- the thematic guide to France
Roman arena - Nimes
The Romans occupied
significant parts of it - for almost five hundred years. Julius Caesar
launched his invasion of Gaul (what we now call France) in the year 58
BC; and the Romans eventually departed, or merged into the local
population in the fifth century AD.
played a determining role in the development of the French nations that
followed. The language of the Romans, Latin, evolved into mediaeval
French and later into modern French. Many of modern France's great
cities - Paris
, Reims, Rennes, Marseille
others can trace
their history back to Roman times if not earlier. The people who lived
in Gaul in the 4th century and beyond have been long known as the
Gallo-Romans (i.e. Gallic Romans
– an interesting contrast with the situation in
where the equivalent population is referred to as Romano-British (i.e.
The finest and densest collection of Roman remains in France
today are to be found in and around Provence. Indeed the name
"Provence" is of Roman origin, as this area was the first province to
be set up under the Roman empire. Roman "Provincia Gallia Narbonensis"
stretched along most of the Mediterranean coast - much more than
today's Provence - and its capital was for a long time the city of
Narbonne, now in Languedoc
Little of Roman Narbonne survives
today; there is just a section of Roman road, and the Horreum, a system
of underground cellers.
A trip round Roman Provence
Pont du Gard, near Nimes
best place to admire the remains of Roman "Provincia Gallia
Narbonensis" - the best set of Roman remains in France - is the small
city of Nimes
often called the Rome of France. Nimes boasts half a
dozen well preserved Roman sites, most importantly the Maison
(photo top of page), a former temple; this is arguably the best
preserved Roman temple anywhere in the world. Nearby, the
is also very well preserved, and still regularly hosts events to this
day. Nimes also has two Roman
and, in the Jardins de la
Fontaine, a Temple of
and a large watch tower, known as La Tour
Twenty-five kilometres east of Nimes, beside the
is one of the surviving wonders of the Roman world, the
magnificent Pont du Gard
aqueduct, the highest and best preserved
aqueduct of the Roman world. The Pont du Gard is a big tourist
attraction, complete with interpretive centre.
it is 40 km drive to the small town of Saint Rémy
outside Saint Rémy is a large archeological site covering
city of Glanum
Little remains standing in Glanum, except the unusual
mausoleum of the
and a finely sculpted triumphal arch
which have finely preserved Roman sculptures.
From Saint Rémy, it
is then another 25 km drive southeast to the town of Arles
banks of the Rhone. After Nimes, Arles has the best
Roman remains of anywhere in France, and notably its large and finely
Close to the arena is a Gallo-Roman theatre
Roman sites in Arles include the Alyscamps
a Roman necropolis, and
remains of a Roman aqueduct
From Arles, it is 35 km back to Nimes... or else spend
another day or two visiting the Camargue
One other interesting Roman site is the Pont
Roman bridge with two triumphal arches. It is located at Saint Chamas,
40 km west of Aix en Provence.
Nearest airports for this trip : Nimes, Marseille/Provence,
More on Nimes
More Roman sites in the south
Fine Roman sculpture on the triumphal arch at Orange
other surviving Roman sites in the south of France, the best are to be
found in or near the Rhone valley, the great line of communication from
the Mediterranean to northern France and Europe.
There are three interesting Roman sites in the Vaucluse
of Avignon): This town has an impressive Roman theatre, used each year
Orange opera festival, and a fine triumphal arch, standing in
middle of N7 road on the northern exit from the town.
, northwest of Orange. Ruins of the Roman
town, a 1st century AD Roman bridge and fine and well
restored Roman theatre.
Also in the Vaucluse department, near Apt, the Pont Julien
well-preserved Roman bridge where the old Via Domitia crossed the river
(Isère, south of Lyon) : Gallo-Roman theatre, fine temple of
Augustus and Livia, and Gallo-Roman pyramid
Roman theatre and amphitheatre, on Fourvière hill, central Lyon
The best Roman remains in other
parts of France
impressive Roman city gates, and the remains of one of
the largest Roman theaters in Gaul. Also the remains of
pyramid and a Temple of Janus.
(Burgundy) Interpretive centre with historic recreation of Roman
defences on the site of the battle at which Julius caesar conquered the
Besançon & Mandeure
Besançon ; Roman arch, beside the cathedral
boasts a fine Roman
arch, "la Porte Noire" in the city centre, next to the remains of a
theatre. The city museum has some impressive mosaics.
70 km northeast, has the remains of a Roman theatre, in a very rural
A large Roman triumphal arch
- Little of Roman Paris
remains; but parts of Roman baths can be
visited in and beside the Musée du Moyen Age, just off the
Boulevard St. Germain in the Latin Quarter
A fine double Roman arch, the Arch of Germanicus, and also a
large Roman amphitheatre..