Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: A Day in Roman Provence

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The countryside of Provence with its evocative ruins, ancient roads and bridges, still retains the historical memories of the long Roman presence in this land. Join us as we explore the interaction of Celts, Greeks and Romans and the making of Provincia Romana. We begin with the history of the Greek settlements on the coast that were to become Nice, Antibes and Marseilles before heading inland to explore two dramatic Celtic hill forts and many Roman towns. We visit Glanum near St Rémy-de-Provence, Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en Provence), Vaison-la-Romaine, Narbonne, Orange with its magnificent theatre and Nîmes with its wonderfully intact Roman temple and amphitheatre. In the countryside we trace the pattern of the Roman roads and we follow the course of the aqueduct that once brought water into Nîmes over the massive Pont du Gard. We end our study day in Arles, ‘the little Gallic Rome,’ in the last days of the Roman Empire.


This history course will cover the following content:

Introduction: Celts, Greeks and Romans – Interaction

In this introduction we start with and examination of some key Celtic settlements in Provence and other southern areas of France. We then chart the complex interaction of these peoples with the Greeks who settled on the Mediterranean coast at Nice (Nicea), Antibes (Antipolis) and Marseilles (Massiiia), The coming of the Romans will be discussed with a focus on Julius Caesar’s Gallic War and the continuation by Augustus of the Julian connection with Provence. We will analyse the development of the town Glanum (Saint-Rémy-de-Provence) which was built around a Celtic sacred spring, then came under strong Greek influence and ended as a Roman city. As part of our investigation of Romanisation we will look at road and bridge building, the foundation of colonies and the settlement of Roman veteran soldiers in Gaul.

Life in the Roman Towns

The great Trophy of Augustus, high above modern day Monaco, dominated the Via Domitia that led from Italy into Gaul. This monument’s message of conquest and assimilation will be decoded in a discussion of Augustus and Gaul. We will examine Augustus interest in the province and the administration of the province of Gallia Narbonensis. We will investigate a number of key sites that were Celtic in origin: the provincial capital, Nabonne (Narbo), now in Languedoc , Orange (Arausio) a colony of veteran soldiers with an impressive theatre and triumphal arch and Vaison-la-Romaine(Vasio), a well-preserved Roman town founded by Marcus Agrippa, the son-in-law of Augustus.

Nimes and the aqueduct over the Pont du Gard

Nîmes (Nemausus) was named for a Celtic spring god and it was here that veterans of the legions that had served in Egypt were settled after their service. We will explore the Roman remains of the city with an emphasis on the time of Augustus and the Flavians. Special consideration will be given to the Augustan –era temple, the Maison Carrée (and Norman Foster’s nearby Carrée d’Art), the great Amphitheatre (from the Flavian period) and the construction of the aqueduct that brought spring water from Uzès through 50 kms of tunnels and channels into Nîmes. The construction of the impressive Pont du Gard, as part of this aqueduct project, will be given special attention.

Arles and Provence in Late Antiquity The twilight of the Roman Empire

The fourth-century Latin poet Ausonius spoke of Arles as ‘the Little Gallic Rome’ and in Late Antiquity was used by the emperors in the West from time to time as as an imperial capital. Well connected by road, the Via Agrippa to Lyon in the north and the Via Domitia leading to Spain Arles (Arelate) was a bustling place. We will explore the Roman ruins and the layout of the Roman city on the Rhone- the Baths of Constantine, the Amphitheatre, and the early Christian remains. We end with a postscript on the effect of the barbarian invasions of the 5th/6th centuries on southern Gaul.


This history course aims to:

  1. Equip you with an overview knowledge of the different periods of the history of Roman expansion and settlement in Provence.
  2. Develop your knowledge of Roman buildings types and construction techniques that will help you better understand Roman archaeological sites in Provence.
  3. Equip you with a knowledge of the historical geography of the region and the major Roman sites and museum collections.
  4. Equip you with a sound knowledge of recent research on both Roman civilisation in southern France and Roman imperialism.
  5. Equip you with practical information about travelling in the region and visiting Roman sites and significant museums.


At the completion of this history course participants should be able to:

  1. Be aware of different stages in the development of Roman expansion and settlement in southern France.
  2. Be able to identify Roman building types and construction methods.
  3. Be able to demonstrate with a map the importance of Roman communication systems – roads, bridges and ports, in the development of the province.
  4. Be able to list and describe the role of key officials in the Roman imperial and provincial organisation.
  5. Be able to identify, analyse and utilize key concepts such as Romanisation.
  6. Be able to evaluate the contribution of the Romans in the pacification and development of the region.
  7. Be able to evaluate the Roman contribution to the historical agriculture of Provence – olives groves, and vineyards.
  8. Be able to evaluate the contribution of the Romans to the historical character of Provence – land use, crops, urbanisation, communications.

Intended Audience

This history course would appeal to:

  • People with a developed interest in Roman history, archaeology and architecture.
  • People with an interest in the history and culture of France
  • People planning to visit Provence as a tourist
  • Armchair travellers who have an interest in France/Provence

Recommended Reading

  • James C. Anderson, Roman Architecture in Provence Cambridge, CUP 2013
  • Lawrence Durrell, Caesar’s Vast Ghost: Aspects of Provence New York, Arcade,1990.
  • Edwin E. Mullins, The Roman Provence Guide Northhampton Mass, Interlink Books, 2013.
  • Greg Woolf, Becoming Roman: the Origins of Provincial Civilization In Gaul, New York CUP, 1998


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • This was a fantastic course! Ideal for those travelling to Provence or for ancient history buffs in general. The presenter is amazing and the first-hand knowledge of the sights, and history behind them is truly amazing. Highly recommended.