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Nimes History, France


According to archaeological evidence, Nimes, France may have been inhabited as far back as the Neolithic Era.  It is probable that there were semi-nomadic farmers living in the area as early as 4000 B.C.  The first known inhabitants were Celtic in origin.  Sometime after 1800 B.C. people in the area settled into planned villages.

Even though the area of Nimes could have been inhabited from at least the Neolithic Era, the known history only dates back to a little more than 2000 years ago.  In 49 B.C., Nimes became part of the Roman Empire.  At this time it was called Nemausus and soon became an important Roman town because of its location on the road from Italy to Spain.  It was eventually even made the capital of the Narbonne province.  The city was heavily protected with six kilometers of fortification including fourteen guard towers.  It was also well-planned and well-built with an amphitheater, a gymnasium, a circus, a basilica and an so called aquaeduct with a famous bridge, the 'Pont du Gard'.

After the Roman Empire began to fall, Nimes was invaded and conquered by the Visigoths.  The Spanish Moors conquered the area in 719 A.D. and then in 754 A.D. the area was again conquered by the Franks.  After so many years of warfare the city was almost in ruins. 

Following the death of King Charlemagne in 833 A.D. the Frankish Empire fell.  France was then divided into several principalities.  Nimes was given to the Counts of Toulouse but without a central government the area was still very vulnerable.  This led to the sacking of Nimes in 924 A.D. by a Hungarian army.

In the early 1200’s the area of Southern France in which Nimes lies was finally brought under the control of the French government.  The town was safe and began to see some of the prosperity that it had lost more than 500 years before.  Over the next hundred years they grew their economy through wine, olives, and wool.

Unfortunately, being under the rule of the French government did have its setbacks.  In 1337 the Hundred Years’ War began and this led to heavy taxation in the region.  At the same time, there were several outbreaks of plague.

Shortly after the end of the Hundred Years’ War in 1453 the Protestant Reformation began.  The population of Nimes was highly Protestant but that did not stop the imprisonment and execution of many Protestants in the late 1500’s.  Some Protestant citizens struck back in 1567 by massacring around ninety Catholics and vandalizing the local Cathedral.  This led to further violent acts by certain members of the Catholic Church in the area.  After King Henri IV granted the Edict of Nantes in 1598, Protestants were given more rights in France and this led to the end of major religious-based violence for a little while. 

In 1685, however, King Louis XIV revoked the Edict, forbidding the public practice of Protestantism.  This led to a Protestant revolt in the early 1700’s.  This revolt ended when hundreds of Protestants were burnt alive in the middle of Nimes.  Louis XVI restored religious tolerance in France in the late 1700’s.  Then, during the French Revolution, Protestants gained control of Nimes from the Royalists who were mostly Catholic.

At this point in time, Nimes was able to begin prospering again.  In the early 1800’s, the city became a major textiles center.  In fact, Nimes is where denim blue jeans were invented.  The town was modernized and urbanized and many of the historic sites were restored. 

In 1871, Nimes witnessed some minor Protestant vs. Catholic issues and in 1907 there were several riots based on economic problems in the wine industry.  During World War II, Nimes was occupied by Nazi armies and many of its citizens were executed.  Since then, the city has had its problems but has still managed to turn itself into a major metropolis with a flourishing wine industry.

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  • WazlingAncient Nemausus in the modern city area
    travel tip by Wazling posted more then 30 days ago
    If you are at Nimes, and you are interested in looking at roman history, you should visit several places. The amphitheater, from the end of the 1st century a.d., is very well preserved. There are still bull fightings beeing held. The...
  • AxelPont du Gard, roman waterpip
    travel tip by Axel posted more then 30 days ago
    If you are at Nimes, the ancient Nemausus, you should make a walk along the roman waterpipe. There is also the famous Pont du Gard, nearly completely preserved 'aquäduct'. Enjoy the nice landscape and history.
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