Monday, March 05, 2007

Arles

About 50,000 Arlésiens call this spot on the Rhône river home. Its location at the northern limit of the river delta made it an important place from which to control river traffic. The place was settled by the Greeks, who were already in Marseille, around the sixth century before our era.

This is the amphitheater in Arles - the image is one I captured from Google Earth. On the right side you can see the parking lot from where I took the photo that's down below.

When the romans took Marseille in the first century before our era, they also took Arles and made it into a proper roman town with a gridded street plan, a forum, amphitheater, and baths. The city's location on the river made it an important trading post and Emperor Constantin made it his home for a while in the fourth century of our era. The city prospered under roman rule.

Park your chariots here ! There was bullfight in progress in the ancient roman arena when we drove up.

The amphitheater, like its sister arena in Nîmes, was cannibalized and used as a fortress in the middle ages. It became a town within a town, the vestiges of which have been cleared away leaving only what's left of the original roman arena and three medieval guard towers. In its heyday, 20,000 spectators could fill the seats inside.

Shutters the color of lavender remind you that you're in Provence.

Without getting into too much history, the city declined with the decline of the roman empire, and was invaded and occupied by Ostrogoths in the sixth century. Through the middle ages, Arles remained an important point for river trade, but the development of railroads in the 19th century did the place in.

A back street in old Arles.

Arles is also known for one if its famous inhabitants : Vincent Van Gogh lived there toward the end of his life in the late 1800s. He painted several of his well-known masterpieces in Arles, including Starry Night Over the Rhône and Café Terrace at Night, and many of his sunflower paintings.

Arlésien rooftops.

Ken and I didn't spend much time in Arles at all; we essentially drove through, stopping briefly here and there. I'd love to go back some time to explore more of the roman sites and really see the city.

1 comment:

  1. You're right. I always think of Van Gogh when I hear "Arles." It sounds like a wonderful place, and I hope you'll go back, stay a while, and give us another report. Great pix!

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