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SAINT-BLAISE Bouches-du-Rhône, France.

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 3.4.5; Festus 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,” REA 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 51 (1949) 83ffI; 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 (1965).


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