(Fréjus) Var, France.
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
. 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
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
A. Grenier, Manuel d'arch. gallo-romaine
, III: l'Architecture
; id., “Fouilles a la Plateforme,” Gallia
; id., “Forum Iulii: Fréjus,” Itineraires ligures