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FOSSA MARIA´NA

FOSSA MARIA´NA or FOSSAE MARIA´NAE. Plutarch (Marius, c. 15) gives a sufficiently clear account of this canal. When C. Marius, B.C. 102, crossed the Alps to oppose the Teutones and their barbaric allies, he fixed his camp near the Rhone. The entrance to the river was choked with mud, sand, and clay, and “was thus made difficult and laborious, and shallow for the vessels that brought supplies. As the army had nothing to do, Marius brought the soldiers here and commenced a great cut, into which he diverted a large part of the river; and by making the new channel terminate at a convenient point on the coast, he gave it a deep outlet, which had water enough for large vessels, and was smooth and safe against wind and wave. This cut still bears the name of Marius.” Plutarch supposed that the canal was on the east side of the outlets of the Rhone. Strabo (p. 183)--after quoting Polybius, who says that the Rhone had two outlets, and Artemidorus, who says that it had three-adds: “but Marius, afterwards seeing that the channel was becoming obstructed by the alluvium and difficult of access, cut a new channel, in which having received the greater part of the river, he gave it to the Massaliots, as a reward for their services in the war against the Ambrones and Toygeni; from which channel the Massaliots acquired great wealth, by exacting tolls from those who sailed up and down. However, the difficulties of the navigation continue, owing to the violence of the stream and the alluvium, and the lowness of the coast, which cannot be seen, even when a vessel is near, in foggy weather: wherefore the Massaliots set up towers as beacons, making the country their own in every way; and especially they built there also a temple of the Ephesian Artemis, having taken possession of the part which is made an island by the mouths of the river. And there lies beyond the mouth of the Rhodanus, a sealake, which they call Stomalimne; some have reckoned it one of the mouths of the Rhodanus, and especially those who say that the river has seven mouths (or five, as the text perhaps should be),--being right neither in one thing nor the other, for there is a hill between, which separates the lake from the river.” Here Strabo finishes his description of the coast as far as Massalia, and he then describes the coast as far as the Var. His description of this coast of Gallia shows that the canal of Marius was on the east side of the outlets of the Rhone. Mela's description must be interpreted the same way (2.5). Pliny (3.4) calls one of the mouths of the Rhodanus the Massaliotic; and this is the most eastern of the mouths. (Plb. 3.41.) Beyond, that is east of, the Massaliotic branch, are “the canals from the Rhodanus, the work of C. Marius, which bears his name; a lake (stagnum) Mastramela; a town Maritima, of the Avatici, and above it the stony plains (campi lapidei).” The stony plains are the Crau, an extensive flat tract, which is covered with stones. Pliny's text has “Astromela,” which Harduin has changed to Mastromela, to make it agree with the name in Stephanus Byzantinus and Avienus; for which Walckenaer finds fault with him, without reason,--for it is plain that, as “stagnum” ends with “m,” the next word, if it began with “m,” might easily lose it in transcription.

The Itineraries also place the Fossa Mariana on the east side of the Rhone. But Ptolemy (2.10) in the common texts, has it on the west side. Proceeding from west to east he has: Setius hill; Fossae Marianae; the west mouth of the Rhone; and the east mouth. He correctly places Maritima east of the east mouth of the Rhone. It is hard to explain how Ptolemy made a mistake in a matter which was known to every body. Walckenaer Géog. &c. iii. p. 133) supposes that we ought to read Marinae for Marianae (Μαριαναὶ Φόσσαι), in Ptolemy's text; and he adds, that the edition of 1475 has “Fossae Marinae.” There is also the reading “Fossae Marinae,” in the Latin edition of Pirckheimer (1524.) The two words might easily be confounded. If we do not accept this conjecture we must either allow that Ptolemy has made a very great mistake, or that the Fossae Marianae have been transposed in his text, without transposing the numbers. For it is hardly possible that he should place in his geography Fossae Marinae, a name otherwise unknown, and omit the Fossae Marianae, the great work that was familiar to all geographers. The best and most recent authority for the antiquities of this part of France (Statistique du dép. des Bouches du Rhône) states that the canal of Marius ran in a straight line from east to west from the gulf of Stomalimne, now the E´tang de l'Estouma, to the Rhone, which it joined about a mile above its mouth. The length was 16 miles. There are many proofs of the existence of the canal in the place here assigned to it. The village of Foz, which retains the name of this canal, stands just [p. 1.913]above the place where the canal entered the gulf. There is still visible on one of the sides a long cutting made in the rock at the. base, of the hill, and it is probable that the sluice was here. West of Foz is a large.marsh, called Le Marais de Foz, which the canal crossed. This marsh ends in an étang of the same name, which joins the étang de Galéjon, where was the outlet of the Massaliot branch of the Rhone in the time of Marius. The marsh of Foz, along the whole line, where the canal is supposed to have run, still presents a hollow, which is filled with water in the rainy season.

The Maritime Itinerary snakes it xvi M. P. from the Fossae (Foz) to “Ad Gradum Massilitanorum,” which was on the Rhone; and the Itinerary, which gives the land routes, places Fossae between Massilia and Arelate (Arles). The order of places is: Massilia, Calcaria [CALCARIA], Fossae Marianae (Foz), Arelate: the direct distance from Fossae Marianae to Arelate is 13 M. P.,. which is too small. In another place the Itineraries make it 33, which is too much. However, there is no doubt that Fossae is Foz, or Fos-les-Martigues. The direct road from Fossae to Arelate ran through the Crau, the Campi Lapidei. The “Ad Gradum” seems to have been at or near the place where the canal of Marius joined the Rhone. The distance from “Ad Gradum” along the river up to Arelate is marked 30 M. P. in the Maritime Itinerary.

The “Statistique, &c.” supposes that the canal of Marius was continued due north about twelve miles, reckoning from Ad Gradurn to the étang of the Desuviates, which comprised the marshes of Arles, of Mont-Majous, and of Baux: this étang received part, at least, of the water of the Louérion, a canal which runs from the Durance (Druentia) near Orgon. It is further stated that the Louérion fed the Fossae Marianae; and that Marius also made another canal, which has since been replaced by that of Craponne. Some of these assertions are very doubtful; but the canal to the Rhone from the Stomalimne (étang de l'Estouma, or Estruma, as it is also still written) seems to be the work of MariuS. At a place called Pont-du-Roi, in front of the bar of Foz, there are the remains of the foundations of houses; and this agrees with the Table, which marks the Fossae Marianae, by a semicircular building open to the sea, as a haven and station. The hill mentioned by Strabo, as separating the Stomalimne from the Rhone, is supposed to be a hill between Foz and Istres. Whether Marius made more than one cut, and whether Fossae or Fossa is the true name, we cannot tell. It is likely enough that there was more than a single cut; or, at least, some small cuts, besides the large cut. This great work of the Roman soldier was a monument of his talent and his perseverance, as glorious as the victories by which he saved Italy from a barbaric deluge. (D'Anville, Notice; Mela, ed. J. Voss, who has a good note on the Fossae; Ukert, Gallien, p. 131, &c., which contains the references to the French authorities.)

[G.L]

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