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MEDIOLANUM SANTONUM (Saintes) Charente-Maritime, France.

Halfway up the Charenter river in the heart of the civitas of the Santoni or Santones, and the chief town of that tribe, this city was the first capital of the Augustan province Aquitania and flourished in the 1st c. A.D.; it was then eclipsed by its two powerful neighbors, Limonum Pictonum and Burdigala.

Built before the Roman conquest on an oppidum (the Colline de l'Hôpital) overlooking the crossing of the Charente, under the Empire the city spread out like a fan on the slopes of the left bank. At the same time a suburban street developed on the right bank, where Agrippa's great road linking Lyon to Saintes ended. Today the boundaries of the ancient town are marked by the Charente, the ruins of the amphitheater (to the SW), the Saint-Vivien cemetery (to the NE) and the Sables hill (to the N).

The Lyon road crossed the Charente by a bridge destroyed in 1843. The bridge was approached by a double-bay arch erected in A.D. 19 m honor of Tiberius, Germanicus, and Drusus the Younger by C. Julius Rufus, who at the same time gave Lyon its Amphitheater of the Tres Galline. The extension of this road on the left bank formed the decumanus maximus: its path has been clearly located, as have certain parts of the roads parallel or perpendicular to it. Apart from the arch (which was moved and restored in 1843-50), those public monuments still in situ are the amphitheater and, N of the city, the Baths of Saint-Saloine. The plan of the amphitheater, according to an inscription, may date from Claudius' reign, while the section of the baths that has been excavated reveals an asymmetric plan that was popular in Gaul. The Saint-Vivien bath buildings N of the town by the river were torn down in the first half of the 19th c., as was a monument with a Doric frieze built on the decumanus maximus in the city center, on the N slope of the Colline de l'Hôpital. Later, the subfoundations of two large monuments were also destroyed on this hill. Finally, we possess the elements of a great frieze from a theater, not located; also, excavations carried out in 1944 N of the city may have uncovered the site of a circus. Water was brought to Saintes from the hills on the right bank of the river, at Le Douhet and Vénérand, by an aqueduct 11 km long; some underground sections are well preserved but no traces of it have been found in the city.

At the beginning of the 4th c. the city erected ramparts that, essentially, enclosed the original acropolis. Excavation of these walls (to the N and W), mainly in 1887-88, enriched the Musée Archéologique. The pottery, everyday articles, and sculpture are interesting though not exceptional, but the architectural collection is of extremely high quality: it includes many monuments, some of them dating from the beginning of our era, judging from the style of the capitals or of certain friezes.


F. Bourignon, Recherches topographiques . . . sur les antiquités gauloises et romaines de la province de Saintonge IX; A. Chaudruc de Crazannes, Antiquités de la ville de Saintes et du département de la Charente-Inferieure (1820); E. Proust & Ch. Dangibeaud, La ville de Saintes à la fin du XIXe siècle (1900); Ch. Dangibeaud, Mediolanum Santonum I: Le municipe, II: Les ruines, le musée (1933); Keune, RE lA, col. 2889-2301 s.v. Santoni; J. Michaud, “Le développement topographique de Saintes au Moyen-Age,” Bull. philologique et hist. du Comité (1961) 23-29.


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