Tour des Fouilles (8): The discovery of Eburomagus
One of the most remarkable documents from Antiquity is the Tabula Peutingeriana, an illustrated itinerary from late Antiquity that was rediscovered in the early Renaissance in a library in Worms, Germany. There is a couple of other comparable, textual documents, that together give a good insight in the topography of the Roman world. That is, if you actually know where the places referred to really were. And this, of course, is not always the case. Of many of the places on the Peutinger map, we do not know their location, and the precise course of the roads depicted often is unclear. There has been, and still is, a lively what-is-what debate: there are many konwn ancient placenames still in search of an archaeological site, and many archaeological sites are still in search of an ancient name.
Part of that debate has concerned the region between the Massif Central and the Pyrenees, which is crossed by today's stage. In antiquity, this low, relatively flat zone, was crossed by the Via Aquitania, which connected the important Roman colony of Narbonne with Toulouse and Burdigala (Bordeaux), the capital of the province of Aquitania. On the map, you can see 'Narbone' bottom right, and 'Tolosa' bottom left. The yellow snake below the latter represents the Pyrenees. Of the places in between you may recognize 'Carcassione' - Carcassone. Yet, the other places were long unknown, and with it, the course of the road, which was one of the few main roads connecting the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. There were several places in the region where Gallo-Roman remains had been found, but none had been named convincingly. This all was to change in June 1969, when an important discovery was done in the village of Bram: during a rescue excavation, a large inscription was discovered.
The text, probably from the second century, is a dedication to the divine Emperor by some local magistrates of the vicus Eburomagus. Indeed, if you look at the Peutinger map above, you'll see a place called 'Eburomagi' just to the right of Carcassione. There had been claims that Bram had been Eburomagus (a lot of Gallo-Roman evidence had been found in the area), but they could never be substantiated. This, however, was hard evidence - and already in 1970, two articles appeared that provided a rethink of the Roman topography of the region.
Such discoveries are very exceptional, of course. But they are important. It made it, for instance, much more plausible thet the village of Castelnaudary, which is crossed at km. 50 in today's stage, and were several remains were found, was actually the location of Sostomagus. The theatre of the vicus Eburomagus, by the way, has not (yet) been found.
|Gayraud, M. (1970) 'L'inscription de Bram (Aude) et les toponymes Eburomagus, Hebromagus, Cobiomagus, en Gaule méridionale'. RevArchNar 3.3, 103-114.|
|Passelac, M. (1970) 'Le Vicus Eburomagus. Éléments de topographie. Documents archéologiques'. RevArchNar 3.3, 71-101.|