Arles (pronounced "Arle") is an ancient city in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhône département. It is located 35km (22 miles) southwest of Avignon and 89km (55 miles) northwest of Marseille. Arles has been called "the soul of Provence," to which art lovers, archaeologists, and historians are especially attracted. Many of the scenes painted so luminously by van Gogh can still be seen in real life. The great Dutch painter left Paris for Arles in 1888, and he painted some of his most celebrated works in this Provençal town.
The Greeks founded Arles in the 6th century BC and Julius Caesar established a Roman colony here in 46 BC. Arles prospered under Roman rule. Constantine the Great named Arles the second capital in his empire in AD 306. It wasn't until 1481 that Arles was incorporated into the kingodm of France. Today, Arles' first-rate museums, ancient Roman ruins, Romanesque churches, excellent restaurants, and summer festivals (such as the early June international photography festival) continue to draw many visitors.