Difficulty of finding one's way about in Arles - The two inns - The mistral - The charm of Arles is in the past - A dead city - Situation of Arles on a nodule of limestone - The Elysian Fields - A burial-place for the submerged neighbourhood - The Alyscamp now in process of destruction - Expropriation of ancient tombs - Avenue of tombs - Old church of S. Honore - S. Trophimus - S. Virgilius - Augustine, apostle of the English, consecrated by him - The Flying Dutchman - Tomb of AElia - Of Julia Tyranna - Her musical instruments - Monument of Calpurnia - Her probable story - Mathematical versus classic studies - Tombs of utriculares - Christian sarcophagi - Probably older than the date usually attributed to them - A French author on the wreckage of the Elysian Fields.

I do not know a more perplexing place anywhere to find one's way in and out of than Arles. During a fortnight spent there I never could hit my inn aright once on coming from the railway station. The place is like a labyrinth; but one of those labyrinths that our forefathers delighted to construct of pleached alleys of box or lime were always to be traversed when you possessed the key. There is no key, no principle whatever upon which Arles has been built. Every public edifice seems to be dodging round the corner, like Chevy Slyme, hiding from some other public edifice with which it is on dubious terms, or not quite on social equality, and wishes to avoid the difficulties of an encounter.

Arles streets are about the worst paved in Europe. They are floored with the cobble-stones rolled down by the diluvium, and torture the feet that walk over them and rick the ankles. There are two melancholy inns in the Place du Forum, and it is hard to choose between them, probably it does not much matter. I was given a bed-chamber in one where neither the door nor the window would shut, and where there were besides two locked doors that did not fit, and as the mistral was blowing, my hours in that room were spent in a swirl of draughts. Moreover, an old party with bronchitis was in the adjoining room, also suffering from the draughts, and in despair of recovering his health in such a situation. I complained, and was given another room where the draughts were the same, but I was without my coughing and hawking neighbour. No wonder that I was charged half a franc per night for my candle. It guttered itself in no time into the tray of the candlestick, as it was blown upon from four distinct directions simultaneously.

Arles - when not in a mistral - is charming, but the charm is in the past. There one must be a laudator temporis acti, for the present is wholly wretched and bad. The fact is, Arles had a glorious past, from which it has been falling throughout the Middle Ages till it reached a point approaching extinction, and it has not as yet realised that better days are shining before it, and that there is a future to which it may look up.

So depressed did Arles become some time ago, that its only lively trade was in old coffins. It had a vast cemetery outside its walls, crammed with memorials of the dead of all ages; and as the curators of the museums of Paris, Marseilles, Avignon, Aix, &c., thirsted after sarcophagi, the mournful Arelois went to their necropolis, dug up as many as were wanted, and forwarded coffins to those who had made requisition for them.

Arles is planted upon a nodule of limestone rock that rises out of the diluvium of rolled stones. In former times it was almost the sole dry spot to be found for miles round, and as the dead of Pagan and Christian times alike seem to have objected to wet beds, their bodies were transported from all the country round to the plateau east of Arles and there entombed. This plateau was called the Elysian Fields, now Alyscamp, and is so thick with tombs that you walk over them as you follow the road that runs along the plateau. You see the grass at the side dead in one place, there is a tomb there; you see a bit of white marble cropping up in another, that is a tomb. You see a great stack of stones heaped up by the side of a railway cutting, they are all tombs. You look at the cutting itself, and see that to a certain depth it is honeycombed with tombs, some cut through, some sticking out. In every farmyard the pigs eat out of old sarcophagi. The fountains squirt into them, the bacon is cured in them. The farrier dips his hot iron into a sarcophagus. In the churches the altars are made of them. The foundations of the houses are laid in them. The very air seems to be pervaded with the dust of the dead, and this dust lies heavy on the spirits and energies of the inhabitants.

But what an age we live in! Utilitarian and disrespectful of the past! The other day a cargo of mummied cat-deities arrived at Liverpool and was sold for manure. At Arles, the Paris, Lyons and Mediterranean Railway Company has bought up the Elysian Fields to convert them into a factory for their engines. The company are excavating Les Alyscamp for this purpose, throwing about the sarcophagi, Pagan or Christian, or using them for building materials - and sawn in half they make decent quoins for a brickshed - and strewing the dust of the dead of ages under the wheels of the locomotives.

One undesecrated, unrifled headland remains above the factories, on which is a venerable but abandoned church. The company would grub that up too, but the proprietor will not sell, as he believes the tradition that an incalculable treasure is hidden somewhere among these tombs.

