previous next


BIBRACTE (Autun), the chief town of the Aedui, as it is called by Caesar (Caes. Gal. 1.23; 7.55, 63), is the town which afterwards had the name of Augustodunum. It is not possible to find any site for Bibracte except Augustodunum; the position of which is well fixed at Autun by the itinerary measures from Bourges and Châlons-sur-Saône.

Caesar describes Bibracte as much the largest and richest town of the Aedui. When he was pursuing [p. 1.401]the Helvetii (B.C. 58), who had crossed the Saône, he came within 18 M.P. of Bibracte, and about this distance from the place was fought the great battle in which the Helvetii were defeated. Strabo, who follows Caesar in his description of Gallia, where he is not following Posidonius, has the name Ribracte (p. 192) and no other. Mela (3.2) is the first extant writer, who names Augustodunum as the capital of the Aedui, and under this name it is mentioned by Tacitus and Ptolemy. A passage of the orator Eumenius, who was a native of Augustodunum, shows that the town took the name, or wished. to take the name, of Flavia, to show its gratitude to the Flavii, for both Constantine and his father Constantius Chlorus had been benefactors to the place. In this passage the orator states that Bibracte was once called Julia, Polla, Florentia, and it has been used as a proof that Augustodunum is not Bibracte. But the name Julia, which was the adopted gentile name of Augustus, is equivalent to Aurgusta, and indeed a place was often called both Julia and Augusta. Two inscriptions also, which mention the goddess Bibracte, have been found at Autun.

Augustodunum is mentioned in Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 3.43) as having been seized by Sacrovir, an Aeduan, a desperate fellow, who, with other insolvents, saw no way of getting out of their difficulties except by a revolution (A.D. 21). The town, at that time also as in Caesar's time, the chief city of the Aedui, was the place of education for all the noblest youths of the Galliae. It was besieged and taken by Tetricus, who assumed the imperial title in Gaul and Britain in the time of Gallienus; and the damage that was then done was repaired by Constantius Chlorus and his son Constantine. Finally the place is said to have been destroyed by Attila and his Huns.

Autun is on the Arroux, a tributary of the Loire, but it occupies only a part of the site of Augusto-dunnum. It contains many Roman remains. The walls are about 3 1/2 English miles in circuit, and inclose an oblong space between the Arroux and a brook from Mont Jeu (Mons Jovis), which falls into the Arroux, after bounding two sides of the town. The walls are built, like the walls of Nimes, of stones well fitted together; and they were flanked by numerous towers, 220 according to one French authority. The number of gates is uncertain; but two still remain, the Porte d'Arroux and the Porte St. André. The Porte d'Arroux is above 50 ft. high, and more than 60 in width, built of stone without cement. It contains two large arched ways for carriages, and two smaller arched ways for foot passengers. Above the entablature over the arches is a second story, consisting of arches with Corinthian pilasters: seven arches still remain. The Port St. André less ornamented than the Porte d'Arroux, and less regular. It is above 60 feet ligh, and more than 40 feet wide. It has also two large arched passages; and there were two wings or pavilions on each side, but one is said to be destroyed. The town was intersected by two main streets, one leading from the Porte d'Arroux to the opposite side of the town, and the other from the Porte St. André to the side opposite to that gate. At the intersection of these streets, and in the centre of the town, is the Marchau, as it is called now. This place must have been the Forum. Near to the Porte d'Arronix, and on the opposite bank of the river, is the Chaumar, evidently a corruption of Campus Martius. There are within the walls the ruins of a theatre, and traces of an amphitheatre; and in their neighbourhood was a naumichia, a large basin, one diameter of which was above 400 feet.

Outside of the town, and on the border of the Chaumar, are the remains of a temple of Janus, three sides of which still remain. (Guide du Voyageur, &c., par Richard et E. Hocquart.) They were constructed of stones cut of a small size. This seems to have been a magnificent building. There are other remains at Autun.

On the hill of Montjeu,, near Autun, there are three large ponds which once supplied the aqueduct and the naumachia. The line of this aqueduct has been discovered in recent times. There are several remains near Autun which appear to be Celtic, and some of them may be of earlier date than the Roman conquest of Gaul. One of them is called the Pyramide or Pierre de Conhard, built of stones, joined by very hard cement. It is about 60 feet high; authorities differ very much as to the dimensions of the four sides of the base.

The most curious relic of antiquity found at Autun was an ancient chart or map, cut on marble, and since buried, it is said, under the foundations of a house. Eumenius,in one of his orations, speaks of such maps: “let the youth see in these porticoes, and let them daily contemplate all lands and all seas--the sites of all places with their names, spaces, intervals are marked down ;” with more to the same effect, in a verbose, rhetorical style, but clearly showing that there were such maps or delineations for the use of the youths at Autun. (D'Anville, Notice, &c.; Walckenaer, Géographie, &c. vol. i. p. 326.)


hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.23
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 7.55
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 7.63
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.43
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: