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Colonia Julia Paterna Arelate. The narrator of this book is the Rock of Arles, a limestone eminence washed up over millions of years where the Mediterranean Sea meets the furious Rhône River. The city was founded on this rock 2,600 years ago by Greeks. In times of some urgency, like now, the Rock, a kind of genius loci, whispers to its amanuensis, who lives on its side. The Rock has seen everything in the vast history of the city and has forgotten nothing. It relates an abbreviated history of the city beginning with its colonization by the Romans. The Rock focuses on three little-known native sons who have a radical, dissident perspective on that history: (1) Favorinus, born in Arles in the first century, was a Celt who became a noted philosopher and the greatest orator in Greek in the Roman Empire, at a time when oratory was highly prized. He was also a eunuch. He had a falling out with the emperor, who exiled him. With Plutarch, he was the most prolific writer of his age. (2) Kalonymus ben Kalonymus, born in the ghetto of Arles in the thirteenth century, was a radical Hebrew poet and a prodigious translator of Arabic translations of ancient Greek science and philosophy. He wrote a great poem in rhythmic Hebrew prose in which he dreams of becoming a worthy woman. (3) Finally, Pierre-Antoine Antonelle was the scion of an aristocratic family in Arles who rejected his class and at the time of the revolution became a revolutionary thinker and the first mayor of Arles. Robespierre appointed him to the revolutionary tribune that condemned thousands to the guillotine, including Marie Antoinette. Robespierre imprisoned him. After the tyrant's death, Antonelle became a passionate advocate of representative democracy.

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