Pont du Gard to Nimes

Posted on Jun 27, 2010 in category

The Pont du Gard should be listed as the eighth wonder of the ancient world. The stone structure is part of ancient Nimes' 50 kms aqueduct that included many other 'ponts'. However, like most aqueducts in the Roman Empire, the majority of its canalisation was underground.

Here are a few facts about this amazing Gallo-Roman structure/aqueduct:

  • Average slope of the aqueduct = 25 cms per kilometre
  • Water transit time from source to Nimes (castellum aquae) = 24-30 hours
  • Amount of aqueduct underground: 90%
  • Number of overhead constructions = 17 (includes Pont du Gard)
  • Number of arches to Pont du Gard = 49
  • Average speed of water = .70 to 1.0 metre per second
  • Number of tunnels into rock = 2
  • Number of large regulation pools = 2
  • Number of openings in the 'castellum aquae' at the end = 10

The list goes on!

Yes, I waded out into the Gardon River to get this blog shot!

The road section bridge was added later in 18th century


The entry of the aqueduct at the top of the Pont du Gard (top left)

The Pont du Gard Park is a very modern centre with facilities for students to study, a cafeteria for tourists, a cinema and an outstanding, comprehensively researched museum. The museum bombards the visitor with multimedia: film, multilingual audio seats and animated models. The theme is wider than the Pont du Gard although this is an important feature. Rome's love affair with water and its luxurious and practical uses are explored in detail. It could take more than 2 hours to tour this museum.

This room shows a film that flies you along the aqueduct from its source near Uzes to Nimes

Multilingual audio booths

More traditional exhibits are shown too- two copies (owned by other museums) of funerary stelae showing the various artisans who would have worked on the aqueducts

I must thank Sonia Pelletier for organising our tour of the Pont du Gard and its museum.

Now to find the aqueduct's source near Uzès! Although a small town, it was Sunday and a market day inside one of the picturesque squares – the 'Place des Herbes'. After an artichoke salade lunch, we decided to walk to the source and see some of the village on the way. It was a hot day but we were determined to work off our lunch.

The source of the aqueduct turned out to be at the bottom of a steep hill in the town's park on the Eure River. We zigzagged down a rocky path to a large picnic area where the locals were enjoying themselves. Arriving at the spot, we discovered that it was fenced off. It looked as if the source of ancient Nimes' water supply was still being used for another town's water supply.

I couldn't resist the crystal-clear water in this overflow channel

Now for Nimes!

Michael Couzigou, the Director of Culturespaces (a private company that manages several sites at Nimes), had organised our entry into the Maison Carrée, amphitheatre and Tour Magne.

The Maison Carrée is the middle of a major restoration with 3 of its four sides covered. It was built between 16-5 BC as a temple to Rome and Augustus. It was dedicated to Lucius and Gaius Caesar, grandsons of Augustus, who both died in their youth.

A blinding, snowy white temple to Augustus - a 3D movie is now shown inside

The Nimes arena was also in the process of construction- a musical concert was in the pipeline. It's a fine line between conserving heritage and popularising these ancient sites in order to conserve them. The multimedia displays in two small rooms feature the arena's uses: one in the distant past, gladiators; the other in the present with matadors. Unfortunately, the gladiator exhibit lacked the archaeological research quality found in other museums.

The Tour Magne was a fantastic site. The stone tower was part of the original rampart walls and towers erected by Augustus as a gift to Nimes. The tower was later turned into part of a castle's fortifications. Archaeologists have even found evidence of in its foundations of a Gallic oppidum. The view of Nimes from here is spectacular.

The final stop before we returned to Beaucaire was the 'castellum aquae'. It was tucked into a tight spot in suburban Nimes.

A circular device that distributed water to public fountains, bathhouses and private elite houses

"Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink!" Today was so hot that we often found ourselves short on bottled water.

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