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CEMELENUM (Cimiez) Alpes-Maritimes, France.

Situated 3 km NE of Nice (Greek Nikaia, which was founded from Massilia in the 4th c. B.C. and has left few remains). The Roman town was established near the ancient oppidum of the Celto-Ligurian tribe of the Vediantii (Plin. HN 3.47-49; Ptol. 3.1.39), near Liguria. The choice of site was no doubt dictated both by strategic considerations (a key position on the road from Italy to Spain and at the start of the Sisteron and Alps road) and by the antiquity of the alliance between Rome and the Vediantii. Their name is not mentioned among the tribes conquered in the expeditions of 154 and 125-123, nor on the inscription of the trophy at La Turbie. The founding of the Roman establishment (whose name, Cemelenum, is of Ligurian origin) is linked to the end of the campaigns to pacify the Alpine tribes in 25-14 B.C. and to the construction of the Via Julia Augusta in 13 B.C. (cf. Tropaeum Alpium). From the Augustan period on Cemelenum became the capital of the autonomous district of Alpes Maritimae, administered by a praefectus civitatum in Alpibus Maritimis. Later it was the capital of the province of the same locality, governed by a procurator of the equestrian order. At that time the inhabitants received from Nero the jus Latii before becoming Roman citizens in the following century. Cemelenum retained this role as an administrative capital until the reforms of Diocletian. At the beginning of the 5th c. it became the seat of a bishopric dependent first on Arles (Arelate), then on Marseille. The town was abandoned in the 6th c.

The boundaries have not been definitely ascertained except to the N. Its interior arrangement cannot be specified in spite of the discovery of several stretches of streets orientated according to an orthogonal plan. But the excavation of five necropoleis, dating from the 1st to the 6th c., and above all the discovery of a huge district in the Parc des Arènes permit the reconstruction of the history of the monuments of the city: a modest arrangement in the 1st c., growth and embellishment under the Severans, destruction in the 4th c., and Early Christian renascence in the 5th.

Few remains of the 1st c. town survive, but most of them confirm Cemelenum's military nature. There are funerary stelae of soldiers belonging to the Ligurian cohort (cf. Tac. Hist. 2.14), the Gaetulian cohort, or sailors. A small amphitheater (dimensions of the arena: 46 x 34.80 m) could contain ca. 500 spectators—the strength of a cohort—and probably was destined for the drills of the soldiers. Possibly there was a small circus of the type found in certain camps of the Rhine limes. It was circumscribed by a long wall with buttresses faced with regular ashlar masonry. It was contemporary with the first stage of the N decumanus. From the Claudian period there is a statue dedicated by the emperor to his mother Antonia. Finally, of two aqueducts discovered, one dates to the first years of the 1st c. A.D., the other perhaps to its end.

Two series of baths were built in the first years of the 3d c., another in the middle of the century. The ensemble is the largest and most grandiose which Roman Gaul has produced. Possibly the N baths were reserved for the procurator and the garrison. A monumental entry with a portico leads to the frigidarium (more than 10 m high), long called the Temple of Apollo. There follow a tepidarium, laconicum, and two caldaria. A vast swimming pool, a palnestra, latrines, reservoirs, and various annexes complete this monument of striking luxury. Its arrangement was changed in the second half of the century. Separated from the N baths by the decumanus I, the E baths seem to have been reserved for men. South of these, in the corner of a spacious court is found a rectangular building with an apse. Presumably it is the schola of one of Cemelenum's corporations. These (the fabri, centonarii, utricularii) are known to us from inscriptions kept in the museum. This schola is next to an older rectangular building which extended to the decumanus II. This street has preserved its stone flagging, drains, and narrow sidewalks, and was probably laid out in the 2d c. (under Hadrian ?). It is lined by private houses which were remodeled many times over five centuries. Going back towards the NW, one comes across a third bathing establishment, the W baths. It was reserved for women to judge by the many pieces of feminine ornament found in the drains. The structures are mostly hidden by Early Christian buildings. Finally, the remodeling of the amphitheater, whose cavea was enlarged, must also be attributed to the 3d c.

In the 4th c. the baths were abandoned and destroyed, and limekilns were installed, some of which are still visible. The aqueducts went out of use, and the site did not revive until the 5th c. Then Early Christian buildings were erected on the ruins of the W baths: a church, a sacristy, and a baptistery with out-buildings (small baths and vestiary). The most interesting room is the trapezoidal baptistery, adorned with eight columns. In the middle it had a hexagonal tub, at the angles of which one can see the bases of the six small columns of a ciborium.

The archaeological museum (Villa des Arènes) brings together abundant material from the region from the 8th c. B.C. until the abandonment of the town. Of note are various important funerary and epigraphic pieces.


P. M. Duval, “Les fouilles de Cimiez,” Gallia 4 (1946); “Chroniques des circonscriptions arch., Circonscription de Provence-Côte d'Azur,” Gallia (1950ff); F. Benoît, Nice et Cimiez antiques (1968)PI.

A comprehensive description of the site by F. Benoît is forthcoming.


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