Wine Exporting and the Exception of Gaul

With this chapter, I hope not just to help publicize the conclusions arrived at in recent years by scholars working on finds of Greco-Italic and Dressel 1 amphorae in Gaul, but also to set them in a broader context and examine what consequences they have for our thinking about Italian wine-growing in the final century of the Republic.


For some time now, scholars have been substantially rewriting the chronology of wine exportation from central Italy, extending it ever farther backwards in time. First was Christian van der Mersch, who reconsidered all the evidence on Italian wine-growing in the fourth and third centuries BC. Then came Franca Cibecchini, working on the chronology of the wrecks, and Gisella Thierrin- Michaёl and Gloria Olcese on the places of origin of amphorae.1 We now know of workshops producing ancient Greco-Italic amphorae on Ischia and in Naples at the turn of the fourth and third centuries BC. Although results are not yet definitive and caution is still called for, it is possible, even probable, that the wrecks in the Aeolian Islands dating from the early third century BC and laden with Greco-Italic amphorae with Greek stamps, which have hitherto been deemed to be from Sicily, were in fact carrying amphorae

First published in J. Carlsen and E. Lo Cascio (eds), Agfricoltura e scambi neH’Italia tardo- repubblicana (Pragmateiai, 16; Bari: Edipuglia, 2009), 91-113.

1 Van der Mersch (2001); Cibecchini and Principal (2002); Cibecchini (2008); Thierrin- MichaS (2000); Olcese, Picon, and Thierrin-MichaS (1996); Olcese (2004). [On this matter and on the wrecks cited in the following pages, see now the synthesis by Panella (2010).]

made on Ischia.[1] [2] About the middle of the third century bc, wrecks carrying Greco-Italic amphorae start appearing off the coasts of Tuscany, Catalonia, and Corsica, and later Provence, where, from the second century, they become


more numerous.

The third century bc thus appears to have been a period of expansion in Italian wine-growing, the time when the first exports of wine from central Italy were added to those from Sicily and Magna Graecia. They were bound, mainly, for Carthage,[3] as well as for the Levantine coasts of the Iberian Peninsula, in limited amounts before the Second Punic War,[4] but becoming much more numerous after it had broken out.[5] From Cartagena at that time we have more than fifteen ancient Greco-Italic amphorae bearing either some of the most ancient Latin stamps[6] or Greek stamps from Magna Graecia or Ischia;[7] and there are another twenty or so of these Greek stamps at Mas Castellar de Pontos, an Iberian site near Ampurias, where a total of 2,099 fragments of Greco-Italic amphorae have been found, in levels dating from 220-200 bc, representing at least seventy individual amphorae.[8] At that period, their presence is less marked in Gaul, except at the oppidum of Pech-Maho, where fifty-one amphorae have been found intact and the count of sherds gives a minimum number of individual amphorae of 300.[9] Everywhere, distribution of them was limited to the coast, which was still the case, for the most part, in Tarraconensis in the first half of the second century.[10]

Distribution map of the amphora stamps of Trebios Loisios

Fig. 18.1. Distribution map of the amphora stamps of Trebios Loisios.

We can regard the famous Trebios Loisios stamp, now known to be from Campania,[11] as being emblematic of these exports in the late third century bc (Fig. 18.1). It is widely distributed, from one end of the Mediterranean to the other, though restricted to coastal sites.

Then, in the course of a few decades, the whole scene changes completely, as can be seen from a comparative glance at the distribution map (Fig. 18.1) of the Trebios Loisios stamp, just mentioned, and Fig. 18.2, showing Greco-Italic amphorae in Gaul. In the first half of the second century bc, amphorae imported from Italy were being delivered to the innermost regions of Gaul. This sharp increase in imports to parts of Gaul far from the Mediterranean can be seen in one very typical site, Paule in Brittany, which most of us would have tended to see as an improbable destination for ancient Greco-Italic amphorae. It was a fortified aristocratic habitation site dating back to the fifth century bc, around which an oppidum of about 30 hectares was built in the second century. The site has yielded in all some 7,500 amphora sherds,

Distribution map of Greco-Italic amphorae in Gaul. (Poux 2004a

Fig. 18.2. Distribution map of Greco-Italic amphorae in Gaul. (Poux 2004a: fig. 114)

both Greco-Italic and Dr. 1s, representing about 300 individual amphorae. Fanette Laubenheimer draws attention to the presence of five Greco-Italic amphorae in archaeological contexts dating from the early second century.[12]

Such an unexpected and widespread phenomenon cannot be explained by any gradual winning of markets by Roman wine-traders. Certain particular conditions must have existed, amounting to what Matthieux Poux calls ‘a revolution in demand’.[13]

To explain this evidence, I shall start by discussing what the available data enable us to say about the specific use of wine in Gaul at that time. Then I shall attempt to offer a few pointers on the circumstances and causes of this new phenomenon, how it developed, and what brought it to an end.

  • [1] Olcese (2004).
  • [2] The Cala del Diavolo wreck off the isle of Monte-Cristo may date from 250 bc. Then, if werule out wrecks with mixed cargoes, probably part of a local redistribution trade in southern Gaulor in the area of the Balearic Islands and Catalonia, there are two wrecks between 240 and 220, inTuscany (Meloria A) and Catalonia (Bon Capo = Ametlla de Mar). In the last quarter of thecentury, we have five wrecks, three in Corsica (Cala Rossa, Tour d’Agnello, Sanguinaires A), onein Sicily (Terrasini B), and one in Gaul at the island of Porquerolles (Pointe Lequin).
  • [3] Morel (1998b, 2004).
  • [4] Cibecchini and Principal (2002): ‘they are recorded all along the Mediterranean seaboard,in rather modest numbers'.
  • [5] One example of the contrast comes from Tarragona: on the Iberian site dating from beforethe Second Punic War, there are three exemplars of Greco-Italic, but a great many after Romansettlement and during the first half of the second century bc (Diaz Garcia and Otina Hermoso2002).
  • [6] Marquez Villora and Molina Vidal (2005: 161-5); C. Aristo and two exemplars of TrebiosLoisios.
  • [7] Marquez Villora and Molina Vidal (2005: 35-8).
  • [8] Pons (2002: 326, 566-74). [More recent surveys of the matter of Greco-Italic amphorae inthe Iberian Levant and Catalonia have been published by Molina Vidal (2013) and TremoledaTrilla, Castanyer Masoliver (2013).]
  • [9] Solier (1979); Tchernia (1986: 95). Cf. Py, Adroher Auroux, and Sanchez (2001: 45): ‘Verylimited westward distribution before the second century, with a few exceptions such as Pontosand Pech-Maho.’ The gist of this was in Bats (1986: 399).
  • [10] In Catalonia, Sanmarti-Grego and Principal (1998) cite ten locations either on or close tothe coast and only one in the hinterland: Molis d’Espigol (near Tarrega, east of Lleida). There aresix fragments (Cura Morera and Sanmarti 1986-8, whereas, between 200 and 175 bc, at Pontosthere are 6,385 fragments, giving a minimum of 182 units (Pons 2002: 329).
  • [11] Olcese (2004: 179). I am grateful to Clementina Panella for letting me read the pages on theTrebios Loisios stamps from her unpublished book on the stamps on Italian amphorae.
  • [12] Menez and Arramond, (1997); Menez (1999: 365-8; [Laubenheimer etal. (2013)].
  • [13] Poux (2004a: 211).
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