If you love Provence and are interested in antiquity, visiting Glanum is a must. The remains of this small town provide us with unique evidence of the first three large ethnic groups to make their mark on Provence, and how they overlapped in this special place. And it is a lovely site, small enough that one can absorb it physically as one looks from a viewpoint above at the whole. And then one can get a hold of its history as one delves into the detail, walking around the ruins of this small town. It is a fine place for those who already know something of Provence in antiquity, or for those just beginning to explore it.
Apparently the Celtic-Ligurian tribe, the Glanics, were here first, around the sixth century BC. They created a sanctuary based on a sacred spring, dedicated to a water divinity. Around this their settlement grew up. Many of the buildings of this period reflect (surprisingly) Hellenistic influences, it seems because the Celtic-Ligurians acquired new neighbours around 600 BC — Greeks who landed in what is now Marseilles, settled there and founded the city. For many centuries the Greeks seemed to get along well with their neighbours, the Celto-Ligurians, and there is a lot of evidence at Glanum that they influenced them in house styles and construction techniques. Greeks didn’t take the town over, but some may have settled there. It is interesting to reflect that their initial good relations may have been partly due to sharing spiritual beliefs and values — there are, of course, the remains of many sanctuaries in Greece too. Later, relations seem to have become strained, the Greeks asked the Romans to support them, and, well, the end of the story is predictable. The Romans moved in and turned Glanum into a Roman settlement with all that went with this — forum, temple, baths, monuments, etc. All the stages of these changes to Glanum are there to be observed from the remains.
The site is easy to find — it is on the road out of St Rémy-de-Provence, heading across the delightful Les Alpilles towards Les Baux-de-Provence. Two remarkably-preserved large Roman structures lie on one side of the road, the remainder of the town on the other. It is accessible to wheelchairs and mobility scoooters — though you need a fair amount of strength and effort and, inevitably, cannot get to quite all the remains. Staff lend those with reduced mobility a very helpful flip-book showing each building as it is now, and as it would have appeared originally (actually, this would be helpful for everybody). A useful free leaflet indicating individual buildings on the site, in English, was given to us with our tickets. There is a small museum space within the ticket office, with some interesting finds from the site (and an even smaller number of labels in English). But the bulk of the finds are supposed be on show within St Rémy. at the Hôtel de Sade. However, this is currently closed for renovations. So, sadly, most items recovered from the site —some of which are well- and enticingly-illustrated in the inexpensive English guide book (which I warmly recommend) — cannot be seen at present . (This is the third museum in Provence that we have found to be closed for at least another 6 months. This seems extremely bad planning in the year in which Marseille is European Capital of Culture.) A final positive note — we found the staff unfailingly charming and helpful, and immensely enthusiastic about the site they were caring for. Those who had some English tried very hard to communicate with us, and made our visit an extra pleasure.
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