Oppidum is a Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word meaning the main settlement in any administrative area of ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

. The word is derived from the earlier Latin ob-pedum, "enclosed space," possibly from the Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 *pedóm-, "occupied space" or "footprint."

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 described the larger Celt
The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

ic Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 settlements he encountered in Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 as oppida, and the term is now used to describe the large pre-Roman towns that existed all across Western and Central Europe. Many oppida grew from hill fort
Hill fort
A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage. They are typically European and of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Some were used in the post-Roman period...

s, although by no means all of them had significant defensive functions. Oppida surrounded by earthworks
Earthworks (engineering)
Earthworks are engineering works created through the moving or processing of quantities of soil or unformed rock.- Civil engineering use :Typical earthworks include roads, railway beds, causeways, dams, levees, canals, and berms...

 are known as enclosed oppida
Enclosed oppidum
An enclosed oppidum was a type of large, late Iron Age settlement, or oppidum surrounded by an encircling bank and ditch.They differ from hillforts through being not necessarily sited on high ground and through being permanent settlements with a strong economic function.As well as re-occupying...

. The main features of the oppida are the architectural construction of the walls and gates, the spacious layout and commanding view of the surrounding area.

The development of oppida was a milestone in the urbanisation of the continent as they were the first large settlements north of the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 that could genuinely be described as town
A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size a settlement must be in order to be called a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many American "small towns" seem to British people to be no more than villages, while...

s. Caesar pointed out that each tribe of Gaul would have several oppida but that they were not all of equal importance, perhaps implying some form of hierarchy
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...


In conquered lands, the Romans used the infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

 of the oppida to administer the empire, and many became full Roman towns. This often involved a change of location from the hilltop into the plain.

In France

  • Alesia
    Alesia (city)
    thumb|200px|Vercingetorix Memorial in Alesia thumb|200px|right|The [[fortification]]s built by Caesar in AlesiaInset: cross shows location of Alesia in Gaul...

  • Bibracte
    Bibracte, a Gaulish oppidum or fortified city, was the capital of the Aedui and one of the most important hillforts in Gaul. It was situated near modern Autun in Burgundy, France. The material culture of the Aedui corresponded to the Late Iron Age La Tène culture,In 58 BC, at the Battle of...

     (Mont Beuvray), 135 ha
  • Corent
    Corent is a commune in the Puy-de-Dôme department in Auvergne in central France.It sits approximately 2 miles north of Les Martres-de-Veyre on the side of the old volcanic Puy de Corent....

  • Divodurum
    Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

    , ancestor of present-day Metz
    Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

    , oppidum of the Mediomatrici
    The Mediomatrici were an ancient Celtic people of Gaul, who belong to the division of Belgica. Julius Caesar shows their position in a general way when he says that the Rhine flows along the territories of the Sequani, Mediomatrici, Triboci or Tribocci, and Treviri. Ptolemy places the Mediomatrici...

  • Gergovia, 75 ha
  • Montlaurès
  • Oppidum d’Altimurium
    Oppidum d’Altimurium
    The Oppidum d’Altimurium, also known as the Oppidum Murviel-les-Montpellier, is an ancient hill-town near the village of Murviel-lès-Montpellier, France, located between Montpellier and Béziers....

     near Murviel-lès-Montpellier
    Murviel-lès-Montpellier is a commune in the Hérault department in Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France.The Oppidum d’Altimurium, also known as the Oppidum Murviel-les-Montpellier, is an ancient hill-town located near the village....

  • Oppidum d'Ensérune
    Oppidum d'Ensérune
    The Oppidum d'Ensérune is an ancient hill-town near the village of Nissan-lez-Ensérune, France, located between Béziers and Narbonne close to the D609 and Canal du Midi....

  • Pech Maho
    Pech Maho
    Pech Maho oppidum is located on the town Sigean . The last season of excavations on the archaeological site since 2004 has identified most of the walls and the habitats of a pre-Roman oppidum, particularly highlighting the latter stages of occupation of this site before its definitive...

  • Salon-de-Provence
    Salon-de-Provence is a commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône department in southern France. It is the location of an important air base.-History:Salon was a Gallo-Roman oppidum well positioned on the salt trade routes between Adriatic, Atlantic and Mediterranean seas, hence its name...

  • Toulouse
    Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

Also see: Roquepertuse
Acropolis Roquepertuse is a historical religious center for the Celts. It is located near the city of Velaux, north of Marseille and west of Aix-en-Provence, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur région of southern France. Roquepertuse had no domiciles available for worshippers and has been used as a...

, Oppidum d'Entremont

In the Low Countries

  • Oppidum Aduaticorum/Atuatucorum (Namur)
    Namur (city)
    Namur is a city and municipality in Wallonia, in southern Belgium. It is both the capital of the province of Namur and of Wallonia....

