Posted in Travel

Nîmes: Great Roman Games (part 1)


Paris was raining and grey at the moment, but here in Nîmes the sun couldn’t have been shining clearer. Pradier fountain, carved in white marble, gracefully guarded the entrance to the town center from the train station. The Arena looked breathtaking. Colosseum in Rome had awed me, but seeing a complete one in Nîmes, all round and unruined, certainly helped.

There would be a Centurion parade at 10h30, I arrived at the Arena half an hour before the parade, and the Roman army already assembled there with their legionaries, auxiliaries, mercenaries, dancers and even slaves. Common people in medieval garment are wandering around, looking very serious.

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Bare chest gladiators (in diaper!) stood near the proud torero statue. Nîmes Arena is still frequently used for bullfighting. Maybe that’s why the amphitheater was so well preserved after nearly 2000 years (one of the best preserved in the world).


Senators of the Republic, all wise and fashionista in their pristine white robes:


It is said that the reenactment respected historical details as much as they could, down to military techniques and clothes. I love their varying shield & standard motifs.




Caesar (the auxiliary guy with the blond wig) proudly led his legion into the traffic:




Now, onto casual pictures where the legion snaked along streets & shops & pubs,making quite a funny sight:



The VI legion, “Legio sexta ferrata”, had lots to do with Caesar. They carried on their standard the symbolic she-wolf with baby Romulus and Remus suckling. These 2 boys were rumored to be founders of Rome and descendants from Troy refugees – the Troy that was destroyed by Helen and the bloody horse.


The reenactors came from France, Italy, Belgium and Austria. I happened to follow an Italian troupe, their marching orders shouted in Italian made for a more ambient parade (the minor fact that the Roman Empire actually spoke Latin and not Italian is of no importance).

They went deeper into narrow alleys. Among civilian houses and cobblestone paths, their marching footstep and war shouts sounded much more ominous.



A brave man who dared to bike pass them, holding strawberry tarts on his hand:


Some scenery along the march:






What a town! Even their dogs are photogenic.

They paused from time to time, and the Centurions profited to sit down on a sideway cafe, to take pictures with people, or to pick fight with children.



I got a picture with the Caesar guy. While I was posing next to him, his general jokingly put his steel sword at my throat. I could feel the cold blade on my skin and it suddenly sent shivers down my spine. Of course, they don’t do this joke with teenagers.

The whole town was dressed in Roman terms. Several antique markets, children Olympic games and medieval workshops were installed everywhere. Some metal master or leather master at work, sewing sandals right on spot from weird-shaped leather pieces:


I talked with them and they said it was difficult to maintain it as profession. There were not many places left which provide materials and tools for this kind of job.

When the parade finished, I wandered the streets for lunch. I saw this “Restaurant de l’Etoile”, which I had a discount voucher from my hotel, so I jumped in. The patron was a smiling old man, adequately dressed. The food was nice and not pricey: I took piquillo pepper stuffed with brandade for starter (8 E) and royal paella for main dish (15 E).



After a while, the 2 nîmois ladies sitting at the next table started to talked to me, and they are very sweet. I leisurely finished my meal, said good day to them and went to the Arena for the Roman Games. 45mins before the show, and there’re long security queue outside of the amphitheater. Inside, the crowd already started to roar.



My stock websites for photos:

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