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ALEBAECE REIORUM APOLLINARIUM (Riez) Alpes de Haute-Provence, France.

Capital of the tribe of the Reii, whose territory extended from the middle Durance to the Verdon gorges, the Celto-Ligurian oppidum of Alebaece was probably on the hill of Saint-Maxine, which rises above the modern town. The Roman town (Plin. HN 3.36) founded under Augustus, whose official name is revealed by inscriptions to have been Colonia Julia Augusta Apollinaris Reiorum, lay for the most part in the small plain at the juncture of three valleys.

Situated at the E extremity of the Provincia Narbonensis and next to the Alpes Maritimae, it was a crossroads of secondary highways. Located as it was, however, away from the great transalpine highways and in the center of the S Alps, the town was above all un administrative and religious center whose role has been made increasingly clear by explorations since 1963. The wide-ranging activity of its first bishops, Maximus (434-460) and Faustus (461-493), both former abbots of Lérins, made it an important center of Christianity under the Late Empire; it was the meeting-place for a famous council (439).

The extent of the site (at least 15 ha) has been established with relative precision. The remains of a temple, bath house, residential quarter, and an Early Christian cathedral complex have been uncovered, and the ground plan of the city appears to have been regular and oriented towards the four cardinal points. In the Late Empire, a wall (no longer visible) surrounded the town. Of the tetrastyle temple of large-block construction, only the E facade remains, along with part of the podium. It is uncertain to whom it was dedicated; it may have been a municipal monument to Rome and Augustus, or, more likely, the main unit of a sanctuary of Apollo, for the surname Apollinaris borne by the site suggests that the cult of the healing god was important in the town. Support for this hypothesis comes from the fact that there is a large spring near the temple, and an inscription to Aesculapius was discovered there in the 17th c.

In another sector of the town, at Pré de Foire, recent explorations have revealed the remains of large and complex public baths, as well as a group of expensive private houses arranged one above the other on the S side of the valley of the Colostre and served by a network of alleys.

The cathedral complex, one of the few of Narbonese Gaul, dates from the 5th c. or earlier. It was built in the S half of the city on top of public buildings from the Early Empire which were probably destroyed at the end of the 3d c. along with the other buildings in this sector. The baptistery, which still rises to its full height though restored and remodeled, was constructed with reused Roman materials on the site of a former bath house. To the E of the baptistery, and on its axis, was the original cathedral, Notre-Dame du Siège, which was completely destroyed at the end of the 16th c. This basilica, which stood in a large monumental complex, consisted of a nave and two side aisles separated by rows of reused Roman columns, and a deep semicircular apse. The objects discovered are preserved on the site in the Archaeological Museum.


J. J. M. Féraud, Histoire de la ville de Riez (1885); M. Provence, Catalogue du Musée Lapidaire de Riez (1932)I; H. Leclerc, “Riez,” Dictionnaire d'Archéologie Chrétienne et de Liturgie 14,2 (1948) cols. 2423-26; P. A. Février, “Riez,” Villes épiscopales de Provence (1954) 39-43; id., Le développement urbain en Provence de l'époque romaine à la fin du XIVe siècle (1964)I; G. Barruol, “Un centre administratif et religieux des Alpes du Sud: Riez,” Archéologia 21 (1968) 20-27MI; id., Les peuples préromains du sud-est de la Gaule. Etude de géographie historique (1969) 218-20; “Informations,” Gallia 14 (1956) 55-63; 20 (1962) 661-63; 22 (1964) 554-55I; 25 (1967) 392-95PI; 28 (1970) 448-51I; 30 (1972) 533-34I.


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