Laying undiscovered for 17 centuries
Just 1km south of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, in Southern France, on the fringes of the Alpilles mountains resided the hidden city of Glanum.
This ancient fortified town was originally built by the Salyes in the 6th century B.C., though subsequent relations with the Greek world during the 2nd & 1st centuries B.C., added additional Hellenistic styles to the city.
Then came the Romans
During the early years of Emperor Augustus’ reign around 27 BC, Glanum officially became a Roman colony. This resulted in the rapid transformation of the city’s architecture, including a new forum, temples, dam and an aqueduct, which supplied water to the town and the public baths.
Unfortunately, Glanum didn’t survive the collapse of the Roman Empire and around 260 A.D. The town was then abandoned by its inhabitants.
Due to this desertion, the Roman drains and sewers were no longer maintained, the ruins of the city became flooded and completely covered with sediment, just leaving two visible structures (Les Antiques)
Glanum is particularly known for two very well-preserved Roman monuments built during the 1st century B.C., known as “Les Antiques”. Situated just to the north of the ancient city is a mausoleum and a triumphal arch (which is said to be the oldest in France).
As we were staying in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, we arrived just as it opened. We had this amazing feeling of discovery in having the freedom of the lost city to ourselves.
Around the 17th & 18th centuries, modest excavations were made in the close vicinity of “Les Antiques”, but only sculptures and coins were discovered.
The first organised archaeological digs were carried out on the site from 1921, until 1969; first, they unearthed the surroundings of the basilica, the houses in the northern area and the thermal baths.
Then to the south the area excavated was from the forum to the iron age sanctuary.
Since 1983, further digs and research have once again been under way, unearthing greater knowledge of the ancient city, particularly about the ramparts and twin temples.
Within Glanum two Roman Forums were built, the 1st around 20 B.C. which included twin Corinthian temples. The second was between 1st & 3rd centuries AD and housed the central market and place of justice.
With the knowledge gathered of the twin temples, in 1992 restoration of the corner columns on the smaller temple were carried out.
Considering the size of the town the temples were quite impressive.
Hellenistic remains have also been discovered beneath the Roman forum, including the dromos well.
Take a climb
The freedom that you are given to wander around Glanum is fantastic, obviously, there are some restrictions around this ancient dwelling, but in general, you’re free to roam at your pleasure.
Head up above the city and the view of the archaeological site below is amazing.
It gives an amazing perspective of the city in its entirety and provides you a greater understanding the planning of the town and how all the dwellings feed off the main street weaving south.
To visit these ancient ruins?
As we said we stayed in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, but you could easly include a visit from any part of Provence.
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