Estates around the Etang de Thau

No doubt because they were a source of abundant natural resources, the northern shores of the Etang de Thau witnessed a surge in the development of major estates in the first centuries of the Common Era. Some twenty villa sites have been discovered, thanks once again to ground surveys that systematically examined the area's vineyards. Most of them extend across several hectares, and the objects collected reveal a lengthy period of habitation, extending from the beginning of the Roman era to the early Middle Ages, and the presence of luxurious establishments (fragments of sheets of marble, terracotta tubuli, mosaic tesserae, etc.).

These estates were evenly distributed, and some of them had 600 hectares of land under cultivation. In most cases, they had direct access to the Etang, but also enjoyed magnificent views of the lagoon. These known instances of "coastal villas" corresponds to how the upper classes populated the coast of southern Gaul. Their vast farms were interspersed with several smaller settlements whose roots lay in the protohistoric period, as well as with a dense network of smaller farms, which could have been farmed either by small land-owners or dependents of the larger estates.

Medias

The villas of the Thau Basin, a concentration of sites on the shoreline

Ground-based prospecting has revealed the presence of some twenty villas, covering more than a hectare (2), forming a network of estates, each consisting of several hundred hectares. The shores were farmed by smaller rural establishments (1) and several communities, some of them protohistoric in origin (3).
© I. Bermond et Ch. Pellecuer MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussillon
Interactive document - The secondary community of Mèze and the large shoreline estates

The secondary community of Mèze and the large shoreline estates

During the Iron Age, the agricultural lands of the community of Mèze consisted of a nearby food-producing area, and lands further away that were cultivated by several isolated farms. After the Roman conquest, the village retained the nearby section of its agricultural lands, and large estates, including the Loupian estate, were constructed around the periphery.
© Ch. Pellecuer, MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussilon

The secondary town of Mèze and the major shorefront estates


© Ch. Pellecuer, MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussillon
Interactive document - Villa and large-scale estate of the Thau Basin, the Mas Lavit and Saint-Martin de Caux sector

Villa and large-scale estate of the Thau Basin, the Mas Lavit and Saint-Martin de Caux sector

On the shores of the Etang de Thau, in a very distinctive 600-hectare shoreline watershed, the large villa of Mas Lavit, far from being isolated, was part of a estate complex that included nearby farms, each between 0.5 and 2 hectares in size. One of them, built on the shore, may have functioned as a port.
© Ch. Pellecuer, MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussillon
Interactive document - The Loupian Villa, site and surroundings

The Loupian Villa, site and surroundings

A vestige zone measuring some 3 hectares (3) was defined by prospecting. The actual footprint of the buildings occupied one hectare (2). The site expanded across a well-placed slope (4), sheltered from wind by the hill (3) and commanding a depression that today has been darined (6). Several funerary areas were detected nearby (7). The primary access road to the villa was located (A), along with a secondary occupation zone (B) and a section of the estate's aqueduct (C).
© Ch. Pellecuer, MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussilon
Interactive document - The estate's historic access road

The estate's historic access road

The estate's original access road, here seen from the Sète hill, provided a link with the shoreline. It was excavated in 2008 from the access road of the Gallo-Roman wine-making establishment at Roumèges to the vicinity of the Etang de Thau.
© R. Bourgaut, CCNBT

Villa and large estate of the Thau Basin, the example of the Mas Lavit and Saint-Martin de Caux sector

The large villa of Mas Lavit was built on the shore of the Etang de Thau, in a highly individualised watershed of some 600 hectares. Far from being isolated, it was part of an estate ensemble consisting of nearby rural establishments of between 0.5 and 2 hectares each. One of them, built on the shore, may have had some sort of port function.
© Ch. Pellecuer, MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussillon