Friday, August 26, 2011

Roman Gaul: Paris to Provence

Dr. Jane Woodruff, Classics
 In summer 2011, with 14 other Latin and Roman history teachers/professors, Dr. Woodruff toured numerous Roman sites, both the well known ones like Paris and Marseille (originally founded by Greeks in 600 B.C.E.), others lesser known except to devotees of De Bello Gallico , like Alesia—where Vercingetorix led the last major resistance to the Roman conquest, and still others that were a delightful surprise to most of us, like Mas des Tourelles—a winery on the ancient Via Domitia,  restored in the 1700’s, which still produces Roman-style wines made in the Roman way (mulsum, anyone?).  We also examined Roman artifacts, housed in major museums like the Louvre and in numerous local facilities, and sought out other classical “survivals” dating from the seventh century B.C.E. through the eighteenth century C.E., but with special attention to the period from Caesar’s “Gallic wars” (the 50’s B.C.E.) to the reign of the fourth Roman emperor, Claudius (born in Lyon; he died in 54 C.E.).  At each site, museum, or venue, we heard lectures, including one by Prof. Peter Lethers of the University of Birmingham (U.K.). who has devoted forty years to studying the aqueducts built by the Romans to serve Lyon.  When not debating the virtues of this or that Latin textbook, or persuading a local to let us into a “closed” venue—such as the dry water channel of the Pont du Gard which we then walked, torchlight in hand, we were dashing off individually and collectively to see sites not on the official schedule, such as Chartres Cathedral.  In “down” time we took turns reading aloud from De Bello Gallico—in Latin, of course, with appropriate oratorical flourishes.  We took thousands of photographs for use in future classes, and documented artifacts and ideas potentially useful for our own scholarly work. We walked miles every day, climbed any hill on which a Roman ruin sat (and from which there might be a spectacular view), and came away with a heightened appreciation for 2000+ years of Roman-influenced French culture.

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