But the Arelois not only expropriate the tombs of their forefathers, they have given away or sold other things as well. On the Alyscamp is the venerable church of S. Honore, half ruinous, in which, underground in the crypt is the ancient baptistery that had served the first Christians when the church was young. It was furnished with a large porphyry circular vessel for immersing adults. Louis XIV. saw it, coveted it for some water-works, and got the Arelois to give it him. Among the ruins of the theatre was found a Venus of Greek workmanship and of Parian marble. They sent it away also; it is in Paris.

The old church of S. Honore is now reached by a long avenue of poplars lined with Pagan Roman tombs. The nave of the church is in ruins, but the choir is in tolerable condition, and is the most interesting portion. It consists in fact of an early Romanesque basilica with three aisles ending in three apses. The pillars separating nave from aisles, three on each side, are great drums ten feet in diameter. The later, ruinous nave contains the reputed chapel of S. Trophimus, apostle of Arles. When the fourteenth century church was added, this little chapel was left standing within, and though now crumbling, it is comparatively watertight. It has, however, undergone recasing in Renaissance times, and to understand its structure the chapel must be entered. It is then seen to have been an open porch of four semicircular arches, and may possibly have been erected over the tomb of S. Trophimus. The only ornament about it is a moulding, which may give its date.

S. Trophimus, reputed apostle of Aix, is now said to have been that Asiatic who was a companion of S. Paul mentioned in Acts xx. 4, xxi. 27-29, and 2 Tim. iv. 12, 20. But the very early diptychs of the church of Arles mention S. Dionysius as the first prelate, and the cathedral was built in 625 by S. Virgilius, and dedicated to S. Stephen. It did not take the title of S. Trophimus till the twelfth century, when the relics of this saint were brought to it from the little chapel just described. The exact date was 1152; the tradition of S. Trophimus having been one of the disciples of Christ and companion of S. Paul arose about this time. Not a trace of such a tradition appears in the Provencal poem composed by an eye-witness of the translation of the relics.

There was, no doubt, a bishop of this name at Arles, and probably early, but the first whose name is authenticated is Martianus, who followed the Novatian heresy in 254. Gregory of Tours - and his testimony is confirmed by a MS. of the fifth century - says that S. Trophimus was sent into Gaul in the consulship of Decius and Gratus, i.e., 250, and that he was the first bishop of Arles, and Gregory of Tours is the earliest and most reliable authority that we have on the beginnings of the Christian church in Gaul.

The church of S. Honore was built by S. Virgilius, Archbishop of Arles A.D. 588-618, and the baptistery dates from his time. According to the legend, whilst he was erecting the basilica, the people toiled ineffectually to move the pillars to their destined place. At last they sent word to S. Virgil that the truck was fast, and the pillars could neither be taken on nor carried back. Then Virgil hurried to the spot, and saw a little devil, like a negro boy, sitting under the truck, obstructing its progress. Virgil drove him away, whereupon the columns were easily moved. He was buried in this church, but I do not fancy his tomb is known. A strange story is told of him, how one night, as he was pacing the walls of Arles, or possibly walking in the Alyscamp, he saw a mysterious ship come sailing over the meres. In the starlight he discerned forms of sailors. The ship drew up near where he stood, and a voice called to him: "Reverend father, we know who thou art. Now we are bound for Jerusalem, and are here to ask thee to come on board with us." "No, thank you," answered Virgilius, "not till you have shown me who you are." Then he made the sign of the cross, and suddenly the ship resolved itself into a drift of fog that rolled away before the wind along the surface of the mere. This is the second version of the world-wide-known myth of the Flying Dutchman. The earliest form comes to us in the legend of S. Adrian, a martyr in Asia Minor. As his widow Basilissa was sailing over the Black Sea with his body, to bury it at Byzantium, a phantom ship passed by, which also vanished when adjured in the sacred name.

What is, to us English, of interest in connection with S. Virgil of Arles is, that it was he who consecrated Augustine for his mission to Kent, at the command of Gregory the Great. So here, probably, in this ruinous, silent old church, our apostle of the English knelt and received his commission to go and preach the Gospel to us Angles. This same Virgil also built the cathedral, and dedicated it to S. Stephen. But of his work there not a trace remains. Another bishop of Arles of some note was Regulus, who when preaching one day was so troubled by the noise made by the frogs, that he interrupted his sermon to order them to be silent, and - they obeyed.

