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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: a blank space] This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Romans
on the Riviera and the Rhone

by W. H. Hall

originally published by Macmillan & Co., Ltd.,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Ch. 1

 p. vii  Preface

Having enjoyed for the last twelve years the privilege of wintering on the north-western shores of the Mediterranean, I have turned them to account by following up in every direction the tracks left by the Romans on the French and Italian Rivieras. Nor have my explorations been confined to the coast, but have been extended north of the Apennines as far as the Po in Italy, and in France have included the seldom-visited valleys of the Durance and the Drôme. It is in the hope of throwing some light of local colouring on to an obscure field of Roman history, that I am tempted to offer this sketch to the public. For mainly owing to the irreparable loss of the books of Livy's history treating of the conquest of Provence (the Roman Provincia), we are left very much in the dark on that important episode of Roman history. Nothing but the intimate acquaintance with the locality which the writer possesses has rendered it possible to eke out the slender materials available, for the construction of any kind of bridge over the gap in Roman history between the narratives of Livy and Caesar; and some bridge is indispensable, to connect the broken ends of the two narratives. For Caesar's Gallic War, with which the student usually begins his acquaintance with Gaul, is really only the second act of the drama of the Roman conquest of that country. It is indispensable, for instance, to be forewarned the (1) the 'Omnis Gallia' of  p. viii Caesar means Gallia with the Rhone Valley left out, as already conquered and reduced to a Province; (2) that the inroad of the Helvetii into Gaul, so ruthlessly arrested and repulsed by Caesar, was looked upon as threatening a repetition of the Cimbro-Teuton invasion, which had so nearly overwhelmed Italy less than half a century earlier; (3) that the driving of Ariovistus back across the Rhine showed that Caesar's eagle-eye saw at a glance where the real danger lay, and that it was better policy to encounter Germany in Alsace than on the Rhone or in Provence.

Passing my winters as I do within sight of the ruins of Forum Julii, which is really a Rome in miniature, I have been imbibing an atmosphere as completely Roman, as if I had been living on the outskirts of the Eternal City.

In fact I have often had to ask myself, can it be that the long line of mellow arches, which I see there striding across the plain, are other than those of the Claudian Aqueduct, and that those brown-hooded shepherds, sheltering with their flocks from the fierce rays of the midday sun under spreading stone-pines, are anything else than the familiar figures and features of the Roman Campagna?

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Roman aqueduct at Fréjus (Forum Julii)

When, escorted by the arches of the aqueduct — those avant-coureurs of the ruined city — you approach the entrance, where the Porta Romana once stood, and gaze on the picturesque outline of the walls still standing, though in ruin, and the Roman towers, cutting clear against the western sky, you have before you a scene of concentrated Roman ingredients, unsurpassable even at Rome.

One has often to ask oneself, why is it, that when once the Romans have set their seal on a place, it is redeemed for ever from dullness, and that its desolation becomes more eloquent than words can express?

Somewhat to the author's own surprise, his work, which originated in musings over the ruins of Forum  p. ix Julii, has taken the form of a sketch of the expansion of Italy into Gaul through the Roman conquest of Liguria, which prepared the way for Caesar's Gallic Wars.

It was only by degrees that the author became aware how much wider was the ancient Liguria than the strip of Italian coast to which it is limited by modern geographers. He soon discovered that at Frejus he was in a centre, which was Ligurian before it became Roman, and that he was located at the most convenient point on the coast for exploring the whole of ancient Liguria, which extended from the Rhone on the west across the Alps as far as the line of the Trebia, prolonged across the Apennines by the valley of the Magra to the Mediterranean.

In Gaul, it reached from the coast inland as far as the level of the Isère, and in Italy up to that of the upper half of the course of the Po, and even beyond it.1

The references in the text and notes will make it clear that the author had had occasion to draw more on foreign than on British sources for assistance in the composition of this sketch. While French, Germans and Italians have dealt with the different branches of his subject, the author is unacquainted with any English work dealing specially with it.

Although reluctantly compelled to point out the serious errors into which M. Lentheric has fallen on the subject of the Via Aurelia, the author is glad to acknowledge the pleasure he has derived from the rest of his work which is known to the French as La Provence Maritime, and to the British reader as The Riviera Ancient and Modern.

For a detailed account of Forum the author refers his readers to the "Histoire de Frejus" by J. A. Aubenas, to which the author is himself much indebted.

In Herzog's Historia Provinciae Narbonensis (1863)  p. x the student who wishes to go deeper in the subject will find an admirable and scholarly work.

The author offers his best thanks to Mr Jenkinson, in supplying him with works of reference, as also to Mr A. S. Murray and to Mr W. R. Wilson of the British Museum. He has also to express his obligation to Mr E. S. Shuckburgh for the use of his translation of Polybius and other assistance, and to Professor Rhys of Oxford for valuable hints. He is indebted to Mr A. Rogers of the Cambridge University Library for the compilation of the Index at the end of the volume.

The author has finally to tender his best thanks to Mr H. J. Edwards of Trinity College, for reading over the proofs while the work was passing through the Press.

The Author's Note:

1 In the days of Justinian, Milan was considered the capital of Liguria. See Gibbon, Milman's Edition, Vol. IV p57.

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Page updated: 26 Aug 16