Gisacum, a lost city

The thermae in 2006, photo by Wikimedia Commons user Urban, licence:public domain


Gisacum (IPA:ʒizakɔm) is the archaeological site of a Gallo-Roman city in France. It’s fascinating for me, that cities can disappear (like Alesia or Quentovic. Originally the excavation site was named after its location near the hamlet of Cracouville, in the south-western part of the town of Le Vieil-Évreux. The Gallic tribe of the Eburovices lived there. Gisacum was situated only 6 kilometres southeast of Mediolanum (nowadays Évreux), the capital city of the Eburovices. Gisacum and Mediolanum were connected. Mediolanum was the secular capital and Gisacum was the religious capital.

History

The theatre of Gisacum in 2009, photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gérard Métron, licence: CC by-SA/ Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic


Gisacum was built in the 1st century and destroyed in the 2nd century to built it anew. Gisacus was one of three tutelary deities that were worshiped in the temples of the town. He was equated with Apollo. Apollo was the god of the sun, of art and of medicine. The first half of the 3rd century was the period of prosperity of Gisacum, and then it was abandoned. The town had no city walls and was therefore vulnerable to the attacks of Germanic tribes. Other Gallo-Roman sites were abandoned at the same time, for example Canetum or Canetonum in Villeret.

The inhabitants of Gisacum moved to Mediolanum and used the abandoned buildings of Gisacum as public quarry to build the city walls of Évreux. Parts of those walls are displayed in the museum of Évreux nowadays. The large sanctuary was used as a necropolis after the 6th century.

Statue of Jupiter, photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vassil, licence: public domain

In the 17th century Louis de Boislambert, parson of Le Vieil-Évreux, wrote a memorandum about the ruins of Gisacum. Between 1765 and 1770 the ruins were used as a quarry to build the “royal” road from Paris to Lisieux. The first archaeological excavations were made in 1801 by François Rever. He published his report in 1827. In local legends the ruins were connected with the life of the local saint Taurinus or became the home of mythical female druids. Even the name of the town “Le Vieil-Évreux”, the old Évreux, suggests, that this place was older than Évreux, which isn’t true.

Between 1838 and 1841 Theodose Bonnin explored the ruins. He was the first archaeologist who called the place “Gisacum”. Bonnin found amoung other artifacts two statues of bronze. One depicts Jupiter, the other one Apollo/Gisacus. The statues are in the museum of Évreux nowadays.

In 1951 the „Fanum of Cracouville“, the Great Sanctuary, was classified as Cultural Heritage monument.

In 2002 the archaeological garden of the thermae was inaugurated. It’s open for the public from March 1 to November 15. I have to admit until now I didn’t visit it, Le Vieil-Évreux is quite far for my little old car.

The Buildings

The excavations of Bonnin in 1841, licence: public domain

Gisacum was built on an area of around 400 hectars. The general setting matches the common design: thermae – temple – theatre. The believers cleaned themselves before they entered the sanctuary.

A broad road went from the northeast to the southwest and connected the important buildings. The thermae were in the southwest, the Great Sanctuary was in the middle and in the northeast was the theatre. The temple area was surrounded by a small ring of houses. The Great Sanctuary had a base area of 6.8 hectars and was 25 metres high. It contained groups of smaller temples from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd century.
The theatre had a capacity of around 7000 visitors.

An aqueduct of 25 kilometres length supplied water to the city.

References

Marcel Baudot: Le problème des ruines du Vieil-Evreux (Eure) in Gallia vol 1, p. 191–206, published in 1943 (French)

Theodose Bonnin: Antiquités gallo-romaines des Eburoviques: Publiées d’après les recherches et les feuilles dirigées. Published by J.B. Dumoulin in Paris 1860. (French)

Dominique Cliquet, Michel Provost (Hrsg), Academie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (Hrsg), Ministere de la culture (Hrsg): L’Eure 27 in Carte Archéologique de la Gaule published by Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris 1993. Chapter 329, p. 153–176, ISBN:2-87754-018-9 (French)

Jean Mineray: Évreux, Histoire de la ville à travers les âges. Published by Éditions Bertout in Luneray 1988, p. 16–19, ISBN:2-86743-062-3. (French)

François Rever: Mémoire sur les ruines du Vieil-Évreux. Published by Ancelle in Évreux 1827 (French)

Conseil Général de l’Eure: Dossier pédagogique Visite du site archéologique de Gisacum. Published 2010 as pdf. (French)

Conseil général de l’Eure: Gisacum, ville enfouie, Le Jardin Archéologique des thermes (French)

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Gisacum, a lost city by stanzebla is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

4 thoughts on “Gisacum, a lost city

  1. France is such a beautiful city. I love the pictures! It is interesting hearing the history of it all. Hey, btw! You should link your bloggy to your gravatar or your name that you comment to me on, as I couldn’t find your blog for so long, even though I was following, because of all the other followers. So glad I found it!

  2. […] Évreux was the capital of the Eburovices. Then the Romans took over (52 BC to 486 AD). They left some ruins and nice things to put in […]

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