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Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France / Edition 1

Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France / Edition 1

by Michael DietlerMichael Dietler
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This book presents a theoretically informed, up-to-date study of interactions between indigenous peoples of Mediterranean France and Etruscan, Greek, and Roman colonists during the first millennium BC. Analyzing archaeological data and ancient texts, Michael Dietler explores these colonial encounters over six centuries, focusing on material culture, urban landscapes, economic practices, and forms of violence. He shows how selective consumption linked native societies and colonists and created transformative relationships for each. Archaeologies of Colonialism also examines the role these ancient encounters played in the formation of modern European identity, colonial ideology, and practices, enumerating the problems for archaeologists attempting to re-examine these past societies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520287570
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 09/22/2015
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Michael Dietler is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and the author of Consumption and Colonial Encounters in the Rhone Basin of France.

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Archaeologies of Colonialism

Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France

By Michael Dietler


Copyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-94794-8



Introduction to a Colonial Encounter

From the people of Massalia, therefore, the Gauls learned a more civilized way of life, their former barbarity being laid aside or softened; and by them they were taught to cultivate their lands and to enclose their towns with walls. Then too, they grew accustomed to live according to laws, and not by violence; then they learned to prune the vine and plant the olive; and such a radiance was shed over both men and things, that it was not Greece which seemed to have immigrated into Gaul, but Gaul that seemed to have been transplanted into Greece.


This statement summarizing the colonial encounter that constitutes the central focus of this book was written during the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, although it purports to describe a process that began about six centuries earlier. It was written by a historian named Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus, who, despite his Roman name and citizenship, was a son of the Vocontii, a powerful Gallic tribe1 from what was by that time the conquered Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis. This intriguing, if (as will be shown) largely erroneous, evaluation of the effects of a protracted colonial encounter appeared as the summation of a retelling of a legend about the foundation of the Greek colony of Massalia on the coast of southern France nearly five hundred years before the Roman conquest of the region and six hundred years before the reign of Augustus.

The foundation tale is first known from a text written by Aristotle in the fourth century BCE, already more than two centuries after the event. The version of Pompeius Trogus is more richly elaborated and contains some slight variations from that of Aristotle. According to this legend, rights to the territory of the settlement and friendly relations between colonists and natives were secured originally through the marriage of a wayfaring Greek trader, named Protis, to a native woman named Gyptis (the daughter of Nannos, ruler of the local Segobrigai tribe). The Greek visitor was actually selected by Gyptis from among a number of suitors at a feast by means of a ceremony in which she offered a symbolic cup of drink to the man she chose as her husband (fig. 1.1). After their marriage, Protis was given land on the coast by his new father-in-law to found the colonial city that became Massalia and, eventually, modern Marseille. However, this generous welcome appears to have been short-lived, because the text of Pompeius Trogus goes on to describe how within a generation the natives became alarmed about the growing power of the colonial settlement and began to attack the Greeks. The passage then concludes, paradoxically, with the gushing statement about the civilizing influence of Greek colonialism that opens this chapter.

These observations about the consequences of the legendary cup offered by Gyptis mark the beginning of a long history of speculation, debate, and empirical study over a question that has continued to provoke the attention scholars to the present: what was the nature of the encounter between these seaborne intruders from distant Mediterranean city-states and the indigenous peoples of western Europe, and how did it affect the historical transformation of these societies? As will be shown, the answer to this question is one of great complexity and its implications extend far beyond the history of ancient Gaul or the Mediterranean. In many subtle ways, they lie at the heart of conceptions of modern European identity, contemporary colonial discourse, and scholarly debates about Euro-American colonialism.

This book is an attempt to address this ancient question from a new perspective. One may well ask why such an endeavor should be both necessary and of interest at this point in time. The reasons are several and complex, and explaining one of the principal ones will occupy the better part of the first two chapters. But, for the moment, let me begin by briefly noting that the past few decades have yielded an enormous amount of new archaeological data that have the potential to significantly transform our understanding of this encounter and to make it an exemplary case study for an archaeological contribution to the comparative anthropology of colonialism. However, although the book presents and synthesizes a range of impressive new data, this act of empirical documentation is not its ultimate goal. Indeed, a crucial aspect of the argument presented here is that the analysis of these data must be accompanied by a transformation of both our theoretical approaches to the study of colonialism and our understanding of the socio-historical context of archaeological practice.

Hence, the book seeks to use this case to raise and engage a set of broader issues of major epistemological and theoretical significance for the anthropological and archaeological study of colonialism in general. More will be said about this later. But let me first point out that, as a prerequisite to the archaeological analysis undertaken in the book, it begins with an attempt to reframe the discussion by disentangling a complex recursive relationship that has developed between this ancient Mediterranean colonial encounter and modern European culture and colonialism. It seeks to demonstrate the curious historical process by which modern consciousness has been, in a sense, "colonized" by the ancient Greeks and Romans and how that colonized perspective has come to color the way archaeologists now understand ancient colonial encounters, including especially that seminal encounter represented by the tale of Gyptis.

