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LATARA or LATERA (Lattes) Canton of Montpelher, Hérault, France.

Lagoon port on the lower coast of Languedoc, halfway between the mouths of the Rhône and the Hérault, and on a small coastal river, the Lez, behind the Étang de Lattes (Plin. HN 9.29). It was in the territory of the Volcae Arecomici, and was later made part of the civitas of Nîmes. Oriented towards the sea, it was engaged in commerce from pre-Roman times with the greatest ports of the Mediterranean, especially Marseille, for which it was a way station or even a trading post. But it was also a river port, at the mouth of a splendid access route, and played an important commercial role in relation to the oppida of the interior, particularly Sextantio (Castelnau-le-Lez) on the Via Domitiana. The site of Lattes, a meeting-place for maritime, river, and road traffic, is one of the most important on the Gulf of Lion.

The name of the settlement is known from literary sources (Pliny, Pomponius Mela, Anonymous of Ravenna) and inscriptions (recent discoveries). It covered almost 10 ha in the locality known as Saint-Sauveur, near the modern village of Lattes. The site consists of a mound some five m high, permeated with water owing to its proximity to sea-level.

Excavations, which are only beginning, have disclosed nine layers of habitation from the 7th c. B.C. (with traces of an earlier occupation) to the Roman period. The pre-Roman settlements consisted primarily of huts with cobwork or stone walls, hearths, and floors of broken amphorae, and port installations (landing stages on piles). The artifacts, which are both imported and of local manufacture, are abundant and of very high quality (Late Bronze Age, Etruscan, Phokaian, Ionian, Attic, Ibero-Punic, local ceramics). Three large hoards of coins of the 2d and 1st c. B.C. (coins from Massalia and of the Volcae) have also been found.

The Gallo-Roman town, which was of greater extent and included wide streets, shows a more developed but as yet little known level of urban life: larger houses, mosaic floors, etc. To the NE of the ancient town are the remains of a small sacellum to Mercury (statues, inscriptions, architectural fragments), and a large and well-furnished incineration cemetery of the Early Empire; 160 tombs, containing an abundance of artifacts (ceramics, glassware, bronze objects) and 34 epitaphs have been excavated.

The artifacts are currently at the Dépôt archéologique in Montpellier.


Carte archéologique de la Gaule romaine, fasc. x, Hérault (1946) 8, no. 23; E. Demougeot, “L'inscription de Lattes,” REA 68 (1966) 86-100; J. Arnal et al., “Lattes,” Archéologia 31 (1969) 68-72I; “Informations,” Gallia 22 (1964) 491; 24 (1966) 467I; 27 (1969) 393-95I; 29 (1971) 381-83I; 31 (1973) 491-92I; E. Demougeot, “Steles funeraire d'une necropole de Lattes,” RAN 5 (1972) 49-116; J. Arnal et al., Le port de Lattara (in press)MPI.


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