    , Wallonia, Belgium
  • Canteleux, Huissignies, Chièvres
    Chièvres is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut. On January 1, 2006 Chièvres had a total population of 6,198. The total area is 46.91 km² which gives a population density of 132 inhabitants per km²....

    , Wallonia, Belgium
  • Cheslé, Bérisménil, Samrée La Roche-en-Ardenne
    La Roche-en-Ardenne
    La Roche-en-Ardenne is a Walloon municipality of Belgium located in the province of Luxembourg.On 1 January 2007 the municipality, which covers 147.52 km², had 4,348 inhabitants, giving a population density of 29.5 inhabitants per km²....

    , Wallonia, Belgium
  • Chession, Han-sur-Lesse
    Han-sur-Lesse is a village in the municipality of Rochefort, Namur Province, Belgium. It is famous for the exceptional caves carved under a nearby hill by the river Lesse, which tourists reach via a preserved remnant of the country's vicinal tramway system....

    , Rochefort
    Rochefort, Belgium
    Rochefort is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Namur close to the Ardennes. On January 1, 2006 Rochefort had a total population of 12,038. The total area is 165.27 km² which gives a population density of 73 inhabitants per km²...

    , Wallonia, Belgium
  • Flobecq
    Flobecq is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut. It borders to the municipalities of Ellezelles and Lessines in the same province and to Brakel in the province of East Flanders, on the other side of the language border.On January 1, 2008, Flobecq had a total...

    , Wallonia, Belgium
  • Gilly
    Gilly is a municipality in the district of Nyon in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland.-History:Gilly is first mentioned in 1179 as de iusliaco. In 1278 it was mentioned as Gillie.-Geography:...

    -Ransart, Charleroi
    Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

    , Wallonia, Belgium
  • Gougnies, Gerpinnes
    Gerpinnes is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut. On 1 January 2006 the municipality had 12,030 inhabitants. The total area is 47.10 km², giving a population density of 255 inhabitants per km²....

    , Wallonia, Belgium
  • Orchimont, Vresse-sur-Semois
    Vresse-sur-Semois is a Walloon municipality of Belgium located in the province of Namur. It consists of the former municipalities of Alle, Bagimont, Bohan, Chairière, Laforêt, Membre, Mouzaive, Nafraiture, Orchimont, Pussemange, Sugny and Vresse....

    , Wallonia, Belgium
  • Sinsin, Somme-Leuze
    Somme-Leuze is a Walloon municipality and village in the Belgian province of Namur.On 1 January 2006 the municipality had 4,656 inhabitants. The total area is 95.09 km², giving a population density of 49 inhabitants per km².-Other centres:...

    , Wallonia, Belgium
  • Titelberg
    Titelberg is the site of a large Celtic settlement or oppidum in the extreme south west of Luxembourg. In the 1st century BC, this thriving community was probably the capital of the Treveri people...

    , Luxembourg

In Germany

  • Heidengraben, Germany, 1400 ha
  • Kelheim
    Kelheim is a municipality in Bavaria, capital of the district Kelheim. It is situated at the confluence of Altmühl and Danube. As of June 30, 2005, the town had a population of 15,667....

    , Germany, 600 ha
  • Manching
    Oppidum of Manching
    The Oppidum of Manching was a large Celtic proto-urban or city-like settlement at modern-day Manching , Bavaria . The settlement was founded in the 3rd century BC and existed until c. 50-30 BC. It reached its largest extent during the late La Tène period , when it had a size of 380 hectares...

    , Germany, 380 ha
  • Donnersberg
    For the Czech mountain, see MilešovkaThe Donnersberg is the highest peak of the Palatinate region of Germany. The mountain lies between the towns of Rockenhausen en Kirchheimbolanden, in the Donnersbergkreis district, which is named after the mountain. The highway A63 runs along the southern edge...

    , 240 ha
  • Glauberg
    The Glauberg is a Celtic oppidum in Hesse, Germany consisting of a fortified settlement and several burial mounds, "a princely seat of the late Hallstatt and early La Tène periods."Archaeological discoveries in the 1990s place the site among the most important early Celtic centres in Europe...

    , Germany
  • Alcimoennis
    Alcimoennis was a Celtic Oppidum, or hill fort, located on the Michelsberg hill, dominating the peninsula between the Danube and Altmühl rivers in northern Bavaria, Germany, above the modern city of Kelheim....

    , Germany

In Central and Eastern Europe

  • Basel-Münsterhügel
    The Basel oppidum, known as Basel-Münsterhügel, is an Iron Age fort constructed by the Rauraci in the second half of the 1st century BC , after the battle of Bibracte . The fort was situated on what is now the Münsterhügel in the Swiss city of Basel...

