(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
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,”
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
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)