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SAINT-QUENTIN (“Augusta Vermanduorum”) Aisne, France.

The origins of this city on the upper Somme are still little known, and it has been much debated as to whether Saint-Quentin or Vermand, ca. 9 km to the W, was the site of Augusta Vermanduorum.

It now seems more likely that Saint-Quentin was the Roman capital of the civitas Vermanduorum. The absence of any remains from the Gallic period suggests that the site had not been previously occupied, and only a few traces from the prehistoric period were discovered in the early 19th c. (quarries in Tombelles and Moulin Brûlé). As in the case of Pommiers and Soissons, Etrun and Arras, there is every reason to believe that the Veromandui, a small Gallic tribe living next to the Ambiani, the Remi, the Suessiones, and the Nervii (Pliny the Elder adds three more tribes, the Nemetes, Suecones, and Vangiones, about whom nothing is known), had their first capital city at Vermand, where the modern town lies over the center of the oppidum. Many finds were made in Vermand in the last century, in particular some rich tombs dating from the 4th c. A.D. (the grave gifts from one of these, gold jewelry and parade arms, are in the Metropolitan Museum); these finds in fact argued in favor of Vermand as the 4th c. chief city of the civitas. Recently, however, a complex of religious buildings, located by aerial photography, has been unearthed at the E exit of Vermand.

The only ancient sources that mention Saint-Quentin are the itineraries (Peutinger Table: road from Soissons to Cambrai; Antonine Itinerary: road from Thérouanne to Reims). These roads are well preserved, as are others not mentioned in the ancient texts. Thus Augusta Veromanduorum (the mediaeval quarter, Aouste, recalls the early name) was connected to Soissons, Reims, Arras, Beauvais, and Amiens; of links with the E, however, there is little evidence. Some believe that the road pattern represents a first settlement near Vermand and that the city was later rebuilt in the neighborhood of Saint-Quentin.

As with Cassel or Noyon, we know next to nothing about the ancient topography of Saint-Quentin or its evolution. The main body of evidence is based on 19th c. excavations although the first discovery was in the 17th c., when a huge Gallo-Roman necropolis containing close to 8000 tombs was found NE of the city. Two more necropoleis of lesser importance were located at the end of the 19th c., one in the suburb known as the Faubourg de l'Isle, the other to the E, at the Place Paringault. On the hypothesis that necropoleis were usually placed on the outskirts, it seems likely that the ancient city covered an area roughly equal to the center of the modern town, ca. 25 ha.

A few remains have been discovered in a section bounded by the Rue Villebois-Maroeul, Rue Emile Zola, Rue d'Aumale and Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville: some plans of square houses without porticos, and mosaics with geometric or animal designs. On the other hand there are no traces of the usual public monuments, no theater, forum, basilica, or odeum. The discovery at the collegiate church of a carved marble block representing Mercury and Vulcan has been interpreted as proof of a temple on this site. The block, which was built into one of the church pillars in the 19th c., was removed in 1917 and has since disappeared.

A cache of coins discovered in 1882 in the Rue des Bouloirs is the only evidence of the catastrophe that struck the city in the last quarter of the 3d c. A.D. The fact that no trace has been found of any Late Empire fortification at Saint-Quentin, whereas Vermand contains abundant evidence of 4th c. occupation, suggests that there was a transfer of administrative power. The only reference to Quentin's martyrdom (he was executed by Rictiovarus, a prefect of Maximian, in 287) is in a 12th c. text.

On the other hand, a church was built in the 4th c. on the site of the martyr's tomb, and pilgrims became numerous. After the church was destroyed in the barbarian invasions, St. Eloi placed St. Quentin's body in the collegiate church. Later, in the 9th c., a wall was built, enclosing not only the small market town which had grown up around the church, but also the settlements of Augusta and l'Isle. The only certain evidence of occupation in this period comes from a Merovingian cemetery on the site of the market.

Saint-Quentin has been destroyed several times and its archaeological collections dispersed. Some finds, however, are in the Musée Lecuyer and the Musée de la Société Académique.


E. Lemaire, “Les problèmes de Saint Quentin et de Vermand” Mém. Soc. Académique de Saint Quentin 4, 1 (1878) 349f; T. Eck, Trouvailles faites à Saint Quentin (1879); id., Saint Quentin dans l'Antiquité et au Moyen Age (1881); E. Will, “Recherches sur le développement urbain sous l'empire romain dans le Nord de la France,” Gallia 20, 1 (1962) 79-101M.


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