France, The Roman Empire

Roman bricks were made to last

Having been back just over a month from 10 weeks in Italy looking at everything greek, roman and etruscan, I’ve finally decided it’s time for another blog post. I have much to unbosom visavi my latest trip (84 new GB of films and photos!), but for now I’ll just rewind the clock to last summer and the warm, friendly atmosphere of southern France.

Little did I know then what would find me in these gentle surroundings, even though my first trip in 2008 to Marseille, Martigues, Aix-en-Provence and Arles had been quite promising indeed. I returned to Arles and Aix last summer also, but included quite a few other former roman colonies on my improvised route, in total an estimated 1150 km (or 714 miles) on french roads.

Right where the eastern part of Provence begins to merge into the riviera Julius Caesar once created a military harbour and founded a new market town, Forum Iulli in 49 BP. He simultaneously created a new road there connecting Italy with Spain along this part of the french coast.

After the Roman peace the Market of the Julians would suddenly lose it’s strategic importance and it gradually went into decline. Apart from the amphitheatre there is also a roman theatre and the remains of a large aqueduct that still traverse the cosy idyll of Fréjus. The reason for this is not as sentimental as some ruin enthusiast perhaps would have it.

The incredible durability of roman concrete and bricks simply make it more expensive to get rid of theses structures than to leave them standing around. Thanks to this lucky accident we can still today get a glimpse of what Rome once built on it’s then new frontiers, arguably succeeding with the apparent aim of making it indefinitely roman.