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NEMAUSUS

NEMAUSUS (Νέμανσος: Eth. Νεμαύσιος, Eth. Nemausensis: Nîmes), a city of Gallia Narbonensis on the road from Arelate (Arles) through Narbo (Narbonne) into Spain. Ptolemy (2.10.10) calls it Nemausus Colonia, but he places it in the same latitude as Arausio (Orange), and more than a degree north of Arelate; which are great blunders. Nemausus was the chief place of the Volcae Arecomici: “with respect to number of foreigners and those engaged in trade (says Strab. iv. p.186) much inferior to Narbo, but with respect to its population much superior; for it has subject to it twenty-four villages of people of the same stock, populous villages which are contributory to Nemausus, which has what is called the Latium (Jus Latii or Latinitas). By virtue of this right those who have obtained the honour of an aedileship and quaestorship in Nemausus become Roman citizens; and for this reason this people is not under the orders of the governors from Rome. Now the city is situated on the road from Iberia into Italy, which road in the summer is easy travelling, but in the winter and spring is muddy and washed by streams. Some of these streams are passed by boats, and others by bridges of wood or stone. The wintry torrents are the cause of the trouble from the water, for these torrents sometimes as late as the summer descend from the Alps after the melting of the snow.”

Strabo fixes the site of Nemausus about 100 stadia from the Rhone, at a point opposite to Tarascon, and 720 stadia from Narbo. In another place (iv. p. 178) Strabo estimates the distance from Narbo to Nemausus at 88 M. P. One of the Itin. routes makes it 91 M. P. from Narbo to Nemausus. Strabo's two distances do not agree, for 720 stadia are 90 M. P. The site of the place is certain. In the middle age documents the name is written Nemse (D'Anville). There seems to be no authority for writing the modern name Nismes; and yet Nîmes, as it is now properly written, supposes a prior form Nismes. Nîmes is the present capital of the arrondissement of Gard, the richest in Roman remains of all the districts of France.

The twenty-four smaller places that were attached (attributa) to Nemausus are mentioned by Pliny (3.4). The territory of Nemausus produced good cheese, which was carried to Rome (Plin. Nat. 11.42). This cheese was made on the Cévennes, and Pliny appears to include Mons Lesura in the territory of Nemausus. Latera [LATERA] on the Ledus (Lez) west of Nemausus was in the territory, which probably extended through Ugernum eastward to the Rhone. Nemausus was an old Gallic town. The name is the same that Strabo gives with a slight variation (Nemossus) to Augustonemetum or Clermont in Auvergne. The element Nem appears in the name of several Gallic towns. Nemausus was made a Colonia probably by the emperor Augustus. An inscription on one of the gates, called the gate of Augustus, records the eleventh or twelfth consulship of Augustus, and that he gave gates and walls to the colony. There is a bronze medal of Nemausus in the Museum of Avignon, the so called Pied de Bîche, on one side of which there is the legend COL. NEM. with a crocodile chained to a palmtree, [p. 2.415]which may probably commemorate the conquest ground story, all of the same size of Egypt; on the other are two heads, supposed to be Augustus and Agrippa, with the inscription IMP. P. P. DIVI. F. This medal has also been found in other places. It is figured below.

COIN OF NEMAUSUS.

Nîmes contains many memorials of its Roman splendour. The amphitheatre, which is in good preservation, is larger than that of Verona in Italy; and it is estimated that it would contain 17,000 persons. It stands in an open space, cleared of all buildings and obstructions. It has not the massive and imposing appearance of the amphitheatre of Arles; but it is more complete. A man may make the circuit on the flat which runs round the upper story, except for about one-sixth of the circuit, where the cornice and the flat are broken down.

The greater diameter is about 437 English feet, which includes the thickness of the walls. The exterior height on the outside is nearly 70 English feet. The exterior face of the building consists of a ground story, and a story above, which is crowned by an attic. There are sixty well proportioned arches in the ground story, all of the same size except four entrances, larger than the rest, which correspond to the four cardinal points. These arches open on a gallery, which runs all round the interior of the building. The story above has also sixty arches. All along the circumference of the attic there are consoles, placed at equal distances, two and two, and pierced in the middle by round holes. These holes received the poles which supported an awning to shelter the spectators from the sun and rain. When it was complete, there were thirty rows of seats in the interior. AT present there are only seventeen. The stones of the upper seats are of enormous dimensions, some of them 12 feet long, and 2 feet in width.

