France, The Roman Empire

Glanum: Celts, Greeks and Romans

Glanum was founded in the 6th century BCE by the Salyens, a Celto-Ligurian tribe, on the flanks of The Alpilles, a small mountain range about 20 km  (12 miles) south of Avignon, just outside present day Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It was a  fortified town or oppidum, (a term still in use ever since Caesar’s conquest of Gaul) known for it’s healing springs. Glanum later became a Roman city in Provincia, modern day Provence, until its final abandonment in 260 CE.

It’s known for two particularly well-preserved Roman monuments, known as Les Antiques; a mausoleum and the oldest triumphal arch in France, both from the 1st century BCE. The Salyens, Provence’s largest Celto-Ligurian tribe, first built a rampart of stones on the peaks surrounding the valley of Notre-Dame-de-Laval in the 4th century BCE, then Glanum was constructed in the valley with a shrine to the Celtic god Glanis built around the spring. Glanum grew until the 2nd century BCE when another city wall was added.

The town kept a strong Celtic identity with statues and pottery telling us of residents named Vrittakos, Eporix, Litumaros, and local god Glanis and his companions the Glanicae, similar to the Roman Matres with goddesses Rosmerta and Epona. Celtic customs where upheld, such as the displaying severed heads of enemies at the city gate and cooking utensils found in the ruins shows the inhabitants favoured boiling pots over frying pans setting them apart from other Mediterranean tribes.

Glanum had early contacts with Massalia (present day Marseille), a Greek colony founded around 600 BCE, resulting in Hellenic influences in both art and architecture. 2nd century wars with Massalia however meant the Greeks soon called upon their Roman allies. In 125 BCE the Salyens were defeated by the Roman consul Flaccus, and again the following year by Sextus when much of Glanum was destroyed. The town prospered again, thanks to its popular springs, Glanum minted silver coins and new monuments were built until another rebellion against Rome in 90 BCE. This was crushed again, this time by the Roman consul Caecilius, and public buildings were yet again destroyed and replaced by more modest structures.

In 49 BCE Caesar captured Massalia, and after the civil wars a general romanization of Provence began. Emperor Augustus created the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis in 27 BCE and gave Glanum latin citizen status. This was when Les Antiques where both built, the triumphal arch built slightly after the mausoleum between 25-10 BCE. Thet are shown at the start of the film (on the top of the page).

During the late 1st century BCE, and the early first centruy CE, a forum, temples, and a curved stone arch dam was built, Glanum Dam, the oldest of its kind, along with an aqueduct, supplying the fountains and baths in the town. Glanum became less prosperous than other Roman colonies such as Arles, Avignon or Cavaillon but still had several impressive buildings clad in marble by the 2nd century CE.

Glanum was finally overrun and destroyed by the Alemanni in 260 CE and subsequently abandoned, its inhabitants moving just a short distance north into the plain to found what later became Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Glanum then became a source of stone and other building materials. Since the Roman sewers and drainage sytem was not maintained, the ruins were eventually flooded and became covered with mud and sediment. “Les Antiques,” remained famous however, and where eventually visited by Charles IX of France, who had the surroundings cleaned up and maintained in the 16th century.

Some excavations were made around the monuments by the marquis de Lagoy in the Vallons-de-Notre-Dame who found sculptures and coins. Further excavations began in the 19th century culminating in 1921, when the architect of historic monuments, Jules Foremigé began working on the site and remained there until 1941. Archeologist Pierre LeBrun discovered the baths, the basilica, and the residences of the northern town between 1928 – 1933. Henri Roland worked on the Iron Age sanctuary, to the south from 1942-69, excavating the area from the forum to the sanctuary. The objects he discovered are on display today at the hotel de Sade in the Saint-Remy-de-Provence. New excavation and exploration work began in 1982, devoted mainly to preservation of the site, and to exploring beneath sites already discovered for older works.

Sources: on site information signs and Private Tours Blog:

The songs in the film are *Volgaz’ and ’Soulburner’ both by Hands Of Doom.

Journey Thru History, Perseus Records ® 2016

France, The Roman Empire

The Pompeii of France

Vaison-la-Romaine (Latin: Vasio Julia Vocontiorum), sometimes referred to as “The Pompeii of France” is a commune in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France, and indeed has many wonderful Roman ruins. Both in the upper and lower parts of the city divided by the Ouvèze river, an area that has been inhabited at least since the Bronze Age. In the late 4th century BCE Vaison became capital of the Vocontii, a Celtic tribe.

The Roman conquest in (125-118 BCE) still allowed the Vocontii some autonomy as they managed to maintain their religious center in Luc-en-Diois. Vocontii authority in the Romanization of the Celtic oppidum (large fortified Iron Age settlent) meant the city plan wasn’t completely done over according to Roman orthography. Modern archeology (work done by Christian Goudineau) suggests that Vocontian aristocrats moved down from the oppidum and established villas along the river, around which the Gallo-Roman city then grew.

Vasio would become one of the richest cities of the Roman province Gallia Narbonensis, with many geometric mosaic pavements and a small theatre, probably built during the reign of Tiberius as his statue was found in a prominent place on its site. Also found in the theatre during the 19th century was The Polyclitan Vaison Diadumenos (now in British Museum) and Augustan historian Pompeius Trogus is an example of a prominent Roman born at Vasio.

Barbarian invasions then soon followed after the first raid hit in 276, from which Vasio actually recovered, but in the 5th century the state of affairs where such as the general disorder meant that Christians had began reusing the theatre benches as tombstones. Vaison then first belonged to the Burgundians, was taken by the Ostrogoths in 527, then by Clotaire I, King of the Franks in 545, and then became part of Provence.

Vaison-la-Romaine is well worth a visit, it’s obvius provencal charm aside it’s of particular interest for its geography and Roman ruins. The valley floor was safe from attacks during both Roman and modern times but during the Dark Ages attacks were frequent, and the medieval town retreated high on the rocky cliff to a more defensible position. The Roman ruins are found down in the valley on the banks of the river crossed by an ancient bridge from the 1st century CE, where the modern town is also located.

Reconstructions and fly-over shots in the film are by the Musée archéologique de Vaison-la-Romaine , Additional shots of the bridge from the film Vaison ville romaine éternelle. 

The song in the film is ’Dark Heart of the Woods’ by Hands Of Doom.

Journey Thru History, Perseus Records ® 2016

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.

France, On a more personal note, The Roman Empire

New arrivals

While having been quite busy lately editing films for my blog posts, I’m actually supposed to be doing something else. I’m currently researching an upcoming Thesis about the Roman presence in Gaul during the reign of Augustus.

It will (hopefully) be a cogent study how several Roman monuments in present day France proved significant in the process of Romanization. The Romans tended to eventually regard many things as their very own, such as the Mediterranean Sea which became Mare Nostrum, Our Sea. After successfully having subjugated all tribes in an area, the next step for the Romans was often trying to found permanent settlements for those having formerly served in the Roman military. It’s from these veteran colonies, or Colonia our modern word for colony is derived.

Then, to provide necessary stability in the newly conquered regions the Romans would provide it’s inhabitants with a variety of amenities such as permanent military presence with forts for protection, carefully planned towns with marketplaces, aqueducts for supplying fresh water for baths and agriculture – and last but not least – great monuments; to prove beyond any doubt who was in charge and that this was now Roman lands with approval from the very Gods.

Provincia NostraOur Province, was thus the name gradually chosen by the Romans for the area still known today as Provence in the South of France. It was the very first in a series of Roman provinces founded North of the Alps.


(It’s nice to have an excuse to get some new books!)