(also Arelatum, Arelas, Ἀελάται
: Eth. Arelatensis
), a city of the Provincia or Gallia Narbonensis, first mentioned by Caesar (B.C.
1.36, 2.5), who had some ships built there for the siege of Massilia.
The place is situated on the left bank of the Rhone, where the river divides into two branches.
It was connected by roads with Valentia (Valence
), with Massilia (Marseille
); with Forum Julii (Fréjus
), with Barcino in Spain (Barcelona);
and with other places.
This city is supposed to be the place called Theline in the Ora Maritima
(5.679) of Festus Avienus; and as Theline appears to be a significant Greek term (θηλή
), D'Anville (Notice, &c., Arelate
), and others found a confirmation of the name of Avienus in a stone discovered near: Arles, with the inscription Mammillaria: but the stone is a mile-stone, and the true reading on it is “Massil. Milliar. I.” , that is, the first, milestone on the way from Arelate to Massilia; a signal instance of the blunders which may be made by trusting to careless copies of inscriptions, and to false etymologies (Walckenaer, Géog. des Gaules
). Arelate was in the country of the Salyes, after whose conquest by the Romans (B.C. 123), we may suppose that the place fell under their dominion.
It became a Roman colony, apparently in the time of Augustus, with the name of Sextani attached to it, in consequence of some soldiers of the sixth legion being settled there (Plin. Nat. 3.4
); and this name is confirmed by an inscription. Another inscription gives it also the cognomen Julia. In Strabo's time (p. 181) it was the centre of considerable trade, and Mela (2.5) mentions Arelate as one of the chief cities of Gallia Narbonensis.
The place was improved by Constantine, and a new town was built, probably by him, opposite to the old one, on the other side of the stream; and from this circumstance Arelate was afterwards called Constantina, as it is said. Ausonius (Urb. Nobil.
viii.) accordingly calls Arelate duplex,
and speaks of the bridge of boats on the river.
The new city of Constantine was on the site of the present suburb of Trinquetaille,
in the island of La Camargue,
which is formed by the bifurcation of the Rhone at Aries.
Arelate was the residence of the praefect of Gallia in the time of Honorius; and there was a mint in the city.
The Roman remains of Arles
are very numerous.
An obelisk of Egyptian granite was found buried with earth some centuries ago, and it was set up in 1675 in one of the squares.
It seems that the obelisk had remained on the spot where it was originally landed, and had never been erected by the Romans.
The amphitheatre of Aries
is not so perfect as that of Nemausus (Nimes
), but the dimensions are much larger.
It is estimated that it was capable of containing at least 20,000 persons.
The larger diameter of the amphitheatre is 466 feet.
A part of the old cemetery, Campus Elysius, now Eliscamps,
contains ancient tombs, both Pagan and Christian.