Version FrançaiseEnglish VersionNederlandse versieDeutsch Version
1 week in the Gorges du Verdon= 2 campsites to discover the richness of this incredible site

Find out more

Set the context in space and time


Provence is the early romanized part of our country. Its name comes from the latin "provincia" and refers to the province of transalpine Gaul conquered by Rome in the 1st century BCE. It extended over a much larger territory than Provence current, as it included all of the Mediterranean, from the Alps to the Pyrenees and went back to the North to the city of Vienna.
The main remains arrived until we are nevertheless within a smaller perimeter, which the Rhone is somehow the spine. Vaison in mark the limit to the North, the West Nîmes, Aix-en-Provence to the East and the Mediterranean Sea South.
This area was occupied before the arrival of the Romans by Celto-Ligurians, regarded by the ancients as of very pious Warrior, honouring in the Woods and the shrines of the gods very various, such as mother goddesses or male characters. They lived in 'oppida', fortified villages on the heights, which can still see the remains at Entremont, Saint-Blaise or Constantine.

Traders from Phocaea

The Celto-Ligurians had left to settle on the shores of their territory by Greek sailors. These traders from Phocaea, city of Asia minor, had founded Marseille in 600 BCE, then a string of colonies as Agde West of the Rhône or Nice East. Until the 2nd century BCE, these two peoples live in relative harmony. The few Greeks are content to trade with the local population, without attempting to submit it or to impose the values of the culture.
But gradually, the celto-Ligurian tribes become more aggressive and plunder the city counters. Marseille, too weak to deal with only these barbarians, called Rome to his rescue. In eight years, between 125 and 117 BCE, the Romans shall submit the local tribes and thus founded the first Roman province of Gaul, Gallia narbonensis. Sixty years later, between 58 and 54 BCE, César conquers the rest of this 'country '.
Until then, Marseille and Rome deal with still equal to equal in the region. But the power struggle between the two proconsuls pumped and César upset this balance. Marseille offers its support to the first at the expense of the second. In 49 BC, César submits Marseille and withdrawn almost all of its territories. It offers in Arles, which had given him its support against Pompey.

Special Offers

Chalet on campsite at Castellane Mobile-home
Starting from 301 €/Week

Mobile-home at Castellane Chalet
Starting from 350 €/Week

Camping pitches at Castellane Gorges du Verdon Pitches Gorges du Verdon
Starting from 18 €/Night

Prosperity in Provence

A period of relative prosperity and peace then begins to Provence. His fate remains for five centuries intimately linked to that of Rome, whose Empire includes the greater part of the lands around the Mediterranean. As a province rich and stable, Narbonne is placed under the authority of the Senate, unlike the other parts of Gaul, controlled by the emperor. The Provence celto-Ligurian tribes having been pacified, Rome hairline territory his troops, preferring to install them in most hostile places like the Alpine provinces.
The Roman administration is in Provence, undeveloped and inconspicuous. The Roman Senate while delegates every year a Governor, the "proconsul", chosen from among its members, but a large part of the administrative matters can be adjusted at the local level, that of the city. Municipal institutions are patterned on those of Rome. Each city has two or four Supreme magistrates, the duumvirs or quatuorvirs, two officials who oversee the maintenance of streets and squares, and two Quaestors, dealing with financial matters. In each city is also a Senate composed of one hundred members.
The towns of Gallia narbonensis do not have all the same status. Some are colonies of Roman law, that is, their inhabitants are considered in Rome as citizens with full rights. Arles and Orange, where César installed veteran legionaries by offering them a piece of land.
From the reign of Augustus (27 BC.-14 a.d. adoptive son of César, Provence covers monuments.) Rome serves as a model to all cities. Each of them wants to possess its forum, this large square surrounded by a portico, Center of public and commercial life where stand in official buildings like the Curia, seat of the local administration, municipal Treasury, granaries.
On the other hand, other cities, like Glanum, possess only the latin right. Their inhabitants enjoy full civil rights, but they do access freedom of the Roman city by the exercise of municipal offices. However, in 212 ad, the edict of Caracalla unifies persons statutes granting Roman citizenship to all inhabitants of the Empire.

Roman Temples

In these buildings, of which the best example is the Maison carree in Nîmes, citizens honor the Emperor and his family, thereby expressing their loyalty to Rome.However, they do not consider the Emperor in his lifetime as a God. Only the Roman Senate awarded him the title after his death and only if his reign was exemplary.

