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Nîmes
Nîmes, Centre ville.jpg
Flag of Nîmes
Flag
Coat of arms of Nîmes
Coat of arms
Nîmes is located in France
Nîmes
Nîmes
Coordinates: 43°50′17″N 4°21′40″E / 43.838°N 4.361°E / 43.838; 4.361Coordinates: 43°50′17″N 4°21′40″E / 43.838°N 4.361°E / 43.838; 4.361
Country France
Region Languedoc-Roussillon
Department Gard
Arrondissement Nîmes
Intercommunality Nîmes Métropole
Government
 • Mayor (2008–2014) Jean-Paul Fournier
Area
 • Land1 161.85 km2 (62.49 sq mi)
Population (2000)
 • Population2 140,267
 • Population2 density 870/km2 (2,200/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 30189 / 30000 and 30900
Elevation 21–215 m (69–705 ft)
(avg. 39 m or 128 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Nîmes (/nm/; French: [nim]; Provençal Occitan: Nimes) is a city in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. It is the capital of the Gard department.

Nîmes is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Cévennes mountains. The estimated population of Nîmes is 175 503.[1]

Nîmes has a rich history, dating back to the Roman Empire when the city was home to 50,000 – 60,000 people.[2][3][4][5] Several famous monuments are in Nîmes, such as the Nîmes Arena and the Maison Carrée. Because of this, Nîmes is often referred to as the French Rome.

History[edit]

The city derives its name from that of a spring in the Roman village. The contemporary coat of arms of the city of Nîmes includes a crocodile chained to a palm tree with the inscription COLNEM, for Colonia Nemausus, meaning the "colony" or "settlement" of Nemausus, the local Celtic god of the Volcae Arecomici. 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.[6]

The city was located on the Via Domitia, a Roman road constructed in 118 BC which connected Italy with Spain.

Its name appears in inscriptions in Gaulish as dede matrebo Namausikabo = "he has given to the mothers of Nîmes" and "toutios Namausatis" = "citizen of Nîmes".[7]

Prehistory[edit]

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, Mont Duplan; to the southwest, Montaury; to the west, Mt. Cavalier and the knoll of Canteduc.

4000–2000 BC[edit]

The Neolithic site of Serre Paradis 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 Poudrière) 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[edit]

The Bronze Age has left traces of villages that were made out of huts and branches

600–49 BC[edit]

The Warrior of Grezan is considered to be the most ancient indigenous sculpture in southern Gaul.[citation needed] The hill named Mt. Cavalier was the site of the early oppidum, which gave birth to the city. During the third and 2nd 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 Marseille (49 BC) allowed Nîmes to regain its autonomy under Rome.

Roman period[edit]

Pont du Gard from the south bank
Maison Carrée - West side.

Nîmes became a Roman colony sometime before 28 BC, as witnessed by the earliest coins, which bear the abbreviation NEM. COL, "Colony of Nemausus".[8] 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.

The city had an estimated population of 60,000 in the time of Augustus.[citation needed] Augustus gave the town a ring of ramparts six kilometres (3.7 miles) long, reinforced by fourteen towers; two gates remain today: the Porta Augusta and the Porte de France. An aqueduct was built to bring water from the hills to the north. Where this crossed the River Gard between Uzes and Remoulins, the spectacular Pont du Gard was built. This is 20 kilometres (12 miles) north east of the city. Also, the Maison Carrée is one of the best preserved temples to be found anywhere in the territory of the former Roman Empire. 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 amphitheatre dates from the end of the 2nd century AD. The family of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius came from Nemausus.

Emperor Constantine endowed the city with baths. It became the seat of the Diocesan Vicar, the chief administrative officer of southern Gaul.

The town was prosperous until the end of the 3rd century – during the 4th and 5th centuries, the nearby town of Arles enjoyed more prosperity. In the early 5th century the Praetorian Prefecture was moved from Trier in northeast Gaul to Arles. The city was finally captured from the Romans by the Visigoths in 473 AD.

The temple of Diane
The Porta Augusta
The Castellum divisorium on the aqueduct

4th–13th centuries[edit]

Nemausus, Nismes Civitas Narbonensis surrounded by its walls, after Sebastian Münster (1569), 1572

After the 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 of classical civilization – it was remarkably organized and directed by a series of Gallo-Roman aristocrats. However, when the Visigoths were accepted in the Roman Empire, Nîmes was included in their territory (472), even after the Frankish victory at the Battle of Vouillé (507). The urban landscape went through transformation with the Goths, but much of the heritage of the Roman era remained largely intact.

By 725, the Muslim Umayyads had conquered the whole Visigothic territory of Septimania including Nîmes. In 736-737, Charles Martel and his brother led an expedition to Septimania and Provence, and largely destroyed the city (in the hands of Umayyads allied with the local Gallo-Roman and Gothic nobility), including the amphitheatre, thereafter heading back north. The Muslim government came to an end in 752, when Pepin the Short captured the city. In 754, an uprising took place against the Carolingian king, but was put down and certain count Radulf, a Frank, appointed as master of the city. After the war events, Nîmes was now only a shadow of the opulent Roman city it once had been. The local authorities installed themselves in remains of the amphitheatre.

Carolingian rule brought relative peace, but feudal times in the 12th century brought local troubles, which lasted until the days of St. Louis. During that 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 some progress both in commerce and industry as well as in stock-breeding and associated activities.

After the last effort by Raymond VII of Toulouse, St. Louis managed to establish royal power in the region which became Languedoc. Nîmes thus entered finally into the hands of the King of France.

Ruins at Nîmes, painting by Hubert Robert.

Period of invasions[edit]

During the 14th and 15th 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 17th century, adding to the misery of periodic outbreaks of plague.

