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FORUM JULII (Fréjus) Var, France.

Placed near the sea, the town is located at the mouth of the Argens valley. It is on the highroad from Italy to Spain and at the start of the N road to Reia Apollinaris (Riez). Although the Argens valley and neighboring hilltops have revealed traces of settlement from the Palaeolithic to the Celto-Ligurian period, the site of Fréjus was not occupied on a regular basis until the time of Caesar. The first mention of Forum Julii occurs in Cicero's correspondence (Fain. 10.15.3 and 10.17.1) in 43 B.C. Therefore, one can attribute to Caesar (perhaps at the time of the siege of Massilia in 49 B.C.) the creation or expansion of this stopping-place, which was both a market and a provisioning center. The port apparently was laid out during the Triumvirate, since Tacitus (Ann. 4, 5) says that Octavius sent Antony's fleet there after capturing it at Actium (31 B.C.). No doubt the port had already been used in the campaigns against Sextus Pompeius.

During the reign of Augustus, it was one of the major naval bases of the Empire, on the same footing as Misenum and Ravenna; later its role declined. Also in the Augustan period, probably shortly after Actium, a detachment of veterans of the 8th legion turned Forum Julii into Colonia Octavanorum. According to Pliny the Elder (HN 2.35) the town was also called Pacensis and Classica. In spite of the loss of its military role, the town remained a fairly important and prosperous administrative and economic center until the end of antiquity; it became the seat of a bishop at the end of the 4th c.

Linked to the sea by a canal which must have been ca. 1 km long and 50-80 m wide, the port is now completely filled up. Wharfs can be recognized to the W and S over a length of more than 500 m, and the area of the basin can be estimated at some 20 ha. The entry was defended by two towers linked to a wall which met the town ramparts. A small hexagonal monument was built on the ruins of one of these towers after ancient times. It was 10 m high, probably served as a signal platform, and is still visible. At the inner end of the port at the level of the S wharf are the remains of what was long thought to be a lighthouse with three stories, of the same type as those at Ostia and Ravenna, but it was probably nothing more than a tower.

Important vestiges of the ramparts of the colony have remained in place. The walls, Augustan in date, formed an irregular polygon more than 3.5 km long, giving the town an area of ca. 40 ha. More than 2.50 m thick on the average, the walls are faced with ashlar masonry with rubble fill. Here and there opus reticulatum was used. Several towers survive in part to the E and, above all, to the N, where one of them has two stories. The first floor is pierced with loopholes; the second is furnished with windows under a semicircular arch and is connected to the chemin de ronde of the fortifications. Two gates are still visible: the E Rome Gate and the W Gate of the Gauls. Both are set back from the ramparts, at the center of a semicircular wall and flanked by two round towers (the same type is known at Aquae Sextiae and Arelate). These two gates are at the ends of the decumanus maximus. The location of the gates of the cardo is known to the N, but has not been found to the S.

The S sector of the ramparts includes two natural hillocks which dominated the port: the Saint-Antoine hill to the SW and the Platform to the SE. The former was defended by three towers. On the W side the rampart was reinforced on the inside by semicircular buttresses, intended to contain the pressure of the earth. A group of buildings arranged around a central court has been brought to light on the terreplein. They are set up on artificial fill designed to level the hillock. Ceramic material permits the fill to be dated to the last third of the 1st c. B.C. Under this fill have appeared the remains of a private dwelling of an earlier period. These are all that is left of Caesar's Forum Julii. The second level, the Platform, was also leveled off by a fill and by the construction farther down the slope of seven large, vaulted chambers, which acted as a base and support. A vast courtyard, into which there opens a cistern with three intercommunicating, vaulted chambers, is at the center of a series of living rooms with a peristyle and baths. The S side remained bare of all construction, to leave unobstructed the view of the port and the sea. The function of these buildings found on the two hills has been variously interpreted: a citadel and a praetorium? It is hard to settle this discussion with any certainty, but their construction in the Augustan period (that is to say, at the time when the naval port expanded) leads one to believe that they played an important role in the organization of the naval base.

Apart from some sections of streets and water mains and of some mosaics and various pieces collected in the museum, the only important structure excavated inside the fortifications is a theater. It had its back against a gently sloping hill in the NE part of the town and faced S. Its design was simple and it was little decorated. Apparently it too was Augustan.

The amphitheater was situated outside the NW corner of the walls and almost in contact with them (during the Middle Ages it served on more than one occasion as a fortress for attackers besieging Fréjus). It dates to a later period, to Flavian or even Antonine times. Its axes measure 113.85 m and 82.60 m respectively. It had only one story and its 16 tiers of seats accommodated ca. 10,000 spectators, or ca. half the capacity of the Arles and Nîmes amphitheaters. The following are also to be noted outside the ramparts: to the SW the remains of public baths; a necropolis, of which there remains a mausoleum called La Tourrache; the bridge of the Esclapes, with its three arches; and, to the S, near the old port and close by the ramparts, the Golden Gate, the remains of a large vaulted chamber with three openings, whose nature has not been determined (a basilica? a large room in public baths?), but whose date is certainly later than the 2d c. A.D. The aqueduct which fed Forum Julii is in an exceptionally good state of preservation. It can be followed over almost 40 km beginning at the foot of Mons hill, where it is a surface ditch. It then continues by underground canal, 3 m wide and vaulted. Arcades and tunnels take it to the Roman Gate. From there it follows the ramparts to the N, cuts across their NE corner, and meets the water tower to the W.

On the town hall square, the group of episcopal buildings comprises the cathedral, which originated in the renewal and transformation of an Early Christian church; the baptistery, whose first state goes back to the 5th c.; and the episcopal palace, which shelters the municipal museum (Gallo-Roman collections).


A. Donnadieu, La Pompéi de la Provence, Fréjus (1927); P. A. Février, “Fouilles à la Citadelle méridionale de ‘Forum Julii,’” Gallia 14 (1956)P; A. Grenier, Manuel d'arch. gallo-romaine, III: l'Architecture (1958)PI; id., “Fouilles a la Plateforme,” Gallia 20 (1962)P; id., “Forum Iulii: Fréjus,” Itineraires ligures 13 (1963)MPI.


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