Nîmes, Centre ville.jpg
Flag of Nîmes
Coat of arms of Nîmes
Nîmes is located in France
Country France
Region Languedoc-Roussillon
Department Gard
Arrondissement Nîmes
Intercommunality Nîmes Métropole
Mayor Jean-Paul Fournier
Elevation 21–215 m (69–705 ft)
(avg. 39 m/128 ft)
Land area1 161.85 km2 (62.49 sq mi)
Population2 140,267  (2008)
 - Density 867 /km2 (2,250 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 30189/ 30000 and 30900
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Coordinates: 43°50′16″N 4°21′39″E / 43.8377777778°N 4.36083333333°E / 43.8377777778; 4.36083333333

Nîmes (Provençal Occitan: Nimes; French: [nim], English: /ˈniːm/) is the capital of the Gard department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France. Nîmes has a rich history, dating back to the Roman Empire, and is a popular tourist destination.



The city derives its name from that of a spring in the Roman village. The contemporary coat of arms of the city of Nîmes includes a crocodile chained to a palm tree with the inscription COLNEM, for Colonia Nemausus, meaning the 'colony' or 'settlement' of Nemausus, the local Celtic god of the Volcae Arecomici. Veterans of the Roman legions who had served Julius Caesar in his Nile campaigns, at the end of fifteen years of soldiering, were given plots of land to cultivate on the plain of Nîmes.[1]

The city was located on the Via Domitia, a Roman road constructed in 118 BC which connected Italy to Spain.


The site on which the built-up area of Nîmes has become established in the course of centuries is part of the edge of the alluvial plain of the Vistrenque River which butts up against low hills: to the northeast, Mont Duplan; to the southwest, Montaury; to the west, Mt. Cavalier and the knoll of Canteduc.

4000–2000 BC

The Neolithic site of Serre Paradis reveals the presence of semi-nomadic cultivators in the period 4000 to 3500 BC on the future site of Nîmes. The population of the site increased during the thousand-year period of the Bronze Age. The menhir of Courbessac (or La Poudrière) stands in a field, near the airstrip. This limestone monolith of over two metres in height dates to about 2500 BC, and must be considered the oldest monument of Nîmes.

1800–600 BC

The Bronze Age has left traces of a village of huts and branches.

600–49 BC

The Warrior of Grezan is considered to be the most ancient indigenous sculpture in southern Gaul.[citation needed] The hill named Mt. Cavalier was the site of the early oppidum, which gave birth to the city. During the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC a surrounding wall was built, closed at the summit by a dry-stone tower, which was later incorporated into the masonry of the Tour Magne. The Wars of Gaul and the fall of Marseille (49 BC) allowed Nîmes to regain its autonomy under Rome.

Gallo-Roman period

Pont du Gard from the north bank

Nîmes became a Roman colony sometime before 28 BC, as witnessed by the earliest coins, which bear the abbreviation NEM. COL, "Colony of Nemausus".[2] Some years later a sanctuary and other constructions connected with the fountain were raised on the site. Nîmes was already under Roman influence, though it was Augustus who made the city the capital of Narbonne province, and gave it all its glory.

The city had an estimated population of 60,000 in the time of Augustus. Augustus gave the town a ring of ramparts six kilometres long, reinforced by fourteen towers; two gates remain today: the Porta Augusta and the Porte de France. An aqueduct was built to bring water from the hills to the north. Where this crossed the River Gard between Uzes and Remoulins, the spectacular Pont du Gard was built. This is 20 km north east of the city. Nothing remains of certain monuments, the existence of which is known from inscriptions or architectural fragments found in the course of excavations. It is known that the town had a civil basilica, a curia, a gymnasium and perhaps a circus. The amphitheatre dates from the end of the 2nd century AD. The family of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius came from Nemausus.

Emperor Constantine endowed the city with baths. It became the seat of the Diocesan Vicar, the chief administrative officer of southern Gaul.

The town was prosperous until the end of the 3rd century – during the 4th and 5th centuries, the nearby town of Arles enjoyed more prosperity. In the early 5th century the Praetorian Prefecture was moved from Trier in northeast Gaul to Arles. The city was finally captured from the Romans by the Visigoths in 473 AD.

