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Nimes is a city in southern France, is celebrated for its Roman monuments. It is situated about 65 miles (105 km) northwest of Marseille and is the capital of Card department. The city manufactures clothing and footwear, produces fruit preserves, and distributes the many wines of the region.
A Gallic tribe, the Volcai Arecomici, originally inhabited the environs of Nirnes. Their settlement, Nemausus (from which the name Nimes is derived), grew up around a sacred spring. They submitted to Roman power in the 2nd century B.C. After his victory over Antony and Cleopatra (31 B.C.), the Roman emperor Augustus granted land at Nimes to legionnaires who had served under him. (The city's coat of arms features a chained crocodile, in memory of these veterans of the Egyptian campaign.) Favored by Augustus and his successors, the city flourished.
In the 5th century A.D., at the height of its prosperity, Nimes was ravaged by the Vandals and, later, by the Visigoths. The inhabitants of Nirnes resisted Arianism, the Visigoths' heretical version of Christianity. They confronted another heresy, Albigensianism, in the Middle Ages. Nimes, with the rest of Languedoc, espoused the Albigensian heresy but abandoned it early in the 13th century when threatened by the forces of the Crusader Simon de Monfort. In the 16th century most of the people of Nimes became Protestant. Thus the abrogation of the Protestants' rights in 1685 (the new revocation of the Edict of Nantes) caused a great upheaval in Nimes. The French Revolution scarcely affected the city. The railroad came to Nimes in the 19th century, increasing its prosperity, as did the accompanying industrial development and the region's expanded viticulture.
Points of Interest
Nimes' famous Maison Caree, so called since the 16th century, is a small, rectangular Roman temple. Constructed at about the beginning of the Christian era, it stands on a podium 12 feet (3.7 meters) high and measures 40 by 82 feet (12 by 25 meters). Thirty Corinthian columns are distributed around the sides of the temple.
The second outstanding Roman monument in Nimes is the amphitheater Les Arenes. Built at approximately the same time as the Maison Carree, it is considered the best preserved of the world's remaining Roman amphitheaters. It is still in use, for bullfights, and can seat 24,000 spectators.
Other Roman remains in Nimes include the Tour Magne, a ruined tower. What use the Romans made of it is unknown; in later times it served as a watchtower. The Temple of Diana is largely in ruins. Near Nimes is the Pont du Card, an aqueduct built in 19 B.C. Spanning the Card River, it supplied Nimes with water. Its bottom tier serves as a road bridge.
Post-Roman structures include the cathedral, built in the llth century (possibly on the site of the Temple of Augustus) but much altered through the centuries and virtually reconstructed in the 1800's.