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NEMAUSUS (Nîmes) Gard, France.

The name of the city is that of the god of the sacred spring, whose sanctuary, which predates the Roman conquest, had led to the creation of several settlements in the vicinity. Nemausus was the capital of the Volcae Arecomici (Strab. 4.1.12; Plin. HN 3.37) and at the time of its first development it was in the zone of influence of Massilia (Marseille), owing its importance to its position on the road from Italy to Spain, the future Via Domitiana. It was under Roman control from 120 B.C. on, and received the Latin right between 51 and 37. Then in 27 B.C. Augustus conferred on it the title of Colonia Augusta Nemausus, Voltinia tribu. At about the same time Egyptian Greeks, probably from Antony's army, were settled there. The city, in which the imperial house took an interest, appears to have been prosperous throughout the Early Empire. There are even several indications that the residence of the proconsul of Narbonese Gaul was transferred to Nemausus from Narbo Martius (Narbonne) after the old provincial capital was partially destroyed by fire in the reign of Antoninus Pius. Nemausus reached its apogee at the end of the 2d c. A.D., but from the mid 4th c. on a large part of the urban area appears to have been uninhabited. In 396 a synod met there; the first mention of a bishop of Nîmes comes in 506.

The town developed at the base of an amphitheater of hills. The Via Domitiana, which makes a right-angle turn inside the city, plays the role of both decumanus maximus and cardo maximus in the SE section. Little remains of the Augustan wall, principally the Porte d'Auguste at the E end of the decumanus. Its inscription (CIL XII, 3151) dates it to 16-15 B.C. It was originally flanked by two towers and had four arcaded passages. The Porte de France, at the S end of the cardo, appears to be much later. It is a single arch with a high attic decorated with pilasters in relief. In an indented angle of the NW part of the wall stands the structure called the Tour Magne. It is an impressive octagonal monument, with several stories, a central cella, an inside staircase, and semicircular rooms. The techniques used in its construction date it from the beginning of the Empire, but it is still uncertain whether it was a trophy, a watchtower, a Celtic sanctuary, or a mausoleum.

The forum, at the heart of the Augustan colony where the decumanus and the cardo intersected, was dominated by the Maison Carrée, perhaps the best preserved of all religious edifices of the Roman world. It is a Corinthian, pseudoperipteral hexastyle temple (measuring 31.8 x 14.95 m on the outside). Its pycnostyle pronaos is three intercolumniations deep. The temple, oriented towards the N, was surrounded by a vast peribolos which was partially excavated at the beginning of the 19th c. All that remains of the dedicatory inscription are the bedding-holes on the N frieze and architrave for the letters of gilded bronze, which have disappeared. It has long been thought that this inscription was of two periods: first a dedication to Agrippa of 16 B.C., and then at the beginning of our era an inscription to C. and L. Caesar, principes iuventutis, but only the second should be accepted. Examination of the architectonic decoration indicates that the temple, executed from designs taken for the most part from those for the Forum of Augustus at Rome, was built by regional construction crews at the very end of the 1st c. B.C. or the beginning of the 1st c. A.D.

The amphitheater is also remarkably well preserved. The axes of its external perimeter (133.38 x 101.4 m) and those of the arena (69.14 x 38.34 m) measure substantially the same as those of the amphitheater at Arles, placing it in size between the amphitheaters of Verona and Pola. Built of dressed stone, it held some 25,000 spectators. The cavea is supported by two series of arcades framed on the ground floor by Doric pilasters and on the next level by engaged columns. Above ran an attic marked by pilasters in low relief. The most recent studies place its construction at the end of the 1st c. A.D. or the beginning of the 2d c.

In the NW part of the city the great complex called the Fountain Sanctuary consists of several buildings of different dates. The spring, which flowed out of the base of the hill against which the theater is built, first fed baths, then entered a pool surrounded by porticos with a quadrangular kiosk in the center; its base, decorated with a frieze of foliated scrolls, supported four spiral columns. The kiosk was a sort of nymphaeum and dates from the beginning of the reign of Augustus. Fragments of pediment, belonging to a 2d c. A.D. temple and found to the S have been collected in the peribolos of the Maison Carrée. To the W still stands the Temple of Diana, a rectangular edifice composed of a barrel-vaulted niched central room. Facing its axial entrance and against the back wall is a square aedicula with a dais, flanked by two rooms leading to a peripheral corridor, also barrel vaulted.

Other ancient structures have now vanished: a circus, a Temple of Augustus, baths, and a basilica built by Hadrian in honor of Plotinus (Spartianus, Vita Hadriani 12.2; Dio 69.10.3; CIL XII, 3070). The museum at Nîmes contains important collections of ceramics, mosaics, coins, and architectural fragments.


History: F. Mazauric, La civilisation romaine dans le Gard (Nîmes et le Gard) I (1912) 285-335; O. Hirschfeld, “Die Krokodilmünzen,” Kleine Schriften (1913), 40f; E. Bondurand, “Le tracé de la voie Domitienne dans Nîmes,” Mém. Acad. Nîmes 40 (1920-21) 11-37; F. Benoit, Nîmes, Arles et la Camargue (1936); M. Louis & A. Blanchet, Carte archéologique de la Gaule romaine, VIII, Gard (1941) 32-133; Grenier, Manuel (1931) 314f and III, 1 (1958) 143f; J.-Ch. Balty, “Colonia Nemausus,” RBPhil 38 (1960) 59f.

City walls: R. Schulze, BonnJbb 118 (1909) 299f; E. Espérandieu, La Tourmagne, Notice sommaire (1922); Grenier, Manuel 31 6f. Maison Carrée: E. Espérandieu, La Maison Carnie a Nimes (1929); J.-Ch. Balty, Etudes sur la Maison Carrée de Nîmes, Coll. Latomus 47 (1960); R. Amy, “La Maison Carrée,” Actes du VIIIe Congrès International d'Arch. Class. 1963 (1965) 639f; W. D. Heilmeyer, in Korinthische Normalkapitelle (1970) 109f; id., “L'inscription de la Maison Carée de Nîmes,” CRAI (1971) 670f; P. Gros, “Traditions hellénistiques d'Orient dans le décor architectonique der temples romains de Gaule Narbonnaise,” La Gallia Romana (Acc. Naz. Lincei, 1973) 167ff; F. S. Kleiner, “Gallia Graeca, Gallia Romana and the Introduction of Classical Sculpture in Gaul,” AJA 77 (1973) 379ff.

Amphitheater: A. Pelet, Description de l'amphithéâtre de Nîmes3 (1866); F. Mazauric, “Les souterrains des arênes de Nîmes,” Mém. Acad. Nîmes 33 (1910) 1-35; F. Mazauric, “La date des arênes de Nîmes,” CRAI (1937) 236-38; Grenier, Manuel III, 2, 613f; G. Lugli, “La datazione degli anfiteatri di Arles e di Nimes in Provenza,” RivIstArch NS 13-14 (1964-65) 145-93; R. Etienne, “La date de l'amphithéâtre de Nîmes,” Mél. Piganiol 2 (1966) 985-1010. Fountain sanctuary: R. Naumann, Der Quellbezirk von Nîmes, Denkmäler antiker Architektur IV (1937); Grenier, Manuel IV, 2 (1960) 493f.


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