), the chief town of the Bituriges Vivisci, on the left bank of the Garonne,
or, as Strabo (p. 190), the first writer who mentions the place, describes it, on the aestuary (λιμνοδάλασσα
) of the Garonne, which aestuary is named the Gironde.
The position of Burdigala at Bordeaux
is proved by the various roads in the Table and the Antonine Itin. which run to this place from Mediolanum (Saintes
), from Vesunna (Perigeux
), Aginnum (Agen
), and from other places.
It was the emporium or port of the Bituriges Vivisci, and a place of great commerce under the empire. Ausonius, a native of Burdigala, who lived in the fourth century, describes it in his little poem entitled “Ordo Nobilium Urbium;” and though he describes it last, he describes it more particularly than any of the rest. Ausonius is our authority for the pronunciation of the name:--
Burdigala est natale solum, dementia caeli
Mitis ubi, et riguae larga indulgentia terrae.
It was in the early centuries of the Christian aera one of the schools of Gallia. Ausonius (Cominenr. Prof. Burd.
) records the fame of many of the professors, but they are all rhetoricians and grammarians; for rhetoric and grammatic, as the terms were then used, were the sum of Gallic education. Tetricus assumed the purple at Burdigala,
having been proclaimed emperor by the soldiers when he was governor of Aquitania. (Eutrop. 9.10
The importance of Burdigala in the Roman period appears from the fact of its having the title of Metropolis of Aquitania Secunda (Metropolis Civitas Burdegalensium), after the division of Aquitania into several provinces. Burdigala was taken by the Visigoths, and it was included in their kingdom during their dominion in the south-west of Gaul; but Toulouse
was their capital.
We know little of Burdigala except from the verses of Ausonius.
He describes the city as quadrangular, with walls and very lofty towers.
The streets were well placed, and it contained large open places or squares (plateae).
He mentions a stream that ran through the middle of the city into the Garonne, wide enough to admit ships into the town when the tide rose.
In fact, the channel of this little stream was converted into a dock; but it does not exist now. Ausonius mentions a fountain named Divona, which supplied the city with water. Some traces of a subterraneous aqueduct have been discovered near Bordeaux,
a short distance from the Porte d'Aquitaine
on the great road from Bordeaux
The only remaining Roman monument at Bordeaux is the amphitheatre commonly called the Arènes
or the Palais Gallien.
This building had externally two stories surmounted by an Attic, altogether above 65 feet high.
The length of the arena was about 240 English feet, and the width about 175 feet.
The thickness of the constructions, which supported the seats, is estimated at about 91 feet, which makes the extreme length 422 feet. [p. 1.458]
Of the two great entrances at each extremity of the ellipse, the western entrance alone remains, and it is still complete (1842).
This noble edifice has been greatly damaged at different times, and is now in a deplorable condition. (Notice in the Guide du Voyageur,
par Richard et Hocquart, from M. de Caumont.) Another Roman edifice, probably a temple, existed till the time of Louis XIV., when it was demolished.