Roman recreation

In Provence, as throughout the Empire, citizens adopt recreation of Rome, building baths, theatres and amphitheatres...
The baths, which can be seen a few vestiges in Vaison, Arles, Glanum are public and free. They serve as baths, gym, place for meetings and discussions. They open in the early afternoon and close to the night. Swimmer follows a medically established circuit. II begins with a few gymnastics moves in a room temperature.After rested in a warm room, it cleans in the «destrictarium» in sprinkling water and scraping the skin using "strigils. It then passes in a dry oven to remove impurities from the pores, then takes a bath hot in "calidarium", warm in the 'tepidarium', cold in the "frigidarium". The meeting ends with anointing of oil massages.
To heat the air and water, it uses "tepidaria. These fireplaces installed in basement diffuse heat by brick pillars supporting the paving of the rooms. Hot air back then in ducts terracotta walls and escapes to the outside through chimneys. Soils of the baths, sometimes burning, forcing bathers to move with wood-soled sandals.

The three orders

In architecture, the Romans borrowed greatly from the Greeks. So they took in their monuments three orders of columns, classical architecture defined by the Greeks at the end of the 6th century BC. The simplest and oldest is called the Doric or Tuscan to the Romans. Recognizable by its sober marquee, it appears mostly on the lower floor of the buildings. The ion wears a tent in the shape of RAM's horns, while that of the Corinthian is decorated with acanthus leaves.

The architecture of the theatre

The bleachers, in a semi-circle, are arranged around the Orchestra and in front of the stage. The population moved there according to the class to which it belongs. Thus, slaves and foreigners were found above, standing under the bleachers. The people at the top were Roman citizens in the middle of the bleachers and finally the municipal magistrates and Knights to the best seats. The 'scena' is slightly elevated compared with the "orchestra" and separated from it by the "pulpitum", small wall decorated with statues. It has a floor based on beams and Percé traps from which arise and disappear the actors.
A wall, with several floors of colonnades and ornate statues and mosaics, closes the scene. It is pierced doors by which stakeholders, various animals and vehicles enter and leave.
The theatres of Narbonne are some comedies and Greek tragedies, but above all mimes and pantomimes, two genres have emerged at the end of the Republic (-30 av. J.-C.) in Rome and which supersedes the Bas-Empire all other forms of entertainment. Mime, close to comedy in its tendency to caricature, draws its inspiration from scenes of manners and news. The pantomime, akin to the tragedy by the taste of the mythological drama, resembles a dance performed by an actor with a choir. At the time of late Antiquity, mimes have largely evolved into pornography, provoking the indignation of Christian authors.
The leaders of the cities spend considerable sums for the Organization of these entertainments. Thus in Nîmes, which the theatre is no longer visible, the local Senate honors a certain Q. Avilius Hyacinthus thanking him for giving the city a 'velum', covering designed to protect spectators from the elements. The municipal magistrates also sometimes maintain troops of artists.
The actors, both courted and reprobates, have an ambivalent status. Thus, if Roman Emperor Nero (54-68) was a famous pantomime called Paris to favorite, a long text of a sénatus-consulte dating back to 19 a.d. and found at Larino (Italy) judge "degrading" to perform on stage. Members of the equestrian or Senate order also prohibited such activity.

The amphitheatre, a Roman invention

The cities of Provence also hills of amphitheatres, that can still be seen in Arles, Nîmes and Fréjus. Unlike theaters, which already existed among the Greeks, the amphitheaters are Roman inventions. They mainly accommodate gladiator fights. These shows take place on the occasion of fixed feasts, celebrations of the imperial cult or during a special event like a military victory. Municipal judges support the cost of entertainment that lasts an average of one to five days.
The games begin with a parade, in which participate the games sponsor, musicians and Gladiators. Then, the fighters will become hot with harmless weapons.They then receive their actual weapons, reviewed by the sponsor of the games and are then assigned an opponent.
Monitored by an arbitrator, combat ends in the death of one of the Gladiators. If one of the two, injured or exhausted, admits defeat, the sponsor of the games can give grace. In general, requesting the opinion of the public. When the majority of spectators waving a piece of cloth or raises his hand, the loser has saved life.If, on the contrary, most fall thumb towards the Earth, Gladiator dies slain by his opponent. As a reward of his strength and his bravery, the winner receives gold coins. When two fighters, particularly valiant, are unable to prevail on the other, they are both pardoned.
In general, the Gladiators keep bare-chested. On the other hand, the head, arms and legs are still protected, to avoid that the protagonists are crippled and therefore forced to stop the fight. They carry weapons very diverse, as a net, a lasso, a trident, a sword, a dagger, a sword, a Javelin...
Most Gladiators voluntarily, attracted by the lure of profit. They then lose their civil rights. Their service lasts an average of five years. If they survived, they receive at the end of this period a wooden sword as a symbol of their return to civilian life. A small number of these fighters are on death row. They are never entitled to grace. Others are sentenced to forced labour, which, if they survive until the end of their sentences, are released.

