Sightseeing on the ancient port of Forum Julii

My next novel will be set in Forum Julii, present-day Frejus, and will follow the urban adventures of two city doctors, a father and daughter. I had to be certain of the historical elements in 80 AD, because I am writing an adventure happening a city steeped in history, I chose to work in partnership with the archaeological department of Fréjus. And therefore, I was able to visit the excavations undertaken around the bastide Mège on the ancient port of Forum Julii.

The city of Frejus seen from the site of the ancient port of Forum Julii

An invitation from the archaeological department of Fréjus

I had the fortune to be invited on the ancient port of Forum Julii to visit the site of the excavations around the bastide Mège. I was thus able to visualize this part of the port, where were located the piers built towards the end of the first century AD on sandy shoals.

The excavations undertaken by the archaeological department of Fréjus in collaboration with the CNRS are directed by Pierre Excoffon, its director. But let’s talk a little about the place before dwelling on the bastide itself.

Foundations of Bastide Mège looking at the ancient port of Forum Julii
Foundations of Bastide Mège looking at the ancient port of Forum Julii

The ancient port of Forum Julii

As Fréjus is located inland about 2km from the coast, it was believed for a long time that the ancient port was connected to the sea by a long canal. However, the work carried out by Pierre Excoffon has proved us wrong, since between the first and fourth centuries the bay of Fréjus underwent a rapid silting up due to the alluvial deposits carried by the Argens river.

As for the ancient port of Forum Julii, it was right by the sea, built with dykes to protect it from silting up and marine currents. It is still visible today as well as important vestiges of its structures. There are in particular two notable monuments at the end of those: Augustus’ lantern and the bastide Mège.

The bastide Mège

The bastide Mège has that of special that it still keeps many of its mysteries unsolved. It is a building measuring c. 8mx8m of which only the foundations remain. However the thickness of its walls lets think that a important and high building had to be there.

There are several hypotheses; two seem more likely: it could be a lighthouse built after the one already on the island known as the ” Sea Lion “, or a tower to signal the shoals forming on this side of the Harbour around the beginning of the 2nd century. The three vaulted cellars supporting the weight of the structure, those currently being excavated by archaeologists, could have been used to store fuel or even fresh water for the sailors.

To know more about it

Bastide Mège à Fréjus: on en sait plus sur la mystérieuse découverte – Var-Matin (varmatin.com)

Archéologie – Site officiel de la ville de Fréjus (ville-frejus.fr)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.