In a side chapel of the old church of S. Honoratus is a sarcophagus that contains the skull and bones and dust of a young girl. The coffin is of lead, and this perhaps accounts for the preservation. Along with it were found the gold ear-rings and other trinkets. On the ear-rings a cross, but the inscription on the tomb hardly leads one to believe the girl was a Christian. She was aged seventeen years, eight months, and eighteen days, when she died. Her name was AElia. Here is the inscription in the lead, translated: -


  Thou who can'st read these lines, read a sad mishap, and learn our 
      plaintive lay. 
  Many call that a sarcophagus which contains bones, 
  But this has become the home of unhallowed bees. [1] 
  Shame it should be so! Here lies a damsel of exceeding beauty. 
  There's more than grief in this: a dearly loved wife has been snatched 
  She lived a virgin so long as Nature willed. 
  When she became a bride, the marriage vows were a joy to her parents. 
  She lived seventeen years, eight months, and eighteen days. 
  Happy the father who lived not to see such sorrow. 
  The wound rankles in the bosom of her mother, her precious jewel, 
  And her father, taken away in old age, still holds her clasped to his 

[Footnote 1: The ancients thought that bees were bred of dead bodies. See Virgil, Georgics. iv. 281-5.]

Here is the original with conjectural restorations. Would not old Dr. Keates have whipped the Eton boy who wrote such barbarous Latin verses! But it must be remembered the Arles folk were Graeeco-Gallic, and not masters of Latin. Some of the words are run together. It runs thus -

  AELIA AELIAE querelam.) 
  Multi.sarcophagum.dicunt.quod.con(tinet ossa:) profanis:) 
  Hoc.plusquam.dolor.est.rapta.est.s(uavissima conjux.) viii.diesque xviii. 
  O.felice.patrem.qui.non.vidit.tale.dolorem. fixo.pectore.volnus.dionysyadi matri. 
  Et junctam.secum.geron.pater.tenet.ipse.puellam.

This is an exact copy. I am not responsible for the grammatical blunders, they were made clearly by the sculptor of the inscription, who did not understand what he cut.

Among the tombs extracted from the Alyscamp and now in the Museum of Arles, is another of a girl, and a very accomplished young lady she must have been; her name was Julia, and she was the daughter of Lucius Tyrannus. She died at the age of twenty; the inscription on her tomb records that in her morals and in her schooling she was a pattern to all other girls.

What is particularly interesting about this monument is that it gives illustrations of all the musical instruments she was able to play, and it affords us I believe, the earliest known example of the organ. [1] But what is even more curious is that on it is represented a guitar, very much the same as is now manufactured.

[Footnote 1: Nero on the night when he died was going to try a water-organ, when the news of the revolt of Galba and the defection of the troops reached him. I am puzzled about this organ on the tomb of Julia Tyranna. Sir George Grove, in his 'Dictionary of Music,' gives an illustration of this same organ copied from Dom. Bedos' 'L'Art du Facteur d'Orgues,' Paris, 1766. This represents two slaves crouched and blowing into the organ bellows. I could not see these figures. I made my sketch carefully, and can hardly suppose the figures have been chipped away since the monument was placed in the museum.]

The instruments she could play were the organ, the guitar, the syrinx or panpipe, and the lyre, which she struck not with her fingers, but a plectrum represented beside it. Observe, between the lyre and the banjo her little satchel of music-books, and below the syrinx a lamb and palm. This is the only sign on the monument that could in the least lead to a supposition that Julia Tyranna was Christian. The inscription bears no trace of Christianity.

Another interesting monument found there is that to Calpurnia, daughter of Caius Marius. Probably she died from the exposure and roughness of life camping out, when the barbarian hordes rolled west, and all the inhabitants of the towns were obliged to fly before them to the hills. I shall in a future chapter tell the story of Caius Marius and his great victory at Pourrieres over the Teutons, having first thrashed the Ambrons near Aix. Suffice it now to note that here is the tombstone of his poor little daughter. I must, however, state that the genuineness of this inscription has been called in question. It is also worthy of notice how that the victory of Marius and delivery from the barbarians impressed the people of the neighbourhood. In the museum the name of Marius occurs on other monuments. The name of Marius is even now a popular Christian name in Provence.

But to return to Calpurnia. The place where the Arles inhabitants fled from the Teutons was the limestone range of Les Alpines, almost an island, so surrounded was it by lagoons and marshes.

