or Genabum (Orléans) Loiret, France.
The name Orléans, still written Orlians or
Orliens in the 14th c., derives from Aurelianis, which
appears under the form Civitas Aurelianorum for the
first time in the Notitia Provinciarum ca. 400.
It replaces the Gallic name Cenabum or Genabum,
formed on the Celtic root Gen
, meaning mouth, in the
sense of the mouth of a small tributary of the Loire.
Strabo indicates (4.2.3) that a river port was located
there. The port was dominated by the oppidum, of
which nothing survives except the remains of a murus
gallicus found in 1902 at a depth of 13 m.
At dawn on 13 Feb. 52 B.C. the Carnuti massacred
the Romans installed at Cenabum. That very evening
the news reached the Arverni and provoked the general
uprising of Vercingetorix.
Caesar returned hurriedly, rejoined his legions at
Agedincum (Sens), captured Vellaunodunum (Chateau-Landon?) on the way, and arrived at Cenabum. His
scouts warned him that the Carnuti were escaping, trying to cross the bridge over the Loire under cover of
night. Caesar had the gates set on fire, took the town,
and gave it over to pillage and flames. Then he crossed
The Romans rebuilt the town, but its monuments
have been destroyed. Some remains were found in 1741
and immediately buried in the foundations of the Church
of Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle, a location now
occupied by the Prefecture. Even the ruins of the theater
(buried until the 19th c.) were torn down in 1821 or
covered 20 years later by the fill of the Vierzon railway line.
During the crisis of the 3d c., the town underwent
fires and pillagings. For defense it was surrounded by a
wall of ashlar masonry with chain bondings of flat bricks.
Sections of the wall can be seen in many cellars, and
several towers still stand among the houses of the old
town. The modern town grew up around this square
Probably in about the same period the town lost its
name Cenabum and became the capital of the civitas
Aurelianorum, a name which an erroneous tradition
links to the emperor Aurelian. Attribution to M. Aurelius Probus (276-282) would be preferable.
In the spring of 451 the city was besieged by Attila
and his Huns. The bishop Anianus (St. Aignan) went
to ask help from Aetius, who finally arrived just when
the town was about to fall. Be that as it may, Attila
withdrew towards Troyes and was defeated at the campus Mauriacus near this town.
In the Orléans historical museum (Hôtel Cabu) are
the treasures of Neuvy-en-Sullias (30 km upstream from
Orléans), including six large animals of hammered
bronze, one of which is the magnificent horse dedicated
to the god Rudiobus, and a dozen statuettes whose style,
simultaneously stripped-down, archaizing, and “modern,”
is world famous.
. 7; Gregory of Tours,
II 7; Buzonnière, Histoire architecturale
de la ville d'Orléans
, 2 vols. (1849); see Bull. et Mém.
de la Soc. Arch. et Hist. de l'Oréanais
, dont Mantellier,
Mém. sur les bronzes de Neuvy-en-Sullias
A. Nouel, Les origines gallo-romaines du sud du Bassin
(1968); J. Debal, “Les travaux archeologiques
dans la Civitas Aurelianorum,” Actes du 93 Congrès nat.
des Soc. sav
. (1968); id., “De Cenabum à Orleans,”
ibid. (1970); id., Les Gaulois en Orleanais
(2d ed., 1974).