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Nîmes (Provençal Occitan: Nimes in both classical and Mistralian norms) is a city in southern Francemarker. It is the capital of the Gard department. Nîmes has a rich history, dating back to the Roman Empire, and it is a popular tourist destination.


The city derives its name from that of a spring, Nemausus, in the Roman village. The contemporary symbol and shield of the city of Nîmes includes a crocodile chained to a palm tree with the inscription 'COLNEM', an abbreviation of 'Colonia Nemausus', meaning the 'colony' or 'settlement' of Nemausus. Veterans of the Roman legions who had served Julius Caesar in his Nile campaigns, at the end of fifteen years of soldiering, were given plots of land to cultivate on the plain of Nîmes.

Nîmes was located on the Via Domitia, a Roman road constructed in 118 BC which connected Italymarker to Spainmarker.


The site on which the built-up area of Nîmes has become established in the course of centuries is part of the edge of the alluvial plain of the Vistrenque River which butts up against low hills: to the northeast, the Mt. Duplan; to the southwest, Montaury; to the west, Mt. Cavalier and the knoll of Canteduc.

4000–2000 BC

The site known as Serre Paradis belongs to the New Stone Age (Neolithic). It reveals the presence of semi-nomadic cultivators in the period 4000 to 3500 BC on the future site of Nîmes. The population of the site increased during the thousand-year period of the Bronze Age.The menhir of Courbessac (or La Poudriere) stands in a field, near the airstrip. This limestone monolith of over two metres in height dates to about 2500 BC, and must be considered the oldest monument of Nîmes.

1800–600 BC

The Bronze Age has left traces of a village of huts and branches.

600–49 BC

The Warrior of Grezan is considered to be the most ancient indigenous sculpture in southern Gaul. The hill named Mt. Cavalier was the site of the early oppidum, which gave birth to the city. During the third and second centuries BC a surrounding wall was built, closed at the summit by a dry-stone tower, which was later incorporated into the masonry of The Tour Magne. The Wars of Gaul and the fall of Marseillemarker (49 BC) allowed Nîmes to regain its autonomy under Rome.

Gallo-Roman period

Pont du Gard from the north bank.
Nîmes became a Roman colony sometime before 28 BC, as witness the earliest coins which bear the abbreviation NEM. COL, "Colony of Nemausus". Some years later a sanctuary and other constructions connected with the fountain were raised on the site. Nîmes was already under Roman influence, though it was Augustus who made the city the capital of Narbonne province, and gave it all its glory.

Augustus gave the town a ring of ramparts six kilometres long, reinforced by fourteen towers, with gates of which two remain today, the Porta Augusta and the Porte de France. The city had an estimated population of 60,000. He had the Forum built. An aqueduct was built to bring water from the hills to the north. Where this crossed the River Gardmarker between Uzesmarker and Remoulinsmarker the spectacular Pont du Gardmarker was built. This is 20 km north east of the city. Nothing remains of certain monuments, the existence of which is known from inscriptions or architectural fragments found in the course of excavations. It is known that the town had a civil basilica, a curia, a gymnasium and perhaps a circus. The amphitheatremarker dates from the end of the 2nd century AD. The family of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius came from Nemausus.

The town was prosperous until the end of the third century. During the fourth and fifth centuries the nearby town of Arles enjoyed more prosperity. Emperor Constantine endowed the city with baths. It became the seat of the Diocesan Vicar, the chief administrative officer of southern Gaul. In the early fifth century the Praetoritan Prefecture was moved from Trier in northeast Gaul to Arles. The city was finally captured from the Romans by the Visigoths in 473 A.D.

Image:Temple de Diane Nîmes.JPG|
The temple of Diane
Image:271 Maison carr e NIM 1016.jpg|
The Maison Carrée
Image:Nîmes La porte Auguste .png|
The Porta Augusta
The Castellum divisorium on the aqueduct

Fourth–thirteenth centuries

After the Gallo-Roman period, in the days of invasion and decadence, the Christian Church, already established in Gaul since the 1st century AD, appeared be the last refuge open to civilization. Remarkably organized and directed by men of great worth, it took an increasingly important place in the march of time.After the barbarian invasions the population had to face incursions by Moors from Spainmarker (AD 710). The occupation came to an end in 754 under Pepin the Short. The town, ruined by so many troubles and invasions was now only a shadow of the opulent Gallo-Roman city. The local powers installed themselves in the amphitheatremarker.

