large vicus of the civitas Menapiorum, on the Cassel-Tongres road at the place where it crosses the Lys.
Lesser roads linked Courtrai to Tournai, to Ghent, and
finally to Lille and Arras. The Arras road has been
sectioned and studied in the middle of the modern town.
It consisted of a bed of sand mixed with broken tiles,
covered by a bed of gravel. The Tournai road has been
traced S of the town. Since the 17th c. many finds of
Roman antiquities have been noted at Courtrai and
the neighboring communes of Kuurne and Harelbeke.
The main finds are: coins of the first four centuries of
our era; five hoards of coins (three at Courtrai, two at
Harelbeke: two found in 1499 and 1610 and lost forever, two buried in the time of Marcus Aurelius, one
buried ca. A.D. 267); a superb Hellenistic statuette of the
2d c. depicting Venus Anadyomene, now kept at the
Mariemont museum; various substructures; wells; pottery; tombs. More systematic excavations were not undertaken until just after WW II. The present state of
our knowledge indicates that there were at least three
distinct areas of settlement; these almost certainly formed
a single administrative unit.
1) The most ancient remains are several straight V-sectioned ditches found in the S part of the modern town,
at the locality called Walle. They seem to date to the
first half of the 1st c. These may represent the remains
of two temporary military camps, where Caligula or
Claudius would have assembled some of the troops about
to take part in the conquest of England, but this is uncertain. Near these ditches remains have been found
of dwellings dating to the second half of the 1st c. and
to the 2d and 3d c.
2) The vicus proper was farther N, in the NW district
of the modern town. It started at the main square and
extended along both banks of the Lys into Kuurne. Some
isolated tombs mark the limit of the vicus to the NE and
NW. The necropolis of the Molenstraat has been excavated to the S. It included ca. 100 cremation tombs
ranging in date from the time of Claudius to the middle
of the 2d c., but they are mainly from the Flavian period.
This necropolis separated the vicus from the habitation
zone of Walle. In the vicus the main finds are the scanty
remains mentioned above. These seem to indicate that
the beginning of the settlement goes back to the Claudian
period. Finds of the 3d c. are rare. A well lined with a
hollowed-out oak trunk was filled with many sherds and
coins of the 1st and 2d c.
3) At Harelbeke, less than 2 km from the vicus of
Courtrai, the remains of another settlement have been
found: several wells, traces of wooden dwellings, masonry
foundations, and trenches with refuse. In these trenches
were abundant remains of local ironworking. This suggests a district of ironworking crafts, somewhat apart
from the vicus proper. Nearby at the hamlet of Stasegem, another well made out of a hollowed-out trunk
has been excavated. In 1968 the favissa of a sanctuary
was found. It contained ca. 120 white ceramic statuettes,
which came from the workshops of the Allier and depict various divinities. There was also a bronze statue
of a wild boar.
There was probably a castellum at Cortoriacum during the Late Empire. In fact, the Notitia Dignitatum
. 5.96; 245; 7.88) mentions milites Cortoriacenses.
This force may not have originated at Courtrai, but may
simply have been garrisoned there. The hoards of coins
seem to indicate that Courtrai was threatened under
Marcus Aurelius (the invasion of the Chauci in 172-74)
and under Postumus. Apart from this, we still know
nothing of the history of the vicus during the last centuries of the Roman occupation.
J. Vierin & C. Leva, “Un puits à tonneau romain avec sigles et graffiti à Harelbeke,” Latomus
20 (1961) 759-805; M. Bauwens-Lesenne, Bibliografisch
repertorium der oudheidkundige vonsten in Westvlaandeneren
(1963) 37-41 (s.v. Harelbeke), 59-65 (s.v. Kortrijk), and 65 (s.v. Kuurne); M. Thirion, Les trésors monétaires gaulois et romains trouvés en Belgique
91, 103-4; C. Leva, “L'importance des récentes découvertes romaines à Courtrai,” Annales de l'Institut arch. du Luxembourg
92 (1967) 267-72; id. & G. Coene, “Het Gallo-Romeinse Grafveld in de Molenstraat te Kortrijk,”
114 (1969) 96 pp.PI
S. J. DE LAET