Saint-Blaise is the name of a present-day chapel built
on a site that was, in turn, a protohistoric oppidum
(possibly called Mastramela, cf. Plin. HN
Avienus, Ora Mar
. v. 700-2), an early mediaeval city
called Ugium, and finally a village, Castelveyre, destroyed in 1390. The site is at one end of an easily defended plateau which is protected on two sides by the
Lavalduc and Citis lagoons; it has a commanding view
of the area around the Etang de Berre, the Crau, and
the approach to the Rhône.
Excavations (1935-69) produced some reused stelai
and a tumulus of ashes, indicating that the site was
occupied at a very early date, before the 7th c. B.C.
From the 7th c. on, remains are plentiful—Etruscan
amphorae and pottery (bucchero nero), potsherds of
Rhodian origin (a skyphos with a bird, another with
rosettes), followed after 600 by Massaliote imports
or products (gray Phokaian and pseudo-Ionian ware with
a wavy design). Fragments of a rampart in polygonal
masonry and some very poor huts belong to this first
phase. The simplicity of the settlement and the abundance
of native ware make the argument for an early Massaliote
occupation somewhat uncertain.
Little is known of the site in the 5th and 4th c. B.C.
some remains of a native sanctuary, which were found
reused, may go back to this period. In the Hellenistic
city the oppidum was fortified, probably in the 3d c.
B.C., with a new rampart which barred approach to its
accessible side for more than 1 km. Built of large blocks
by Greek master masons (workmen's marks?), it was
protected by a forewall, and had solid foundations, and
merlons, exactly like Sicilian ramparts. Inside the rampart of the city was laid out more or less on a grid plan:
streets paved with slabs, stone sidewalks, better designed
houses, shops with dolia. Etrusco-Campanian ware, Hellenistic amphorae, and Marseille coins are well represented. At this time the city was more likely to be a Massaliote post, working the salt marshes in the region
and controlling commercial traffic going towards the Rhône.
Stone balls have been found in a stratum of destroyed
remains, evidence of a siege (not mentioned in the texts)
which has been attributed to Caesar's campaign against
Marseille. Marius' creation of the port of Fos and the
digging of the Marian canal at the end of the 2d c. B.C.
must have considerably reduced the importance of the
town as well as its population.
After five centuries the abandoned site was occupied
again. A rampart built of irregular quarry stones and
poor mortar was built on the earlier Greek wall. The
houses, extremely poor, yielded sherds of terra sigillata
chiara D and gray stamped ware. Two churches and a
rectangular building with an apse (civil basilica?) date
from the 5th c. A document of 874 indicates that Ugium
was destroyed by the barbarians. Archaeological finds are
housed in a depot near the site.
H. Rolland, “Fouilles de Saint-Blaise,”
39 (1937) 111ffPI
; id., “Chronologie des fouilles
dans la basse vallée du Rhône,” REA
45 (1943) 81ff;
id., “Un problème de géographie antique: les fouilles de
Saint-Blaise et la toponymie,” Latomus
7, 3 (1948) 1ff;
id., “A propos des fouilles de Saint-Blaise,” REA
; id., “Fouilles de Saint-Blaise,” Gallia
Suppl. 3 (1951) and Suppl. 7 (1956)MPI
; “Informations,” Gallia
(1956-71) passim; F. Benoît, Recherches sur l'hellénisation de la Gaule