In using the trope of colonization, I do not mean to imply that archaeology ever existed in a "precolonized" condition to which it can be returned through some sort of intellectual liberation struggle. As the first two chapters take pains to explain, the formation of archaeology as a professional practice was precisely a product of the broader colonization of European consciousness that I discuss there — archaeology was born already colonized, as it were. Moreover, archaeology often constituted an instrument, as well as a product, of colonialism: an alien technique for defining, constructing, controlling, and even appropriating the past of colonized peoples. Nor do I imagine that we can really produce a completely "decolonized" discipline that is free from its history and political context. Both the study of postcolonial nations and the sociological lessons of science studies should have dispelled long ago that naive vision. What I am advocating is the necessity of striving for reflexive critical awareness as a crucial component of the analytical process, in the direction of Pierre Bourdieu's "participant objectivation"—one that places the analyst in the field of analysis and examines the conditions of possibility of disciplinary practice. This approach is not conceived as a path toward some stable position of objectivity. That would be a chimerical fantasy. Rather, it is proposed as a necessary recurring phase in a continual dialectical process that opens new questions and enables new insights.


Before explaining why the ancient colonial encounter in the western Mediterranean, and Mediterranean France in particular, has come to play such a pivotal role in modern European culture and colonial discourse (see chapter 2), and why this case matters to the comparative study of colonialism more generally, let me briefly introduce the main players in this historical drama and set the stage by situating them within an outline of the history of the encounter. That history is a long and complex one, and its debut actually predates the foundation of Massalia captured in the Gyptis legend by several centuries. It involved alien agents of multiple origins engaged in relationships of quite different kinds with a variety of indigenous societies over a period of more than a millennium. This book explores the inception, unfolding, and consequences of that process in the Rhône basin of Mediterranean France.

The encounter in southern France actually took place at the tail end of a series of diasporic expansions of peoples from the eastern Mediterranean that began near the end of the ninth century BCE, over two hundred years before the foundation of Massalia (figs. 1.2 and 1.3). That process saw the establishment of various kinds of colonies in parallel streams. Traders and settlers from several independent city-states of the Syro-Palestinian coast, who are referred to collectively as "Phoenicians," dispersed along the southern shores of the Mediterranean. They established colonies in North Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia and moved rapidly all the way to southern Spain, where they began to establish settlements and trading centers in the eighth century BCE. By the sixth century BCE, Carthage, a large Phoenician colony in Tunisia, began to exert control over many of these formerly independent establishments and became an increasingly expansive center of power in the central and western Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Greeks from both the mainland and colonial cities along the Turkish coast moved westward along the northern shores of the Mediterranean and eastward into the Black Sea. By the seventh century BCE, colonists from a variety of Greek cities had established new city-states along most of the coast of southern Italy, but they had not yet planted any colonies farther west in France or Spain.

In Mediterranean France, the encounter was initiated during the late seventh century BCE when a ship-based trade began bringing goods from Etruscan city-states in west-central Italy to the shores of southern France. These imported goods consisted mostly of wine, drinking ceramics, and a few small bronze basins. Shortly thereafter, at approximately 600 BCE, Massalia was founded by settlers from the Greek city of Phocaea, on the coast of modern Turkey, as the first permanent colonial establishment in the region. This was followed within a few decades by the foundation of another Phocaean colony at Emporion (modern Ampurias), a voyage of about three hundred kilometers farther west on the Catalan coast of Spain. Both of these colonial establishments came to have important influences on the patterns of trade and exchange in the region, although the geographic extent and nature of those influences were quite different, as were the evolving characteristics of the colonial settlements themselves (see chapter 4). By the late sixth century BCE, some Greek and Etruscan objects were also finding their way over 500 kilometers north of Mediterranean France to sites of the so-called Western Hallstatt zone in Burgundy, southwestern Germany, and Switzerland. This was a relatively short-lived phenomenon, however, as these imports largely disappeared from this northern zone by the end of the fifth century BCE.

A few Phoenician objects had also begun to arrive in Mediterranean France from colonies in the south of Spain during the seventh century BCE. These became much more numerous during the sixth century BCE, but these were now mostly Iberian products (adapted from Phoenician and Punic models), and their consumption was largely confined to the Emporitan sphere of influence in the western portion of Mediterranean France (that is, Roussillon and western Languedoc rather than the region around Massalia). It is uncertain whether Phoenician, Emporitan, or Iberian merchants (or all three) were trading these goods in the region.

Over the course of the next few centuries, Massalia also began to establish a number of very small subcolonies along the coast to both the west and east (at Agde, Hyères, Antibes, Nice, and other locations). However, it never managed to wrest a very large chora (or territory of direct political control and agricultural exploitation) from its indigenous neighbors. Indeed, it appears that Massalia's chora remained largely confined within a radius of about eight kilometers from the port for a period of nearly five hundred years. Massalian trade with indigenous peoples of southern France had a complex history over the centuries, but by the early fifth century BCE (or somewhat later in a few areas), it had largely replaced the earlier trade in Etruscan goods and Massalia remained the dominant source of imports in the lower Rhône basin for over three hundred years. Once again, wine amphorae dominated the repertoire of trade goods that were being consumed by indigenous peoples. These were accompanied by ceramic tablewares of several types and, eventually, by a few other kinds of objects.

