A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
The Romans were on to something! As with so many parts of the ancient world, they colonized France (then Gaul), which was then and still is one of the most beautiful parts of their vast empire. Home to some of the most spectacular and best-preserved Roman buildings and monuments outside of Italy, Provence and adjacent areas of southern France are archaeologically rich in Roman sites and have the added benefit of providing delicious Provençal food and wine from nearby vineyards to the traveler sated by long days of exploring antiquity. In April 2007 my husband, Steve Morse, and I spent a couple of weeks in this delightful part of the world.
Jane C. Waldbaum is Professor Emerita of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses on Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art history and archaeology for almost 30 years. A graduate of Brandeis University (1962), Jane earned her MA and PhD (1968) in Classical Archaeology from Harvard University, and has worked on archaeological excavations at Gezer and Ashkelon in Israel, at Gordion and Sardis in Turkey, at Idalion in Cyprus, and at Paestum in Italy. Her research interests include cultural and economic contacts among the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean region and she has written three books and numerous articles on this and other subjects.
Jane is the immediate Past President of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), serving as President from 2003 to 2007 and first Vice President from 1999 to 2003. She is currently President of the AIA's local society in Milwaukee. She has also served as a trustee of the American Schools of Oriental Research and of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.
Click on the photos to begin your tour.
We started out in the ancient Greek port of Massalia (modern Marseille), traditionally settled by Ionian Greeks from Phocaea in western Asia Minor around 600 B.C.
Avignon has a primarily medieval flavor, though it was settled much earlier than that.
If you are looking for visible and comprehensible Roman remains, Arles is a good place to start.
Named for a local Celtic spring deity, Nemausus (Nîmes) stood at the convergence of a number of important routes.
Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard was probably built in the late first century B.C. under the emperor Augustus, though some have suggested a later date.
Aqueducts de Barbegal
While the Pont du Gard is well preserved and well known, the Aqueducts de Barbegal, near Arles, lie in ruins off-the-beaten-track, sitting beside a secondary road and running through farm fields and olive groves.
Orange, Roman Arausio, was inhabited from Neolithic times.
The triumphal arch at Carpentras was probably built in the first century, roughly contemporary with the better-preserved and better-known arch at Orange, and like it, celebrates a military victory.
First excavated from 1907 to 1955 and again since the 1970s, Vaison-la-Romaine (Roman Vasio) provides a fascinating picture of how the wealthy Romanized Celtic citizens of the town lived during its heyday.
The site of Glanum is about three kilometers south of the town of St.-Remy and next door to the monastery where Vincent van Gogh spent much of the last year of his life.