Roman House

If the outside is rather modest, their interior is, however, highly decorated. The walls and the ceiling are coated with coating, covered with an inlay of marble or a polychrome mosaic floor. The House is organized around two major parts, the atrium and peristyle. The first, whose central part is open, has a basin, called "impluvium", intended to receive rain water. Around the basin lies a gallery, often topped by a stage. On one side sits the "tablinum", receipt of the head of the family firm. The peristyle courtyard surrounded by a portico and with, usually, a garden with a pool, forms the centre of the part of the House reserved for the family. The triclinum or dining rooms and the grand salon "oecus" overlook this Court. The bedrooms, small dimension to facilitate heating, more often include only a bed without cloth. In the dining room, there are a table and beds on which the guests settle.
The kitchen is most often located north to promote the conservation of foodstuffs. It has an important work plan with one or more homes. In order to reduce expenditures in lead piping and connection to sewer, kitchen, bathroom, Appanages of the wealthy, and the latrines, toilets fitted with stone benches drilled holes, are frequently spaced. Thanks to Roman aqueducts, some sections, such as the Pont du Gard, are still intact, many houses receive water at home.

A prosperous trade

As throughout the Roman Empire, the economy in Provence is before all agricultural. Most of the population derives its resources from the Earth and most often, the wealth of individuals is measured by the importance of their land ownership. From the beginning of the Empire (in 27 BCE), the Gaul Narbonne is experiencing a remarkable economic boom, thanks to the development of the vine, olive, wheat and sheep farming. The remains of the bergerie la Crau and the moulin de Barbegal near Arles, testify to the dynamism of these activities. On the other hand, craft develops quite a few. There certainly in Arles of the carpenters, but unlike the rest of Gaul, virtually no ceramics or textile factories.
Provence exports mainly oil and its renowned wine, but it is also a place of passage of food from the North such as Tin, copper, iron, or goods from the South, such wines of Italy. Three main roads, built by the Romans, dominate the communications network. The way Agrippa, connecting Arles to Lyon, skirting the Rhone, the way one, ranging from Rome in Nîmes and the way Domitia, the oldest of the three, from Northern Italy to join the Spain. They are often paved the entry of cities and their State leaves something to be desired. Thus the Greek geographer Strabo (58?-between 21 and 25) writes of the via Domitia: it is "excellent summer", but "any muddy in winter, or even spring" and "it sometimes even happens to be a whole invaded and cut off by the waters.
Coupling techniques, like the ancient necklace or throat, limit loading about 500 kilos. Charrois, pulled by oxen or horses, moving slowly. For these two reasons, fluvial and maritime transport are most appreciated by merchants. In Provence, Rhône and its tributaries, such as the Durance or L'ouveze, are very common, as shown by the many associations of boatmen on these rivers. Mediterranean Sea, regarded by the Romans as their property because they hold all the shores, also largely contributes to trade. The seasons dictate the pace of travel. Officially, the sea is 'closed' from September to may. But business with sometimes the priority on safety, the Mediterranean "opens" from March to November. To avoid storms and facilitate their resupply, sailors usually practice the coasting trade along the coast.

Pont Julien (Apt)

Its name comes from the imperial family of the Julii. He date, apparently, the beginning of our era. Located in the vicinity of Apt, it allows the via Domitia to cross the river by the Cavalon. The Romans have chosen a particularly favorable to the building of this book ground. Indeed, the watercourse tightens at this location, which allows to build a smaller bridge that elsewhere. In addition, rocky outcrops are particularly numerous and thus offer a solid foundation to support the bridge. Built large stone, it measures 68 meters long and consists of three arches arches of unparalleled magnitude. The two arches placed at the ends are smaller than the middle one. The roadway has a profile in donkey, as had Vaison bridge before its numerous refurbishments.


Back to questions on Ancient history in Provence

Other information
Other categories