(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
2889-2301 s.v. Santoni; J. Michaud, “Le développement
topographique de Saintes au Moyen-Age,” Bull. philologique et hist. du Comité