In 72 BCE the Roman General Pompey, while on the way back to Rome after a military campaign in Spain, founded a Roman colony in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. The goal was to defend the passage to the Aran Valley and the Iberian peninsula. The colony was named Lugdunum Convenarum and had reached around 30,000 people at its highest point. It belonged to the Roman province of Novempopulana and had a growing Christian community, which by the late fourth century got its own Diocese of Comminges, which was suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Eauze.

It is believed to have been the place of exile from 39 AD of Herod Antipas, with his wife Herodias, under Emperor Caligula's orders. In 405 the Vandals sacked the city and forced the peasantry to move to the citadel.

In an open field just outside the village centre, this small archaeological site has a few ruins from the town's Roman days. You'll have to use your imagination to picture the theatre, market, temple and other public buildings from the fragments of low-rising stone foundations.

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Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre

Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.

Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.

Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.