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FANUM MARTIS (Famars) Nord, France.

In the Belgica province of Gaul. Situated on a narrow strip of land extending N-S between the marshy valley of the Escaut and the Rhonelle, 5 km S of Valenciennes. This spot, which had previously been the site of a Celtic settlement (Gallic coins) was a crossroads on two ancient routes from Tournai and Mons. In the first half of the 1st c. A.D., at the latest, two monuments were erected here: a temple dedicated to Mars, after whom the site was named, and a large group of bath buildings. In the Late Empire the baths were damaged by fire, probably during the Germanic invasions of the second half of the 3d c., and partly torn down to serve as the foundations of a castellum. This fortress was a purely military installation, not a rampart designed for an existing civilian settlement; the seat of the praefectus laetorum Nerviorum (Not. Dig. 11.2), it also provided quarters for some of the troops under the magister peditum praesentalis. The invasion of Clodion, king of the Franks, which led to the capture of Tournai and Cambrai in 431, probably signified the end of the Roman presence at Famars.

The sanctuary has not been located, but excavations carried out in the early 19th c. and resumed during WW I have uncovered the remains of the bath buildings and part of the Late Empire walls. Part of the rampart can still be seen. The dimensions and plan of the complex suggest that these were public bath buildings connected with the Temple of Mars. Various structures have been identified: the heated rooms, cold pools, draining channels, and great sewer and, especially in the W section, some very large basins. The finds made at Famars (terra sigillata, fibulas of the first half of the 1st c.) indicate that the Roman occupation of the site goes back to the beginning of the Empire; the baths, which were restored on several occasions, are probably later (2d c.). The water supply may have come from the aqueduct at Artres (9 km S of Famars).

The remains of the W part of the castellum are still standing (the wall is preserved to a height of 2.5 m, and the tower was reused in the corner tower of the Chateau de Pailly). The study of these remains and the continuing excavations give a fairly clear idea of the general plan of the rampart. It was more or less square (105 m to the N, 140 m to the E, 110 m to the S, and 165 m to the W where the wall becomes slightly convex, probably allowing for the presence of buildings next to the baths), and enclosed an area of ca. 1.8 ha. The rampart includes an original wall, relatively narrow (less than 1.8 m), the foundations of which are laid on large quarry-stones and reused architectural blocks.

This first rampart is duplicated over a large part of the original perimeter by a second one, wider (2.3 m) and more carefully built (a mortar of crushed bricks). At the same time some semicircular towers were put up which projected on the outside (every 24 m on the N side). The first wall, hastily built, was probably a makeshift, but the second seems to have been erected according to a systematic design. The fact that the baths, now destroyed, were not yet filled in by the beginning of the Constantinian period (coins) means that the construction of the castellum in its first form dates at the earliest from the end of this period, a time of relative peace when elaborate fortifications were not necessary. On the other hand, we may date the reinforcing of the castellum from the middle of the 4th c., when the recurring Germanic invasions forced Julian, and especially Valentinianus I, to put the defenses of the Empire in order— or, less likely, at the very beginning of the 5th c., the period of the penetration of the Rhine (406).


H. Guillaume, “L'aqueduc romain de Famars,” Revue du Nord 42 (1960) 353; G. Bersu & W. Unverzagt, “Le castellum de Fanum Martis,” Gallia 19 (1961) 159.


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