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ROTOMAGUS (Rouen) Seine-Maritime, France.

A city of Gallia Lugdunensis, on the Seine ca. 50 km from its estuary. The second part (magus) of the Celtic place name indicates that this was a trading post, possibly under the protection of a hypothetical local divinity. From earliest times the site was linked geographically to the Loire and central Gaul by the Seine and Eure waterways, and it was particularly favored by its situation on the ancient axis which, crossing the Channel and following the valley of the Seine, links the British Isles with the territories of the Saône and the Rhône.

Little is known of the Gallic occupation of the site, the only evidence being a necropolis on the lowest slopes of the N hills and some scattered finds of potsherds and late coins. The name Rotomagus appears in the texts, including the 2d c. Geography of Ptolemy. Believed to be the capital of the civitas of the Veliocassi, it owed its development to Romanization.

It is not known whether it had a port, but the Roman road network, duplicating and completing that of the waterways, made the city an important road junction and gave it its structure. The decumanus maximus (now the Rue du Gros Horloge) starts at the outlet of the Iuliobona (Lillebonne) road, to the W, and in the E joins the road from Lutetia (Paris). The cardo (now the Rue des Carmes and Rue Grand-Pont) proceeds in its N section from a crossroads leading to Portus Itius (?) or toward the Rhine along a strategic highway W-E (Caesaromagus—Beauvais, Augusta Suessionum—Soissons, etc.) then bridges the Seine and joins the road leading to the regions of the Loire (Genabum—Orléans, Suindinum—Le Mans) by way of the city of the Aulerci Eburovices.

In the city center the planners succeeded fairly well in retaining the grid system of Roman streets set parallel to the two great axes. However, nothing remains of its monuments. We do not know where the forum, the theater, or the baths stood. Three old churches or chapels, now gone, apparently took the place of two sanctuaries of Roth (?) and Venus (?), the latter being at the NW corner of the cardo and decumanus. The lives of St. Romain and St. Ouen contain mention of a huge amphitheater inside which was an altar, also dedicated to Venus. The foundations of this monument are buried underneath the Jeanne d'Arc tower in the NW section of the city.

During the 1st c. the Roman settlement seems to have grown chiefly N of the decumanus and particularly, from Claudius' reign, in the NW quarter near the Iuliobona road. In the 2d c. and the first half of the 3d c. the number of houses increased and the residential quarter expanded, particularly to the N and E. We know how far this expansion went from the necropoleis found in the Boulevard des Belges (the modern Rectorat) to the W, the Rougemare quarter to the N and the Robec river to the E.

Evidence shows that the area S of the decumanus was settled from the beginning of the Roman period. Its main period of growth apparently was in the 3d c. The 3d c. rampart has been traced to the N (Rue des Fossés Louis VIII) and has been fairly well determined to the W and E, slightly back from the banks of the Renelle and the Robec. However, no trace has yet been found of the S part; the same is true for the ancient river banks. Some carved blocks have been found, reused to build the rampart which, according to archaeologists, formed a quadrilateral covering 15-20 ha—a fourth of the area of the earlier city.

After the invasions of 253-277, the city recovered rapidly, most probably around 280. Diocletian made it the capital of Lugdunensis Secunda, which was modified by Gratian in the 4th c. and corresponded exactly to what would later become the province of Normandy.

In the 4th c. Rotomagus became a religious center. Tradition attributes to St. Mellon the building of the first cathedral church between 260 and 270. Rebuilt by St. Victrice at the beginning of the 5th c., it may have stood on the site of the present cathedral or outside the city walls in the Saint-Gervais quarter W of the city, where an important interment cemetery has been found (sarcophagi in the museum). Two more cemeteries, in the Rue d'Ernemont to the N and in the Saint-Hilaire quarter to the E, no doubt mark the limits to which the city spread in the 4th and 5th c. The amphitheater most probably dates from this reconstruction period.

Both an administrative capital and a religious center, Rotomagus was also a garrison city and along with Coutances and Avranche served as a base of operations for those troops (Ursarienses) responsible for defending this section of the litus saxonicum against the invasions of pirates. The defeat of Syagrius at Soissons in 486 marked the end of the Roman presence and the coming to power of the Merovingians.


Abbé Cochet, La Seine-Inférieure historique et archéologique (1866)MPI; E. Naillon, Collection des 10 Plans de la Cartographie de Rouen (1955)P; G. Dubois, “Etude des remparts de Rouen antérieurs au XIe siècle,” Actes du 19e Congrès des Sociétés Savantes, Rouen-Caen 1956 (1958)P; M. Mangard, “Rouen, problèmes d'histoire urbaine,” Revue des Sociétés Savantes de Haute-Normandie, 51 (1968)P; G. Sennequier, Rouen gallo-romain et Mérovingien, “Connaître Rouen” (1970)I.


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