Nice Museum and Ancient Roman Archaeological Site Nice Cimiez

The region of Nice is one of the oldest areas in France containing Ancient Roman ruins, as it was the first to be conquered and settled by them. The Romans called it Alpes Maritimae, which unsurprisingly is now the current administrative name in which Nice resides. A marvellous set of Roman ruins is at the city of Cimiez or Cemenelum. The city of Cimiez is a few kilometres outside of the centre of Nice. You can find pottery, engravings, coins, jewellery and sculptures. A must for the aficionados of Ancient Roman history! One of its principal attractions is its Roman baths, which were the largest in Gaul, the name that the Romans gave to France, and were built in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries AD covering almost two hectares. The museum opened its doors to the public in 1989.

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Let us take a few historical steps back: the Phocaeans, an Ancient Greek people from the Ionian sea region, founded a city here called Nikaia Polis or the town of victory named after the goddess Nike in the 4th Century BC. A Ligurian people, the Vediantii, came here about a century later. The Ancient Romans arrived some time at the end of the 3rd Century BC following their victory in the Second Punic War and later helped defend both Cemenelum and Antipolis, now known as Antibes, from Vediantii attacks in the middle of the 2nd Century BC. They became permanent residents. The first Roman emperor, Augustus, made Cimiez the regional capital in 14 BC.

This ampitheatre is reported used still today for musical conserts.

The principal buildings to see are the amphitheatre and baths. Both of these date from the Severan imperial dynasty of 193 to 217 AD. The former, which is at the northern end of the site, was not only expanded to a seating capacity of 5000 and remade out of stone but also vaulted, and naturally there was separate seating and entrances as per class, while the latter known as the Magistrate's Bath was also expanded into separate men and women's wings called East and West respectively. The baths were first surveyed in 1943 and were excavated over the next 30 years. Following the Christianization of the Roman Empire in the early 4th Century AD, a basilica was built on the site of the women's wing. Nice became a bishopric a hundred years later. The ampetheatre is used today for some musical festivals in Nice.

And what will you find? Here is a snapshot: bronze figurines of Hercules, a statue of Antonia Minor who was the mother of the Emperor Claudius, milestones from the Via Julia, an altar dedicated to Jupiter, some sarcophagi, Greek kraters and amphorae, many pottery household items and decorated glass.

The ruins are spectacular and on a sunny day a great memory will unfold when you see then yourself

On the main site, you can also find parts of the old Roman roads and the boundary wall. There are a lot of other things to see in Cimiez, namely the Matisse Museum, the Franciscan Museum and Monastery as well as the gardens which host the annual Nice Jazz Festival in its olive groves and Roman amphitheatre.


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