previous next

VIENNA (Vienne) Isère, France.

In Gallia Narbonensis, a bridge site in a bend of the Rhône, dominated by five hills. On the left bank of the river are the Gère pass and the alluvial terraces of the Gère and the Rhône; on the right bank the Rhône foothills lead to the Gier valley and the W. Hence it was a meeting-place for trade routes from the Rhône to the Loire (Strab. 4.1.2, 14): the E-W road ran from the Alps to the Massif Central, and the S-N road followed the Rhône on the left bank and crossed it at Vienne to avoid the marshes in the Lyon area.

When Gaul was independent, the Allobroges had two settlements on the left bank at Vienne. The oppidum-refuge was on the Sainte-Blandine hill, where material from Iron Age III was found from 1895 to 1955; the trading-post was lower, on the banks of the Gère. Here a fragment of an Attic cup of the early 4th c. was discovered in 1968 in a stratified site; 11 strata, from the 4th c. B.C. to the end of the 1st c., were identified. Two layers showing traces of fire and destruction probably mark the attack of the Cimbri and Teutoni in 105 B.C., then the revolt of the Allobroges in 62-61 B.C. and its repression. Vienna was conquered by Rome in 121 B.C. and absorbed into the Narbonensis province. Caesar passed through it in 58 and 52, and made it a colony under Roman law. In 43 a revolt of the Allobroges uprooted the Roman citizens, who left to found the colony of Lyon; Vienna lost its rights. Augustus restored them, and in A.D. 40 Caligula made the city a colony with full rights: colonia Iulia Augusta Florentia Vienna. It soon became prosperous, and in his speech to the Senate in 47-48 Claudius described it as “ornatissima ecce colonia ualentissimaque Viennensium.” Martial called it “pulchra Vienna” and Ausonius praised its opulence. Capital of the Viennois diocese from the reign of Diocletian on, and of the Viennois province from the reign of Constantine, it is given the title of metropolis in the Notitia Galliarum 11.3; it was then the second Gallic city, after Trèves, and it remained so until superseded by Arles at the end of the 4th c. After suffering in the Germanic invasion of 275, the city was seized by the Burgundians ca. 468 and became one of their royal residences.

Vienna had three successive surrounding walls. The 1st c. wall, which Augustus presented to the city in 16-15 B.C., measured 7250 m (the longest in Gaul) and gave the city an area of over 200 ha. This impressive fortification had 54 towers 8-12 m in diameter surrounding the five hills: Mont Salomon, Mont Arnaud, Sainte-Blandine, Saint-Just, and Pipet in the middle, overlooking the theaters. A 1 km length on Mont Salomon still stands 4-5 m high and 2.5 m thick, built of quarry stones with gates of large blocks. In the 4th or late 3d c., after the invasion of 275, a second, much smaller wall was erected (1920 m), enclosing only the heart of the city—Mont Pipet and the middle and upper parts of the deposit mound of the Gère, an area of 36 ha. It survives in four places and one can see the opus-mixtum, a mixture of quarry stones and brick. In the Middle Ages a third wall was built, which at first followed the same line, but later was enlarged to NE and SW.

Chief among the well-preserved major monuments is the Temple of Augustus and Livia in the city center, near the crossroads of the cardo and decumanus; it can be compared with the Maison Carrée at Nimes. Dedicated first to Rome and Augustus in the emperor's lifetime, and then, under Claudius, to the Divine Augustus and Divine Livia, it later underwent another modification: the inscriptions, of which traces can be seen on the frieze and architrave (nail holes where the bronze letters were attached), are subject to debate. The dimensions of the temple (23.85 x 14.25 m) are nearly the same as those of the Maison Carrée. Hexastyle and partly peripteral, it has a flight of 12 steps, a pronaos with two intercolumniations and a cella against the rear wall.

