Nîmes is often nicknamed the French Rome, rightly, as its Roman imprint is very present there.
The city of Nîmes was built in a remarkable way around and with its Roman monuments. It is this ancient architecture declined over the centuries that has given the city its identity, its personality, its uniqueness, giving it an exceptional universal value. The city evokes the image of the Roman city par excellence, both by the wealth of its monuments inherited from Antiquity, and by the originality of its urban fabric which has integrated them harmoniously over time. The origin of Nîmes dates back to the 6th century BC. A Celtic tribe, the Volques Arécomiques, settled around a generous spring. The Volques deify the Source, consecrate a sanctuary to it. Little by little, the primitive constructions give way to dry stone buildings. Among them, the Tour Magne, a tower perched high on the hill, was later raised and integrated into the Roman ramparts, which can still be admired today.
Latin law colony
The Romanization of Nîmes truly begins during the first century BC. Nîmes became a “Latin law colony” and covered itself with sumptuous monuments. Emperor Augustus and his successors made it a city promoting Romanism in Gaul. Nîmes is growing. Its 7 km long enclosure encompasses 220 ha. In the 2nd century, Nîmes, a stage ideally located on the via Domitia which connects Rome to Spain, was at its peak. The population is estimated at nearly 25,000. In the 3rd century, successive invasions then in the 5th century, the arrival and installation of the Visigoths put an end to the prosperity of the ancient city. In the 8th century, the city was folded in on itself. Its size is reduced to almost a tenth of the Roman city. The growing insecurity forced the population to take refuge in the amphitheater and to transform it into a fortress in case of danger. The Roman ramparts serve as a quarry where everyone comes to help themselves. Various districts including that of La Fontaine are abandoned.
Capital of textile
From the year 1000, Nîmes emerged from its lethargy. A new enclosure is built. Thanks to the vine, the olive tree and the breeding of sheep, trade is restarting. And here again, the Source intervenes. Its waters which run through the city will for several centuries bring prosperity to tanners, dyers and cloth merchants. In the 15th c. the Wars of Religion are very violent in this Nîmes which has become Huguenot. Protestants removed from public life turn to trade and manufacturing. Soon, the production of fabrics and silk stockings was exported to Europe and the Spanish Indies. Two-thirds of the working population of Nîmes are employed in textiles. The city is getting richer. She changes. Now superb private mansions are appearing, now an urban revival is taking shape. By chance, during the Age of Enlightenment, the Roman sanctuary of the Source was rediscovered and a major urban planning project was made of it.
A new era of prosperity
Thirty years of dazzling success place industrial Nîmes on a European level. Very quickly, before losing money, the textile capital was reinvested in the vineyard. The cultivation of the vine is facilitated by the construction of the Canal du Midi, the transport of wine by that of the railway to Nîmes. It is a new era of prosperity. The station district is sumptuously laid out and is covered with mansions. Today, Nîmes, with its 150,000 inhabitants, is being remodeled. In a deliberate effort, for almost thirty years it has combined the most cutting-edge contemporary art with the riches of the past.