a trip in ruins
Guinea Pig did a swift and highly illegal maneuver with our rental car and came to a skidding gravel-spraying stop. We climbed out to explore. As it turns out, what we’d come across was the Mausoleum to the Julii – erected around 40 B.C.E. – one of the best-preserved mausoleums of the Roman world. We’d heard about the ancient ruins of Glanum and figured we must have arrived. We expected there to be more to the fabled site than this, but we didn’t see it, so we took our time examining closely what we could see. It was still early morning, hardly a soul up or out.
My camera was still pressed to my cheek when Guinea (whose attention span can be a bit short at times – more truthfully, mine a bit long) wandered across the street, wag-jerked his head, lifted his paw and waved. He’d found something.
We entered into an olive grove, smelling of wet earth and wood smoke. The green fruit was still dripping from last night’s rain.
A crude stone path led to a concrete walkway which led to a small museum. We paid our admission, wandered about the exhibit, walked down another path and entered into
so lucky we were to have this hush to ourselves…
The first inhabitants, the Gauls, had settled here in the 6th and 7th centuries B.C.E. Pottery and coins indicate that the settlement was established for religious reasons. A celtic god, Glan, together with his benevolent companions the Glanic Mothers, lived in the waters that were believed to have healing properties. The inhabitants name was derived from them.
Subsequent to its settlement, relations with the Greek world brought wealth to Glanum’s inhabitants. As a benefit, the inhabited zones, as well as the sophistication of the architecture, expanded greatly. Doubtful that the people were too pleased with the turn of events, but Glanum “changed hands” and became a Roman colony around the turn of the millennium. During this time there was a profound transformation of the city’s monumental architecture. Glanum was incapable of surviving the fall of the Roman Empire and the invasions of the Alamanni however. In the year 260 A.D. it was abandoned by its residents in favor of the nearby agglomeration which would later become the village Saint-Remy de Provence.
The sophistication, especially the elaborate and separate clean-running and waste water systems and thermal baths, so impressed us.
A mask formed the fountain flowing into the sacred healing pools.
The remains of a Hellenistic residence, and the catch basin for collecting rain water.
The ever-flowing spring…
Votive stones dedicated to Hercules, thought to be the protector of the sacred spring.
So that, my friends, is Glanum.
Where we had been headed, before Guinea screeched on the brakes, was Pont du Gard, the famous Roman aqueduct in southern France. The Pont du Gard was built shortly before the turn of the millennium to allow the aqueduct of Nîmes (which is about 30 miles, or 50 km, long) to cross the Gard river. The Roman architects and hydraulic engineers who designed this three-level bridge, which stands almost 50 m high – created a technical as well as an artistic masterpiece. It still stands, as originally built. So well was it engineered and constructed that in all these two-thousand years no re-building or shoring up has ever been necessary.
Because Pont du Gard is a Unesco World Heritage Site it’s well-protected and universally accessible.
On the path that leads to the bridge rises an ancient olive tree.
then the jigsaw bark of the cyprus and the first sight of the bridge beyond
From above the river Gard – do you see the people on the middle section of the bridge, to the left? That gives you an idea of the scale.
We spent a couple hours walking and climbing and then headed back to Saint-Remy. It was time to fill our empty bellies.
So, with the next post, food!
… and one final glance back at the bridge and an olive tree …
see you very soon…
ps…a note on the photos…I’ve indicated on a couple of them that opening them fully by clicking them will reveal much that isn’t seen until you do. it’s actually true of all of them, but some benefit even more from a closer look. you can test it out on the photo immediately above.