m; cella 9.8 m on a side), and stands on a high podium approached by a wide stairway. Before the foundation of the colony it was perhaps part of a larger sanctuary which included the forerunner of the nearby temple called Le Cigognier. Completely rebuilt in the 2d c., together with the theater with which it shares the main axis, Le Cigognier is part of a monumental architectural complex. The cella is square and probably Gallo-Roman; it stood on a high podium. The pronaos and facade were incorporated into the center of a double portico, built on a podium of the same height and bordering three sides of a square court (105 m on a side). The fourth side, towards the theater, was closed off by a fence with a gate in the center, to allow a view of the facade of the theater. The altar stood on the paved processional way leading from the temple to the gate, and perhaps farther, towards the theater. The theater in its latest period had a capacity of ca. 9000 (105 x 74 m). The center rear wall of the stage building could perhaps have been fitted with removable screens, to open up the view of the temple and its altar. Apparently here, as at Augusta Raurica, temple and theater formed an architectural and functional unit. The amphitheater, built in the late 2d c., had a capacity of 8000 (115 x 87 m).

The cemeteries lie along the arterial roads, and those in the plain were sporadically explored in the 19th c. Best known is the one outside the W gate, from which almost all extant tombstones come. One of its tombs, dated to the middle of the 4th c., contained an inscribed glass beaker, early evidence of Christianity in Switzerland.

The monuments visible are stretches of the walls, the tower called La Tornallaz, the E and W gates, the theater and amphitheater, and the baths En Perruet. The museum is in a mediaeval tower built above the main entrance to the amphitheater.


F. Staehelin, Die Schweiz in römischer Zeit (3d ed. 1948) 604-11 & index s.v. Aventicum, bibl. to 1948; G. T. Schwarz, “Les scholae et le forum d'Aventicum,” Bull. Ass. Pro Aventico 7 (1957) 13-80PI; id., “Aventicum, Neue Beobachtungen zu Stadtmauer und Toranlagen,” Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte 51 (1964) 63-70I; id., Die Kaiserstadt Aventicum (1964)PI; id., “Die flavischen Thermen ‘en Perruet’ in Aventicum,” Bull. Ass. Pro Aventico 20 (1969) 59-68PI; V. v. Gonzenbach, BonnJbb 163 (1963) 84-91P; E. Meyer, Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte 54 (1968-69) 91; id., Handbuch der Schweizergeschichte (1972) 73-75; Pro Aventico, ed., Plan archéologique (1972); excavation reports: Bull. Ass. Pro Aventico 1- (1888-) esp. 15- (1951-); bibl. & summaries, Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte beginning 50 (1963).


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