Some Historical and Natural
Sights in one Corner of Provence
Part 1: Nimes and its Arena
Nimes was a name bestowed by the Romans who arrived about 50 B.C. and decided to make this a capital city in their domain in the earliest part of the last millenium. Hence the city's motto today is "the city with an accent," meaning Roman, and its city animal symbol is an alligator tied to a palm tree, signifying the conquest of Egypt by Rome, as depicted on coins struck by the Romans for use in Nimes (and elsewhere). Nimes was a colony, an outpost of the Roman Empire in which its caretakers took great pride.
That pride is reflected in several wondrously crafted Roman buildings in Nimes that have stood the test of time and are worth a visit. This page will look at the arena, where bullfighting is the sport of the day, but gladiatorial contests of all types were known during Roman times. An exhibition in another well-preserved Roman building, the Maison Carree, celebrates the champions and heroes of Nimes' arena yesterday and today. We'll also look at the exterior of that building here on this page. So let's start with the arena:
The exterior of the arena, shown above and below, shows its setting in the heart of the city.
But let's not be shy, let's go inside, here is the lowest level entry hallway (rain is flowing down the stairways into the hall):
Romans were very concerned about keeping the levels accessible to different social strata of society separated. Different sections would be occupied by different social ranks, and each had their own entrances to their own levels (not unlike first, business and coach classes on airlines, with their own check-in and security lines?). Hence it was difficult to find the way up to higher levels from inside the lower levels, one had to essentially come down, find the right entry path, and start up again.
Here is a look at the lower arena, where the action was. This where the bullfighting action still is. The fence behind the bleachers denotes the extent of the arena in use today, behind that the stairs and seating are quite Roman and not built to modern safety standards.
It was raining, so the rock of the arena looks darker than it normally looks. Now let's look at the middle level just behind the modern seating area.
Moving up just a bit sets this area into perspective (note the church, it is next to my hotel):
I suspect that when this area was more complete, where it is now a bit broken once included a special set of seats for one or a few very important persons and their entourages, like the area behind the protective wall a bit further up in the above photo. Let's move up some more now:
The curved sections shelter walkways that allow access to this higher level and are built with lots of stairs and openings to give light:
Inside, these sheltered walkways look like this:
Some of the interior structure of the building looks like this, these are stairs into the mid-level, coming from a mid-level sheltered walkway shown in the next photo:
Stairs also go up from this level, narrower and steeper stairs compared to the others (coach class, no doubt):
The city views from the top were nice:
If we look around the city from the top of the arena, on the ridge, to the right of center, we can see the tower that the Romans built as part of the city's fortifications. We will visit that tower in a separate page, where, in turn, we will look back to the arena from the tower:
One building visible from the top was the Palace of Justice, somehow it seems fitting that it would be next to the arena?
That was the side of the justice building, in front it has a modern Roman facade:
Since now we find ourselves outside, let's walk a few blocks to what now stands alone, but used to be the center of a large Roman forum building- complex, the Maison Carree (misnamed, of course, it is neither a house nor squared, but a temple [dedicated to the two grandsons of Augustus] that may have inspired Paris's church of the Madeleine -pictured elsewhere on this site):
The intricate workings above the door were interesting, as were the greeters at the door who were promoting the exhibition inside about gladiators then, and bullfighters now, being the heroes of the arena:
Other partly preserved Roman ruins include several city gates, one of which will be shown below, and a temple of Diana to be shown on a separate page. Here is the Augustine gate with a copy of an ancient statue of Augustus, the emperor who had Nimes built up as a showcase Roman city.
Perhaps Augustus' is waving at this church-spire just beyond his gate because it assures him Rome still occupies this part of the world. [An attempt at humor.]
In tasteful imitation of the Roman past, this fountain reflects persons from Greco-Roman myth, and is located just across the street from the arena and across another street from my hotel, hence my taking another picture after the sun has come out, a few days later:
Of course this fountain is set in a park, and in a park there are flowers:
We will end this page with a photo showing my hotel in the context of the park's flowers:
These links will take you to the other sights I went to see while in Provence:
Nimes and its Roman tower
Nimes and its Fountain Gardens park
Nimes and its Temple of Diana
Nimes aqueaduct's Pont du Gard
Avignon's major attractions
Glanum, Roman town
Climbing a mountain near Glanum
Springs at Fontaine de Vaucluse
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