previous next

OUDENBURG Belgium.

A vicus of the Early Empire 18 km W of Bruges, a castellum of the Late Empire, which formed part of the Litus Saxonicum defense system, and a military necropolis of the same period containing more than 200 tombs.

The vicus of the Early Empire was occupied from the middle of the 1st c. until the time of the second Dunkirk marine transgression in the second half of the 3d c. It consisted mainly of remains of wooden houses. These remains were badly disturbed both during the building of the castellum and during the Middle Ages. The large quantities of potsherds and various artifacts still await exhaustive publication. The existence of a road linking the vicus of Oudenburg to Blicquy and Bavai is certain. Probably another road connected Oudenburg to Cassel (Castellum Menapiorum, capital of the civitas Menapiorum, of which Oudenburg formed a part) and to Bruges and to Aardenburg (in the Netherlands).

During the second Dunkirk marine transgression a part of the coastal plain in northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and probably as far as Denmark was submerged. This catastrophe may have precipitated the increase in the invasions, of the Saxons, the Germanic tribes living in the regions affected by the disaster. Against these attacks from the sea, the Roman authorities built the Litus Saxonicum defensive system on both sides of the North Sea, both in England and in northern Gaul. Several castella of this coastal defensive system are known in Great Britain; but before the Oudenburg excavations, none was known on the continent. The marine transgression probably submerged the vicus of Oudenburg for a short time. Later the new shoreline lay immediately N of the old vicus, which apparently never again had a civilian occupation. A castellum was built on top of the ruins of the built-up area of the Early Empire. The remains of three successive castella have been found. The oldest dates to the end of the 3d c. The excavations had as their primary goal the discovery of the plan of the fortress. To date, only the moats of the first two castella are known. The most recent fortress (4th c.) was built entirely of stone. A quadrilateral (163 x 146 m), it was surrounded by a moat about 20 m wide with a V-shaped profile. The slope of the ditch began only 2 m from the foot of the rampart. This wall was 1.8 to 2 m thick. Its lower course consisted of large fieldstone ashlar. At each corner the enceinte was reinforced by a large tower with an exterior diameter of 9 m. A gate, flanked on both sides by a hexagonal bastion, opened midway in each side of the castellum. As far as the chronology of the three successive forts is concerned, the second may be attributed to Carausius, the third to Constantius Chlorus.

Study of the soils at the site of Oudenburg has shown that at the end of the 3d c. and in the 4th the castellum was located on a slightly raised sandy strip, surrounded to the N, W, and S by a lagoon. The necropolis of the garrison of the fortress had been set up at the W end of this sandy strip. More than 200 tombs have been excavated systematically. These investigations have provided precious information about the funerary rites of the Roman regular army in the 4th c. All the burials were inhumation tombs. In a certain number of tombs, the sword-belt had been symbolically placed at the feet of the corpse. Most often, the bronze parts of this sword-belt were decorated with cut-out geometric and animal motifs (Kerbschnitt). A certain number of tombs have produced crossbow fibulas, which seem to have been the distinctive insignia of soldiers and officials in the 4th c. In addition, the grave goods sometimes included a knife, pottery, glassware, and coins. One soldier was buried with his purse, which contained 88 coins. (Possibly he had just been paid.) In contrast to the tombs of the Laeti at the same time, the tombs of these regular army soldiers contained no weapons. Most of the tombs seem to date to the second half of the 4th c.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

J. Vannérus, Le Limes et les fortifications gallo-romaines de Belgique. Enquête toponymique (1943) 262-71; M. Gysseling, Toponymie van Oudenburg (1950) 280 pp.; L. Devliegher, “Oudheidkundig onderzoek van de Sint-Pieterskerk te Oudenburg,” Handelingen van het Genootschap Société d'Emulation te Brugge 85 (1958) 137-62; J. Mertens, “Oudenburg en de Vlaamse kustvlakte tijdens de Romeinse periode,” Bickorf 59 (1958) 321-40; id., “Oudenburg et le Litus Saxonicum en Belgique,” Helinium 2 (1962) 51-62PI; id., “Oudenburg, camp du litus saxonicum en Belgique,” Ve Congrès intern. du Limes, Zagreb (1963) 123-31; id., “Laat-Romeins graf te Oudenburg,” Helinium 4 (1964) 219-34; J. Lallemand, “Monnaies romaines découvertes à Oudenburg,” Helinium 6 (1966) 117-38; J. Mertens & L. Van Impe, Het Laat-Romeinse Grafveld van Oudenburg, 2 vols. (1971)MPI.

S. J. DE LAET

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: