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6 Locations To Expertise Roman Historical past In Paris


Typically I stand in Paris, pause, and attempt to think about this metropolis throughout Roman rule. My creativeness goes straight to Roman baths, gods, goddesses, and gladiators. Paris was a thriving Roman metropolis named Lutèce or Lutetia. Go searching Paris right this moment and you will discover brasseries named Lutetia and a luxurious lodge of the identical identify.

Look just a little additional and you’ll uncover vestiges of this Gallo-Roman metropolis the place about

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10,000 inhabitants lived. Paris was on no account a serious Roman metropolis akin to Lyon or Nanterre, however the traces of this era which might be discovered join curious vacationers and historical past buffs to an historical a part of Paris’s historical past.

Roman Paris: A Little Background About Lutetia 

Lengthy earlier than the Romans arrived, Gallic or Celtic tribes lived by the River Seine. One tribe, calling themselves the Parisii, have been the primary everlasting inhabitants of the realm.

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In 52 BCE, the Romans led by Julius Cesar invaded Gaul. The Gallic tribes banded collectively underneath their chief Vercingetorix and put up a fantastic battle. For sure, the Romans received, took over the settlement, and named it Lutetia. 

In basic Roman model, they constructed a metropolis on a strict grid system with a predominant north-south axis highway, the cardo maximus, which may nonetheless be discovered right this moment. Lutetia had nice monuments together with a discussion board, a number of thermal baths, and an amphitheater. The discussion board and the baths have been situated alongside the principle highway, whereas the amphitheater was situated simply exterior the town to accommodate massive audiences. 

Within the 12 months 308, Lutetia was fortified to guard it from barbarians. A rampart was constructed, fabricated from towers and partitions, making Lutetia a navy city the place the Roman military might arrange base.

Let’s see the place we will discover Lutetia in modern-day Paris.

People playing at Les Arènes de Lutèce

Individuals taking part in at Les Arènes de Lutèce

Photograph credit score: Jerome LABOUYRIE / Shutterstock.com

1. The Roman Amphitheater, Les Arènes De Lutèce

49 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris

The Roman Amphitheater, referred to as the Arènes de Lutèce, is tucked away within the Latin Quarter. Enter the amphitheater, sit on one of many stone bleachers, and picture what transpired right here. Set exterior Lutetia’s metropolis limits, folks flocked to the amphitheater to look at performs, animal fights, and gladiators. The Arènes de Lutèce held 15,000 to 17,000 spectators in its tiered seating. Constructed within the late 1st century CE, it’s one in every of Paris’s oldest monuments.

Ultimately, the amphitheater fell to destroy, and there are not any indicators of it on the Paris metropolis maps from the Center Ages. 

Between 1869 and 1870 throughout the building of rue Monge, the amphitheater was rediscovered on land that was acquired by a bus firm. Parisians rallied to avoid wasting their Roman heritage, however a part of the ruins was destroyed.

Sign at the Roman Amphitheater

Signal on the Roman Amphitheater

Photograph credit score: Alison Browne

With additional excavation and additional rallying of the general public led by Victor Hugo in 1883, the Arènes de Lutèce lastly acquired metropolis safety. It wasn’t till 1917 that it was restored to its unique state.

At the moment, the Arènes de Lutèce is surrounded by a park, and as an alternative of gladiators battling lions, soccer gamers battle it out for a stellar objective. You may additionally discover males taking part in the long-lasting French recreation of pétanque. The amphitheater is a quiet oasis in Paris, the proper place for a picnic or to take a seat and ponder Paris’s prolonged historical past.

Professional Tip: It’s simple to stroll proper previous the Arènes de Lutèce, so be looking out for the principle entrance and the historic plaque at 49 rue Monge.

  • Closest Métro Stations: Cardinal Lemoine, Place Monge, and Jussieu
  • Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. — Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to eight:30 p.m.
  • Admission: Free
Roman wall at Les Thermes De Cluny

Roman wall at Les Thermes De Cluny

Photograph credit score: Alison Browne

2. The Roman Baths, Les Thermes De Cluny

28 Rue Du Sommerard, 75005 Paris

There isn’t any higher place to see residing proof that Lutetia existed than to face within the frigidarium, or the chilly room, of the Gallo-Roman thermal baths within the Cluny Museum. The Thermes de Cluny, constructed round 200 CE, are among the many largest such historical stays in northern Europe. The Cluny thermal baths have been the principle public baths of Lutetia and measured about 64,583 sq. toes. The frigidarium has an enormous vaulted ceiling rising to 45.9 toes with partitions of limestone rubble interspersed with brick.

Pillar of the Boatmen at the Roman Bath Museum

That is a part of the Pillar of the Boatmen — a Latin inscription dedicating the pillar to a Roman god Jupiter Optimus Maximus.

Photograph credit score: Alison Browne

Spend a while admiring the Pillar of the Boatmen (Pilier des Nautes) relationship from about 25 CE. The 4 blocks of this 17-foot pillar depicting carved bas-reliefs of each Roman and Gaulish deities would have stood in one of many temples of Lutetia within the first century CE. The blocks have been discovered underneath Notre-Dame in 1710, and in 2001, they have been restored for the primary time since their discovery.

However who have been these boatmen, or nautes? Whereas each common citizen had the precise to fish and navigate the Seine by boat, it was underneath the supervision of the nautes, who have been answerable for navigation and river commerce.

You’ll see references to the Pilier des Nautes in each the Archaeological Crypt and the Carnavalet Museum.

Professional Tip: Historical past buffs will love the newly renovated Cluny Museum or Museum of the Center Ages. Don’t miss the gorgeous Woman and the Unicorn Tapestry Sequence. Plan on spending at the least 90 minutes viewing the intensive assortment.

  • Closest Métro Stations: Cluny-La Sorbonne, Odéon, Saint-Michel 
  • Hours: Every day from 9:30 a.m. to six:15 p.m. besides on Mondays
  • Admission: $12 USD
The Archaeological Crypt

The Archaeological Crypt

Photograph credit score: Alison Browne

3. The Archaeological Crypt, Crypte Archéologique Du Parvis De Notre-Dame

7, Place Jean-Paul II, Parvis Notre-Dame, 75004, Paris

Stand on the plaza, recognized in French because the parvis, in entrance of Notre-Dame Cathedral and admire her glory. Most individuals aren’t conscious as they stare upon her gorgeous French Gothic structure that they’re standing over a 19,000-square-foot Archaeological Crypt filled with artifacts telling the story of Paris’s historical past.

Archaeological discoveries have been made right here throughout excavations between 1965 and 1970 when a parking zone was being constructed. Think about automobiles parked in entrance of Notre-Dame Cathedral. It appears sacrilegious!

Stays are seen within the Archaeological Crypt of the primary fortification of Paris constructed within the 4th century CE. In 308 a rampart fabricated from towers and partitions was constructed to fortify Lutetia. Within the crypt, there are historical massive stone blocks that made up the muse of the wall. If the previous ramparts are of specific curiosity to you, head over to close by rue de la Colombe. Right here at #5, you’ll be able to see traces of the previous Roman ramparts on the bottom. 

Port of Lutetia display

Port of Lutetia show

Photograph credit score: Alison Browne

From the 1st century, Lutetia was a buying and selling metropolis that noticed many service provider ships transporting items alongside the Seine. One of many highlights of a go to to the crypt is standing the place the financial institution of the Seine River would have been on the time. Giant stones result in a sensible rendering displaying Lutetia’s first port constructed by the Romans. It’s simple to conjure up a imaginative and prescient of this buying and selling heart on the Seine.

Professional Tip: One other fascinating facet of the Archaeological Crypt is the exhibition that traces the historical past of Notre-Dame from the publication in 1831 of Victor Hugo’s well-known novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and the cathedral’s restoration mission began in 1844 headed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

  • Closest Métro Stations: Cité or Saint-Michel 
  • Hours: Every day from 10 a.m. to six p.m. besides Mondays and French public holidays 
  • Admission: $9 USD
Display at the Carnavalet Museum

That is the topped head that may have adorned a distinct segment within the amphitheater. It’s discovered within the Carnavalet Museum and hails from the 2-3 century.

Photograph credit score: Alison Browne

4. The Carnavalet Museum

23 Rue De Sévigné, 75003, Paris

The “historical past of Paris museum,” or the Musée Carnavalet, is the proper place to search out some treasures from Lutetia. Head straight to the basement degree and encompass your self with Gallo-Roman artifacts.

One of many best treasures right here is the topped head of a statue from a distinct segment of the amphitheater! Gazing this stone face, I can’t assist however surprise what different particulars would have embellished the amphitheater.

The stone statue of the headless goddess of Juno which was discovered on Ile de la Cité got here from Lutetia’s discussion board. She is a sign of how statues would have adorned the discussion board. 

Be aware of the monument of Mercury and artifacts from each day life. 

  • Closest Métro Stations: Saint-Paul
  • Hours: Every day from 10 a.m. to six p.m. besides on Mondays
  • Admission: Free
Rue Saint-Jacques near the Sorbonne University

Rue Saint-Jacques close to the Sorbonne College

Photograph credit score: goga18128 / Shutterstock.com

5. The Predominant Roman Street, Rue Saint-Jacques

Bear in mind how the Roman metropolis planners used a strict grid? Rue Saint-Jacques, which nonetheless exists right this moment, was constructed as the principle north-south axis road, the cardo maximus, of Lutetia. Stand close to the Panthéon on rue Saint-Jacques and you will notice the way it slopes down in direction of the Seine. The Romans constructed Lutetia on a excessive level of land, Mons Lucotitius, recognized right this moment because the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, to keep away from flooding.

Flip and look down rue Soufflot in direction of the Luxembourg Gardens. Rue Soufflot throughout this Gallo-Roman interval was the place the Roman discussion board was situated. Think about arcaded galleries lining the road and a Roman temple.

The Petit-Pont of Paris

The Petit-Pont

Photograph credit score: bensliman hassan / Shutterstock.com

6. The Petit-Pont

There’s been a bridge the place the Petit-Pont is at the moment discovered since antiquity. The Parisii constructed a picket footbridge to attach Ile de la Cite to the left financial institution. When the Romans took over in 52 BCE, they rebuilt the bridge and aligned it with their cardo maximus. Nonetheless right this moment, the Petit-Pont runs straight into rue Saint-Jacques. The present bridge, which opened in 1853, will not be essentially the most fascinating to have a look at, but it surely’s exceptional to consider who has crossed to the left financial institution on this very route!

Professional Tip: There are a variety of bridges crossing the Seine! The Petit-Pont goes from Quai Saint-Michel within the fifth arrondissement to Quai du Marché Neuf-Maurice Grimaud on Ile de la Cité.

For extra on Paris, take a look at these articles:


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