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NARBO (Narbonne) Gallia Narbonensis, Aude, France.

Narbo is at the crossroads of the via Domitia, which came from Béziers and went on to Spain, and the Aquitaine road, which led to Toulouse. It was 19.2 km from the sea near the outlet of the Aude (Atax) into the lacus Rubresus. The original town, which Avienus calls Naro (Or. Mar. 587), began early in the 6th c. B.C. on the hill of Montlaurés 4 km NW of the modern built-up area, which covers the Roman town. It was the main market and the capital of the tribe of the Elysicii. In spite of various vicissitudes, notably destruction ca. 400 B.C., it preserved its independence until the invasion of the Volcae in the 3d c. The town was then destroyed, but was rebuilt and continued to be occupied until the beginning of our era. Before the decline precipitated by the founding of the Roman colony, Naro was a flourishing center, thanks to the trade in British tin (Diod. 5.22, 38). A coin issued by the town in the 3d and 2d c. testifies to its prosperity. At the time of the Roman conquest, a very dense settlement had grown into two distinct parts over an area of ca. 30 ha. The upper town was built in terraces on the hill. It consisted of quadrangular huts cut into the rock, some standing free, some touching one another. The lower town was located around the acropolis down to the level of the lagoons. In it there clustered huts, first built of clay in the 6th c., then built of stone.

In 118 B.C. the Romans founded Colonia Narbo Martius (Vell. Pat. 2.7.8), undoubtedly on the site of the emporium of the city just mentioned. It played a military role during the invasion of the Cimbri, the campaigns of Pompey against Sertorius, the conquest of Gaul by Caesar, and the civil war. In 45 Caesar established a new colony on behalf of the veterans of the 10th Legion (Suet. Tib. 4). It then became Colonia Julia Paterna Narbo Martius Decumanorum. The first two centuries witnessed the town's zenith. In 27 B.C. Augustus presided there over a general assembly of all Gaul. It received the title of Claudia, no doubt from Claudius. Trajan gave Narbo a fountain, and Hadrian stayed there in 121. Antoninus Pius restored the public baths, porticos, and basilicas destroyed by a serious fire in 145. At this time too Narbo was commercially prosperous. The port was divided into several sectors. At Narbonne itself there was only a river port, no doubt at the place known as Les Barques. But numerous wharfs were distributed in the nearby lagoons, on the islands of Sainte-Lucie and l'Aute, at Saint-Martin and La Nautique, whose peak in the first century coincides with the export of pottery from La Graufesenque.

Beginning at the end of the 2d c. Narbonne declined. It was severely affected by the fire of 145. Besides, it was off the increasingly important Rhône-Rhine axis, and its ports silted up. It escaped the invasions of the 3d c., but the Visigoths entered in 413. Their king, Athaulf, married Galla Placidia there in Jan. 414. The Visigoths were expelled before the end of the year and installed themselves in 418 m a territory extending from Toulouse to Bordeaux. From there they attacked Narbonne on several occasions, and finally, in 462, took it, thanks to the treachery of Count Agrippinus. Narbonne still preserved its monuments in the 5th c. (Sid. Apoll. Carm. 23.57.47).

Most of these monuments are known only by literary or epigraphic texts or by chance finds. On account of its military role the colony probably was surrounded by ramparts from the time of its foundation. It is not known, however, whether these were destroyed or enlarged at the time Caesar founded the Roman colony. Perhaps this first enclosure has been discovered N of the town near the gate called the Porte de Béziers in the Middle Ages. If so, it was provided with square towers 6 m on a side. To the S, the Aude served as a moat in all periods. However, the town of the Early Empire extended amply beyond the original perimeter and extended over ca. 100 ha. The best known rampart belongs to the smaller city of the Later Empire and dates no doubt to the end of the 3d c. It had a perimeter of 1,600 m and protected the center of the town and its main monuments (except for the amphitheater), covering an area of 30 ha.

