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LIMONUM PICTONUM (Poitiers) Vienne, France.

Originally known as Lemonum or Limonum, in the 4th c. B.C. the city became Pictavis, from the name of the Pictones or Pictavenses, the tribe whose chief city it had become. It is situated on the left bank of the Clain, where it meets the Boivre, on a steep rocky spur. The site was occupied early (dolmen of La Pierre Levee). After Alesia it sided with Caesar and then became part of the province of Aquitania set up by Augustus. It was sacked by the barbarians in A.D. 276. After Diocletian it became part of Aquitania Segunda, and it fell into the hands of the Visigoths about 418.

There are few traces left of its monuments. The amphitheater was one of the largest in Gaul; most of its remains lie beneath private houses, but two tiers of arcades are still standing, over 20 m high. A 1699 watercolor shows a third tier of blind arcades outside the circular gallery of the summa cavea. At ground level, two ring-shaped galleries have been located, and another on the next story which has radiating galleries supporting the seats; also a vomitorium, some fairly wide stairways, and some carceres. The podium surrounding the arena was 3 m high, and the arena at least 155 m long. The masonry consisted of a core of rubble faced with small cubes of stone, and the arcades were built of two rows of bricks. Of the decoration only some cornice fragments remain. The plan of the monument can still be discerned in the arrangement of the streets in the modern quarter, one of which has kept the name Rue des Arènes.

The city was amply supplied with water: three aqueducts have been located. The network spread out over at least 37 km, but the channels do not seem to have been built at the same time. Their sinuous path followed the lie of the ground but was not always skillfully planned: at certain points the bends were too sharp and the slopes too abrupt. The masonry of the piping was excellent: the conduit was coated with a very fine, smooth, and extremely hard mortar and covered over with a vault of large stones or stone slabs coated with concrete. Three arcades of one aqueduct are still standing in a garden at the entrance to the city; they are built of solid masonry but have only a narrow span and have been stripped of their facing. The aqueducts brought the city an average flow of 12,000-15,000 cu. m of excellent water.

Two public baths have been located, the most important one, covering close to 3 ha, near the old Eglise St. Germain. The water came from a reservoir fed by a private aqueduct. The walls are extremely thick, 0.9-1 m, and built of highly porous tufa (a stone that does not expand in heat, oxidize, or split) with a facing of opus reticulatum. The decoration was probably very rich: pilasters and archivolts of colored marble, stucco painted with branches, flowers, and arabesques, mosaics of shells and mother-of-pearl on the floor and walls. A Claudian coin (A.D. 51-66) was found in a block of masonry.

Nothing is left of the temples except a long wall of carefully built reticulated masonry under the presbytery of the Eglise St. Porchaire, probably the subfoundation of a large temple that stood on one side of the forum. Dedications suggest that there were one or two temples of Mercury, in one of which the god is referred to as Adsmerius.

Several necropoleis have been found, one on the hills in the Faubourg des Roches et du Porteau, another near the modern St. Cypryen bridge, and one at Les Dunes. The last contained ca. 400 tombs: stone sarcophagi, either sealed with flat stone slabs, or with two-leafed lids, or curved and with no carving or ornamentation; others made of lead; pits sealed with flanged or curved tiles; individual and collective incineration graves; urns of stone, terracotta or glass.

The city suffered severely in the first barbarian invasion of A.D. 276. A rampart was built, a few sections of which can be seen today near the Palais de Justice and in the Rue des Carolus. It formed an irregular circle 2600 m in circumference. The walls were 4-6 m thick, and probably lower in the steep areas. The subfoundations were made of large blocks from destroyed monuments, frequently fitted without mortar, and the main foundations consisted of rubble with a facing of small stones. Round projecting towers were set at varying intervals along the wall.

Excavations have revealed houses, pottery, and coins ranging from the 1st to the 5th c. A.D. not far from the St. Jean baptistery. From the Christian era come the old parts of the baptistery itself: the original baptismal basin, the channels by which water was brought in and out, and the walls up to the first cornice.

Among the works of art found at Poitiers the following are noteworthy: a marble statue of helmeted Minerva, a Roman copy of a Greek original of the early 5th c. B.C.; two quadrangular altars with an effigy of a god—Apollo, Mercury, Hercules, Minerva, or Cybele—on each face; the base of a statue to the Numini Augustorum et Tutelae Apollonis Matuicis decorated with cupids, dolphins, and a winged serpent; groups of two mother-goddesses; stelai, rougher in style, representing local people—a man holding his son by the hand, a woman holding a child in her arms; the funeral epitaph of Julia Maximilla with a mirror engraved on its upper part reflecting a human face, and an ascia below; remains of the decoration of a triumphal arch, Victory holding a palm; and some Corinthian columns of excellent workmanship.

A theater is being excavated in the ruins of Vieux-Poitiers at Naintré, 20 km to the N.


RE XII:2 col. 1930 (Lemonum); XXI col. 1203 (Pictones-Pictavi); DACL s.v. Poitiers; Bourgnon de Layre, “L'amphithéâtre ou les arènes de Poitiers,” Mém. Socété des Antiquaires de l'Ouest (1843) 137; Duffaud, “Notice sur les aqueducs romains de Poitiers,” ibid. (1854) 55; R. P. de la Croix, “Découvertes des thermes romains de Poitiers,” BMon (1878) 462; E. Espérandieu, Epigraphie romaine du Poitou et de la Saintonge (1889); id., Recueil général des bas-reliefs de la Gaule romaine (1907-) II 294; A. Blanchet, Congrès des Sociétés Archéologiques de France, Angoulème (1912) II, 104; Grenier, Manuel I, 489-504; III:2, 679; IV: 1, 290; F. Eygun, Gallia 9 (1951) 102; 19 (1961) 401; 21 (1963) 468; id., “Le cimetière gallo-romain des Dunes,” Mém. Soc. Ant. de l'Ouest 11 (1953); id., L'Art du Pays du l'Ouest (1965) 11-48; R. Thouvenot, “Poitiers gallo-romain,” Bull. Soc. Ant. de l'Ouest (1966) 7-22; G. Dez, Histoire de Poitiers (1969) 9-21.

Théâtre de Naintré: E. Fritsch, Bull. Soc. Ant. de l'Ouest (1971).


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