The first traces of occupation date back to the Neolithic period (around 3 000 BC).The first settlers lived in fabric or leather tents with wooden frames.
Scrapers, bowl fragments, Etruscan amphorae shards etc. found during the excavations, testify to their presence.
At the end of the fourth century BC Gauls, called Volscians (a tribe from the orient), settled and created a true walled city. It was surrounded by strong ramparts and towers, which can still be seen in part, and covered a total area of 5.6 hectares.
Around 120 BC, the Roman proconsul Cnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, crossed the Rhône with his legions. Thus began the conquest of the Gauls. The Via Domitia was built as a route for Roman military convoys. It was a major factor in the Gaul's subjugation and contributed to the development of Gallia Narbonensis. Ambrussum, like other Gallic cities situated on the route, acted as a staging post.
With the advent of peace, Ambrussum underwent profound transformations- people begin to live in the roman style, building townhouses with courtyards (domus) and paving the main street of the city. A public building, perhaps a civil basilica was unearthed during excavations. An advanced social, economic and cultural structure developed.
At the end of 1st century AD, the high settlement was abandoned.
In 27 BC, Augustus became Emperor. Major works were undertaken throughout the Roman Empire. At Ambrussum, the city grew: a new district was created next to the Vidourle river, serving as a staging post for travellers. It was crossed by the Via Domitia which skirted the Oppidum to the North.
Facilities for travellers:
Merchants, travellers, magistrates and civil servants of the Empire used Via Domitia. Thanks to excavations, we know that certain buildings were intended for road users; they could eat there, spend the night in a hostel, bathe in a spa (thermal bath) and have their wagons and chariots repaired.
The 'hotel' was reserved for distinguished travellers – regional representatives, government officials or individuals with a pass. A purse containing jewels and 43 silver coins was found there, a 'treasure' most likely forgotten by a careless visitor. Archeologists have also found numerous items related to everyday Gallo-Roman life: fibulas (a kind of brooch or pin), bracelets, rings, hairpins, coins and a horseshoe. Amongst these finds are also some remarkable objects that are rarely preserved – leather sandal, a funnel, a wooden cup...
A gradual abandonment:
From the second century AD, the staging post began to be abandoned. Many other cities in the region were also abandoned at that time. Shortly after 400 AD, only the postal service was still in use. Ambrussum was completely empty of inhabitants by the early fifth century.
This impressive work of engineering which allowed the Via Domitia to cross the Vidourle river is thought to have had 11 arches and to have been over 175 metres long.
Guided visits are available at 3pm every Saturdays without booking and some Sundays with booking (click here for see all the dates).
Free access to archeological site and site museum.
Prices of guided visits (in french only)