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NAMURCUM (Namur) Belgium.

A Gallo-Roman vicus of the civitas Tungrorum. Diverticula linked this center to the Bavai-Tongres road to the N and to the Bavai-Trier road to the S. At the end of the Iron Age a rather poor village existed at the foot of the modern citadel at the junction of the Sambre and the Meuse. Its humble remains have only recently been discovered. The village was located on the territory of the Atuatuci. It has been suggested that the oppidum Atuatucorum, besieged and taken by Caesar in 57 B.C., was located on the plateau of Le Champeau, with an area of 70 ha, at the spot where Vauban ordered the construction of the citadel in 1692. However, no Iron Age remains have been found on the plateau. The “Vieux Murs,” destroyed by Vauban during the building of the citadel, probably were not Gallic but should rather be dated to the time of the Late Empire. It seems more likely that the oppidum of the Atuatuci should be identified with the hill of Hastedon, 5 km from Namur, where there are still remains of an enclosure built according to the murus gallicus technique. In any case, the vicus of Namurcum already was of some importance in the time of Augustus, as proved by sherds of Arretine terra sigillata (very rare in Belgium) found with other remains of the time of Augustus in 1967 during the construction of a house. This importance is understandable because Namur was the economic center of the Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse, a very fertile region where rich villas abounded (for example, Anthée, Gerpinnes, Maillen, Mettet, Rognée, etc.) and where there was a large ironworking industry. Since the vicus is located under the modern town, systematic excavations are impossible. However, stray finds and minor excavations occasioned by public works show that while the built-up area of the Early Empire had its center between the Sambre and the Meuse it also extended to Salzinnes and La Plante on both sides of the Champeau plateau. There was probably even a bridgehead on the right bank of the Meuse at Jambes. Necropoleis with incineration tombs of the first three centuries A.D. have been found on the outskirts of the built-up area, notably at La-Motte-du-Comte, Saint-Servais, Salzinnes, La Plante, and Jambes. Thus, it seems that the built-up area of Roman times was as extensive as the mediaeval town. The street network of the vicus is barely known, but since the old quarter of Namur has a checkerboard plan rather unusual for a mediaeval town, one may suspect that this regular network goes back to Roman times. Besides, that no large Roman road passed through Namur suggests that water routes played a key role in the economy of the center and that there was a river port. The enormous quantities of Roman coins found in the Sambre near its junction with the Meuse probably is related to the existence of this river port. As far as remains of the vicus itself are concerned, apart from stray finds, the foundations of one large dwelling should be noted. It was brought to light in 1931 during public works in the Rue du Bailli. Two large rooms were cleared: the first was pierced on the inside by 5 semicylindrical and vaulted niches 1 m high; the second was above a hypocaust. In the fill there were bases of columns in white stone and small Tuscan columns 50 cm high. Supposedly these would have been on top of the niches just mentioned.

The vicus was sacked during the Frankish invasions of the second half of the 3d c. Traces of fire are found everywhere in the subsoil. Many hoards of coins found in Namur and neighboring villages were buried between 258 and 273. After the disaster, the town was rebuilt, but over a much more limited area. It was restricted to the space between the Sambre and the Meuse. It may have been fortified. Perhaps the Vieux Murs of the Champeau, mentioned above, date to this period and barred the isthmus between the two rivers. Nevertheless, all that is known of this period are a large number of coins and some inhumation tombs, notably at the Place d'Armes and La Plante. Nothing is known about Namur's fate at the end of the Later Empire and about the town's transition to the Early Middle Ages.


R. De Maeyer, De Overblijfselen der Romeinsche Villa's in België (1940) 283-85; R. Demeuldre, “Le développement de la ville de Namur des origines aux temps modernes,” Annales de la Soc. arch. de Namur 47 (1953) 1-156PI; F. Rousseau, Namur, ville mosane (2d ed. 1958); id., Namur (1965) 295-310P.


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