(Arles sur Rhône) Bouches-du-Rhône,
Situated 90 km W of Marseille on a
rocky spur overhanging ancient marshland. The first Phokaian settlement was destroyed by the Ligurians in 535
B.C. Revived in the 4th c. B.C., the settlement developed
considerably after Marius had built the Fossae Marianae,
the canals linking Arles with the Golfe de Fos (104 B.C.).
In 49 B.C. the city provided Caesar with seagoing ships
for the siege of Marseille, and in 46 the Colonia Julia
Paterna Arelate Sexterum was founded opposite the Gallo-Greek city. An important seaport and naval shipyard
grew up on the Via Aurelia. The city was developed
under Augustus and Christianized under Constantine.
The Council of 314 took place here. About A.D. 400
Arles became the residence of the Prefect of the Gauls,
replacing Lyon, and ca. 480 the city was laid waste by
The most important extant monuments date from the
Augustan and Constantinian periods. From the first we
have the earliest surrounding wall, with its decumanus
gate of half-moon plan marking the beginning of the
Aurelian Way to the E; to the SE is a well-preserved
section ca. 200 m long. The rest of the wall must have
formed four more sides, one of them running parallel to
the Rhône. Two municipal arches, now gone but known
from descriptions and drawings, marked the limits of
the pomaerium to the NE and SW—the Arcus Admirabilis and the so-called Arch of Constantine, both dating
from the late Republican era. At that time the city
probably was slightly less than 20 ha in area. The modern streets reflect the grid pattern of the rectangular
insulae, as well as the cardo and decumanus, at the
crossing of which was the forum. Its site is marked by
huge cryptoporticos, very well preserved, built below
ground on three of its sides. The complex is U-shaped and
opens to the E, 90 x 60 m. It was lit by vents, the outer
ends of which terminated at the base of a podium built
inside the U. Traces were found of the fourth side of the
forum and some remains indicate a date from the Augustan period. The N gallery is lined with a row of stalls set
up below the forum.
Outside the forum, to the W, are remains of a large
paved courtyard bounded to the S by a wall that forms
a huge exedra with a monumental gate cut in it. At
either end are remains of colonnades leading N. These
may indicate the peribolos of a temple of ca. the 2d c. A.D.
The theater (diam. 102 m) is ca. 300 m E of the forum
and fits into the plan of the ancient city: its scaenae
frons is aligned with a cardo. Although the theater is on
the W slope of the city escarpment, every part of it is
built; the cavea was supported by a continuous system
of radiating arches, demonstrated by a modern restoration in situ. The outer walls are almost completely destroyed except at two points, one of which, known as
Roland's Tower, shows three superimposed architectural
orders framing the arcades. The scaenae frons is in ruins
except for two columns which, with their architrave, remain in situ to the right of the site of the valvia regia.
The complex of the postscaenium and the parascaenia
could be restored, and the stone floor of the orchestra
is well preserved. Three altars have been excavated and
some statues, among them the famous Venus of Arles
and a torso, with head, of a colossal statue of Augustus.
The outer architectural decoration together with the
continuing use of Doric elements suggest that the theater may have been begun under the second triumvirate,
while the statue of Augustus suggests that it was completed during that emperor's reign.
The amphitheater is less than 100 m from the theater
in an oblique SE-NW position relative to the grid of the
insulae. The great axis of the ellipse is 136.2 m, the small
axis 106.75, and the arena 69.10 by 39.65 m. The outer
wall is well preserved up to the first-story entablature; the
attic has gone. Two stories of 60 arcades with two superimposed architectural orders are still standing, among
them four lower ones for entrance on the axes. The lower
arcades open on to a wide gallery with a stone ceiling that
serves as the floor of a second gallery one story above.
Corridors and stairways lead to more galleries, then to
more stairways, so as to serve the entire cavea. Many of
the seats in the lower section are still preserved, as is the
podium, originally covered with slabs of marble. Part of
the wall surrounding the colony had to be pulled down to
build the amphitheater. Its position in the city and certain
details of its structure date it to the Flavian period.
The circus was outside the city along the Rhône, downstream and ca. 500 m from the surrounding wall (outside
width 100 m; inner width 83.3 m; width of spina 6.00 m;
total length probably 400 m). An obelisk found there is
now in the Place de la République. Built in the 1st c. A.D.,
this circus was still in use in the 6th and 7th c.
Remains of minor monuments were noted in the 17th
and 18th c. E of the theater, at the city's highest point.
There were probably two temples here, one of them consecrated to the Good Goddess. There were doubtless other sanctuaries, large or small, for indigenous cults and for those from the Orient and Rome, first pagan, then
In the Constantine period the N gallery of the crytoporticos was duplicated by an arcaded gallery that curved
back E and W to encircle a second courtyard, or another
forum. This new gallery and that of the cryptoporticos
were interrupted along the axis by the foundations of a
monument with a vestibule of four columns, two of which
are still standing in the modern Place du Forum. The
frieze and architrave had an inscription in bronze letters
alluding to Constantine II (A.D. 337-340). Farther N are
the remains of a monument (94 x 47 m) that terminates,
quite near the Rhône in a huge, well-preserved, vaulted
apse. These are the remains of baths with several heated
rooms; but modern building makes it impossible to tell
whether there were porticos surrounding a vast courtyard, or a basilica. The use of brick, more systematic
than in the arcaded gallery, suggests that the complex
dates from the beginning of the 4th c. A.D.
The city received its water from two aqueducts that
came from the Alpilles and met at Barbegal, where remains of a flour mill can still be seen.
Opposite Arles, on the right bank of the Rhône, was
a sizable settlement now known as Faubourg de Trinquetaille. It was approached by a pontoon bridge; the remains of one of the first stone arches are still to be seen
on the left bank. This suburb included a seaport and
docks; farther off were houses of ship fitters, merchants,
and landowners, and, farther still, farms and villas. The
remains of a cella can be seen 1 km from the river bank.
The area of this second Arles is still to be determined.
Since the left-bank city was partly surrounded by
marshlands, the necropoleis could not be extended along
the roads, but spread out parallel to the SE and S surrounding walls. The largest one, to the SE, famous in
legend in the Middle Ages and known since then as Les
Aliscamps, contained several layers of tombs. Stone and
marble sarcophagi have been found there, also funerary
monuments, stelae, cippi, and mausoleums.
There is a museum rich in Roman antiquities and a
museum of Christian art containing a number of marble
J. Formigé, “Remarques sur les théâtres romains,” Mémoires présentés par divers savants à l'Académie
; id., “L'Amphithéâtre d'Arles,” RA
(1964: 2) 25-41, 113-63I
; (1965:1) 1-46I
; L. A. Constans, Arles antique
; F. Benoit, Forma orbis romani: Bouches du Rhône
(1936); id., “Sarcophages paléochrétiens d'Arles et de Marseille,” Gallia
5 (1954) Suppl.; Grenier, Manuel
II:1, 289-95; II:2, 493-510; III:1, 158-71; III:2, 613-39; IV:1, 75-88I
; A. Boethius & J. Ward-Perkins,
Etruscan and Roman Architecture
(1970) see index for
Arles; M. Euzennat, “Le monument à rotonde de la
nécropole du cirque à Arles,” CRAI
(1972); R. Amy,
“Les cryptoportiques d'Arles,” Actes du colloque de Rome