Although the Bastide of Eymet was founded in the 13th century, around 700 years ago, human occupation of the site goes back thousands of years.
In the locality of “La Brande”, only 1500 metres away, tools dating from all the prehistoric periods have been found. Jewels and domestic utensils made at the dawn of our era, and exhibited here in the chateau Museum, prove that this place was inhabited during the Bronze Age. The dolmen of Eylias and the sites of standing stones, the “Peyrelevades”, prove the existence of a Gallic cult, a “nemet”, which is probably at the origin of the town’s name.
Then came the Roman occupation and the birth of Gallo-Romanic civilisation. In Eymet itself and in the surrounding countryside, the remains of many important Roman villas have been found near the villages of Serres, Sainte-Eulalie and Sainte-Innocence, and are yet to be excavated.
The density of the population of this privileged site is not surprising: 1500 years ago, Sidoine Apollinaire, the Latin poet wrote: This entire valley is so full of vineyards flowered meadows, cultivated fields, fruit tree plantations deliciously shaded by hedges, watered by springs crossed by streams, rich in harvests, that their owners seem to have had a vision of paradise!”
Marauding Vikings, Visgoths, Vandals and Arabs
No documents have been found that tell the story of this place between the end of the Roman Empire and the formation of the Duchy of Aquitaine; a gap of 500 years. Certainly several invasions by the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Arabs occurred, and even the Vikings traveled up the rivers in their long boats. The only known remains of this period are several Merovingian jewels and stone coffins.
Around the year 1000 A.D history retakes its course with the creation on the banks of the river Dropt of a priory, an offshoot of the abbey of Moissac. Here, at the cross-roads of two Roman roads was built a feudal mound surrounded by wooden defensive fences, soon after replaced by a castrum, the basis of the fortified castle the remains of which can still be seen today.
Offically Founded 1270
The official history of Eymet begins on the 28th of June 1270 with the creation of the bastide. Its location at this time depended on its links with Marmande in the Agen region, property of the counts of Toulouse. Alphonse de Poitiers, brother of king Louis IX (Saint-Louis) had become count of Toulouse in 1249 at the death of his father-in-law Raymond VII, last head of a powerful dynasty of which the estates extended from the region of Marmande ail the way to the Rhône.
At that time, Alphonse began the construction of several bastides, middle-ages new towns, which would ensure the control of his new territory. To the North of this fiefdom was Sainte-Foy, built in 1255, then Castillonnès in 1259, Villeréal in 1267, and finally Eymet in 1270, marking the border with Périgord.
Contrary to what one might think, the bastides, were not originally fortified and some, like Miramont-de-Guyenne, never were. The majority were only surrounded by fortified walls at the end of the XIIIth or at the beginning of the XIVth centuries. The ramparts were built more to discourage bandits than to resist the assaults of organised armies equipped with engines of war such as the “Coulliard” or the “Truye” (described further on). Even though there may have been political reasons, the role of the Bastides at the time of their creation was essentially economic.
The middle of the XIIIth century was a relatively calm and prosperous period, and the new towns allowed a farming population to grow rapidly. Around them were grouped shopkeepers and artisans creating a community with a self-sufficient economy. To each head of family was given one “ayral”, a rectangular piece of land of approximately 200 m². It was up to the new owners to build their houses and barns very quickly – in less than two years – otherwise they would be fined.
The lines were traced by surveyors according to the rules of urbanism inspired by the Roman towns: the streets and the alleys crossed at right angles as far as the configuration of the land permitted, as in the case of Eymet. Bastides were an example of what we now call town planning.
The heart of the town is the square surrounded by arcades – the administrative and commercial centre with a tithe barn, the centrepiece being the market-hall on wooden pillars (destroyed in 1793), Market day in Eymet was fixed by Charter to be a Thursday, and still is.