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Frejus

Anthony and Cleopatra had their ships brought to Frejus (Fréjus) after they were defeated at the battle of Actium in 31 BC. The ancient port of Forum Julii, founded by Julius Caesar in 49 BC, silted up in the 16th century and so ceased commercial activity. Now the only yachts to moor here are the toys of the rich and are harboured in Port Fréjus, an ugly 1980s marina, or along at St Raphael.

Frejus is a small town with fewer inhabitants now than in 1 BC (only counting those within the Roman perimeter), and there are a few remnants of the Roman town dotted about. You can see the quayside and port wall the Lanterne d'Auguste and Butte St Antoine that are now miles from the sea. The amphitheatre (free) is perhaps more interesting and, though smaller than its counterparts at Nimes and Arles, it still holds 10,000 spectators when bullfights and concerts are on. The aqueduct used to run for forty kilometres but now there are only a few arches of it left, visible at the end of the avenue du XVème Corps d'Armée.

As the Roman remains are scattered over a wide area, it is perhaps the medieval town that gives Frejus its atmosphere. On the site of a Roman temple in the centre of town, the place Formigé is home to the Cité Épiscopale, a complex that features a cathedral, bishop's palace, cloisters, and baptistery. Place Formigé was the centre of medieval Frejus, just as today it is the focus of the town and hosts the market, with the Cité Épiscopale spanning two sides. You can visit the cloisters and baptistery on a guided tour for €4. The cathedral is a very early example of Gothic architecture and is believed to be one of the first in this part of France. Its foundations were built in the 10th century and the most prominent features were added in the Renaissance: the carved doors, for example, and the choir stalls. The octagonal baptistery has a Roman pillar on each of its eight corners and was built during the 5th century. The entrance door is smaller than the exit because it was believed that your spirit grew larger when baptized. The cloisters are the best part of the Cité, with their courtyard garden planted around Roman columns that hold up 14th and 15th century painted wooden ceilings. Some 400 paintings show multitudes of strange creatures and scenes of impiety. The Musée Archéologique upstairs features a 3rd century Roman mosaic of a leopard and a marble statue of Hermes.