a villa in western Gaul
(Taden, Côtes d’Armor)
A model of change for this part of Gaul
The villa at Alleux, which was excavated by Romuald Ferrette (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives), is located a just a few kilometres from the secondary Roman settlement of Taden, in the civitas
of the Coriosilitae
. It was founded shortly before the mid-1st century BCE and was abandoned in the first quarter of the 3rd century CE. Its architectural evolution is representative of the stages of villa construction in western Gaul.
The initial wood and earth constructions belonged to a simple building, which gave way in the second half of the 1st century CE to a structure of a new design. It had stone foundations, and its layout was inspired by the linear villa with the gallery along its façade. In two major phases during the 2nd century, the built surface went from roughly 200 to over 1,000 sq. meters. Successive additions to the original core resulted in a new, more ambitious H-shaped layout. Three wings accessed by columned porticos
enclosed, to the east, a courtyard with garden, while to the west an initial courtyard surrounded by side galleries highlighted the entrance to the residence (via the western wing). The utilitarian vocation of the northern wing can be deduced by the nearby discovery of two kilns. In the southern wing was a public room, which has been interpreted as a triclinium
, as well as a bathing area – essential elements for a member of the Coriosilitae aristocracy.
Luxury furnishings in the southern wing
The southern wing (164 sq. m) was equipped with luxury fittings for the estate owner. At the far end of the building were the baths. In line with a practice attested to in western Gaul, bathers started by directly entering the frigidarium
, which was built as the extension of the portico. They then entered two hot rooms, each a little over 10 sq. m. The heating area, which is disproportionately large to serve only the caldarium
, must have been shared with other activities requiring heat and fire.
The room next to the baths, measuring about 36 sq. m, has been interpreted as a triclinium
. One entered from the portico via a double door. The entrance was highlighted by a decorative rectangular mosaic, no doubt in opus sectile
, which stood out from the rest of the flooring, a chevron pattern of repurposed tile fragments in opus spicatum
. The difference in treatment underscores a traditional separation of spaces, with one part for movement and a section at the rear for the banqueting couches. A hearth in one corner of the room provided the only protection against the cold. Banqueting practices must be viewed in relation to two domestic spaces, a storeroom preceded by a kitchen that opened onto the portico. The kitchen delivered up the foundation of a masonry hearth or cooking area, as well as stake-holes, suggesting the presence of storage shelving.