Looking at Calpurnia's monument I fell into a dream, and saw her whole story unfolded before me. Caius Marius was a rough-mannered man, of peasant origin, but he had a wife Julia, of patrician rank, and who, I have not a shadow of doubt, flourished her noble origin before him, and talked very big of her grand relations. When little missie was born: "I'll have none of your plebeian names, if you please, for my baby," said Julia; "you will please note that my family derives from the immortal gods. I shall call the child Calpurnia." [1] Madame Julia was a good wife, and she followed her rough husband everywhere. At the beginning of windy March, tidings came that the Teutons and Ambrons were on the move. In April all the women and children of Arles, Glanum, Ernaginum, and Cabelio were clustered on the heights of Les Alpines, in extemporised cabins or in some of the prehistoric habitations they found scooped out of the limestone. Down came the rains. A gale and driving out-pour then as to-day, when M. Carnot comes into Provence. The roofs of the cabins let in water, the sides of the caves ran down with moisture. Then the wind changed, the sun shone out hot, but the mistral tore over the country cold and sharp as a double-edged sword. Poor Calpurnia could not stand it. She shivered and coughed, lost appetite and spirits. Next came the tidings of the battle at Les Milles, and a couple of days later of the extermination of the enemy at Pourrieres. Now the refugees might in safety descend from their rocky refuges, and return to their homes.

[Footnote 1: See Appendix A, on this monument and the question of its genuineness; as well as for some other inscriptions in the Arles Museum.]

Then Julia went with the sick girl to Arles. Meantime Marius on the battlefield had received the ovation of his officers and soldiers, and the salutations of the delegates from the senate proclaiming him consul. But at the same time there appeared - I doubt not, though Plutarch does not say so - a slave with a note from Julia: -

"I am sorry to tell you that Calpurnia is very unwell. That horrible mistral froze her, and she has done little else than cough night and day since. I have given her snail broth, but it has not relieved her much, and she is now spitting blood. Bother these Teutons, it is all their work. I always told you that you made a mistake in letting them come into Provence, and cross the Rhone. However, you were ever pigheaded, and now it serves you right. You will lose Calpurnia, who is the apple of your eye. Now if you had listened to me, etc., etc.


But there was something further to complicate matters, and superinduce sickness in a delicate girl. To escape to the hills the good people of Arles could not follow a road, for the whole district between them and the range of Les Alpines was covered with one vast lagoon. They could not travel in boats, for the lagoon was shallow, so they went on rafts supported on inflated skins, about which I shall have something to say presently. So Calpurnia, creeping close to her mother, wrapped in her pallium, was exposed for hours on a raft at the beginning of April to the cold winds, and to the water oozing up between the joints of the raft.

The whole story works out like an equation. I fancy - but am not sure - a quadratic equation, somehow thus: -

  As I, in a 19th cent. hotel, and in Jaeger underclothing: 
  Calpurnia, on a raft and in a pre-historic cave:: a cold in the head 
    I got: x

  x X self in hotel and Jaeger costume = Calpurnia on a raft and in a 
    cave X cold in the head.

  x = pthysis.

I think this is right. I cannot be sure; and I cannot be sure, though I was educated to be a mathematician by a senior wrangler.

The facts were these. My dear father thought, and thought perhaps justly, that a classical education was but a throwing back of the current of the mind into the past, whereas a mathematical education directed it to the future, and was the sole course which would prove Pactolean. So I was cut down in my classical studies, and drawn out in those which were mathematical. Likewise I was sent the year before entering the university to a senior wrangler to ripen me. I then learned that what as a boy I was wont to call the Rule of Three was more properly termed equations, and that equations might be complicated to the highest limits of muddledom, and when so complicated were termed quadratics. After a course of equations that flattened out my head like the Camargue, I was thrust into what are called surds, a sort of wood of errors, in which one spends hours in hewing one's way to get at nothing of the slightest profit to man or beast; finally, I believe my good tutor, now a bishop, got tired of me. I was stupefied by surds; and I entered the university. Now, after thirty-seven years, I find that every ode of Horace, every chapter of Caesar, every line of Virgil I learned at school lies as a sprig of lavender in the folds of my memory - but I cannot even set and work out a common equation, or add up a sum in compound addition correctly.

I beg the pardon of the reader for this digression. I have made it because I think, should my reader be a father, this experience of mine may be of profit to him.