The temple of Diane
The Porta Augusta
The Castellum divisorium on the aqueduct

4th–13th centuries

After the Gallo-Roman period, in the days of invasion and decadence, the Christian Church, already established in Gaul since the 1st century AD, appeared be the last refuge of classical civilization – it was remarkably organized and directed by a series of Gallo-Roman aristocrats. After the barbarian invasions, the population had to face incursions by Moors from Spain (AD 710). The occupation came to an end in 754 under Pepin the Short. The town, ruined by so many troubles and invasions, was now only a shadow of the opulent Gallo-Roman city it once had been. The local authorities installed themselves in the amphitheatre.

Carolingian rule brought relative peace, but feudal times in the 12th century brought local troubles, which lasted until the days of St. Louis. During that period Nîmes was jointly administered by a lay power resident in the old amphitheatre, where lived the Viguier and the Knights of the Arena, and the religious power based in the Bishop's palace complex, around the cathedral, its chapter and the Bishop's house; meanwhile the city was represented by four Consuls, who sat in the Maison Carrée.

Despite incessant feudal squabbling, Nîmes saw some progress both in commerce and industry as well as in stock-breeding and associated activities.

After the last effort by Raymond VII of Toulouse, St. Louis managed to establish royal power in the region which became Languedoc. Nîmes thus entered finally into the hands of the King of France.

Nemausus, Nismes Civitas Narbonensis surrounded by its walls, after Sebastian Münster (1569), 1572

Period of invasions

During the 14th and 15th centuries the Rhone Valley underwent an uninterrupted series of invasions which ruined the economy and caused famine. Customs were forgotten, religious troubles developed (see French Wars of Religion) and epidemics, all of which affected the city. Nîmes, which was one of the Protestant strongholds, felt the full force of repression and fratricidal confrontations (including the Michelade massacre) which continued until the middle of the 17th century, adding to the misery of periodic outbreaks of plague.

17th century to the French Revolution

In the middle of the 17th century Nîmes experienced a period of prosperity. Population growth caused the town to expand, and slum housing to be replaced. Also to this period dates the reconstruction of Notre-Dame-Saint-Castor, the Bishop's palace and numerous mansions (Hotels). This 'renaissance' strengthened the manufacturing and industrial vocation of the city, the population rising from 21,000 to 50,000 inhabitants.

Les Quais de la Fontaine, the embankments of the spring that provided water for the city, the first civic gardens of France, were laid out in 1738–55.

Also in this period the Fountain gardens, the Quais de la Fontaine, were laid out, the areas surrounding the Maison Carrée and the Amphitheatre were cleared of encroachments, whilst the entire population benefited from the atmosphere of prosperity.

From the French Revolution to the present

Following a European economic crisis which hit Nîmes with full force, the Revolutionary period awoke slumbering demons of political and religious antagonism. The White Terror added to natural calamities and economic recession, produced murder, pillage and arson until 1815. Order was however restored in the course of the century, and Nîmes became the metropolis of Bas-Languedoc, diversifying its industry towards new kinds of activity. At the same time the surrounding countryside adapted to market needs and shared in the general increase of wealth.


Historical population of Nîmes
1793 1800 1806 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1872 1881
40,000 39,594 41,195 37,908 41,266 44,697 53,619 57,129 62,394 63,552
1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1936 1946 1954 1962
71,623 80,605 80,437 82,774 89,213 93,758 91,667 89,130 99,802
1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2008
123,292 127,933 124,220 128,471 133,424 140,267

Tour Magne in Nîmes.
The Jardins de la Fontaine in Nîmes.


Several important remains of the Roman Empire can still be seen in and around Nîmes:

  • The elliptical Roman amphitheater, of the 1st or 2nd century AD, is the best-preserved Roman arena in France. It was filled with medieval housing, when its walls served as ramparts, but they were cleared under Napoleon. It is still used today as a bull fighting and concert arena.
  • The Maison Carrée (Square House), a small Roman temple dedicated to sons of Agrippa was built c. 19 BC. It is one of the best-preserved Roman temples anywhere. Today, visitors can watch a short film about the history of Nimes inside.
  • The 18th-century Jardins de la Fontaine (Gardens of the Fountain) built around the roman thermae ruins.
  • The nearby Pont du Gard, also built by Agrippa, is a well-preserved aqueduct that used to carry water across the small Gardon river valley.
  • The nearby Mont Cavalier is crowned by the Tour Magne ("Great Tower"), a ruined Roman tower.[3]

Later monuments include:

There is modern architecture at Nîmes too: Norman Foster conceived the Carré d'art (1986), a museum of modern art and mediatheque; Jean Nouvel the Nemausus, a post-modern residential ensemble, and Kisho Kurokawa a building in the form of a hemicycle to reflect the Amphitheatre.

