Indeed there are many substantial reasons to believe, that it was at this town Julius Caesar built the twelve gallies, which, from the cutting of the wood to the time they were employed on service, was but thirty days.—That it was a very considerable city in the time of the first Emperors, is past all doubt. Constantine the Great held his court, and resided at Arles, with all his family; and the Empress Faustina was delivered of a son here (Constantine the younger) and it was long before so celebrated for an annual fair held in the month of August, that it was called le Noble Marche de Gaules. And Strabo, in his dedication of his book to the Emperor, called it “Galliarum Emporium non Parvum;” which is a proof that it was celebrated for its rich commerce, &c. five hundred years before it became under the dominion of the Romans. But were I capable of giving you a particular description of all the monuments of antiquity in and near this town, it would compose a little book, instead of a sheet or two of paper. I shall therefore only pick out a few things which have afforded me the most entertainment, and I hope may give you a little; but I shall begin with mentioning what must first give you concern, in saying that in that part of the town called la Roquette, I was shewn the place where formerly stood an elevated Altar whereon, three young citizens were sacrificed annually, and who were fattened at the public expence during a whole year, for the horrid purpose! On the first of May their throats were cut in the presence of a prodigious multitude of people assembled from all parts; among whom the blood of the victims was thrown, as they imagined all their sins were expiated by that barbarous sacrifice; which horrid practice was put a stop to by the first Bishop of Arles, ST. TROPHIME. The Jews, who had formerly a synagogue in Arles, were driven out in the year 1493, when that and their celebrated School were demolished. There were found about an hundred after, among the stones of those buildings some Hebrew characters neatly cut, which were copied and sent to the Rabbins of Avignon, to be translated, and who explained them then thus:
Chodesh: Elvl. Chamescheth,
lamech, nav. Nislamv. Bedikoth.
i.e. they say,
“In the month of August
five thousand and thirty—the Visitation
of God ceased.”
Perhaps the plague had visited them.—There was also another Hebrew inscription, which was on the tomb of a famous Rabbin called Solomon, surnamed the grandson of David.