Nimes is home to some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in all of France


Nimes, also known as the most “Roman” city along with that of Rome, is home to an impressive collection of ruins in France.

Nimes is a small town in the south of France and is known as the most Roman city outside of Italy. Nimes has a rich history dating back to the early days of Roman expansion. During Roman dates, it was an important regional capital during the time of the Roman Empire and numbered around 50,000 to 60,000 people.

There are many famous Roman monuments in Nimes, which gives it the reputation of being French Rome. Some of the most famous ruins are the Maison Carrée, the Nîmes aqueduct, the Nîmes arena and the Temple of Diana.

History and context of Nîmes

The Roman period began in 123 BC when the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus defeated the Gallic tribes in the region. After that, the Roman province of Gallia Transalpina was established in 121 BC.

  • Busy: Occupied by the Roman Republic in 123 BC.

The Romans soon began to work on the construction of the Via Domitia – the first major Roman road crossing the south of France connected Italy with Hispania (Spain). Nîmes was born on this important road.

  • Pronunciation: Nîmes is pronounced NEEM in French

Nîmes became the Roman colony of Colonia Nemausus and some legions of Julius Caesar received plots of land to cultivate in the region. The first major works began under Augustus and some of the surviving buildings date from this time.

  • End of the Roman rule: The Visigoths captured it in 472

The city of Nîmes remains prosperous in much of the Roman Empire. It went into decline when the Western Roman Empire collapsed – although the southern parts of Gaul (France) fared much better than the northern regions. He was captured by the Visigoths in 472.

The Square House

“Maison Carriee” means “square house” in French and is one of the best-preserved Roman temples of the Roman Empire. It dates from the end of 1st BC. AD and was completed around AD 2 and is still almost completely intact.

Built: Around the same time that Jesus was born 1 BC – 2 AD

The Maison Carrée was dedicated (or rededicated) to Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar. They were grandsons and adoptive heirs of Augustus, both of whom died young. The inscription was removed in medieval times, but it is thought he had read:

To Caius Caesar, son of Augustus, Consul; to Lucius Caesar, son of Augustus, consul-designate; to the princes of youth.

Related: Are England’s Baths Living Up to the Hype? Here is what you need to know

The Arena of Nîmes

After seeing the Arean of Nîmes, the Colosseum in Rome may seem disappointing. Although this Roman amphitheater is smaller, it is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. It was built around 70 AD shortly after the famous Colosseum. Although the Colosseum is spectacular, there are many other fabulous Roman ruins to see in Rome.

  • Length: 145 yards or 133 meters
  • Width: 110 yards or 101 meters
  • Height: 69 feet or 21 meters
  • Capacity: 24,000 spectators

Of the approximately 400 Roman amphitheatres still in existence, it is one of the 20 largest remaining. Not only has it served in gladiatorial combat, but it has also served as a public event theater.

Today, the Arena of Nîmes remains in use and is the site of two annual bullfights during the Feria de Nîmes. It is also used for other events like Roman reconstructions of antiquity or concerts.

Nîmes aqueduct

The Pont du Gard, classified and emblematic of UNSECO, is a Roman aqueduct bridge and is part of the Nîmes aqueduct. It was built in the first century and carried water 50 kilometers or 31 miles to the colony of Nîmes. The aqueduct bridge is one of the best preserved in the world, while many remains of the aqueduct can be seen outside the city today.

  • Length: 50 kilometers or 31 miles
  • Bridge: The Pont de l’Aqueduc includes the Pont du Gard

The aqueduct once brought water from the hills to the north. The Pont du Gard which crossed the Gard river is about 20 kilometers northeast of the city.

Related: All About Hadrian’s Wall & How To Visit Rome’s Fort Vindolanda

“Temple of Diana”

Another well-preserved 1st century Roman building in Nîmes is the Temple of Diana. It was also built during the prosperous reign of Emperor Augustus. Although it is called a temple, it probably was not. And there is no evidence that it was ever dedicated to Diana.

  • Use: Maybe a library
  • Was not it : Probably not a temple and certainly not dedicated to Diana
  • Used as: A monastery in medieval times

It may have been a library and its facade was rebuilt in the 2nd century. It managed to find a new use in medieval times as a monastery (being used meant it was also being maintained).

It is located near the gushing source of “La Fontaine” – around this source was an Augsteum (sanctuary dedicated to the cult of the emperor and centered on a nymphaeum).

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