17th century to the French Revolution[edit]

In the middle of the 17th 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 Amphitheatre were cleared of encroachments, whilst the entire population benefited from the atmosphere of prosperity.

From the French Revolution to the present[edit]

Following a European economic crisis that 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.

During the Second World War, Maquis resistance fighters Jean Robert and Vinicio Faïta were executed at Nîmes on 22 April 1943. The Nîmes marshalling yards were bombed by American bombers in 1944.

The 2º Régiment Etranger d'Infanterie (2ºREI), the main motorised infantry regiment of the French Foreign Legion, is garrisoned in Nîmes since 1984.

Population[edit]

Historical population
Year Pop.   ±%  
1793 40,000 —    
1800 39,594 −1.0%
1806 41,195 +4.0%
1821 37,908 −8.0%
1831 41,266 +8.9%
1841 44,697 +8.3%
1851 53,619 +20.0%
1861 57,129 +6.5%
1872 62,394 +9.2%
1881 63,552 +1.9%
1891 71,623 +12.7%
1901 80,605 +12.5%
1911 80,437 −0.2%
1921 82,774 +2.9%
1931 89,213 +7.8%
1936 93,758 +5.1%
1946 91,667 −2.2%
1954 89,130 −2.8%
1962 99,802 +12.0%
1968 123,292 +23.5%
1975 127,933 +3.8%
1982 124,220 −2.9%
1990 128,471 +3.4%
1999 133,424 +3.9%
2008 140,267 +5.1%
Tour Magne in Nîmes.
The Jardins de la Fontaine in Nîmes.

Sights[edit]

Several important remains of the Roman Empire can still be seen in and around Nîmes:

  • The elliptical Roman amphitheatre, of the 1st or 2nd century AD, is the best-preserved Roman arena in France. It was filled with medieval housing, when its walls served as ramparts, but they were cleared under Napoleon. It is still used today[when?] as a bull fighting and concert arena.
  • The Maison Carrée (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 Nîmes inside.
  • The 18th-century Jardins de la Fontaine (Gardens of the Fountain) built around the Roman thermae ruins.
  • The nearby Pont du Gard, also built by Agrippa, is a well-preserved aqueduct that used to carry water across the small Gardon river valley.
  • The nearby Mont Cavalier is crowned by the Tour Magne ("Great Tower"), a ruined Roman tower.[9]

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.

Economy[edit]

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

Culture[edit]

The asteroid 51 Nemausa was named after Nîmes, where it was discovered in 1858. Two times per year, Nîmes hosts one of the main French feria, and several hundreds of thousands gather in the streets.

Transportation[edit]

Nîmes-Alès-Camargue-Cévennes Airport serves the city. The Gare de Nîmes is the central railway station, offering connections to Paris (high-speed rail), Marseille, Montpellier, Narbonne, Toulouse, Perpignan, Figueras in Spain and several regional destinations. The motorway A9 connects Nîmes with Orange, Montpellier, Narbonne, and Perpignan, the A64 with Arles and Salon-de-Provence.

There are plans to construct a high-speed TGV line, Contournement Nîmes – Montpellier linking Nîmes and Montpellier with the LGV Méditerranée.[10]

Sport[edit]

Ligue 2 football team Nîmes Olympique is based in Nîmes.

The local rugby team is RC Nîmes.

There is a professional volleyball team located here.

Olympic swimming champion Yannick Agnel was born in Nîmes.

Mayors[edit]

  • Émile Jourdan, PCF (1965–1983)
  • Jean Bousquet, UDF (1983–1995)
  • Alain Clary, PCF (1995–2001)
  • Jean-Paul Fournier, UMP (since 2001)

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Nîmes is twinned with:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.insee.fr/fr/themes/tableau.asp?reg_id=0&ref_id=nattef01204
  2. ^ Frank Sear (1983). Roman Architecture. Cornell University Press. p. 213. ISBN 0-8014-9245-9. 
  3. ^ Trudy Ring; Noelle Watson; Paul Schellinger (28 October 2013). Northern Europe: International Dictionary of Historic Places. Taylor & Francis. p. 853. ISBN 978-1-136-63951-7. 
  4. ^ http://conservationengineers.org/conferences/2013presentations/Tuesday_Nimes_Aqueduct_GMihalevich.pdf
  5. ^ MobileReference (1 January 2007). Travel Barcelona, Spain for Smartphones and Mobile Devices - City Guide, Phrasebook, and Maps. MobileReference. p. 428. ISBN 978-1-60501-059-5. 
  6. ^ Alain Veyrac, "Le symbolisme de l'as de Nîmes au crocodile" Archéologie et histoire romaine vol. 1 (1998) (on-line text).
  7. ^ The Ancient Languages of Europe - Woodard - Google Books. Books.google.co.uk. 
  8. ^ Colin M. Kraay, "The Chronology of the coinage of Colonia Nemausus", Numismatic Chronicle 15 (1955), pp. 75-87.
  9. ^ Giving rise to the example of rime richissime Gall, amant de la Reine, alla (tour magnanime)/ Gallament de l'Arène a la Tour Magne, à Nîmes, or "Gall, lover opf the Queen, passed (magnanimous gesture), gallantly from the Arena to the Tour Magne at Nîmes".
  10. ^ "Railway Gazette: Southern LGV projects make progress". Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  11. ^ "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  12. ^ "Braunschweigs Partner und Freundschaftsstädte" [Braunschweig - Partner and Friendship Cities]. Stadt Braunschweig [City of Braunschweig] (in German). Archived from the original on 2012-12-01. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "Nimes", The Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed.), New York: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910, OCLC 14782424 

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nîmes — Please support Wikipedia.
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