Maps of Paris (Paris sous les Romains) from Histoire et Geographie: Atlas General by Paul Vidal de La Blache
|Periods||Roman Republic to Roman Empire|
Impressive monumental remains of the ancient city can still be seen in situ.
The city was referred to as "Λουκοτοκία" (Lukotokía) by Strabo, "Λευκοτεκία" (Leukotekía) by Ptolemy and "Lutetia" by Julius Caesar. The origin of this name is uncertain, though Rabelais (after Strabo) wrote that it meant “white place” in Greek, referring to the complexion of the area’s inhabitants.
Archaeological excavations between 1994 and 2005 show that the location of Gallic Lutetia lay in Nanterre, a large area of proto-urbanisation of several main streets and hundreds of houses over 15 hectares in the suburbs of Paris, not far from the future location of Lutetia.
In 52 BC, a year or so before the end of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars, the Battle of Lutetia was fought with the local Parisii tribe. However the garrison led by Vercingetorix's lieutenant Camulogenus, whose army camped on Mons Lutetius, fell to the Roman military forces led by Titus Labienus, one of Caesar's generals who captured and burned the stronghold. The Romans also crushed the Gauls at nearby Melun and took control of Lutetia.
The Roman city was centred on the hill on the south bank of the river (the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève), as the low-lying plain near the river was easily flooded though still initially suitable for farming.
The regular Roman street plan of Lutetia was established with the north-south axis, possibly dictated by the need to cross the marshy riverbanks in the shortest possible distance, but also aligning with the standard Roman orientation for a cardo maximus. Two main routes converged at the bridgehead over the Seine: one road coming from Spain (today's Rue Saint-Jacques) via Orleans was used as the main axis (cardo maximus), and the other road from Rome (today's rue Galande and further on rue Mouffetard) via Lyon. Dendrochronological study of wooden pilings beneath the lowest stratum of the Roman north-south axis date the road's construction after 4 AD, more than fifty years after the Roman pacification of the region. On the north bank the Rue St-Martin continues the Roman main axis (cardo maximus).
The street plan and the boundaries of the main monuments—the forum at the top of the hill, theatre, baths— show that the Roman city was laid out with blocks or insulae of 300 Roman feet.
The development of the city began under Augustus and was well advanced in the early 1st century AD when the elaborate Pilier des Nautes (pillar of the boatmen) was erected by a corporation of local river merchants and sailors (nautes) and dedicated to Tiberius and to several gods, showing that there was an important port on the river.
Major public works and monuments were constructed in the 2nd century AD. Lutetia expanded with a population estimated at around 8,000 but did not have a great deal of political importance - the capital of its province, Lugdunensis Senona, was Agedincum (modern Sens, Yonne).
An aqueduct 26 km in length, with a flow rate estimated at 2000 cubic metres a day, provided the city with spring water collected from several points. To bridge the Bièvre valley at Arcueil-Cachan, a bridge was required, whose piers and ruined arches, still discernible, gave rise to the toponym Arcueil.
In the 3rd century St Denis became the city's first bishop and in about 250 AD he and two companions were arrested and decapitated on the hill of Mons Mercurius thereafter known as Mons Martyrum (Martyrs' Hill, or Montmartre) where Roman foundations have been found.
After a barbarian attack in 275 by the Franks and Alemanni that destroyed much of the south bank portions of the city, the population moved to the island and a surrounding wall was built on the Île de la Cité from large stones taken from damaged structures. The city on the south bank along with the main public buildings including baths, the theatres and the amphitheatre were gradually abandoned.
In 357–358 Julian II, as Caesar of the Western empire and general of the Gallic legions, moved the Roman capital of Gaul from Trier to Paris which, after defeating the Franks in a major battle at Strasbourg in 357, he defended against Germanic invaders coming from the north. He was proclaimed emperor by his troops in 360 in Lutetia.
Lutetia was gradually renamed Paris, taking its name from the Parisii. The name had already been used for centuries as an adjective ("Parisiacus"). The legend of the Breton city of Ys suggests a different, if less likely, origin.
Remains of the ancient city are mainly buried below ground although many of these are gradually being discovered. Those visible include:
Many artifacts from Lutetia have been recovered and are on display at the Musée Carnavalet.
In May 2006, a Roman road was found during expansion of the University of Pierre and Marie Curie campus. Remains of private houses dating from the reign of Augustus (27 BC-14 AD) and containing heated floors were found. Everyday items like flowerpots, bronze chains, ceramics, and drawer handles were found. The owners were wealthy enough to own baths found in one of the homes, a status symbol among Roman citizens.
Several scientific discoveries have been named after Lutetia. The element lutetium was named in honor of its discovery in a Paris laboratory, and the characteristic building material of the city of Paris — Lutetian Limestone — derives from the ancient name. The "Lutetian" is, in the geologic timescale, a stage or age in the Eocene Epoch. The asteroid 21 Lutetia, discovered in 1852 by Hermann Goldschmidt, is named after the city.
Lutetia is featured in the French comic series The Adventures of Asterix.
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