A land of villas

During the centuries of the Roman colonisation of the lands around the Gulf of Lion, a great many villas – the Loupian villa among them – were built on the plains of Languedoc. This wide corridor that runs between the Pyrenees and the Rhône has a low, straight coastline dotted with coastal lagoons. Behind it are limestone plateaus, now covered with garrigue, which act as a transition to the mountainous territory further inland.

The plains were covered with an uninterrupted carpet of more than a thousand villas. They extended from the shores of the Mediterranean and the banks of the lagoons all the way to the inland hillsides. The presence of coastal rivers, which punctuate the Gulf of Lion basin, appear to have favoured their implantation/development. Beyond, hills and plateaus were home to other types of residences.

The villas were first identified by local scholars at a time when Languedoc was primarily a wine-growing region. They were catalogued by means of surveys that, at the initiative of researchers and students, became more widespread during the 1980s. Languedoc also played an essential role in the development of spatial analysis. Today, as in other regions, rescue archaeology provides additional information gleaned from undeveloped lands subjected to rampant urbanization.


Interactive document - Languedoc-Roussillon, a corridor between the Pyrenees and the Rhone

Languedoc-Roussillon, a corridor between the Pyrenees and the Rhone

On wide plains situated between the lagoon shoreline and a mountainous back-country, more than a thousand archaeological sites, believed to be villas, have been found. These are listed in the National Archaeological Map created and overseen by the Ministry of Culture and Communication.
© DAPA, Sdarchetis, Patriarche.
Interactive document - Saint-Christol, the Languedoc plain

Saint-Christol, the Languedoc plain

The term "sea of vines" has been used to describe a single-crop landscape that prevailed at the time of the Industrial Revolution.
© Fonds Raynaud, photo: Jacques Sauvaire
Interactive document - Snow-covered vineyard

Snow-covered vineyard

© Claude Raynaud
Interactive document - A changing landscape: Languedoc today

A changing landscape: Languedoc today

The landscape created by the wine-growing crisis is a diversified one; there are fewer vines, the emphasis is now on quality, and there is a greater variety of crops. The ever-increasing number of fallow areas are being appropriated by urban areas under the pressure of a rapidly-growing population.
© Selim Benalioua
Interactive document - The "Temple of Venus" Villa

The "Temple of Venus" Villa

The "Temple of Venus" Villa on the shores of the Etang de Vendres (Hérault). It was excavated as early as the 18th century, and stands witness to the attraction of shore areas for the major Gallo-Roman landowners in the civitas of Béziers.
© Ludovic Le Roy, Parc Culturel du Biterrois