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TRA 121 Roman and Medieval Provence: An Historical Journey

Course Description

Over two millennia ago, the ancient Romans acquired a new territory along the Mediterranean coast of Gaul. Formally called Gallia Narbonensis after its capital at modern Narbonne, its proximity to Italy led the Romans to call it simply Provincia (The Province); it remains Provence, and the Roman and Medieval spirit is still heavily felt in towns from Arles to Avignon.

Our 16-day journey through the area will take us to these places and many more. From our base at traditional hotels in three attractive towns (Arles, Vaison-la-Romaine, and Gordes. We will explore the well-preserved Roman fora, temples, baths, and theatres of Arles, Nimes, and Orange; the spectacular aqueduct bridge at Pont du Gard that once brought water to Nimes; the finely excavated Roman cities of Glanum and Vaison; the bories (domed stone buildings from 2000 BCE) of Gordes; the 12th century Popes? Palace in Avignon; the pretty Abbey at Senanque, set in a field of lavender; the fortified medieval port-city of Aigues-Mortes (?Dead Waters?); and the old riverside town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, once home to the medieval poet Petrarch and site of a still-functioning Renaissance paper mill.

But we won?t ignore the more recent delights of Provence. We will take a walking tour of van Gogh?s Arles, explore the outdoor market in Avignon, and wander the towns of the Luberon, former home of Peter Mays. We?ll spend a whole day in the Camargue, a huge, low-lying delta of marshes and sand dunes that teems with protected wildlife: beavers, native horses and bulls, and hundreds of species of birds including 10,000 pairs of flamingoes. Our culinary experience will be equally mixed: Proven├žal dinners on terraces overlooking the vineyards, an ancient Roman lunch at Glanum, tasting of wines at Mas des Tourelles.

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Accompanying Resource Person: Dr. John Humphrey is a professor of history and archaeology in U of C's Department of Greek and Roman Studies. He has excavated in both Greece and Turkey, and specializes in the history of ancient technology, on which he has published two books. He has been leading Continuing Education travel study tours to the Mediterranean since 1978.

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