What led to their formation?
- Political unrest? Hence nucleation and defence?
- Emergence of oppida linked to expansion of Rome into Gaul (establishment of Provincia) at end of 2nd century BC. Impact of consequent trade with Italy: war to control subsequent trade networks; slaves (free dependants) taken, elites appropriated land of captured, causing increased centralisation (alliance of successful elites) and defence.
- The Auvergne: it is telling that the Arverni and their site at Aulnat had decentralized settlement and reduced defence in comparison to other oppida – they were very powerful politically.
- Probably linked to the slave trade with Italy, the Arverni were very heavily involved – they needed to obtain slaves in return for wine (amphorae), so likely this was achieved through warfare, raiding and capture (of elite dependants for slavery)
- At the time of the appearance of oppida a power struggle amongst the eminent tribes was taking place. Arverni: 150 BC Luernios’ ambitions, 120 BC Bituitos etc.
- c.120-100 BC – settlements on plain and hills abandoned in favour of oppida after defeat of Bituitos and collapse of Arverni power. Move towards centralisation arrested.
- How do the two developments mesh together?
Characteristics of oppida
- Majority of sites began 2nd-1st century BC.
- Fortified administration centres, often industrial, of each tribal territory (tribal state); Med. and Italy had city states.
- Distribution north of Alps: Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, Belgium, and SW France.
- Most La Tène D, in the West (e.g. Mont Beuvray) and associated with the Bad Nauheim brooch; bronze, occasionally silver or gold. Found in Britain and across Europe from Portugal to Poland. Very common.
- Earliest sites La Tène C2: Central Europe, esp. Bohemia (Stradonice, Hrazny, Zavist), about a generation earlier than the Bad Nauheim brooch: Mötzchwyl brooch. Possibly caused by trade (Arverni raids?) or *Roman conquering of S. France and Spain.
- Sites that survive today combined defence and accessibility, e.g. Paris, Besançon: useful for increasing importance of trade in middle La Tène, which had become regional if not international.
- However, siting on exposed hills led to severe weathering and erosion of many oppida, stratification is rare except in a few sites such as Aulnat.
- Locations: Voltava river, highland areas for mineral exploitation and loess for agriculture, on trade routes between highland and loess.
- Trend: sites on interface between economic areas e.g. Stradonice, Zavist, Cesky.
- Iron production was a factor in the siting of many oppida; unlikely caused by Germanic invasion.
- Did not form from earlier hill forts; these were only found in Germany and Bohemia, were generally mutually exclusive, though Zavist formed on site of old HF, long period of abandonment before Iron Age oppida appeared.
- Stradonice, Hrazny, Zavist in defensive locations: loops of rivers and hills.
- Staré Hradisko: palisade enclosures: farmhouse, small but high status ancillary buildings; elite coin, gold and silver prod, range of functions.
- Not originally defensive: hilly to north, marshy to south, controlled trade routes as they converged along the gravel terrace where Manching sited.
- Originated as village settlement, expansion of occupation shown by Nauheim brooch distribution and age; however major social changes were needed to develop into this primitive urban situation.
- Ramparts built at end of Nauheim brooch period: same time as S. France.
- Control of river crossing: port, for import of iron ore from south via Danube, iron bars in middle La Tène. *Iron products common, particularly weapons, formation of oppida brought expansion of iron production.
- Pottery produced on wheel, originally prestige; specialised production of red and white painted ware found on C. Gaul Roman sites. Graphitton keramik: heat conduction and thermal shock resistance, recycled, huge prestigious export – reached Aulnat. Typo. differences show not from Austria. Clay imported from Passau, also found S. Bohemia and S.Moravia.
- B2: Iron and bronze, minimal trade.
- Fragments of crucibles, imports start appearing – mortars – new cooking techniques, ritual deposition, bone points
- C1: Mediterranean finewares, local painted wares.
Campanian ware more common; Dressel 1a (pre-Caesar) and 1b (Augustus), black slip wares imitated into C2.
- C2: Imported finewares, gold (coins) and silver work, bone and glass.
- Gold coins imitations of Greek brought by mercenaries in 3rd century BC, prestige, Philip 3rd of Macedon.
- D1: Bad Nauheim brooches, potin coins, bone working.
- Low value coins cast, status diminished as became commoner, painted pottery, wine amphorae same type as sites in S. France.
- Hallstat hard to find, D2 much easier: fertile plain of volcano, Iron Age drainage. Site abandoned for hilltop settlement in defensive site near river 120-100 BC. Wine from Italy major import, abandoned in one generation for Gondol, similarly abandoned, then occupied site where Caesar defeated until 10BC when *Roman town. Clermont-Ferrand established.
The end of oppida?
- Disappear c. 15-20 BC in Central and Northern Germany.
- New social organisation: no urban settlements, linked to expansion of Germans and formation of new centre.
- Central Gaul looked to trade with its Mediterranean neighbours before Caesar; needed exportable surplus from its periphery. Unstable polities grew; Late La Téne reoccupation/foundation of defensive sites in France and Rhineland – peripheral expansion by raiding and slave capture before stable alliances formed.
- Powerful groups emerged from r’ship with states in south, control of larger networks looked for: Britain, Low Countries, Germany.
- Cost of Roman conquest 58 BC huge (money lost); centre weakened; only Remi (ally) and Treveri (powerful) produced elite gold coins post conquest.
- Revitalised old alliances to act as middlemen between south and Britain/Germany: slaves, minerals/furs, resins, slaves, vessels.
- Network finished at end of 1st century BC by Roman campaigns in free Germany; Agrippa’s road for troops also helped control trade networks.
- Weakness of centre post-conquest aided Belgic Gaul in maintaining alliance of dependants; presence of Roman army huge boost to elites who did not look down on commerce.
- Production of textiles, wine and pottery began, later became renowned.
Napoleon, Caesar, Mont Beuvray and the identity of the French nation
- Study of oppida started with Napoleon’s attempts to identify sites mentioned by Caesar, leading to the reconstruction of the Roman campaigns.
- Bibracte on Mont Beuvray particularly interesting as site of Vercingetorix’s victory over Caesar.
- However, the political agenda (e.g. Gergovia) led to a narrow range of questions posed, no hypothesis was tested.
- Bulliot excavated in the 19th century, excavations passed to his nephew Dèchellete, an experienced archaeologist, who noticed a similarity to Stradonice.
- The socialist govt in France in 1981 established the Mont Beuvray excavation and research centre - centre Europenne (local employment always helps a socialist govt) to symbolise unity of the nation and change in ideology:
- Gaul is now more identified with the origins of France than Clovis as the first King. Why? – Clovis imposed kingship on France; Vercingetorix, a Gaul, rallied the Gauls against Caesar the Roman invader. This represents the establishment of French identity through a common ancestor – heroism is invested in *Vercingetorix; and has echoes in colonialism.
- The old view of classical civilisation as superior has been disregarded; the 19th century view of Gaul being civilised by Caesar was consistent with the views of third world colonialism. In the 20th century, Gaulish resistance to the Romans has come to represent anti-colonialism in liberal western ideology.