or Visontio later BISONTII (Besançon）
At the time of the Roman conquest, Vesontio was the maximum oppidum Sequanorum.
. 38.4-6) and especially Julian (Epist
Bidez, 38 cd.) emphasized the strength of its position, in
a bend of the Doubs and at the foot of a hill which forms
a natural citadel on its landward side. After the conquest,
only one historical event is known to have taken place
there: the fight beneath its walls between the forces of
Vindex, who had revolted against Nero, and the loyal
forces of Verginius Rufus. The battle ended with the
defeat and suicide of Vindex (Cass. Dio 63.24). Otherwise, the city must have shared the history of the Sequani
(participation in the revolt of Sacrovir under Tiberius,
loyalty during the revolt of Civilis, unrest under Marcus
Aurelius). The period from the Flavians to the Antonines was its heyday, and after the Tetrarchy it was still the capital of the Provincia Maxima Sequanorum, but by 360 (cf. Julian) it was in decline.
Our knowledge of the topography of the Roman city
comes from chance discoveries. The road from Italy
crossed the citadel, on which during the Middle Ages
four unidentified columns were still visible. It entered the
lower city through the “Black Gate,” a commemorative
arch built perhaps under Marcus Aurelius and still standing, which is notable for its double rows of columns and
for the variety and profusion of its sculptured decoration.
From that point on the road formed the principal cardo
of the city. On its right, it passed the distribution basin
for the water brought from the springs at Arcier by an
aqueduct 10 km long, then a square surrounded by porticos with alternating round and rectangular exedrae,
which probably also included an underground gallery. In
the center of the square was a large temple, which some
have called a capitolium. The road finally reached the
river, which it crossed on a bridge which, repaired and
enlarged, survived until WW II.
Only one public edifice at a distance from the cardo
is known with certainty: on the W, at a spot near the
river called Chamars (Campus Martius?) a semicircular
double wall (exterior diam. 91.4 m), which was built
on a cremation cemetery of the Julio-Claudian period. It
was most probably a sacred enclosure surrounding a
temple (of Mars?). It is not clear where the sanctuary
of Mercury Cissonius, mentioned in an inscription, was
located. Various cults (Apollo and Mercury combined,
the Mother Goddesses, and the God with the Mallet) are
attested by dedications or by sculptures. The remains
found under the Place du Marché are probably those of
large baths, and other ruins are those of private dwellings, often ornamented with mosaics and marble facing.
On the other side of the bridge the road split into three
branches, to Lyon, Langres, and the Rhine. On the left
of the road to Lyon was an amphitheater, built partly on
level ground and partly into a hillside. Two segments of
foundations remain. Later cemeteries (after the Julio-Claudian period) lay along these roads.
L. Lerat, in Histoire de Besançon
27-142 with earlier bibl. Later excavations: Gallia
(1964) 386-91; 24 (1966) 354-56; 26 (1968) 440-48.