ARCIS – 2000 (Two Thousand) Years Old

Ziebert, Siegmund. "ARCIS - 2000 (Two Thousand) Years Old." Mitteilungsblatt, February 2011, 6.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO.

The above number is neither a printing error nor an attempt to falsify history. It is, in fact, part of the history of the place called Arcis, from which our [Bessarabian] Arzis received its name (with only a simple difference in spelling). As most readers know, a number of mother colonies founded in Bessarabia after 1814 were named after locales in France where Russian soldiers had fought against Napoleon during 1814. Some examples: Brienne (earlier called Peterswunsch), Ferechampenoise (Alt Elft), or Paris. Our own colony originally had the name Johannesort, but on the Tsar’s wish the Welfare Committee (which was under the leadership of Insov) renamed the village “Arzis,” after the place where on March 20, 1814 the final decisive battle occurred for the “Bridge of Arcis” across the Aube River, the site where Napoleon failed to keep the united armies of Russians, Austrians and Prussians from conquering Paris. (We shall report more on this battle at a later time.)

The site’s strategic location had been recognized very early on in history when the Gauls (made famous by Asterix and Obelix) established a fortification at the spot where the Aube River happened to be relatively deep and formed a large arc. “Sealing” that arc toward its open side with some sort of fortification would produce an ideal defensive position that could be attacked practically from only one side.

In his research, Camus Claardon (1848) demonstrated that the name had come from the Gallic “arx”, which indicated a fortified place (such as a fortress). Such a fortified, usually higher placement was called opidum by Caesar himself. He described it as a Gallic camp surrounded by roughly built walls of field stones and by rivers, and inside the camp were a few primitively built stone huts and wooden sheds. These camos were used initially as “flight fortifications,” in which older people, women, children and animal herds might find protection during perilous times, and which were more or less defensible.

Common across a wide area, normal Gallic settlements (“scattered settlements”) were comprised of a collection of huts between which fields and cultivated land were situated. The Romans would later give the oppida on the Aube River the name “ARTIACA,” so-called for its use as a place of refuge for the scattered settlements surrounding it.

The very early existence of Arcis and its central significance have been demonstrated via vases, grave decorations, and Roman coins in prehistoric graves discovered slightly removed from the former oppida. By Gallic custom, all graves were oriented in an East-West direction, and the head of the deceased rested toward the Western end, so that the face was always directed toward the rising son. The very size of the grave site of nearly four hectares leads to the conclusion that the dead from the entire area were buried there.

During the reign of Caesar Augustus, between Rome and the fertile plane of the “Champagne” there emerged extensive trade in wood and grain. The trade brought an economic upswing to the region and developed Artiaca into a sizeable market center.

In the book “Karl des Kahlen [Karl of the Bald One] – Les Capitulaires,” Artiaca became a Frankish settlement and, being a significant city, received the designation “ARCISI.” As a center for tradesmen and merchants, it demonstrated urban characteristics early on. Around five hundred years ago there also developed a very strong trade in grains with Venice and Genoa, and that formed the onset of another important economic development for the entire region.

As to its early significance, historians rank “ARCIS” as being among the oldest Gallic cities (under Roman rule).

Appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of these articles.

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