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History of Aix-en-Provence, a stroll through time  
It was predictable that the Romans would choose to settle, first a camp, later a colony, around the springs flowing below the Salluvian oppidum into the valley of the Arc. Summoned for protection in 123 B.C. by the Greek traders of Marseille they stormed the Celto-Ligurian stronghold we call Entremont, massacred its inhabitants, and destroyed it.
Ironically, its ramparts still stand with their excavated houses, temple, and streets, whereas the vestiges of the Roman camp and city established below now lie mostly buried beneath the accumulated rubble and "improvements" generated by their successors. Similarly, there is more Salluvian (Salyen) to admire in Aix’s Granet museum than there is of Rome’s might.
In compensation, perhaps, the name of the Roman proconsul, Caius Sextius Calvinus lives on in modern Aix, a broad thoroughfare, the Cours Sextius, a university residence, a hairdresser, and a business in garment alteration bear his proud name.
This same civic memory pays homage to the fifteenth century king René, the poet Malherbe, the revolutionary Mirabeau, the painter Cézanne, and a company of "grands hommes" whose association with Aix is less than intimate and whose notoriety has lost much of its former lustre.

Roman Aix, the colony, that is, lasted for about three hundred years, from 15 B.C. to about 275 A.D. By all acounts Aquae Sextiae was a splendid "spa" rivaling celebrated Baïes, near Naples. Warm thermal water still flows through the moss-backed “fontaine d’eau chaude” in the middle of the Cours Mirabeau, and, after a period of remission, Aix’s vocation as a watering place is being relaunched. Its “Thermes” ressuscitated on the original site of the Roman baths surge with imperial morgue dwarfing, and absorbing, an elegant 18th century Hôtel des Thermes, and, for better or for worse, transforming Aix’s most venerable raison d’être.
Rome’s decline in the 3rd century A.D., the invasion of Frankish and Alamanic tribes, and the insecurity that ensued was only partially redeemed by Aix’s promotion to "archbishopric of the second Narbonnaise," an ecclesiastical and administrative area stretching from Fréjus on the Mediterranean coast to Gap in the Alps of Haute Provence. The archbishops of Aix-en-Provence and of Arles, capital of the neighbouring métropole (archibishopric) thus became "defensor civitatis" against the invading Wisigoths. In 574 A.D. Aix-en-Provence, occupied once more, by the Lombards this time, pays ransom for its freedom, its proud Roman monuments : forum, temples, amphitheatre and its public and private buildings are pillaged, their columns and stone being quarried for re-use by succeeding generations. Some may be found to this day in the cathedral, in the walls of houses, and in town squares where Roman columns have been resurrected in deference to their elegant imperial origin.
The defeat of the Saracens and relative peace heralded a revival of the city surrounding the Roman forum.
The Bourg Saint-Sauveur occupied much of the area once at the center of a Roman colony and evidence of economic and religious vitality is visible today in the compact cluster of streets that circle the cathedral. Roman columns surround the baptistery and Roman stonework, the southwest façade of the cathedral. When, in 1189, Aix became the residence of the counts of Provence. The monumental Roman towers to the south east of the bourg Saint Sauveur were absorbed by a palace which redistributed the center of power from the ecclesiastical to the temporal, from the laws of Moses and the church fathers to those of a parliament. The palais des comtes was dismantled at the end of the eighteenth century and replaced by the Courts of Law (Palais de Justice), its stone used as ballast to raise the level of the road from Marseille giving access to traffic and providing a handsome setting for Aix’s splashiest fountain and first traffic circle, la Rotonde. Sic transit gloria


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