The temple now called the Maison Carrée is a parallelogram on the plan, about 76 English feet long, and 40 wide. It is what is called pseudoperipteral, with thirty Corinthian fluted pillars, all of which are engaged in the walls, except six on the face and two on each side of the front portico, ten in all. The portico has, consequently, a considerable depth compared with the width. The columns are ten diameters and a quarter in height. The temple is highly enriched in a good style. Séguier (1758) attempted to prove that this temple was dedicated to C. and L. Caesar, the sons of Agrippa by Julia the daughter of Augustus. But M. Auguste Pélet has within the present century shown that it was dedicated to M. Aurelius and L. Verus. The excavations which have been made round the Maison Carrée since 1821 show that it was once surrounded by a colonnade, which seems to have been the boundary of a forum, within which the temple was placed. The Maison Carrée, after having passed through many hands, and been applied to many purposes, is now a museum of painting and antiquities. Arthur Young (Travels in France, 2nd ed. vol. i. p. 48) says “that the Maison Carrée is beyond comparison the most light, elegant, and pleasing building I ever beheld.” Nobody will contradict this.

TEMPLE AT NEMAUSUS, now called THE MAISON CARRÉE.

The famous fountain of Nemausus, which Ausonius mentions (Ordo Nob. Urb., Burdigala)--

Non Aponus potu, vitrea non luce Nemausus Purior--
still exists; and there are some traces of the ancient construction, though the whole is a modern restoration. But the great supply of water to Nemausus was by the aqueduct now called the Pont du Gard, and it is said that this acqueduct terminated by a subterraneous passage in the side of the rock of the fountain. A building called the Temple of Diana, and a large edifice called Tour Magne (Turris Magna), which appears to have been a sepulchral monument, the gate of Augustus, and the gate called of France, are the chief remaining monuments of Nemausus.

The noblest Roman monument in France is the aqueduct called the Pont du Gard, which is between three and four leagues from Nîmes. Over this aqueduct [p. 2.416]the waters of the springs of the Eure and Aizan near Uzés, were brought to Nemausus. The river Gardon, the ancient Vardo, is deep just above the aqueduct. The channel is sunk between rugged rocks, on which scattered shrubs grow. The river rises in the Cévennes, and is subject to floods, which would have destroyed a less solid structure than this Roman bridge. The bridge is built where the valley is contracted by the rocks, and in its ordinary state all the water passes under one arch. The best view of the bridge is from the side above it. The other side is disfigured by a modern structure of the same dimensions as the lower range of arches; it is a bridge attached to the lower arches of the Roman bridge, and is used for the passage of carts and horses over the Gardon.

There are three tiers of arches. The lowest tier consists of six arches; that under which the water flows is the largest. The width of this arch is said to be about 50 English feet, and the height from the surface of the water is about 65 feet. The second tier contains eleven arches, six of which correspond to those below, but they appear to be wider, and the piers are not so thick as those of the lowest tier. The height of the second tier is said to be about 64 feet; but some of these dimensions may not be very accurate. The third tier has thirty-five arches, or thereabouts, making a length, as it is said, of about 870 English feet. It is about 26 feet high to the top of the great slabs of stone which cover it. These slabs lie across the channel in which the water was conveyed over the river, and they project a little so as to form a cornice. The whole height of the three tiers, if the several dimensions are correctly given, is about 155 feet. It is generally said that the bridge is entirely built of stones, without mortar or cement. The stones of the two lower tiers are without cement; but the arches of the highest tier, which are built of much smaller stones, are cemented. At the north end of the aqueduct the highest tier of arches and the water channel are higher than the ground on which the aqueduct abuts, and there must have been a continuation of small arches along the top of this hill; but there are no traces of them, at least near the bridge. On the opposite or south side the aqueduct abuts against the hill, which is higher than the level of the channel. There is no trace of the hill having been pierced ; and an intelligent man, who lives near the bridge, says that the aqueduct was carried round the hill, and that it pierced another hill further on, where the tunnel still exists.

ROMAAN AQUEDUCT NEAR NEMAUSUS, now called THE PONT DU GARD.

The stone of this bridge is a yellowish colour. Seen under the sun from the west side, the bridge has a brightish yellow tint, with patches of dark colour, owing to the weather. The stone in the highest tier is a concretion of shells and sand, and that in the lower tiers appears to be the same. In the stones in the highest tier there are halves of a bivalve shell completely preserved. The stone also contains bits of rough quartzose rock, and many small rounded pebbles. In the floods the Gardon rises 30 feet above its ordinary level, and the water will then pass under all the arches of the lowest tier. The piers of this tier show some marks of being worn by the water. But the bridge is still solid and strong, a magnificent monument of the grandeur of Roman conceptions, and of the boldness of their execution.

There are many works which treat of the antiquities of Nîmes. Some are quoted and extracts from them are printed in the Guide du Voyageur, par Richard and E. Hocquart.

[G.L]

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 11.42
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.4
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.10
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