Roman Cemelenum - Nice before the Niçois!

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The Romans built their town high above modern Nice in the now fashionable suburb of Cimiez. Cemenelenum, as the Romans called it, was the capital of the Alpes Maritimae. About 20,000 citizens lived here in the late 2nd century AD and it was wealthy enough to have an amphitheatre. It was near the route of the Via Julia Augusta, later to become the Aurelian Way.

Savage amusement

The Amphitheatre, part of which is still standing today, was quite a small one by Roman standards. Nevertheless it could still accommodate about 4000 people. Historians believed that the locals used it for gladiatorial contests mainly and not for the crueller forms of entertainment seen in the larger arenas. Note that the Nice Jazz Festival which used to happen here takes place nowadays in the Place Masséna.

Nearby the Musee Archeologique, also free of charge, is worth visiting and includes ceramics, bronzes, statues etc, many of which were found nearby. Also discover, the ruins of the Roman baths and other structures such as an early christian basilica.

Queen Victoria stayed here

For aficionados of the Victorian era there is a fine statue of Queen Victoria at the top of the boulevard de Cimiez. The hotel where she stayed, le Palais Regina, still stands majestically at number 71 although it has now been converted into apartments.

Don’t miss: the Musée Matisse or the Franciscan Monestary and its beautiful gardens with an amazing view over the city.

at least half a day to visit Cimiez which is accessible by bus from the centre of Nice.

At A Glance


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