the inhabitants of marseille came into conflict with the
in the second century BC, they appealed to Rome for aid.
The Romans arrived in force in 122 and soon conquered an
area around the Gulf
of Lyon, which they called the Transalpine Province
- the province on the other side of theAlps from Rome. (The
name Provence, northeast of the Languedoc, is a vestige
of the time that this was Rome's only Province).
118 BC Narbonne
was the capital of Roman transalpine (narbonnic) Gaul. In
what is now the Roussillon, Ruscino became a roman colony
in 120 BC. The now indigenous Celtic
peoples - Volques and the Sardones - preserved their
traditions, costumes and language through Roman times.
of the Roman Legions was Cneius Domitius Ahenobarbus, who
organised his new province around a communication axis,
running inland from the coast. This route had been known
to the Greeks.
To them, this was the way that Herakles (Hercules) had returned
to Greece from the pillars we still know as the Pillars
of Hercules on each side of the Strait
of Gibraltar. It was known as the Heraclean Way. The
Roman road, which still exists in parts, is named the Domitian
Way (Via Domitia) after Cneius Domitius Ahenobarbus.
This is the oldest Roman road in Gaul, and one of the oldest
anywhere. It runs from one end of the Languedoc-Roussillon
to the other, only 15 miles or so from the sea, providing
an easy way to explore the region's landscapes and history.
Connected by continuing roads at each end, it linked Rome
in Italy to Cadiz in Spain (500 km) and is part of an immense
road network of more than 70,000 miles, built by the Romans
over eight centuries. In places there is much of the original
construction still visible in the Languedoc - the modern
A9 runs along side it. For more information, click here
who had been interested only in trade, the Romans were full
scale colonists, not only trading and road building, but
also establishing a military presence, raising taxes, and
recruiting auxiliary troops. Another Roman colony, Colonia
Victrix Julia Septimanorum Baetarae, was founded by Julius
Caesar. Today it is known as Béziers,
and its inhabitants as Bitterois. It was Julius who defeated
the Gauls - assisted by auxiliaries from the Transalpine
Province. Confusingly for the modern French, these auxiliaries
even fought against Vercingetorix at the critical battle
in which Gaul became another Roman province.
Publius Terentius Varro Atacinus (82 BC - c.35 BC) an early
Roman poet, was born in the Province of Gallia Narbonensis,
the southern part of Gaul with its capital at Narbonne,
on the River
Aude. His surname Atacinus (derived from Atax
the Roman name for the River
Aude) indicates his birthplace.
Under the next Emperor, Augustus [27BC - 14AD], the the
Transalpine Province was reorganised and renames the Narbonnaise
after its new capital, Narbonne.
Archaeological excavations have revealed a Roman amphorae
factory close to Narbonne
in Sallèle d'Aude. Amphorae and ceramics are known to have
been exchanged with Cornish tin.
cities flourished and grew, often near or around existing
Many of the Roman jewels in Nîmes,
date from this period. Nîmes
was an image of Rome itself, studded with temples, baths
and waterways. The famous Maison
Carrée a, Roman temple, dates from this time.
So does the equally famous Pont
du Gard A spectacular well-preserved three tiered Roman
aqueduct over the River
Gard (or Gardon). At almost 50 meters in
height it is the tallest the Romans ever constructed.
It is part of the aqueduct built around the year 20 BC to
transport water over 50 kilometers from the Eure spring
to the city of Nîmes.
For more information, click here
imperial mint in Nîmes
coined money known and used throughout the empire. The as
of of Nîmes
is a bronze coin with a famous design of a crocodile (representing
Egypt) chained to a palm tree. In the second century Nîmes
would provide the empire with an emperor: Antonius Pius
- best known to the British as the builder of the Antonine
Wall north of Hadrian's Wall in Scotland.
(Titus Livius, 59 BC - AD 17) traded in non-sparkling white
wines from Limoux.
Wine markets flourished at Béziers.
provided a link to the Aquitaine. Lodeve became a centre
of mining. Narbonne
overtook Marseille as an international port. Toulouse
grew prosperous, a link between the Mediterranean
Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Like any good Romans the
inhabitants of these towns lived in Roman villas, decorated
their homes with frescoes and mosaics, prayed at Roman temples,
frequented the Roman baths, watched plays at the theatre
and attended games at the amphitheatre. The Arena
(Aréne) at Nîmes
is today the best preserved example in the world, seating
some 20,000 people, it still used regularly for games and
spectacles that have also survived here from Roman times.
province was Roman in every sense - Pliny the Elder in his
Natural History describes it as part of Italy, a description
that made perfect sense at the time, but which disconcerts
modern French who seem to regard it as an inexplicable error
since, for them, the Narbonnaise must self evidently always
have been French.
There are reminders of the Roman names in many place names,
often heavily disguised. Examples are Fa (Fanum - a temple),
Fanjeaux (Fanum Jovis - Juputer's Temple), and Minerve
(dedicated to the goddess Minerva). Other reminders of the
Roman period are structures such as surviving Roman bridges,
of which there are many in the Languedoc; roman republican
symbols such as the fasces,
Liberty Cap and the
goddess Liberty. The greatest reminder of all is the
local language, now called Occitan,
but traditionally known as "the plain Roman toungue"
- of all the Romance languages, the nearest to the original
popular Latin. In medieval times scribes would often switch
seemlessly between Latin and Occitan, probably not even
noticing what they were doing.
The economy depended on vines, olive trees, fig trees,
fishing, salt farming and mining: iron and precious metals
in the The
Corbières, the Montain Noire, the Rouergue, the
Albigeois and the Cévennes;
copper from the upper valley of the River
Orb; lead from the northern part of the Hérault.
Pottery was exported from the Banassac (Lozère
département) and Montans (Tarn) and glassware
At the end of the Third century AD the Roman Narbonnaise
Province was divided into three: Narbonnaise I, Narbonnaise
II, and the Viennoise (around Vienne). Narbonnaise I corresponded
roughly to the part of original Transalpine Provence lying
west (right bank) of the River
Rhône, Narbonnaise II included what we now call
the Dauphine and Provence, and the Viennoise the part of
the original Transalpine Provence lying to the east (left
bank) of the River
By the end of the fourth century the Roman Empire in the
west was falling apart. In the early years of the fifth
century the Visigoths,
led by Alaric, an Arian Christian, took Rome. Soon Alaric
had established a Visigothic Empire stretching from southern
Spain to northern France. Narbonne
fell to the Visigoths
in 413 AD.