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The first known settlement was a Late Bronze Age oppidum that was probably destroyed by fire in the 6th c. B.C.; the site was on an isolated hill where the Moselle and the Seille meet, called the Haut de Ste. Croix. The oppidum of the Iron Age spread farther S and W; it was burnt down during Ceasar's campaign. Both a place of refuge and an economic and religious center, Divodurum was the chief town of the city of the Mediomatrici.

The Roman city that replaced it was destroyed by fire under Tiberius. The site acquired fresh importance when roads were built from Lyon to Trèves and from Reims to Strasbourg. Their junction at the foot of the Haut de Ste. Croix determined the site of the new town: the first road became the cardo, the second the decumanus, and a grid system of streets developed. This city was built of wood and was apparently destroyed again ca. A.D. 70 (troubles at the time of Nero's death). Rebuilt in stone under the Flavian emperors, it was again destroyed about the end of the 1st c. During the Pax Romana the city grew markedly along the N-S road, where remains of wealthy villas have recently been excavated.

The section built under Trajan had rather splendid baths on the hillsides, and other public buildings. This prosperity continued until the mid 3d c., when the city suffered again, possibly as a result of the invasion of the Alemanni in 257. Metz built a rampart and became a castrum, a long, irregular polygon stretching down the Haut de Ste. Croix to the Hôtel du Gouverneur, crossing from there to the Tour Camoufle, then touching the hill again in the St. Martin quarter and the Place des Paraiges. A good part of the city (the E and SE quarters and Sablon) lay outside the fortification. Again destroyed in the middle of the 4th c., the city was rebuilt on a very different plan; it is this topography that has come down to us through the mediaeval city.

The plan of Metz in the Gallo-Roman era was based on the cardo, corresponding to the Avenue Serpenoise and its continuations, and on the decumanus, now the Foumirue. Besides being at the junction of these two roads Metz was also favored by its location on the Moselle, which linked the capital of the Mediomatrici with Trèves, Coblenz, Cologne, and the Lower Rhine, and by other roads, one of which went from Metz to Worms and the Rhine. The site of the forum is still undetermined (possibly the modern Place St. Jacques). The religious center remained on the Haut de Ste. Croix, and the rest of the city spread out on terraces leading W and SW toward the Moselle. The discovery of the suburb of Sablon and its cemeteries confirmed the growth of the city along the roads to the S. The high point was in the 2d c.; at the end of the 3d c. the threat of invasion forced the city to withdraw inside its ramparts (3500 m long).

Chief public monuments: 1) the aqueduct bringing water from Gorze was ca. 22 km long, had a gradient of 22.19 m, and was apparently built in the 1st c. The first section runs underground from Gorze to Ars-sur-Moselle; the second, the aqueduct proper, crosses the Moselle between Ars and Jouy (ca. 1100 m long, gradient 4.04 m at this point); the third section, from Jouy to Metz, is half underground. Where it crossed the Moselle the aqueduct had a basin at each end linking the parts above and below ground; the basin functioned as both a purifier and a regulator. An inscription refers to the receiving and distributing basin, or nympheum, which was assumed to be at Sablon, but discoveries in 1960-61 near the church of St. Pierre-aux-Nonnains contradict this. In 1932 part of the baths was found, and later excavations confirmed that they occupied a large part of the Haut de Ste. Croix.

2) The basilica was discovered in 1941 during excavation of the church of St. Pierre-aux-Nonnains. Foundations were unearthed, at a depth of 4 m, of a civic building (26 x 31 m) with a rounded apse; erected about 310, it in turn had replaced other older buildings, including a potter's workshop containing a kiln, a storage dump of Belgian ware, and the stamp CASICOS. More foundations, presumably those of a baptistery, were found in 1959-61.

3) The amphitheater at Sablon was completely destroyed, when the goods station was erected at the beginning of this century. Hurried excavations showed it to be one of the largest of its kind ever built: perimeter 427 m, N-S axis 150 m, small axis 124 m, area 1.43 ha, estimated number of spectators 25,000, and 76 entrances. Only a few substructures now exist in the cellars of the quarter. Also noteworthy is a building (21 x 14 m) in the courtyard of the old bishop's palace (now a covered market); it was presumably a workshop or supply depot, of which only some foundations remain.

The Metz museum has archaeological collections.


M. Toussaint, Metz à l'époque gallo-romaine (1948); J. J. Hatt, “Fouilles stratigraphiques à Metz,” Annuaire de la Société d'Histoire et d'Archcéologie de Lorraine 68 (1958) 35ff; “Fouilles de Metz,” 59 (1959) 5ff.


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