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Texte tiré du livre : Notre Provence (7 Mo) by F. Garrigue et A. Vérola

Roman Provence

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Allied Rome and Marseilles the Romans settle in Provence
The Romans take Marseilles Christianity in Provence


During IVème front century. J.-C, the Celts, come from North, mix with the Ligurians. Small States celto-Ligurians are formed. They include/understand two cities, one commercial and peaceful, located close to a river or on a road, the other which dominates it and protects it. Arelate (Arles), on left bank of the Rhone, becomes the first port of the Celtic country, without however competing with Marseilles. The vicinity of these people still with half-barbarians constitutes a permanent danger to the Marseillais. In order to counter, they are combined to the Romans. This alliance does not delay to be effective: twice, Rome is helped by Marseilles which, sometimes gives him its treasure, sometimes places at its disposal of the vessels and the soldiers. On the other hand, when the close people besiege its colonies of Nice and Antibes, Marseilles calls upon Rome which runs to deliver the two cities.

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The Romans coming to help one second Marseilles time benefit from it to settle in Provence (125-122 front. J.-C). Their Sextius chief melts Aquae-Sextiae (Aix) where abundant sources of hot water and cold water are. The Romans leave to the Marseillais only one small band of approximately 2 km broad ground all along the coast, since the mouth of the Small Rhone to Monaco. The Romans quickly civilize all the populations which are under their domination. In a few years, they build villas, beautiful houses, a network of roads connecting the Rhone to the Alps. Provençaux are not long in adopting their costume and their language. Manners soften. This fast and beneficial organization saves our country of the invasion of Cimbres and Teutons. They are bands of plunderers which, come from Germanie, invade all Gaule. These cruel hordes devastate and plunder the regions which they invade, nothing resists to them. They cross the borders with the great fear of the Romans and several defeats in the plains of the Rhone inflict to them. The Roman General Marius is charged to push back the invader. He installs his armies in Crau. While waiting for the hour of the battle, it makes build with its soldiers a gigantic channel connecting Arles to the sea, the Mariennes Pits. The floods of the Rhone destroyed this channel, however it gave its name to Fos, located at its mouth. In 102 front. J.-C, Marius goes to the front of the army teutonne installed on the edges of the Arc, a few kilometres from Aix. In a great battle, Teutons are destroyed. The number of deaths is such "which one can see several years after the inhabitants flat to enclose it their vines with made hedges of human bones" (Plutarque). The village raised on the place even of the battle was called Pourrières (to bring closer to rot). The mountain where Marius built his cuttings off became the mountain of Sainte-Victoire. As soon as the dangers of the invasion are drawn aside, the Roman domination dwells too long on Provence.

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When the two Roman consuls Pumped and César fight for the capacity, Marseilles takes the party of Pumped. This preference will be the cause of its loss. César arrives to Provence with ten legions (60.000 men), besieges Marseilles. It crushes it after six months a heroic fight. It loses its fields, its fleet, its treasure and preserves only its immediate suburbs and the free title of city. Not only it is ruined, but still César equips the wearing of Frejus to make him competition. During a few years, Provence, colony rebellious, undergoes lasts it Roman domination. But soon, it is regarded as a province of the Empire (Provence derives from Provincia Romana). Then, it becomes very prosperous. Marseilles is concerned its ruins thanks to its trade. It is a large port having an important fleet. Arts and sciences are there with the honor and it has a famous University. Of Provençaux illustrate themselves in the Roman literature, others are famous for their science. It is the time of progress, of civilization, the time of "Roman Peace". Monuments rise a little everywhere, of which it still remains of many vestiges. Roads are built, so solid that twenty centuries will not be able to make them disappear completely. Agriculture develops. Later, in IVème century, the Roman emperor Constantin, then his/her son Constancy, comes to live Arles called "small Rome of Gaules"; it is the most beautiful time of the history of this city.


According to the tradition, the disciples of Christ or their envoys would have évangélisé our country. Thus, it is Trophime which would have been dispatched with Arles by Pierre saint himself. In year 48, known as the legend, a pleasing boat without veils nor oars on the shore of Saintes-Maries Sea, Lazare, his Marthe sisters and Marie-madeleine, the Sara Egyptian woman their maidservant, Maximin and Sidoine. No document proves to us the authenticity of this pretty legend. However, we know that the first Christians appear this year. Persecutions start little after and the martyrs are very numerous. Most known are Victor and Lazare in Marseilles, Genès with Arles, Pons with Cimiez. As of IIème century, religious associations exist in spite of persecutions which last until conversion with the Christianity of the emperor Constantin (313). This last becomes the guard of the Christendom which makes rapids progress. It attends in Arles the first council. It tries to destroy paganism and makes disappear in Provence the use of the human sacrifices of pagan to their idols. On the ruins of the given up pagan temples, churches rise and the first convents, the first monasteries are built: abbey of Saint-Victor and convent of Saint-Sauveur in Marseilles, monastery of the islands of Lérins (5th century). Christianity, become official religion, replaces little by little the declining Roman Empire while preserving the same organization. Arles is with the head of the Christian world. Thereafter, the power of the Church increases unceasingly. New religious buildings are set up on the ground of Provence: abbey of Montmajour and two others in the Camargue. Later, others are based with Our-injury of Lure (VIIIème century), then with That and Brignoles.