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CORTORIACUM (Courtrai) Belgium.

A 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 (occ. 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 (1967) 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,” Arch. Belgica 114 (1969) 96 pp.PI.


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