Not far from the temple are the theater and odeum: Vienne and Lyon are the only cities in Gaul to possess two such theaters. The theater, discovered and restored between 1922 and 1938, is built against the W flank of Mont Pipet. With a diameter of 130.4 m and space for 13,500 spectators, it is the largest Gallic theater after that of Autun. The cavea has two maeniana and 46 tiers; the first maenianum is divided into four cunei by five flights of steps, the second into ten, with as many vomitoria. A portico around the top was reached by double stairways built against the outer wall. In the axis of the theater stood a temple (13.85 x 8.8 m) dedicated to Apollo (a tripod and capitals with serpentiform volutes are in the Musée Saint-Pierre). In the lower part of the cavea four low seats of white marble were separated from the rest by a balustrade of green cipollino. The orchestra was paved with yellow and pink marble slabs; it had two entrances 5.2 m wide to N and S, which served the cavea stairways and two foyers adjacent to the stage. The stage (72 x 5 m) has the customary three doors at the back. The pulpitum has seven semicircular and rectangular niches, and above them a frieze decorated with reliefs (satyrs' heads, lions, mastiffs, a bull, panthers, ibexes).

The theater can be dated from the Augustan period. Nearby, on a slight rise to the S and perpendicular to it is an odeum from the period of Hadrian, similar to that at Lyon but less well preserved. Excavated in 1960, it includes a cavea hollowed out of the hillside, its floor covered with a layer of masonry to receive the tiers. The orchestra was decorated with marble slabs which have disappeared, but their traces can be seen in the tile mortar covering the floor. The substructures of the stage building are still visible. In front is a pit for the curtain, worked by a mechanism of which some elements remain. Several pieces of decorative sculpture have been found, including fragments of the pulpitum frieze, an altar base ornamented with foliated scrolls and rams' heads, and the fragment of the bust of an emperor (young Nero?). The whole structure was 73 m in diameter and could accommodate 3000 people. A fragment of an inscription bearing ODE, marks the first appearance in Latin epigraphy of the word odeum.

Vienna had a third theater, part of a complex of buildings attributed to the cult of Magna Mater. Near the theaters, on the site of the old hospital, the following buildings have been excavated: first, a rectangular (15.9 x 10.6 m) temple with a flight of seven steps and a podium supporting the pronaos and cella. Apparently dating from Claudius' reign, it was then embellished with mosaics in the 2d c. and enlarged (18.5 x 10.6 m) in the late 2d or early 3d c.; the mosaics were covered with three layers of stones and a layer of limestone slabs, making a new pavement for the raised podium. Adjacent to this temple is an underground room with pools (purification chamber?), then to the E three little rooms with hypocausts and a number of pools connected by piping systems. Next to the rooms with the hypocausts is a small building that may have been used for initiations. These rooms seem to have been linked by an underground passage to a building consisting of curved tiers enclosed by three long blind walls, and facing a stage built of large cut stones. Several inscriptions, reliefs, and carvings suggest a theater reserved for the mysteries of Kybele.

There was also a circus, located in 1903-7 on the banks of the Rhône S of the city. Built of masonry at the beginning of the 2d c. (455.2 x 118.4 m), it must have taken the place of a smaller monument made of wood. It was used until the end of the 4th c. and then disappeared, except for the pyramid known as L'Aiguille which adorned the center of the spina. The pyramid (23.35 m high) consists of a square base with an arch cut on each face, on which was built a pyramidal spire of 24 courses of cut stones. Apparently unfinished (some decoration on the base is merely rough-hewn), the monument dates from the time the circus was restored, after the invasion of 275.

Separated from the Kybele theater by a paved street is a monumental double arcade that goes back to the 2d c. Recent excavations indicate it should be related to baths.

The Capitolium may have stood on Mont Pipet. There are no traces of it, but in excavations ca. 1935 a castrum of the Late Empire was revealed: a rectangle (95 x 87 m) closed to the W by a semicircular wall that gives the complex the plan of a basilica. The entrance is to the E, through a semicircular arched doorway. Built of small quarry stones with bands of brick, it dates from the beginning of the 4th c. and was enclosed within the surrounding wall built in the Late Empire. In the same period the city must have had two palaces: a palatium, the residence and offices of the vicarius, and a praetorium for the provincial governor. Neither has been located.

