Bibracte

Bibracte_Porte_Rebout.jpg

Bibracte

This oppidum, or what I say giant hillfort, is a typical example of the massive such structures that occur in Germany, France and Belgium, plus Switzerland, and Czechia and Slovakia. The vast majority are in France and Germany. These were huge population centres of Celts of the late Iron Age age, just before their conquests by the Roman Empire. For oppida, you normally need to have well over 1000 people, well in terms of later archaeologists estimates of how many people lived at those actuals sites. Sometimes estimates for some sites can vary from 2000 to at the most even 20,000. This can be confused as there were battles between the Gauls and Rome, where supposedly 40,000 Gauls were trapped inside some in the battles, but this was referring to soldiers at the sites, not to population totals. Whatever the case, these sites were mega sized for hillforts if you can use that term for these oppida. Some surely can not be called hillfort as indeed some were at river sides, some were ports, using the odd geographical feature or rampart, but the ones I like to mention, are the ones that were effectively mega hillforts, huge population centres on hills surrounded by walls. These walls, were often more complicated than the ones on Britain's not that they were anything to be ashamed about. I mean it is like Maiden Castle had more complex entrances and walls, and ditches than much smaller forts. The thing is some of these immense forts even had different types of wall  construction to increase strength and tenacity and so. 

Anyway, a fine example is Bibracte, and here are my balle points on this site, a balle is bullet in French. Or even Buillot points, that was coincidently a name of a great archaeologist who researched the site. 

* It is pretty much on the central area of France itself if you look at a map, but slightly on a axis, to the north and east, within the confines of Burgundy. 

* The alternative name of the area is Mont Beuvray.

* Bibracte, a Gaulish example of a oppida or fortified town, was almost certainly the capital of a tribe known as the the Aedui, with it being among  the major hillforts in ancient France. The site is located near the French town of Autun, also in Burgundy. the area was rich with La Ten cultural concepts. 

* There is some debate it seems, about whether this great site, which is full of Gaulish ramparts and covers a wide area was the so named site, or just another location. I have not investigated that, but the general consensus is that is is, so I says it is. 

* It sits around 800 metres in altitude, so higher than any hillfort in Britain, but it's latitude, and the fact that France has it's massif, and such and high plateaus' around here, make it not seem that high. I mean even lower down towns, 83 KM, to the west are still 200 metres in elevation. In real terms there are forts like Tre'r Ceiri which would I assume seem higher,  and feel higher, as they are straight above the sea to a extent and that kind of thing. I have been to Tre'r Ceiri, but not yet Bibracte, full disclosure there, 

* Estimates put it's population at between 5 and 30,000 people during it's prime just before the Roman conquest. 

* If it was Bibracte, and lets face it, even if it was not, it's not that unlikely that there were other battles here, then this certain oppidum, was the site of a horrific battle between the Gauls, led by Divico, not Vercingetorix in this case, against the Roman general, Caesar in 58 BC. Modern estimates state 30,000 Romans, faced 30,000 Gauls, mainly Helvetii,
Boii, Tulingi, Rauraci, the brave Gauls were defeated in this case, with tens of thousands of casualties occurring. 

* It seems, after that this site was abandoned in favour of Autin, which is 25 KM away, for the Romanising population. 

* There were great ramparts, of Murus Gallicus, like the reconstruction above. The walls changed in position and shape overtime. A example of a time would be when it shrank from 200 to 135 hectares in area. This is still a immense size though. 

Today parts are covered by woods just like many British forts. 

Who knows, maybe as it shrank in population, some time before Rome took it, or as a smaller fort is easier to defend than a larger one at times, though not always. 

* Miners, blacksmiths, minters traders and rulers lived at this site for example. Plus the druids. 

* Saint-Léger-sous-Beuvray is a community of 374 people not that far away. Apparently, maybe this is just legend, in the 18th Century a wolf came down from the forests of the old fort, and attacked some of the people. Unusual as wolves actually are famously not that likely to attack people. I am not sure if this is just a legend, Then again I do think people sometimes underplay the danger of wild animals in the modern era. I love nature and we should protect it, but I sometimes wonder if they underplay the ferocity of some wild mammals. . 

* The first wall  discovered by Bulliot, a Murus Gallicus that delimits an area of 135 hectares for a length of 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) per battlement.  Construction required 10,000 cubic meters of wood, 16,000 cubic meters of earth and about 30 tons of iron, so massive effort there. 

* There were also 3 metres deep ditches as wide for some walls on this fort, and palisades, and all sorts across it's history. 

* Of course there were monumental entrances as well. There are 15 gate ways, plus the biggest of all the Gate if Reboot, which is 20 metres wide, and 40 metres deep. Monumental entrances like this often had walls on either side, for a long way to watch over incomers. 

* There were artisans neighbourhoods, and wealthy finds, and all sorts. 

* There were 10 springs, likely for drink, and worshipping at. 

* Plus temples to gods. 

* The site has the Museum of Celtic Civilization, I must go there one day. 

* So these Gulish lands did have your normal sized hillforts as well, but in terms of these giant oppida class hillforts, whereas Britain before the Roman conquest had a about 1 or 2, France had over 20, of which many were on hills, Germany, mostly western Germany, had about half, to almost as many, in what was really still Gaul and Belgae lands, and partly Germania, and Belgium, had almost half that number. The Czech Republic and Slovakia also had a few each as well. Hungary had a couple. You could argue the oppida of Spain and Portugal, like Toledo, were similar though they were verging on towns, and their wonderful castros were more like hillforts, of a different culture. Of course after Rome was in Britain, Scotland had a couple in the borders, outside of Roman rule, and later the Picts had a couple in the north. 
I should add the Switz had a few as well, and there is a question if Italy's were as well. Also Luxembourg had 1 and the Dutch may have had one on their border with Belgium, in the Pre Roman days. Then again there were those proto towns in South East England, like Chichester and Sat Albans, so a few of them maybe more, 

* Some class Bicracte as having 3 summits, makes sense over such a huge place. 

* One last amazing aspect of the oppidum, is for Bibracte. Though it quickly fell into disuse under Roman rule, a festival associated in ways with Celtic dates continued according to records, into the 13th then 16th Centuries, in May, likely the Gaulish equivalent of Beltane was still occurring. Such a brilliant evocative fact. 

* The site was researched by the archaeologists from the 19th Century, so amazing. I would love to go there some day.

So a Voila that is Bibracte oppidum or Bibracte hillfort even.