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RUSCINO (Perpignan) Pyrénées-Orientales, France.

Important Iberian oppidum and subsequently a town of Narbonese Gaul. In antiquity it was the prestigious and active political, commercial, and religious capital of the province of Roussillon, to which it gave its name. The position of this easily defensible hill was an economically effective one, for it lay behind the coastal basins and near the sea, as well as on the formerly navigable river Têt. Thus it was a natural way station on the great route that in prehistoric times was the Heraklean Way, and in Roman times the Via Domitiana, an international route which joined Italy to Iberia and served all of S Gaul.

The city was founded at the beginning of the 6th c. B.C. on a spur overlooking the river Ruscinon, from which Polybios and Strabo say it took its name; it was almost continuously occupied until the Early Middle Ages, when it was supplanted by Perpignan. The spur has steep W, N, and E flanks, and to the S a deep manmade trench separated the settlement from the plateau. The ancient city covered almost 10 ha. Its wealth and historical importance are attested by discoveries, made both by chance and as the result of regular exploration, since the end of the 18th c.

Recent excavations, to be recommenced on a larger scale, have revealed the major periods of occupation. In the 6th c. B.C., a village of modest huts covered the hill. The inhabitants lived by agriculture, fishing, and handicrafts. They already, however, had regular commercial relations with Italy, Greece, Iberia, and the interior of Gaul. In the 4th c. the huts were replaced by houses of dry stones and cobwork, and the use of storage pits dug in the earth became general. This period of occupation was characterized by luxury ceramics imported from Greece. From the 3d to the 1st c. B.C. Iberian was the common language at Ruscino, as is indicated by numerous graffiti on ceramics and the abundance of coins with Iberian inscriptions which circulated in the region along with Massalian and Celtic money.

From the end of the 2d c. B.C. on, with Roman colonization, the settlement underwent a radical transformation. Beautiful houses replaced the earlier, modest dwellings and the luxury items came from Italy. Finally, towards the end of the 1st c. B.C. the town benefited from considerable urban planning: a forum, baths, and other edifices have been located but not yet excavated. The clearing of a large public monument (forum) has yielded some 40 dedications to members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and to high provincial officials. The finds made on the site since the beginning of the century (sculptures, bronzes, inscriptions, ceramics of every sort, coins) are preserved in the public collections of the town of Perpignan.


R. Lantier, “Antiquités du Roussillon,” REA 21 (1919) 271-89; E. Espérandieu, Inscriptions latines de Gaule Narbonnaise (1929) nos. 614-41; id., Répertoire archéologique des Pyrénées-Orientales (1936) 21-26; G. Claustres, “Stratigraphie de Ruscino,” Etudes Roussillonnaises 1 (1951) 135-95PI; “Informations,” Gallia 8 (1950) 108-10; 11 (1953) 90-93; 12 (1954) 411-12; 14 (1956) 203-5; 17 (1959) 449-50; 20 (1962) 611-12; 22 (1964) 473-74; 24 (1966) 449-50; 27 (1969) 381-82.


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