Before the expedition to discover the ‘real’ Apt – Erica, Patrick (chief archeologist) and Wally


Apt – the self styled ‘heart of the Luberon’. Approach it from the D900 National Road and you will not be overjoyed at the sight of supermarkets, big-box retailers, shabby industrial buildings and a few modern factories. However, in the heart of Apt, lies an old Roman City and it is here that by scratching beneath the surface (literally and figuratively), you will find treasure.

Originally called “Apta”, the site of a military camp on the Domitian Way, “Julia” was added as a tribute to Julius Caesar, whose “pax romana” had already praised the frequent intermingling between Romans and indigenous populations.

Apt became a Roman Colony and the capital of one of the 19 Colonies in “La Gaule Narbonnaise”. Tradition also has it that Julius Caesar stopped in Apt while returning from one of his campaigns in Spain, which seems very plausible since the Domitian Way or Via Domitia (to-day parts of which are the main D900 National Road between Avignon and Forcalquier, passing through Apt along the way) was used for major expeditions.

Between the 6th century and the year 1000, many invasions took place and it is believed that the local population returned to the Luberon and other mountains in order to defend themselves.

So it was that we received an invitation from Patrick, Chief Archeologist in the Vaucluse region and in charge of excavations for Apt, via our dear friend Wally, for Madame, Erica and I to scratch beneath the surface.

We found some of the most remarkable sights that we had ever seen in our lives!

Let’s start at the beginning….


The square outside the Apt museum. Look carefully and you will see red lines drawn on the tarmac – these represent the gradients ofthe ancient Roman theatre which is busy being explored, excavated and discovered.


We entered the site through an apartment entrance and descended stairs into the medieval cellar. We carried on, down and down, to the theatre built in Roman times – incredibly below this are artefacts discovered with date back to Greek times, who settled in Marseille before the Roman invasion of Gaul.

The first excavation chamber – the site of two of twelved pillars used to hold the theatre curtains along with its mechanism. Not the ladder tip in the middle of the photograph – we were about to go down there!


An artists’ impression of what we are above to see – and visualise


Using his torch, Patrick points out where we are


We make our way along the side of the excavation towards that little ladder


The vertical cavern on the bottom of the picture is where the curtains used to go down into when the theatre performance began


The curtain length was estimated to be 10 metres wide and the mechanism was held by twelve columns



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