Posted on Jun 22, 2010 in category

A long drive from Vienne to Vaison La Romaine was helped by taking the motorway with a top speed of 130 kph.. For 15 odd Euros we could reach our first stop of Orange in one and a half hours.

Orange was originally territory of the Celtic Cavares tribe. In 36-35 B.C. Augustus made it a colony, Colonia Julia Firma Secundanorum Arausio on settling the II Legion Gallica (more on this later).

Today Orange is famous for its theatre. It is only one of three Roman theatres in the world that still has its stage or 'proscaenium' with a huge back wall or 'scaenae frons'. Aspendos in Turkey is the second; the third is in Syria. It was built in 1 A.D. in the principate of guess who?? Augustus!!!

The theatre is still used for theatrical productions

Roman theatre productions started out with Greek tragedies and comedies but 'progressed' to farces and mimes many becoming quite uncouth and bawdy. Intoxicated members of the audience were not uncommon. Later in Roman theatre even women scandalously performed onstage.

Many thanks to Mathieu Defline, the Director of Culture Espaces of Orange Theatre-antique, for organised our entry into the theatre.

A three-tiered 'cavea' or seating based on status: nobles and prominent men at the front; next, the men from the trade guilds or 'corporations' and other citizens higher up.. Finally, the last tier was for women and foreigners.

The Orange theatre was part of a monumental building complex that included a sanctuary to an unknown deity located next door.

Sections of the sanctuary next door to the theatre

Note the huge retaining wall on the right that was part of the sanctuary

Another famous site of Orange is the Triumphal Arch. I was surprised by the relatively good condition of its bas-relief sculptures and also by the traffic jam that surrounded its roundabout. The sculptures are significant because they blatantly show the conquest of the noble 'barbarian' Gauls by the II Legion of the Roman army. The Arch was built on the Via Agrippa (road) linking Arles (Arelate) and Lyon (Lugdunum) around 20 B.C. Guess what??? It's another Augustan monument although it was later dedicated to Tiberius.

Highly decorative symbol of Augustan power and propaganda

One side of the Arch depicts three Celtic trophies won in battle plus the enslaved Gauls below

Vaison La Romaine is what you imagine a town in Provence would be: white stone walls (some taken from Roman ruins), terracotta scalloped tiles, wooden shutters either side of elongated French windows and of course, a Roman 'pont' or bridge over a pristine river-the Ouvèze.

Our B & B is located in the medieval village perched high on the left bank of the town- the old oppidum of the Vocontii tribe. We drove our 'big' C5 Citroen into a quant small village square with its medieval fountain much to the astonishment of the locals. After many recitations of 'Desole, desole' I managed to find out it was 'd'accord' to drop off the luggage; then, hike it out of there before the police could book me.

Three artists were drawing this Renaissance fountain. The C5 has departed!

Our late evening promenade around this village included a walk up a steep hill to the old early medieval chateau.

A top view!

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