As you may already know, Les & I have chosen "Roots" as our summer theme. In my first blog of the summer, I mentioned "Roman Roots". We live in an area where the original settlers (The Volcae) were a Celtic tribe that created farms & developed trading with other tribes. One of their main crops remains until today: OLIVES. Our house is built on an old olive plantation, & we have 14 trees in our yard. Along with olives, they cutivated grapes, created wine, & traded all over southern Gaule.
It was the Volcae who created the city of Nimes, (25 minutes from Villevieille, where we live) named after a magic fountain (Nemausus) at the foot of a very high hill. They gathered there to celebrate their rites, & to make decisions that would greatly influence the history of this area. One of their most important decisions was to join with Julius Ceasar to battle the warring Gaulois tribes who had come from the north. In 52 BC, Julius Ceasar, with the help of the Volcae, defeated Vercingetorix, a Gallic warrior, at Alesia. The Gallic Wars ended, & life with the Romans began in Nimes. Ah, the PAX ROMANA! It was great while it lasted.
Soon walls went up around Nimes (Nemausus), & 14 towers as well. By the time of Augustus, Ceasar's adopted son & heir, the largest tower, Tour Magne, was built at the top of the hill above the original source of that magic spring called Nemausus. The Tour Magne still looks down on Nimes today. as well as 2 other important Roman buildings: La Maison Carree (a Roman Temple) & The Arena. And now, after 2017 years, it has ANOTHER important building called "Le Musee de la Romanite". I'd translate that as the museum whose mission is to show, in the most innovative manner posssible, visitors of all ages the impact of Rome on this part of France, & from here, to the entire world.
We waited until the second week to visit this amazing place, & after two hours, had only completed one floor. Each gallery has a large screen experience, & multiple tablets (they call them information boxes) of varied sizes (for one, 2, 4, or more persons). For example (& pictured in our picture album), you can learn (in one of 4 languages) all about weaving textiles or creating frescoes by tapping on a tablet that gives detailed & illustrated information. Each tablet is accompanied by artifacts pulled from old collections or excavations as recent as 2007.
The newest excavations started with a dig under a main Nimes street (Boulevard Jean Jaures), to create a much needed underground parking garage. This proved to be a gold mine of artifacts from the Roman period, including incredible mosaics, frescos, etc. Soon they realized they had nowhere to put them. They already had other important objects in storage here & there, & decided they needed a new museum.
Another important factor in the birth of this museum was UNESCO. The city of Nimes is a finalist (cross your fingers!) for Unesco City of the Year. Part of the process to receive this highly important designation, which results in considerable amounts of money & fame, is to prove that your city has something uniquely important to the culture of Europe. For Nimes it was as clear as the magical water in the Nemausus Fountain: Romanity! So the mayor, Jean-Paul Fournier, dug in, with the help of many others. And so a few years, & 60,000,000 euros later, this magical museum houses 5,000 different objects, 65 mosaics, 12,500 coins, 800 glass objects, 450 oil lamps, & 300 pieces of sculpture. It also has an outside archeolgoical garden, a terrace, & a cafe--all three open for the public to enjoy without an entrance fee.
In fact, the opening brochure boasts of 64 mutimedia exhibits including animated maps, 3D images, virtual visits, mutimedia tables (we saw one that had roads all over it, that you could manipulate from 4 different sides).
Another super thing is the models they've created that you can TOUCH! You can trace, for example, the path from the top of the Tour Magne down to the Jardin de la Fontaine below, while looking at the route on the huge screen above.
You can also dress like a Roman (see our album to see Les trying out several roles), & play video games. I dug 3 things out of an archeological site, & decided which lab to send them to, & then reconstructed all 3. That was really FUN!
Not everything is Roman! The museum walks the visitor through different periods of Nimes: as a Gallic city on a hill, a Roman Colony, the Middle Ages, & includes as well as something they call "Roman legs"--writings, models etc. I still haven't seen this part, but intend to go back, on my own tomorrow.
We are so proud of this small city to have created this new museum. On approaching the entrance, you can't help but see the OLD (the Arena, c 1 AD) & the NEW, looking at each other through the ripples of time. It's also very fitting that the temporary exhibit is about gladiators, those warriors, enslaved or free, who fought in front of thousands of people.
So to all you Friends, Romans, & Countrymen, we wish you farewell. May the PAX ROMANA stay with you this summer.
Elise & Les