Tree-shaded boulevards trace the foundations of its former city walls.


Nîmes is historically known for its textiles. Denim, the fabric of blue jeans, derives its name from this city (Serge de Nîmes).


The asteroid 51 Nemausa was named after Nîmes, where it was discovered in 1858.


Nîmes-Alès-Camargue-Cévennes Airport serves the city. The Gare de Nîmes is the central railway station, offering connections to Paris (high speed rail), Marseille, Montpellier, Toulouse, Perpignan, Figueras in Spain and several regional destinations. The motorway A9 connects Nîmes with Orange, Montpellier and Perpignan, the A64 with Arles and Salon-de-Provence.

There are plans to construct a high-speed railway linking Nîmes and Montpellier with the LGV Méditerranée.[4]


Championnat National football team Nîmes Olympique is based in Nîmes.

Rugby team is RC Nîmes.

There is a volleyball professional team located here.



  • Émile Jourdan, PCF (1965–1983)
  • Jean Bousquet, UDF (1983–1995)
  • Alain Clary, PCF (1995–2001)
  • Jean-Paul Fournier, UMP (since 2001)

International relations

Nîmes twinned with:

See also


  1. ^ Alain Veyrac, "Le symbolisme de l'as de Nîmes au crocodile" Archéologie et histoire romaine vol. 1 (1998) (on-line text).
  2. ^ Colin M. Kraay, "The Chronology of the coinage of Colonia Nemausus", Numismatic Chronicle 15 (1955), pp75-87.
  3. ^ Giving rise to the example of rime richissime Gall, amant de la Reine, alla (tour magnanime)/ Gallament de l'Arène a la Tour Magne, à Nîmes, or "Gall, lover opf the Queen, passed (magnanimous gesture), gallantly from the Arena to the Tour Magne at Nîmes".
  4. ^ "Railway Gazette: Southern LGV projects make progress". http://www.railwaygazette.com/nc/news/single-view/view/southern-lgv-projects-make-progress.html. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nimes — Nîmes  Pour l’article homophone, voir Nismes. Nîmes …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Nimes — Nîmes …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Nîmes — Nîmes …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Nîmes — • Diocese; suffragan of Avignon in France Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Nimes     Nîmes     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Nimes — Nîmes Escudo …   Wikipedia Español

  • NÎMES — NÎMES, capital of Gard department, S. France. Although a number of Jews took part in the revolt led by Hilderic, governor of Nîmes, against the Visigothic king Wamba in 673, there is no direct evidence that Jews were then living in the town… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • NÎMES — À l’extrémité orientale du couloir languedocien, Nîmes garde la porte rhodanienne, s’articule avec les villes provençales et participe activement aux grands aménagements régionaux. Blottie au pied des garrigues, la ville s’accroche aux… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Nimes — (Nîmes en francés) es una ciudad del sur de Francia, capital del departamento de Gard, con una población de 133.424 habitantes (1999). Es famosa por la multitud de restos de la época romana que se conservan en bastante buen estado, destacando… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Nîmes —   [nim], Stadt in Südfrankreich, am Übergang der Garrigues zur Ebene des Bas Languedoc, 128 500 Einwohner; Verwaltungssitz des Départements Gard; katholischer Bischofssitz; Académie de Nîmes, Konservatorium, Museen; wichtiger Handelsplatz,… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Nîmes — (spr. nīm ), Hauptstadt des franz. Depart. Gard, 46 m ü. M., am Südabhang einer Hügelkette in einer fruchtbaren Ebene gelegen, Knotenpunkt der Lyoner Bahn, hat hübsche Boulevards, welche die alten Stadtmauern ersetzen, einen schönen Hauptplatz… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon