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ARAUSIO (Orange) Dépt. Vaucluse, France.

Situated 7 km E of the Rhône and slightly S of the Aigues river, Arausio in pre-Roman times was one of the centers of the confederation of the Cavares, occupying the corridor of the Rhône between the Durance and the Isère (Strab. 4.1.11). This confederation was made up of the Cavares properly speaking—the Menini, Segovellauni, and Tricastini—and was the richest and most powerful tribe of SE Gaul. Probably allied with Marseille, then with Rome at the time of the conquest, these people were one of the most rapidly and thoroughly Romanized (Strab. 4.1.12). Rome divided the territory of the confederation into six civitates, the chief cities being Valence, Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux, Carpentras, Avignon and, most important, Orange.

Like Nîmes-Nemausus, Orange very likely got its name from that of a water divinity (dedication Arausioni on a bronze tablet: Inscr. lat. Narbon., No. 184). That it was occupied for so many centuries may be explained by the strategic importance of the site: the Saint-Eutrope hill rises more than 100 m above the plain, dominating the whole region and in particular providing a means of controlling the great traffic route along the banks of the Rhbne. It is quite certain that the Roman legions occupied the hill in their campaign against the Cimbri and the Teutones, and one of the functions given the colony that Augustus created ca. 35 B.C. was that of a citadel: cf. the epithet firma in its official name, Colonia Julia Firma Secundanorum Arausio, a colony with Roman rights for veterans of the 2d Gallic Legion.

From various remains that have been found of the city rampart it is possible to trace its plan. Hexagonal in shape, it ran around the Saint-Eutrope hill to the S, then at the foot of the hill to the N enclosed some 50 ha of low ground, which would give it a perimeter of 3,500 m and a total area of some 70 ha. The ancient sewers and foundations, those monuments that are still standing in situ, and the orientation of the modern streets all point to a strict overall plan. The path of the cardo maximus has been traced from the arch N of the city up to a postern gate in the S curtain of the surrounding wall, also that of the decumanus which is strictly perpendicular to it. The forum probably lay SE of the spot where the two axes crossed, that is, N of the theater: there is nothing left of the forum, but on the other hand Orange is fortunate in having preserved not only a great many objects (sculptures, pottery, inscriptions, etc., many of them in the museums at Avignon and Saint-Germain-en-Laye) but also two extremely important monuments and remains of a number of others.

The most famous monuments at Orange are the arch and the theater. The former stands 50 m N of the rampart and marks the spot where the Agrippan road reached the city; it was erected on the foundations of an earlier monument (either an arch or a gate). It has been described as the oldest of the homogeneous triple arches, with the clumsiness of a provincial attempt at innovation, at the same time showing a “rare virtuosity” so far as sculpture is concerned. Its massive, square form with a double attic and central pediment, its trophies, panels of arms and naval spoils, and its battle scenes are well known. Its date, long disputed, may be set between A.D. 10 and 26-27 (perhaps following the events of 21).

The theater is oriented to the N and has a diameter of 103 m. Its cavea is built against the Saint-Eutrope hill and is divided into three sections by two praecinctiones and surmounted by a portico; it could seat 7000 spectators. Essentially it is interesting because of the preservation of the stage section, particularly the stage wall which stands 103 m wide and 37 m high. It is generally believed to date from the Augustan period, but this theory is based more on town-planning criteria than on architectural study of the monument, which might possibly assign it a somewhat later date.

Also backed against the hill, to the W of the theater and connected to it is another, smaller, semicircular building (74 m in diameter) with the remains of a large temple 35 x 24 m in the middle of it. In the subfoundation underneath the cella were several vaulted chambers. The podium, which was 3.75 m high, was reached by a stairway on the N side. The temple was peripteral octostyle, the colonnade breaking off on the S side where an apse was hollowed out of the cella. The impressive dimensions of this building have generally led it to be dated relatively late, in the 2d c., though some writers date it to the Augustan period. The semicircle, on the other hand, is commonly dated from the Augustan period, and its original purpose has given rise to different hypotheses. If its side walls are extended theoretically 200 m to the N, they are found to meet other rectilinear walls, in the foundations as well as in elevation. A rectangular area like this, very elongated and ending in a semicircle, has suggested a circus or a gymnasium. On the other hand, excavations N of the temple have revealed some fragments of substructures that may possibly represent the base of a stage wall. Thus a third hypothesis has been proposed, that a smaller theater may have preceded the “great” theater, then, when the latter was built, have been used as the peribolus of the temple. According to this theory, the N walls of the semicircle formed a monumental portico that was part of the Forum; if this is correct, a new date should be found for the great theater. The debate is highly complex and probably cannot be settled without decisive evidence that the semicircle predates the temple.

Traces of two more monuments, possibly religious buildings, have been found S of the semicircle and exactly on its axis; they stood on two terraces cut in the Saint-Eutrope hill and thus overlooked the city. The first, probably a temple, has a porticoed peribolus around it and was 7.70 m wide (its length is not known). All that remains of the second building are some huge subfoundations, which some believe may have belonged to a large Capitolium; this identification is still hypothetical.

One particularly important find has made it possible to reconstruct, in part, the cadastres of the rural territory of the Orange colony. From several hundred fragments found in a pile along with various architectural elements in a limekiln near the theater it was possible to piece together part of three such surveys, A, B, and C. The first, A, has an inscription at the top showing that it was posted up in the city tabularium in 77 by order of the emperor Vespasian. B, the most complete of the surveys, apparently dates from Trajan's reign. C is later than the other two, although it cannot be dated precisely. The only certain localization of terrain is in B. Research is still going on into the information provided by these documents on land confiscation when the colony was formed and the restitution of the least fertile of them to the natives, the extension of the civitas, its encroachment on the territory of other cities, and so on.


J. Sautel, Forma Orbis Romani, Carte arch. de la Gaule romaine, VII (1939) (avec bibliographie précédente)MPI; A. Grenier, Manuel d'arch. gallo-romaine III (1958)MPI; L. Crema, L'architettura romana (1959); R. Amy et al., “L'Arc d'Orange,” Gallia, Suppl. XV (1962)PI; A. Piganiol, “Les documents cadastraux de la colonie romaine d'Orange,” Gallia, Suppl. XVI (1962)MPI; G. Barruol, Les peuples pré-romains du Sud-Est de la Gaule (1969)M.


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