The general topography can only be reconstituted by studying the plan of the mediaeval city. Its regularity reflects the cardines and decumani of the ancient town, located on the left bank of the river. The Via Domitia constituted the cardo maximus. It has been located, with its sewer, under the course of the Rue Droite, between the Pons Vetus (apparently of Roman origin but greatly rearranged) and the Place Bistan, the site of the forum. The latter, 85 m wide and 60 deep, was bordered by a portico. It was adorned by statues, whose dedicatory inscriptions have been found, and by an altar, which established the rules and calendar for the festivities in honor of Augustus (CIL XII, 4333). The Capitol stood N of the forum on the low hill of Les Moulinassés. This exceptionally important monument is known from excavations. It dates to the 2d c., no doubt later than the fire of 145. It stood on a podium more than 3 m high and measured 48 x 36 m. It was pseudodipteral, with 8 columns on the front and 11 on the sides (9 of the latter were engaged). From the pieces which have been found, the columns stood 18 m high and were of the Corinthian order. There was a spacious peribolus (127 x 87 on the outside) around the temple. The peribolus was surrounded on three sides by a double gallery. This was divided in the middle by pillars with two convex and two concave sides. The 4th side of the peribolus joined up with the portico of the forum. On the S side near the crossing of the decumanus and the main cardo, the forum was bordered by underground constructions. Apparently these were horrea rather than cryptoporticos. The exact size of the building remains to be determined. The part investigated forms a regular quadrilateral (50 x 37 m) around a solid block. Each side included a corridor with a continuous semicylindrical vault; the corridor was flanked by cells to the left and right. The building was constructed under Augustus and underwent important modifications during the Middle Ages. Other underground galleries were also probably built at the same time, 150 m E of the forum at the intersection of a cardo and the main decumanus (Rue Garibaldi). They no doubt were the cellar-warehouses of one of Narbonne's markets.

The center of the town included other monuments which have left no traces, but which are known from Sidonius Apollinaris and from various inscriptions. Thus, there existed several bathing establishments, one of which was built E of the town in the 1st c. by the sevir Chrysanthus. The Temple Kybele stood in the same district. The bridge was framed by two monumental arches decorated with friezes of Gallic arms, preserved in situ at the Musée de Lamourguier. The theater has not been found, but the amphitheater (121 x 93 m) is located on the E outskirts of the town, ca. 500 m. from the ramparts of the Later Empire. It was bordered to the W by a spacious portico, 160 x 107 m. There, in a pool, the lex concilii provinciae Narbonensis was found; it fixes the privileges and obligations of the flamen of the province (CIL XII, 6038). This group, which included the amphitheater, porticos, public baths, and no doubt a market, was built perhaps in the Flavian period. It is believed to have been the provincial seat of the imperial cult.

This complex was separated from the center of the town by a district of urban villas. Several of these have been located by chance finds (walls, mosaics, inscriptions, statues). Built at the beginning of the 1st c. A.D., they were ravaged by a violent fire and abandoned during the course of the 3d c. Identical villas were located N and W of the center. Several necropoleis extended along Narbonne's outskirts. The main ones were on the Via Domitia, N of the town, and on the Aquitaine road to the SW. A 3d c. mausoleum has been found about 300 m from the right bank of the river next to the modern Church of Saint-Paul. It consisted of a rectangular chamber (6 x 5 m) with an apse on the E side. The Christians reutilized the mausoleum in the 5th c. by placing sarcophagi under the floor, because it stood not far from the spot where Paul, Narbonne's first apostle, was buried at the beginning of the 3d c. Other Christian burials have been found all around. The Christians of Narbonne first gathered together in a private house. This was succeeded by a basilica of the time of Constantine, located in the modern Cour de la Madeleine in the archbishop's palace. It was destroyed by invasions and replaced in turn by a basilica which Bishop Rusticus built from 442 to 445.

A large number of epigraphic documents come from the necropoleis. Together with all the finds from the town, they are kept in the very large lapidary museum installed in the Church of Notre-Dame de Lamourguière (1300 documents) and in the archaeological museum in the archbishop's palace.


Bull. de la Commission Arch. de Narbonne (1890); 32 (1970); P. Helena, Les origines de Narbonne (1937)I; C. H. Benedict, A History of Narbo (1941); P. M. Duval, “A propos du milliaire de Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus trouvé dans l'Aude en 1949,” Gallia 7.1 (1949); V. Perret, “Le Capitole de Narbonne,” Gallia 14.1 (1956)P; A. Grenier, Carte arch. de la Gaule romaine, fasc. XII, Aude (1959)MPI; Y. Solier, “Fouilles et découvertes à Narbonne et dans le Narbonnais,” Bull. Com. Arch. Narbonne (1968) 30; (1965) 28PI; J. Giry & A. F. Mare, Narbonne, son Hist., ses Monuments (1969)PI; M. Gayraud, “Temple municipal et temple provincial du culte impérial à Narbonne,” Mélanges Fernand Benoît, Rev. des Etudes Ligures (1970)P.


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    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.22
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