ARLES, south-east France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Bouches-du-Rhone, 54m. N.W. of Marseilles by rail. Pop. (1931) 18,548. A canal unites the town with the harbour of Bouc on the Mediterranean. Arles stands on the left bank of the Rhone where the river divides to form its delta. A tubular bridge unites it with the suburb of Trinquetaille on the opposite bank. The town is hemmed in on the east by the railway line from Lyons to Marseilles, on the south by the Canal de Craponne.
Arelate was important at the time of the invasion of Julius Caesar. It was pillaged in A.D. 27o but restored and embellished by Constantine, who made it his principal residence, and founded Trinquetaille. Under Honorius it became the seat of the prefec ture of the Gauls and one of the foremost cities in the western empire. Its bishopric, founded by St. Trophimus in the 1st cen tury, was in the 5th century the primatial see of Gaul; it was suppressed in 1790. After the fall of the Roman empire the city passed into the power of the Visigoths, and rapidly declined. It was plundered in 73o by the Saracens, but in the loth century became the capital of the kingdom of Arles (see ARLES, KINGDOM OF). In the 12th century it was a free city, governed by a podesta and consuls after the model of the Italian republics, which it also emulated in commerce and navigation. In 1251 it submitted to Charles I. of Anjou, and from that time onwards followed the fortunes of Provence. A number of ecclesiastical synods have been held at Arles, as in 314 (see ARLES, SYNOD OF) 354, and 475. Its streets are narrow and irregular. On the central Place de la Republique stand the hotel-de-ville, the mu seum and the old cathedral of St. Trophime. Founded in the 7th century, St. Trophime has been several times rebuilt. Its chief portal, 12th century Romanesque, is a masterpiece. The choir opens into a beautiful cloister, two of the galleries of which are Romanesque, while two are Gothic. The hotel-de-ville (17th century) contains the library. The museum, occupying an old Gothic church, is rich in Roman remains and early Christian sarcophagi ; there is also a museum of Provencal arts and crafts founded by the poet Mistral. Arles possesses the ruins of an amphitheatre (the Arenes), capable of containing 25,00o spec tators; a Roman theatre, in which the famous Venus of Arles was discovered in 1651; an ancient obelisk; the ruins of the palace of Constantine ; the forum ; the thermae ; and the remains of the Roman ramparts and of aqueducts. There is, besides, a Roman cemetery known as the Alis-camps (Elysii Campi), consisting of an avenue bordered by tombs. The port of Arles is now of little importance. Sheep-breeding is a considerable industry in the vicinity.