The Séviac villa :
a luxurious residence (Montréal-du-Gers, Gers)
A palatial country residence of Novempopulanie
Séviac is located twelve kilometres from Elusa
(Eauze), main town of the civitas
, which was elevated to the rank of capital of the province of Novempopulanie
in the late 3rd century CE. Coming in the wake of a number of researchers, the most recent efforts by Jean Gugole and Brieuc Fages have revealed the history of this prestigious Gallo-Roman site. It was occupied starting in the Augustan era, and acquired its monumental size in the early 2nd century. The layout was somewhat loosely organised, with a peristyled residence of 950 sq. metres, and a 250 sq. m. bathing establishment to the south. To the east of the residence and baths was a funeral monument built along a road. A warehouse completed the ensemble.
In the third quarter of the 4th century, an ambitious reconstruction project brought the residence and baths together in a ensemble with a surface area of nearly 6,000 sq. metres. It was built around a peristyled
courtyard measuring some thirty metres on a side. In the first half of the 5th century, a new owner emphasised the villa's more public side and fitted it with new plant-patterned mosaics. The ostentation reached its height in a reception room opening onto the vestibule. It had a "basilical" layout covering 240 sq. metres, and it was even heated. Towards 500 CE, a room to the southwest was turned into a baptistery, in connection with a church and a cemetery. The aristocratic occupation continued, in a smaller villa with disused baths, until the end of the 6th century. In the 7th century, a peasant community took over the site, which was given a new church.
The ostentation and social aspects of the baths
Right from the start, the baths were an element of the villa. They were refurbished and expanded several times, all the way down to the 5th century, testifying to the place that baths held in the lives of the villa's owners.
The first baths were located in a separate building, 15 metres on a side. The symmetrical layout perhaps indicates separate bathing areas for men and women. The surface area was doubled with the addition of a second bathing sector. The new structure, which was used up until the mid-4th century, was richly decorated with a profusion of Pyrenean marble.
The luxurious residence of the 5th century was fitted with extraordinarily large baths, which extended across some 500 square metres. Starting from the secondary courtyard that connected the baths to the living areas, one entered into a vast frigidarium
that was enlivened by reflections from a semicircular pool richly ornamented with mosaics. The pattern was that of polychromed scales surrounded by plaited cables. To the left of this entry area, guests would then pass into a large, lightly-heated room, the tepidarium
, and from there into the hot room, the caldarium
, with three apses, whose architecture could not fail to impress them. Except on great occasions, the members of the familia
used a small space to the right of the frigidarium
, where there was a cloakroom that gave onto the latrines, and more comfortable baths that were easier to heat.