To return to the monuments of the Elysian Fields. A considerable number have been found here, also at Nimes, S. Gabriel, and Cavaillon, which are the memorials of utriculares. [1] There were guilds of these men. They appointed noble Romans as their patrons, and these patrons on their tombstones made mention of the fact. But what were these utriculares? They were raftsmen who carried on trade over the lagoons, sustaining their flat vessels upon distended skins. The lagoons were so shallow that no vessel of deep draught could travel over them, and all the merchandise of central Gaul for the Mediterranean - the tin from Britain for instance - and all the goods of the Mediterranean for Gaul, had to be transhipped at Arles from the river boats, unable to cross the bar, on to these barges sustained on inflated skins that conveyed them to Fos, at the mouth of the lagoons, where they were again shipped for the sea voyage. After Marius had cut a canal, matters were better. Ships could come up through the lagoons to Arles, but none at any time of deep draught, and the raftsmen, the utriculares, carried on their trade till the Middle Ages, when the mouths of the lagoons became choked, and the lagoons themselves turned into noxious morasses. Here is one of their monuments, in the museum of Arles: -

    "To the manes. To Marcus Junius Messianus, of the guild of the 
    utriculares of Arles, four times president of this corpora 
    Junia Valeria raised this monument to him, her son, who died aged 
    twenty-eight years, five months, and ten days."

Here is another, found near Lyons: -

    "To the manes and eternal repose of Caius Victorinus ... urix, also 
    called Quiguro, citizen of Lyons, one of the corporation of utriculares 
    there, who lived twenty-eight years,... months and five days, without 
    giving offence to anyone. His mother, Castorina, raised this to the 
    memory of her sole and very dear boy."

The navigation on distended skins is now everywhere extinct except on the Euphrates. On some of the Nineveh sculptures may be seen men swimming across rivers sustained on these primitive air-vessels.

[Footnote 1: See Appendix C.]

In the museum at Arles are numerous sculptured Christian sarcophagi, with groups of the Raising of Lazarus, the Multiplication of Loaves, the Striking of the Rock by Moses, the Opening of the Eyes of the Blind, &c. These are attributed to the fourth and fifth centuries. For myself I am by no means satisfied that the Christian sarcophagi of rich and beautiful sculpture are as late as the dates generally given to them. I judge by the fashion of the hair worn by the ladies. Now there is a sarcophagus at Arles with the twelve apostles on it, six on each side of Christ, and a portrait of the deceased. This is set down to be a tomb of the fifth century, and yet the lady wears her hair in precisely the fashion, and it was a peculiar one, of the Faustinas, the wives of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, A.D. 138-177. It must not be forgotten that the protection of the laws was extended to Christian sepulchres as well as Pagan till the edict of Valerian in A.D. 257, and although this was withdrawn by Gallienus in A.D. 260, yet after that edict, the cemeteries, the catacombs, were never quite secure; before that, the Christians made no concealment of their places of burial, they used the richest available decorations for them, in sculpture and in painting. Only after A.D. 257 do the ornamentations cease, or become hastily sketched and rude, and the inscriptions degenerate into scrawls. All the finest, costliest work in the Roman catacombs belongs to the first two centuries and the beginning of the third. When peace returned to the Church, art had fallen into decay, and there were not sculptors capable of performing such work as had been done before. No more convincing proof of this can be found than the two porphyry tombs of Constantia and Helena, daughter and mother of Constantine, now in the Vatican.

To what a depth of degeneracy sculpture fell may be judged by the lid of the sarcophagus of S. Hilary, Bishop of Arles, d. 449, now in the Arles museum. Beside the rude lettering, there are but a leaf and two birds on it, but they might have been scribbled by a child. It is to me inconceivable that some of the beautiful white marble sarcophagi both at Arles and at Rome, sculptured with Scriptural scenes, can belong to the period when art was as degraded as it certainly was in the time of Constantine, and I think that antiquarians have been misled in dating them.

Before taking leave of the Elysian Fields, I must quote the words of a French author upon them: - "It has been a rich quarry only too easily worked, and we will not here enter on the painful story of its spoliation. All the museums of the south of France possess tombs stolen from the Alyscamp. As to the monolithic tombs, they were abandoned to any one who cared to have them, and for many centuries have been regarded as stones quarried ready for use. The city of Arles has on several occasions had the culpable condescension of giving up the tombs of its ancestors to the princes and great men of the world. Charles IX. laded several ships with them, which sank in the Rhone at Pont S. Esprit. The Duke of Savoy, the Prince of Lorraine, the Cardinal Richelieu, and a hundred others have taken away just what they liked, and Arles to-day has hardly more to show of this vast cemetery than an avenue - but a noble one - of sarcophagi and some fragments of fine Gothic or Romanesque chapels lost in the midst of a desert." [1]

[Footnote 1: Lentheric, 'La Grece et l'Orient en Provence,' 1878.]