previous next

JULIOBONA (Lillebonne) Seine-Maritime, France.

Chief city of the Caletes, on the S boundary of Gallia Belgica. The Seine was the frontier. To the E were the Veliocasses and to the S, across the river, the Lexovii. Caesar (BGall 7.75) notes that the Caletes provided the Armorican line with 10,000 men, besides sending a detachment to the relief force during the siege of Alesia.

The city was built in the 1st c. A.D. on an inlet of the Seine, sheltered from the W winds by a cliff ca. 100 m high, which provided a safe roadstead for unloading ships coming down the river. Sea-going vessels could then follow the estuary to the Channel and the S coast of Britain. The cargoes came by the Rhône-Saône-Seine route, bringing Mediterranean products to the English Channel—a long inland waterway with, midway, a short portage overland between the Saône and the upper valley of the Seine (Strab).

In the 2d c. Ptolemy mentioned the name and function of the city and its imperial foundation. The Antonine Itinerary also mentions the Juliobona relay stage and its distance from the stages nearest it, on both the decumanus and the cardo. The Peutinger Table places Juliobona on the route from Caracotinum (Harfleur) to Augustobonam (Troyes); an extensive network of roads connected the city with the interior of the region.

Two valleys converged near the ancient port, one lying N-S, the other E-W. When the great tides came, the harbor waters could spill over into the N valley, which was flatter. Two hills commanded the port to the W. On the farther hill the first Roman castrum was built for defense, replaced later by a series of forts. The hill nearer the port was cut away considerably, to accommodate the amphitheater. The city grew around the forum (modern Place de l'Eglise) along the cardo and decumanus, and on the outskirts villas sprang up along these roads. A temple stood on the left side of the cardo, NW of the forum, on the site of the present-day church (which explains its unorthodox N-S orientation).

The port occupied the lower part of the valley between the chalk cliffs that sheltered it to W and E. Its site can still be seen, since the shifting soil in the area has prevented any building. Towards the city, a quay built of large stones, and with a few mooring rings, marked the boundary of the port. It varied in depth, and ships were able to beach at low tide. Objects dropped overboard have often been found on the site of the port.

The number of potsherds excavated at Lillebonne, out of proporion for residential areas, proves that the city had warehouses and carried on vigorous trading. An ingot of stamped lead weighing 43.5 kg found in 1840 came from the Charterhouse mines, in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, while the large number of amphorae shows that Juliobona imported wines, oil, and olives from the Mediterranean regions. One of the amphorae had a Spanish trademark. Quantities of oyster shells of the Ostrea type have been found in the soil all over the city, evidently brought in from the Channel coast. Manufactured products indicate a variety of craftsmen: a lead casket containing a funerary urn (now in the museum) is evidence of metalworking activity, together with the lead ingot referred to above. The presence of goldsmiths is shown by a silver salver, its edge decorated with animals from the local fauna.

The extant monuments are a theater, two bath buildings, two villas, and part of the city rampart. The theater, outside the city SW of the forum, is backed against a hill, which was cut out to accommodate the foundations. Originally it was an elliptical amphitheater designed for games, combats of gladiators and wild beasts, and 48 m long. It was built in the 1st c. A.D. (walls with courses of brick) close to the port, from which it was separated by the cardo. After the city was completely destroyed, in the middle of the 2d c., the increase in the Latin-speaking population made it possible to turn the building into a theater where plays could be given at less cost than amphitheater entertainments. The tiers and upper boxes were built on a circular plan S of the original ellipse, and were designed to seat perhaps 6000 people. The erection of the theater may be attributed to Hadrian who, according to his putative biographer, aedificavit theatra in plerisque civitatibus. The emperor passed through the region on his way to Britain, as we know from an inscription from a monument he built at Elbeuf. Destroyed in the barbarian invasions of 273, the theater was made into a stronghold: the exits were barricaded, wells were dug, and baths put up in the arena. Later still, when the great forts on the English coast were being built (Portchester), Carausius' fleet, which was based at the port of Juliobona, used one of the theater boxes as a warehouse.

A few meters N of the theater stood the public baths. The statue of a goddess found there is now in the Musée des Antiquités in Rouen. Another bath building in the Alincourt quarter had rich facings of marble. Also discovered in the 19th c. was the great gilded bronze statue of Apollo, now in the Louvre.

A villa outside the city walls, below the decumanus, was also found in the 19th c., and a tomb near it contained luxurious grave gifts: 45 articles, four of solid silver (these finds are now in the Lillebonne museum).

A second villa was discovered a few meters from the N quay of the port, beside the decumanus. The mosaic (now in the Rouen museum) found there shows hunting scenes around a central allegorical medallion. It bears the names of two artists, T. SEN FILIX, C. PUTEOLANUS (citizen of Pozzuoli) and AMOR C. K. DISCIPULUS (his pupil Amor of the city of the Kaletes).

A few traces of the rampart that ringed the upper part of the city can still be seen. It was built of large stones, some of them reused gravestones with inscriptions. Everything indicates hurried construction in time of invasion.


F. Rever, Mémoire sur les ruines de Lillebonne (1821); J.B.D. Cochet, Mémoire sur une remarquable sépulture romaine trouvée à Lillebonne (1866); id., Répertoire Arch. du Départ. de la Seine Inféieure (1971); R. Lantier, La Villa romaine de Lillebonne (1913); A. Grenier, Le Théâtre de Lillebonne (1956); M. Yvart, Découverte du rempart gallo-romain de Lillebonne (1959); L. Harmand, La Villa de la Mosaïque de Lillebonne (1965); H. P. Eydoux, Les terrassiers de l'Histoire (1966) 157-93I.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: