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ENSJÉRUNE Hérault, France.

Oppidum of S Gaul, on a hill 118 m high between Béziers and Narbonne, ca. 12 km from the Mediterranean. The earliest imported wares (Etruscan and Greek) found on the site indicate occupation from about the mid 6th c. B.C.; the latest ware (Arretine) show that it was abandoned in the first half of the 1st c. A.D.

Characteristic features of autochthonic life (mud huts, silos cut in the rock) are preserved intact in a first village (up to ca. 425 B.C.) spread out over the plateau. Ensérune II (ca. 425-220 B.C.) was a more orderly city; its stone houses, clustered in the E, or highest point of the hill, are laid out on a grid. A rich incineration necropolis extends W of the settlement. The ashes of the dead were placed in loculi along with their arms, ornaments, and bowls, one of which served as an ossuary while others contained mainly foodstuffs offered as a funerary feast. These bowls are extremely varied (indigenous, Celtic, Iberian, Greek red-figured ware, and much Campanian). A rampart was erected in the first half of the 4th c. B.C.; remains of it can be seen particularly on the N side. The second city of Ensérune was destroyed, either in the invasion of the Volcae or by Hannibal, who passed through the region in 218 B.C.

The city was immediately rebuilt and in the third and final phase of its life enjoyed even greater prosperity than in the past. It spread out to the W on the site of the early, now unused, necropolis, and to the S on the slopes of the hill beyond the wall of the earlier settlement. It was again destroyed ca. 100 B.C., either by the Romans, who founded Narbonne in 118 B.C., or by invading Cimbri; nevertheless the city continued to grow. The inhabitants became somewhat Romanized, but the indigenous character of their civilization persisted to the end in the continuing use of Iberian script and in the absence of the large public and cultural monuments of other Roman cities.

The architectural remains, fairly poor, belong almost exclusively to private houses or craftsmen's workshops. Among the most interesting are a complex of silos discovered on a terrace E of the oppidum, another group of silos used as cisterns and forming a water tower on the S slope, and a number of stone cisterns bonded in Roman fashion. The most characteristic residential quarters extend N, along the rampart, and W, on the site of the old necropolis. Another section is partially preserved in the basement of the museum, which also contains objects found in the houses, and finds made in the necropolis.


J. Jannoray, Enséune, contribution à l'étude des civilisations préromaines de la Gaule méridionale (1955)MPI; H. Gallet de Santerre, “Ensérune, An Oppidum in Southern France,” Archaeology 15 (1962) 163-71; id., “Fouilles dans le quartier Ouest d'Ensérune,” Rev. Arch. Narbonnaise 1 (1968) 39-83; J. Giry, Guide du Musée d'Ensérune (1971).


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