10 largest cities in France




Bavay is a French commune located in the Nord department, in the Hauts-de-France region. During the Roman Empire, Bavay was the “capital” of the Nervians. The Gallo-Roman forum and the departmental museum bear witness to this. The city was formerly the capital of the canton of Bavay, also called Bavaisis, before it disappeared during the cantonal redistribution of 2014.



The legendary founder and the apocryphal story
After the Cordelier Jacques de Guyse, Jean Wauquelin in his Chroniques du Hainault, manuscript of the fifteenth century tells that Bavo, a cousin of Priam, fleeing the invested city of Troy, gained after many adventures a hospitable land where he built a city that he called the present Bavay "Belgians". According to Wauquelin, Seven roads, dedicated to the planets Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Saturn, Mercury, the Sun and the Moon, started from the seven temples of the city. The establishment of an elective monarchy signaled the decline of the "city of Belgians", and the Belgians lost their unity and could not resist the Roman invasions. This episode has been considered a fable by most historians since the nineteenth century, and even more that of the bloody internal struggles between the queen of the Belgians Ursa to the former king Ursus.

However, more than a thousand years after the beginnings of the conquests of Rome, Aubert Le Mire and certain chroniclers of Hainaut still evoke Bavay under the name of "Rome la Belgique", or Roma Belgica that before them, in an agglomerating apocryphal historiography of other older sources, the chronicler and historian of Hainaut Jacques de Guyse called more simply "Belgis" ("Belgian"), name deriving according to him from Belis (from the God Bel).

Various authors and more "modern" "antiquarians" (people studying antiquity), including Joseph Adolphe Aubenas, while recognizing a lack of evidence from archeology, recalled that other texts, older and dating back at least to 1st century AD also told that Trojans had come to Gaul and that they had founded a large city there. Thus, Aubenas, member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of France, created in 1804 with the aim of studying the civilization of the Gauls, French history and archeology, believes in 1839 that Jacques de Guise did not nothing invented, but only reported, what the ancient chroniclers had written long before him. Aubenas cites in support of the thesis reported by J de Guyse: Amien Marcellin and better Timagène according to whom “a part of the population of Gaul (according to the Druids) had come from distant islands and transrhenan regions, from where it had been driven either by frequent wars or by maritime overflows ”. Rucleri, Hunibaud or other medieval chroniclers did not invent this story says J Aubenas, because Timagène said the same thing more than 2000 years ago, and after him, the Trojan origin of the Franks was also affirmed in France, “In the Epitome of Frédegaire and its fragments and the chronicle of Hunibaud, and Fréculphe, which in the first half of the ninth century is expressed in formal terms”.

Gallo-Roman period
The birth of Bavay, after the conquest of Gaul by Caesar, results from the reorganization of the territory by Augustus (probably between -16 and -13). Gaul is then divided into three provinces, divided into cities (civitates): the region located between the Seine and the Rhine forms the province of Gaul Belgium (capital: Reims), in which the city of the Nerviens occupies a vast territory between the 'Scheldt, the Sambre and the Meuse. The city of Bavay was then created to be the center of this city. Many ceramic remains date from the 1st century BC.


Placed at a road junction, Bavay is the obligatory passage between Germania and the port of war of Boulogne-sur-Mer, bridgehead towards Brittany (current Great Britain). The other routes, seven in total, link Bavay to the administrative centers of the neighboring cities (Amiens via Arras, Tongres, Cassel, Trier to the east and Reims to the south). Its position is obviously strategic, but very quickly these military routes (the future Emperor Tiberius transits to Bavay with his armies around the year 4) are used for commercial purposes.

The city developed during the Julio-Claudian era and especially under the Flavians (end of the 1st century). Large monuments are built: a forum, thermal baths supplied by an aqueduct bringing water from a fountain (Fontaine Saint-Éloi) located in Floursies, about twenty kilometers away, and other buildings, it seems to have character official, adorn the city.

Middle Ages
Excavations on the Roman forum have brought to light ceramics from the 9th and 10th centuries. The history of the city at this period being poorly known, we will refer for the broad outlines to the history of the county of Hainaut. It is probable that the Roman forum was converted into a defensive unit, certain later documents referring to the old castel.

In the 12th century, the Bavay region was part of the county of Hainaut, and the town was the capital of a provost.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the city was fortified, the design of the medieval wall and its important earthen wall still appears today. The city is the seat of a provost.

Modern era
In 1433, the county of Hainaut, of which Bavay was part, became an integral part of the very prosperous Burgundian Netherlands. In 1519, the Burgundian Netherlands became an integral part of the empire of Charles V, a period that was also very prosperous. In 1555, Charles Quint divided his empire and gave the Netherlands, of which Bavay was part, to his son Philippe II, King of Spain. Bavay was then part of the Spanish Netherlands until 1678 when, following the many conquest battles of Louis XIV, a whole part of the south of the Spanish Netherlands was attached to the kingdom of France. The confirmation of the attachment of Bavay to the kingdom of France intervenes in 1678 by the (treaty of Nijmegen). Louvignies-Bavay merged with Bavay in 1946.

French Revolution
The city was taken by the Austrians, who entered the city on July 21, 1792.