The general plan of the streets and the orientation of the monuments changed in different periods. Beneath the temple in the Kybele quarter the 1st c. B.C. buildings are oriented obliquely to the temple axis, but from the reign of Claudius on the orientations are clearly N-S and E-W (modern streets frequently follow the ancient plan). The decumanus maximus ended at the bridge over the Rhône, the cardo maximus led to a narrow passage between the river and the Bâtie-Montsaléon hill N of the city. They crossed near the Temple of Augustus and Livia, in the forum. Many traces of the decumani and cardines have been found.

A number of houses of the classical type have been uncovered in different places, many of them with mosaic floors. Among the most recent discoveries is a house S of the underground room in the Kybele quarter, across a narrow street. A gold and jade necklace from the 2d c. was found in one of the rooms. A villa in the Place Saint-Pierre, excavated in 1967, contained frescos and mosaics, including the mosaic of the victorious athletes.

The city received water through a system of at least 10 aqueducts, five parallel to each other on the left bank of the Gère. All of them began in the region E of Vienne. Many remains have been located. The water-tower, where four of the aqueducts ended, was near Saint-André-le-Haut. The oldest date from the beginning of the 1st c., other more complicated ones from the 2d c. At least one, dating from the first half of the 1st c., was erected, according to the inscriptions, by private enterprise.

The official city with its public buildings spread out on the left bank of the Rhône, but from the 1st c. on the chief residential section developed on the right bank, at the end of the bridge linking the two city centers. The bridge, built of cut stones, had five arches and was decorated with dolphins of gilded bronze (now in the municipal museum).

At least three complexes developed on the right bank: a residential quarter at Saint-Romain-en-Gal (see below), a port, and some baths. The port, with its docking basins and quays, was discovered in 1964-65 on the site of the modern Olympic swimming pool. Behind it to the W is the Palace of Mirrors, actually a complex of sumptuous bath buildings. (Among the works of art found there are a Nemesis-Tyche, the crouching Venus now in the Louvre, and a torso of Venus.) The buildings extended over an area more than 116 m long and 100 m wide; they included a large frigidarium with two pools, underground piping systems, and to the E a garden esplanade ending in two great semicircular apses. The other parts of the monument have not been excavated.

It is not known where the first Christian community had its meeting-place, but 10 Christian buildings from the Late Empire and Early Middle Ages have been located, only one of which is inside the 4th c. rampart. The earliest place of worship was perhaps in the Place Aristide-Briand, where two subterranean rooms have been discovered: one of them is square (4 x 4 m) and vaulted, and leads into another smaller room (3 x 3 m), also vaulted, with an apse to the S. The only church inside the city was that of the Sept Frères Macchabées, which at some time from the 4th c. on became the cathedral. A rectangular building (23 x 16 m) with three aisles and oriented E-W, it took the name of Saint-Maurice in the early 8th c.

Early churches outside the rampart include SS Gervais and Protais S of the city (5th c. on); around it lay a necropolis where ca. 100 tombs have been excavated. The church was destroyed in the 8th c. by the Saracens and never rebuilt. To the N lay Saint-Sévère (5th c.; some remains can be seen), and Notre-Dame-d'Outre-Gère, known from three inscriptions of the 5th-6th c.

The finds are housed in three museums. The small objects (pottery, bronzes, bones, and tools) are mainly in the municipal museum. The Musée Saint-Pierre, in the church of the same name, contains the mosaics and sculpture (statue of Nemesis-Tyche and the bronze statue said to be that of Pacatianus), the reliefs, and capitals. In the cloister of Saint-Andr&é-le-Bas are the later monuments and Christian inscriptions.


Saint-Romain-en-Gal

A residential quarter of Vienna on the right bank of the Rhône, excavated since 1967. Houses, workshops, and commercial buildings are grouped around three streets, one of which is a part of the route to Lugdunum. These three streets, one at right angles to the others, have been excavated along a 150-200 m length. The pavements of all three are intact (large polygonal blocks of granite), and each one has a portico on one side. A sidewalk of large slabs covers a deep drain designed to carry off excessive water from the soil. The sewers (1.7-2 m high) are vaulted and follow the street plan. At the crossing of the N-S and E-W roads is a semicircular nymphaeum, projecting into the street.

