previous next

CARPENTORATE (Carpentras) Vaucluse, France.

Chief town of an arrondissement on the left bank of the Auzon river, 25 km NE of Avignon. Capital of the Gallic tribe of the Memini, neighbors of the Cavares and Voconces (referred to by Pliny in his list of Latin oppida in Narbonese Gaul: Carpentorate Meminorum, HN 3.36). A trading city and great marketplace, a political and religious center, it became a Roman colony under the name colonia Julia Meminorum, inscribed in the tnibus Voltinia at the beginning of the Empire (epitaph of a municipal official in the Musée Lapidaire in Avignon, and inscription to the guardian spirit of the colony in the Musée de Carpentras). At the beginning of the 2d c. Ptolemy mentions the capital of the Memini as Forum Neronis, a name improvised to supplant the native place name. The latter may have been related to the local god Carpentus, and Carpentorate could mean the fortress of this god, the city where he is supposed to have had his sanctuary. The Roman city was connected by Cabelio (Cavaillon) to the Via Domitiana, by Arausio (Orange) to the great road of the Rhône Valley, and by a secondary road to Vasio, the capital of the Voconces.

Excavations in 1965 in the Légue quarter, on a hill dominated by a plateau 2 km E of Carpentras, indicate that this area was probably the original home of the Memini. Foundations of huts hollowed out of the clay were discovered. They contained imported pottery: numerous fragments of cups with handles on the sides and gray Phokaian pottery bowls with wavy decorations, also local products with the same decoration, imitating the Phokaian vases, and urns and basins of rough clay. Campanian pottery is also represented, as well as some bronze coins with the bull of Massalia.

From the Roman period, Carpentras possesses a triumphal arch, in the courtyard of the Palais de Justice, very similar to that at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The arch has a single bay, and the archivolt springs from pilasters fluted and cabled for one-third of their height. Their capitals are composite. At each corner is a broken piece of a fluted column. The ends carry bas-reliefs symbolizing the conquest of the country by the Romans. Two captives, their hands tied behind their backs, flank a trophy to which they are chained. On the E end one prisoner wears a Phrygian cap, a short tunic and long coat, and trousers wrapped around his legs by interlaced straps. The other is bearded, has naked arms and legs, and wears only a fur coat to his knees. The trophy is a tree trunk holding two horns surmounted by two quivers; two swords hang from the trunk. At the base of the trophy are a two-headed axe and a dagger with short blade and twisted haft. A round leather helmet, without a visor, hangs from a branch above each captive. The bas-relief on the W end differs in a few details. The arch dates from the 1st c. A.D., like that of Orange, the city was destroyed by the Ostrogoths, the Franks, and the Burgundians during the 5th and 6th c. A.D.


I. Gilles, Précis historique et chronologique des monuments triomphaux dans les Gaules (1873); J. Liabastres, Histoire de Carpentras, ancienne capitale du Comtat Venaissin (1891); J. Sautel, La Provence romaine (1929); id. et al., Vaucluse histoire locale (1944); H. Eydoux, La France antique (1962); G. Barruol, “Une peuplade de la confédération Cavare: les Memini,” Provence Historique 13 (1963); “Informations,” Gallia 25, 2 (1967).


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: