(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
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
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.
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
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
(1889); id., Recueil général des bas-reliefs de
la Gaule romaine
(1907-) II 294; A. Blanchet, Congrès
des Sociétés Archéologiques de France, Angoulème
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
G. Dez, Histoire de Poitiers
Théâtre de Naintré: E. Fritsch, Bull. Soc. Ant. de