Carolingian rule brought relative peace, but feudal times in the twelfth century brought local troubles which lasted until the days of St. Louis. During this period Nîmes was jointly administered by a lay power resident in the old amphitheatre, where lived the Viguier and the Knights of the Arena, and the religious power based in the Bishop's palace complex, around the cathedral, its chapter and the Bishop's house; meanwhile the city was represented by four Consuls who sat in the Maison Carrée.

Despite incessant feudal squabbling, Nîmes saw a certain progress both in commerce and industry as well as in stockbreeding and associated activities.

After the last effort by Raymond VII of Toulouse, St. Louis managed to base Royal power in the region which became Languedoc. Nîmes thus entered finally into the hands of the King of France.
Nemausus, Nismes Civitas Narbonensis surrounded by its walls, after Sebastian Münster (1569), 1572

Period of invasions

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Rhone Valley underwent an uninterrupted series of invasions which ruined the economy and caused famine. Customs were forgotten, religious troubles developed (see French Wars of Religion) and epidemics, all of which affected the city. Nîmes, which was one of the Protestant strongholds, felt the full force of repression and fratricidal confrontations (including the Michelade massacre) which continued until the middle of the seventeenth century, adding to the misery of periodic outbreaks of plague.

Seventeenth century–French Revolution

In the middle of the seventeenth century Nîmes experienced a period of prosperity. Population growth caused the town to expand, and slum housing to be replaced. Also to this period dates the reconstruction of Notre-Dame-Saint-Castor, the Bishop's palace and numerous mansions (Hotels). This 'renaissance' strengthened the manufacturing and industrial vocation of the city, the population rising from 21,000 to 50,000 inhabitants.
Les Quais de la Fontaine, the embankments of the spring that provided water for the city, the first civic gardens of France, were laid out in 1738–55.
Also in this period the Fountain gardens, the Quais de la Fontaine, were laid out, the areas surrounding the Maison Carrée and the Amphitheatremarker were cleared of encroachments, whilst the entire population benefited from the atmosphere of prosperity.

Revolution to the present

Following a European economic crisis which hit Nîmes with full force, the Revolutionary period awoke slumbering demons of political and religious antagonism. The White Terror added to natural calamities and economic recession, produced murder, pillage and arson until 1815. Order was however restored in the course of the century, and Nîmes became the metropolis of Bas-Languedoc, diversifying its industry towards new kinds of activity. At the same time the surrounding countryside adapted to market needs and shared in the general increase of wealth.


The population of Nîmes by year:

1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1936 1954 1962 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2005 2008
63,552 71,623 80,605 80,437 82,774 89,213 93,736 89,107 99,775 123,292 127,933 124,220 128,471 133,406 144,600 149,000


Tour Magne in Nîmes.
The Jardins de la Fontaine in Nîmes.
Nîmes may have been one of the richest and finest Roman cities of Gaul. Several important remains of the Roman Empire can still be seen in and around Nîmes:

  • The elliptical Roman amphitheatremarker, of the first or second century AD, is the best-preserved Roman arena in France. It was filled with medieval housing, when its walls served as rampart, but they were cleared under Napoleon. It is still used today as a bull fighting and concert arena.
  • The Maison Carréemarker (Square House), a small Roman temple dedicated to sons of Agrippa was built c. 19 BC. It is one of the best-preserved Roman temples anywhere. Today, visitors can watch a short film about the history of Nimes inside.
  • The 18th-century Jardins de la Fontaine (Gardens of the Fountain)
  • The nearby Pont du Gardmarker, also built by Agrippa, is a well-preserved aqueduct that used to carry water across the small Gardonmarker river valley.
  • The nearby Mont Cavalier is crowned by the Tour Magne ("Great Tower"), a ruined Roman tower.

Later monuments include:

There is modern architecture at Nîmes too: Norman Foster conceived the Carré d'art (1986), a museum of modern art and mediatheque; Jean Nouvel the Nemausus, a post-modern residential ensemble, and Kisho Kurokawa a building in the form of a hemicycle to reflect the Amphitheatre.

Tree-shaded boulevards trace the foundations of its former city walls.


Nîmes is historically known for its textiles. Denim, the fabric of blue jeans, derives its name from this city (Serge de Nîmes).

The asteroid 51 Nemausa was named after Nîmes, where it was discovered in 1858.

Nîmes-Arles-Camargue Airportmarker serves the city.

Ligue 2 soccer team Nîmes Olympique are based in Nîmes.

Rugby team is RC Nîmes.

People born in Nîmes


Twin towns

Nîmes twinned with:

See also


External links

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