    , Switzerland
  • Lhota-Točná/Závist, Czech Republic, 170 ha
  • Stradonice
    Stradonice (Kladno District)
    Stradonice is a village and municipality in Kladno District in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. -References:*This article was initially translated from the Czech Wikipedia....

    , Czech Republic
  • Staré Hradisko, Czech Republic
  • Na Hrádnici, Czech Republic
  • Třísov, Czech Republic
  • Hostýn
    Hostýn is a hill in Moravia, Czech Republic. It is an important Marian place of pilgrimage....

    , Czech Republic
  • Bratislava
    Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and, with a population of about 431,000, also the country's largest city. Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia on both banks of the Danube River. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two independent countries.Bratislava...

    , Slovakia
  • Devín
    Devín originally a separate town at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, is now a suburb of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. It is an important archaeological site, famous for the ruins of Devín Castle...

    , Slovakia
  • Mukachevo, Ukraine

In Iberia

  • Oppidum of Iruña-Veleia
    Veleia was a Roman town in Hispania, currently located in the Basque Country, Spain. The site is located in the municipality of Iruña de Oca, 10 kilometers west of Vitoria. The town was an important station on the Roman road ab Asturica Burdigalam that ran parallel to the coast of the Bay of Biscay...

    , Álava
    Álava is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the Basque Country, heir of the ancient Lord of Álava. Its capital city is Vitoria-Gasteiz which is also the capital of the autonomous community...

    , Spain
  • Cerro de la Plaza de Armas de Puente Tablas, Jaén, Spain, Spain
  • Oppidum Noega, Gijón
    Gijón , officially Gijón / Xixón, is a coastal industrial city and a municipality in the autonomous community of Asturias in Spain. Early mediaeval texts mention it as "Gigia". It was an important regional Roman city, although the area has been settled since earliest history...

    , Spain
  • Mesa de Miranda, Ávila, Spain
  • Castro of Ulaca, Ávila, Spain
  • Castro of las Cogotas
    Las Cogotas
    Las Cogotas, is an archaeological site in Spain in Cardenosa municipality, province of Avila. The site was researched by the Galician archaeologist Juan Cabré in 1920s. It is namesake for two different archaeological cultures known from this site: Cogotas I of the Late Bronze Age and Cogotas II ...

    , Ávila, Spain
  • Contrebia Leucade, La Rioja
    La Rioja (Spain)
    La Rioja is an autonomous community and a province of northern Spain. Its capital is Logroño. Other cities and towns in the province include Calahorra, Arnedo, Alfaro, Haro, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and Nájera.-History:...

    , Spain
  • Óbidos, Portugal

In the British Isles

  • Nanstallon
    Nanstallon is a village in central Cornwall, United Kingdom. It is situated approximately two miles west of Bodmin.Nanstallon is in the civil parish of Lanivet overlooking the River Camel valley and the Camel Trail long distance path. The present terminus of the Bodmin and Wenford Railway at...

    , Cornwall
  • Ratae Corieltauvorum
    Ratae Corieltauvorum
    Ratae Corieltauvorum was a town in the Roman province of Britannia. Today it is known as Leicester, located in the English county of Leicestershire.-Name:...

     (Leicester), England
  • Traprain Law
    Traprain Law
    Traprain Law is a hill about 221m in elevation, located east of Haddington in East Lothian, Scotland. It is the site of an oppidum or hill fort, which covered at its maximum extent about 16 ha and must have been a veritable town...

    , Scotland
  • Verlamion
    Verlamion, or Verlamio, was the tribal capital of the Catuvellauni tribe in Iron Age Britain from approximately 20 BC until shortly after the Roman invasion of 43 AD...

    , England

In the mediaeval Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

, oppidum was the legal Latin term for market town
Market town
Market town or market right is a legal term, originating in the medieval period, for a European settlement that has the right to host markets, distinguishing it from a village and city...

s , which were of lesser status than free royal towns but more important than villages.

Further reading

  • Collis, John
    John Collis
    John Collis, is a British prehistorian. His first dig was in Longbridge Deverill with the Hawkes. He studied in Prague , Tübingen and Cambridge and was awarded his Ph.D. in Cambridge, where he studied from 1963-1970. He joined the Archaeology Department in Sheffield in 1972 and was made professor...

    (1984) Oppida, earliest towns north of the Alps. Sheffield
  • Garcia, Dominique (2004) La Celtique Méditeranée: habitats et sociétés en Languedoc et en Provence, VIIIe - IIe siècles av. J.-C. chapter 4 La « civilisation des oppida » : dynamique et chronologie. Paris, Editions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-286-4
  • Sabatino Moscati (ed.), Otto Hermann Frey (ed.), Venceslas Kruta (ed.), Barry Raftery (ed.), Miklos Szabo (ed.) (1998) The Celts, Rizzoli
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