Marius' Victoire

A view of the Mont Sainte-Victoire by Cezanne, in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, from 1882-5.

Not a huge fan of Cezanne. When I drive down to France I pass the Mont Sainte-Victoire on the motorway, and tend to think of it in relation to Gaius Marius.

The mountain was first called "Vintour" by the Gauls. Gaius Sextius Calvinus established a military camp near the hot springs in the valley to the east, and the town of Aquae Sextiae was born (123/4 BC).

In 102 BC Gaius Marius defeated the German Teutones there, at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae, and the mountain was re-named in honour of his great victory. A triumphal arch was erected in the town, and the Romanisation of Gaul began. (The Romanisation was competed by his nephew, a certain Julius Caesar.) Back in Rome Marius was hailed as the greatest man in Rome, the general who had saved Italy from a barbarian invasion.

Today Aquae Sextiae is Aix-en-Provence, the name of the mount was Christianised - but Marius remains my hero.

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