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LAPURDUM or Laburdum (Bayonne) Pyrénées Atlantiques, France.

The origins of Lapurdum are still unknown. At the end of the 4th (?) or the beginning of the 5th c. A.D. (?) the Notitia Dignitatum (occ. 42.18f) refers to Lapurdum as the residence of the Tribunus cohortis Novempopulaniae. Sidonius Apollinaris (Epist. 8.12.7) mentions it in the 5th c., and in 587 the site is designated as a civitas in Gregory of Tours text of the Treaty of Andelot between Gontran and Childebert II (Hist.Franc. 9.20).

The ancient site stood on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Nive and the Adour and was ringed by a rampart probably erected during the 4th c. (?). Originally the rampart, a few towers and some wall sections of which are still standing, formed a more or less quadrangular polygon ca. 1120 m in perimeter. It is a masonry wall ca. 3 m thick, with facings of cubes of stone intersected by bands of stones cut to the size of bricks. This use of stone in place of the brick is fairly rare in this type of construction. The other peculiarity of this rampart is that apparently no earlier architectural fragments went into the building of it, as is the case in most of the Gallic ramparts built in the Late Empire. The wall is flanked at the corners and at irregular intervals on its perimeter by half-projecting round towers; it seems to have had three main gates.

No remains of ancient houses have been revealed in recent excavations inside the walls, and only a few potsherds have been found to indicate that the site was first occupied no earlier than the 4th c. A.D. Although ancient coins found here and there in the substratum may argue in favor of an earlier original settlement, there is every reason to believe that this settlement was extremely small. The absence of any reused fragments in the building of the wall is to some extent evidence that Lapurdum, founded at a late period, was in the Late Empire a fortress rather than a true city with a municipal and urban life.


J. E. Dufourcet & G. Camiade, “Bayonne, notice historique et archéologique,” Aquitaine historique et monumentale, III (1897) 1-72; Blaÿ de Gaïx, Histoire militaire de Bayonne 2 vols. (1899-1908); C. Jullian, “L'origine de Bayonne,” REA 7 (1905) 147-54; A. Blanchet, Les enceintes romaines de la Gaule (1907) 192-94; E. Lambert, “Bayonne, enceintes et châteaux,” Congrès archéologique de France, CIIème session, Bordeaux-Bayonne 1939 (1941) 506-14.


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