The Roman city of Cemenelum was founded in the 1st century AD as a staging post for Roman troops in the Alpes Maritime region and it later became the regional capital. Favorably located, Cemenelum was chosen as the principal seat of the province of Alpes Maritimae by Augustus in 14 BC. Later, the Romans settled further inland, on the opposite side of the river Paillon. Remains of the town on the Hill of Cimiez date to the 3rd century AD.

The Amphitheater at the northern end of the site was originally built of wood and seated only 500-600. It was later rebuilt in stone during the Severan dynasty (AD 193-217) with its capacity expanded to 5000 persons. The vaulted remains at Nice may be compared to other small amphitheaters in garrison towns in the Roman Empire. Seating in the amphitheater reflected class distinctions between officers and enlisted men, with the structure at Nice-Cimiez divided into two sections reached by separate entrances.

The amphitheatre is not as big or as well-preserved as those found in Arles or Nimes, but along with the Roman baths and arena, visitors can gain a sense of wonder into Roman life by paying a visit to the archaeological museum (Musée Archéologique de Nice-Cimiez) on Avenue des Arènes. 

The Roman baths complex is the largest known in Gaul.

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Avenue Bellanda 3, Nice, France
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Founded: 0-100 AD
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in France
Historical period: Roman Gaul (France)

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Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls

The Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls was part of the federal sanctuary of the three Gauls dedicated to the cult of Rome and Augustus celebrated by the 60 Gallic tribes when they gathered at Lugdunum (Lyon). The amphitheatre was built at the foot of the La Croix-Rousse hill at what was then the confluence of the Rhône and Saône.

Excavations have revealed a basement of three elliptical walls linked by cross-walls and a channel surrounding the oval central arena. The arena was slightly sloped, with the building"s south part supported by a now-vanished vault. The arena"s dimensions are 67,6m by 42m. This phase of the amphitheatre housed games which accompanied the imperial cult, with its low capacity (1,800 seats) being enough for delegations from the 60 Gallic tribes.

The amphitheatre was expanded at the start of the 2nd century. Two galleries were added around the old amphitheatre, raising its width from 25 metres to 105 metres and its capacity to about 20,000 seats. In so doing it made it a building open to the whole population of Lugdunum and its environs.