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History of Glanum

Vue plongeante de la partie nor du site : les temples géminés, le foum, la basilique et ls thermes au loin

Before the creation of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, the oppidum of Glanum locked in the foothills of the Alpilles. Discover this ancient Gallic city, which became Roman, built around a sacred spring and bathed in multiple cultural influences.

A spring dedicated to the god Glan

In the beginning was water

The Salyens   began to settle on the site of what would become the town of Glanum in the 6th century BC. This location was obviously no accident. It responds to practical and strategic considerations. As a passageway through the Alpilles, it benefits from the natural protection of its ridges. Another considerable advantage is the rich soil and the vital presence of a permanent spring.

The oppidum   grew up around this spring, and its inhabitants dedicated it to a god unique to the area and not found elsewhere: Glan   was the god of the deep, the guarantor of the purity of its water.

The term Glan, or Glane, is associated with several rivers in France (e.g., Oradour-sur-Glane in Poitou), Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, but has no connection with a deity. It is also the origin of the name of the ancient city : Glano (Gaulish name), then Glanon (in Hellenistic times), and finally Glanum.

The sacred spring


A Gallic city under Greek influence

Opening up to Mediterranean trade

The Mediterranean was a major point of contact and exchange, both commercial and cultural, for all the peoples along its shores: Greeks, Etruscans, Phoenicians, Iberians, Ligurians.The 7th and 6th centuries BC were marked by the arrival of the Greeks in the western Mediterranean. The foundation of Massalia (Marseille) by the Phocaeans, around 600 BC, is without doubt the most characteristic example. The Greeks approached this new area primarily in search of raw materials, particularly metals. 
The proximity of Massalia and the geographical location of the oppidum certainly encouraged trade with the Greeks of Marseille. It was probably the integration of the Salyens into this trade and their encounters with other players in the Mediterranean world that gave rise to the Greek influences still perceptible on the site today.

Greek influences manifested themselves in different ways from the 2nd century BC onwards. A certain "Hellenization" of the architecture can be perceived, as at the spring or at the rampart, with the use of large-scale stonework 
The town expanded beyond the Salyen rampart with the construction of new Greek-style buildings, such as houses and a bouleuterion. But the most notable example is undoubtedly the construction of a Greek-style monumental center.
It's around the same time that so-called "Gallo-Greek" inscriptions appear on the site, i.e. written in the Greek alphabet but translating from the Celtic language, or a silver coin minted with the ethnic ΓΛΑΝΙΚΩΝ (of the Glaniques) whose Greek character is beyond doubt.

These examples clearly show the influence of the Greeks in the city they now call Glanon!

One of the walls of the rampart, illustrating large-scale construction
Part of the rampart in large-scale construction


Glanum under Roman rule

If Greek influence is synonymous with the prosperity of the site, Roman control of the territory stretching from the Alps to the Pyrenees did not spare Glanon.

The town suffered successive destructions during the Salyan Wars . In 125 BC, the oppidum of Entremont, capital of the Salyens, was destroyed by the legions of consul Caius Sextius Calvinus. He then founded the city of Aquae Sextiae... which you know today as Aix-en-Provence!

Where there's Rome, there's a forum!

Glanon's civil and religious edifices were dismantled in favor of housing, followed by the construction of the monumental Roman center : forum, basilica, curia. Thermal baths and a triumphal fountain were built, fed by a dam constructed to the south of the site in the heart of the massif.

It was during this period that the city's name was Latinized and Glanon became Glanum.

The Roman monumental centre: the pillars of the basilica and part of the forum
Roman monumental centre


Following Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul in 49 BC, Glanum was transformed into an oppidum latinum. The people of Glanum acquired "Latin rights": they were elected to municipal magistracies, and some were granted Roman citizenship. The city continued to expand northwards.

A triumphal arch at the crossroads of the Via Domitia signals the entrance. Next to it, a mausoleum was erected in memory of the Iulii, members of the local elite, honored with this patronymic for services rendered, notably during the Gallic War.

In the 1st century AD, under Emperor Augustus, the city acquired prestigious urban facilities, including geminated temples for imperial worship.

Religious attendance around the spring seems to be on the increase, with numerous ex-voto    are installed in the surrounding area as a token of thanks for its benefits. A temple to Roman health, Valetudo, was dedicated by General Agrippa, proconsul, companion and son-in-law of Emperor Augustus.

The arch and mausoleum of Glanum, located at the entrance to the town, on the plateau known as the Plateau des Antiques.
The arch and mausoleum of Glanum


From abandonment to rediscovery in 1921

Around 270 CE, the city was destroyed and gradually abandoned by the first waves of Germanic invasions. Its inhabitants left the city and moved further north, beginning to build the present-day town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. To do so, they used the stones available in Glanum. The monuments were dismantled.

Little by little, Glanum fell into oblivion... Just imagine, Glanum was completely buried under a thick layer of alluvium (nearly 8 meters high)! Only the 2 Antiques (the arch and the mausoleum), at the entrance to the town, remained permanently visible.
At the time of its "rediscovery", the site was covered by a field of olive trees and a Provencal farmhouse stood above the site of the Forum!

Who led the research? Pierre de Brun, Jules Formigé and Henri Rolland were the three key archaeologists involved in the discovery of the site.

Summer 1921 , Jules Formigé (1879-1960) chief architect of historic monuments, entrusted Pierre de Brun (1874-1941), a botanist and geologist, to carry out the first systematic excavations at Glanum.
Since that first official dig, the sanctuary-city has continued to yield unique evidence of antiquity preserved at the foot of the Alpilles mountains.

Henri Rolland (1887-1970), finally, gave the ancient city a national reputation from 1941 onwards, thanks to the scale of his discoveries.

In the 1980s, researchers from the Centre national de la recherche archéologique(CNRS) and the Institut de recherche sur l'Architecture antique(IRAA) laboratory in Aix-en-Provence resumed excavations.

The Centre de nonuments nationaux (CMN) is now entrusting the Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives(Inrap) with diagnostic operations prior to restoration work.

Archaeologists, architects, engineers and curators have succeeded one another for a century. Excavation workers, masons and restorers worked to bring out the best in the remains.
This great human adventure contributed to the creation of the archaeological park you can visit today.

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Workers are extracting earth from the site using small wagons pushed along temporary rails.
Excavations at the site in the 1920s

Musée des Alpilles

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