The late second century BCE marked a dramatic change in the history of the evolving colonial situation. By the end of the third century BCE, armies of the rapidly expanding Roman Republic had already seized control of southern and eastern Spain from Carthaginian colonists and native Iberians during the Second Punic War. The provinces of Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior were subsequently established, although it took nearly two hundred years for the interior of these provinces to be subdued. In southern France, at least twice during the first half of the second century BCE, Rome responded to calls for aid from its ally, Massalia, in conflicts with its indigenous neighbors. Around 125 BCE, following new appeals from Massalia for help in defending itself against the neighboring Salyes tribe, the Romans launched a rapid military conquest of Mediterranean France. This created a land bridge between their recently acquired possessions in Northern Italy and Spain. A permanent military base was established at Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence), just south of the Salyen capitol. Then, in 118 BCE, the consul Domitian founded the colony of Narbo Martius (modern Narbonne) on the coast of Languedoc, and a road, the Via Domitia, was established through southern France linking Italy and Spain.

Roman control of this region lasted for over half a millennium. However, the consolidation of Roman coercive and ideological control throughout Mediterranean France first required a series of further military campaigns to suppress occasional revolts, defeat incursions from the north, and subdue "pirates" along the coast, at the same time that Rome itself was experiencing a "social war" (in 90–88 BCE) and a violent civil war (in 49 BCE) with military conflicts that spilled over into southern France. This was accompanied by experimentation with the construction of an administrative infrastructure necessary to establish a hegemonic imperial order in this new Roman province that would eventually (in 27 BCE) be given the name Gallia Narbonensis by Augustus. Julius Caesar arrived in the region in 58 BCE as governor and immediately used Mediterranean France to launch yet another major campaign of conquest that brought the rest of Gaul (Gallia Comata, or "long-haired Gaul") under Roman control by 51 BCE. In 46 or 45 BCE, Caesar established at Narbonne the first of a series of colonial settlements populated by veterans of the Roman legions. Others of this type were established at Béziers, Arles, Orange, and Fréjus before 27 BCE; these sites witnessed, especially under the reign of Augustus, the gradual construction of monumental civic architecture in the Roman style (arenas, theaters, baths, arches, etc.) as well as the construction of networks of roads and aqueducts leading into these cities and the restructuring of space in agrarian hinterlands with cadastral systems.

Roman involvement in Mediterranean France differed radically in character from that of any of the earlier colonial agents. Rome was the first of the Mediterranean states to have the military and administrative capacity, and perhaps the imperial ambitions, to impose political control beyond a small territory immediately surrounding a port city. The cultural techniques of domination employed by the Romans were very effective. As will be discussed later, many of these served as inspiration for modern colonial practices, including the "investigative modalities" deployed in places like British India and Africa. However, although the eventual social and cultural effects of Roman domination were profound, they were neither immediate nor uniform. Colonized peoples had a marked influence on the regionally distinctive development of colonial cultures and imperial practices, including, not least, the cultural and social transformation of the Roman metropole. Nevertheless, to name only the most obvious of the eventual transformations that stemmed from this colonial situation, the Roman occupation resulted in the gradual extinction of indigenous languages throughout the region (and in the rest of Gaul, Spain, and Italy) and their replacement with creolized versions of Latin, as well as the dramatic restructuring of the landscape. This latter process included both the reorganization of rural landholdings and routes of communication, and the creation of public monuments and other structures, many of which are still visible on the landscape.


Excerpted from Archaeologies of Colonialism by Michael Dietler. Copyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 The Cup of Gyptis: Introduction to a Colonial Encounter 1

2 Archaeologies of Colonialism 27

3 Consumption, Entanglement, and Colonialism 55

4 Social, Cultural, and Political Landscapes 75

5 Trade and Traders 131

6 A History of Violence 157

7 Culinary Encounters 183

8 Constructed Spaces: Landscapes of Everyday Life and Ritual 257

9 Conclusion and Imperial Epilogue 333

Notes 347

References 391

Index 453

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"An important and valuable addition to current studies in postcolonial theory and the colonial phenomenon in the ancient Mediterranean."—Archaeological Review


"Dietler has produced an outstanding work of scholarship that is sophisticated, intelligent, and insightful, and that deserves the close attention of scholars."—Journal of
Interdisciplinary History

"Dietler's book is full of interesting . . . insights woven from a particular anthropologically driven perspective."—American Journal of Archaeology

"Dazzling. . . . Dietler offers in this utterly captivating study . . . an account of a colonial entanglement like nothing you have ever read."—H-France Review of Books

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