Twelve peristyle villas have been partially excavated. In some the atrium, which serves chiefly as a reception room, is raised to avoid the damp ground. The walls, which are very thick, are strengthened with relieving arches. Between two of the buildings, instead of party walls there are walls separated by drainage pipes. The peristyles or garden-courts have three-lobed pools; the lobes are horseshoe-shaped, and the living rooms are on two sides only. The many fragments of marble and mosaics found there indicate that these were luxurious houses. Over 20 mosaics have been located in an area of almost 400 sq. m. Few sculptures have been found, but there are some capitals, Corinthian or decorated with aquatic foliage, statue fragments, and a stele to the god Sucellus.

Next to the houses are three commercial establishments. One is a small market, at least one of whose rooms was used to store goods that had to be kept dry (grain or salt). Its basement is filled with rows of earthenware jars placed necks down, tips up, so as to create a vacuum. Also on the W side of the quarter, but farther N, is an immense warehouse; its huge rooms open on a wide central avenue leading to a peristyle courtyard with two fountains and a U-shaped pool. This warehouse served as both a trading center and a meeting place for the guilds (attested at Vienne by inscriptions). On the other side of the N-S street is a market; its 12 rooms (workshops and shops) are arranged on either side of a central passageway opening on two streets.

Next to the market on the N and between the same two streets is an industrial establishment. Five large pools, exceptionally well preserved, two drying areas, and an extremely complex piping system, suggest that it is a fullonica—apparently, judging from its size, on an industrial scale.

The abundance and variety of the finds indicate great activity: weavers' counterweights, stamped lead pipes, engraved glasses, pottery of all sorts, appliqued medallions, Allobrogian pottery, coins, and objects of iron, bronze, and bone.

Contrary to the accepted view that Vienna did not spread out on the right bank of the Rhône until the 2d c., these latest excavations show that this section and its street plan go back to the beginning of the 1st c. The 2d c., however, was the period of its greatest prosperity, and it lasted until the early 3d c. (no coins have been found later than Caracalla).

There is a temporary storehouse for the finds on the site.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

P. Schneyder, Histoire des antiquités de la ville de Vienne en Dauphiné (n.d.); id., Nouvelles recherches . . . (1785); H. Bazin, Vienne et Lyon gallo-romains (1891); A. Bruhl, “Vienna,” RE ser. 2, 16 (1958) 2113-28; Grenier, Manuel III-IV (1958-60); G. Chapotat, La croisée de Vienne (1959); id., “Le problème des enceintes successives de Vienne depuis Ia conquête romaine jusqu'au Bas-Empire,” Celticum 6, Actes du 3e coll. intern. d'etudes gauloises, suppl. Ogam 86 (1963) 307-22; M. Leglay & A. Bruhl, “Informations,” Gallia (1960-70); A. Pelletier, “De la Vienne gauloise à la Vienne romaine: essai d'étude stratigraphique,” Cahiers Rhodaniens 13 (1966) 144-54; id., Vienne gallo-romaine de la conquête aux invasions alamanniques (forthcoming); id., “Vienne gallo-romaine de 275 à 468 apr. J.C.,” Bull. des Amis de Vienne (1973).

Monuments: E. Bizot, Découverte d'un cirque antique à Vienne (Isère) (1910); J. Cottaz, “Notes relatives au castrum de Pipet,” Rhodania (1935) 72-88; P. Wuilleumier et al., Le cloître de Saint-André-le-Bas à Vienne (1947); M. Faure, Vienne, ses monuments chrétiens (1948); J. Formigé, Le théâtre romain de Vienne (1950); E. Will, La sculpture romaine au Musée lapidaire de Vienne (1952); C. Picard, “Le théâtre des mystères de Cybèle-Attis à Vienne et les théâtres pour représentations sacrées à travers le monde méditerranéen,” CRAI (1955) 229-48; A. France-Lanord, “La statue de bronze reconstituée dite de Pacatianus au musée de Vienne,” MonPiot 51 (1960); A. Pelletier, Vienne gallo-romaine de 275 à 468 après J.C. Etude critique des sources (unpubl. 1967).

G. Lafaye, “Mosaïque de Saint-Romainen-Gal,” RA (1892); M. Leglay & S. Tourrenc, Saint-Romain-en-Gal, quartier urbain de Vienne gallo-romaine (1970)PI.

M. LEGLAY

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: