He is celebrated by a square, a monument and a lycée (not to mention a fast-food outlet) in Bordeaux, and enjoys similar accolades in Par...

Camille Jullian: the man who reconstructed the history of Bordeaux

He is celebrated by a square, a monument and a lycée (not to mention a fast-food outlet) in Bordeaux, and enjoys similar accolades in Paris and his birthplace Marseille, but who was Camille Jullian?

During his life, which stretched from 1859 until 1933, Camille Jullian became a renowned historian, philologist (specialising in the study of written texts) and epigraphist (deciphering ancient inscriptions). He is best remembered for his multiple door-stopper of an epic that was “Histoire de la Gaule”, released in eight instalments between 1907 and 1928.

After spending the early years of his childhood in Nîmes, Jullian attended secondary school back in his birthplace Marseille before studying History at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he notably befriended the philosopher Henri Bergson. After graduating, Jullian continued his studies in Berlin and Rome, ahead of submitting a thesis on “political transformations in Italy during the period of the Roman Empire” to the Sorbonne in Paris. The jury saluted his “precocious competence”.
Jullian was reportedly diminutive,
shy (but an excellent public speaker)
and very short-sighted (hence the
cool spectacles).
Source: www.aibl.fr

And so it was that, in 1887, Jullian was appointed as professor and lecturer at the University of Bordeaux. This was more by accident than by design; Bordeaux was a city with which he held no previous connections but which he soon found to offer a fascinating environment. Jullian set about investigating past times and ancient inscriptions, and went on to produce a host of books and essays about the history of Bordeaux, including “Inscriptions gallo-romaines de Bordeaux” (1887 and 1890) and the benchmark work “L’Histoire de Bordeaux” (1895, commissioned by mayor Alfred Daney with a view to showcasing the city at that year’s Universal Exhibition in Paris). By now, Jullian was firmly established as the city’s most prominent historian.

After moving on from Bordeaux University in 1905, Jullian went on to become professor at the Collège de France in Paris. During this time, the scope of his research and publications extended further, hence the production of the aforementioned tomes about the history of Gaul, which provided a first definitive account of Gallic culture and of the achievements of national hero Vercingetorix (for which the readers of the adventures of Asterix should be eternally grateful). Jullian also contributed to the drafting of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and became an elected member of the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (in 1908) and the Académie française (1924). 

The historian's Bordeaux connections never went away though. Back in 1890 he had married one Madeleine Azam, the daughter of the doctor and fellow Bordeaux University professor Eugène Azam. It was in Paris that Jullian died aged 74, having never fully recovered from a stroke three years previously, but his desire was to be buried in Bordeaux within the Azam family vault in the Cimetière Protestant on Rue Judaïque. And that is where he continues to rest in peace, along with Madeleine who died the following year, in 1934.

The Azam family vault at the Cimetière Protestant.
The city of Bordeaux remains indebted to Jullian for the research he carried out and the findings he published. A high school founded in 1883 - which in 1903 became known as Lycée Mondenard - was given the name of the historian in 1955. Now affectionately known as “Caju” by many, the lycée is part of the genetic makeup of Bordeaux.

One of the entrances to Lycée Camille Jullian and, across the road, a fast-food outlet which also bears Jullian's name, an unusual juxtaposition of history and kebabs.
A square in central Bordeaux also bears his name. The square only took its present shape after buildings were demolished in 1935; the centrepiece of the square is a monument made up of Gallo-Roman ruins which were unearthed on Place Gabriel in 1921. However, given the ambient pollution the original ruins were later replaced by less fragile and less precious replicas; the actual ruins are now stored by the Musée d'Aquitaine.

The monument, commissioned by chief city architect Jacques d’Welles (who has already made a number of appearances on Invisible Bordeaux) was inaugurated on June 8th 1936 by the then-mayor of Bordeaux, Adrien Marquet. Marquet stated that the monument was designed to “evoke the soul rather than the face” (“évoquer une âme plutôt qu’un visage”) of the historian. The plinth of the monument features reproductions of historical maps of the city as produced by Camille Jullian himself.

The Camille Jullian monument, including reproductions of his maps of Bordeaux in the 1st to 3rd centuries (left) and 4th century (right).
The monument remains a heart-warming piece of history set in the middle of this square which hums with chatter and laughter on balmy nights with people sitting out on the terraces of restaurants and bars. Not only did “Caju” put the history of Bordeaux back in the spotlight, his name continues to form an integral part of the city of today!

A rare sight of the square as it looks early morning before the crowds congregate there on the café terraces, and an excerpt from Jullian's writings on a streetsign: "Talking about the country means drawing up a sacred link between a hundred present, past and future generations, a link that no death or storm could ever come to shatter."
> Find them on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Place Camille-Jullian, Lycée Camille Jullian (Rue de la Croix-Blanche), Cimetière Protestant (Rue Judaïque), Bordeaux.


  1. Surely there shouldn't be a hyphen between Camille and Jullian on that sign.

    And a 'Cimetière Protestant' on 'Rue Judaïque' - is that an example of Bordeaux humour?

  2. I'd have to go googling to be able to provide a definitive take on that one, but I think that when people's names become street/place names, they gain the hyphen in the name section. Other examples in Bordeaux include Place Pey-Berland, named after, er, Pey Berland. This exchange provides information about the rule, as well as exceptions and common mistakes.

    As for the Protestant Cemetery being on Rue Judaïque, yep, well spotted!