Posted on Jun 20, 2010 in category

Welcome to Vienne, the capital city of the Allobroges tribe. Defeated by the Romans as early as the 120's B.C., the Allobroges were realists. Their elite or nobles adopted and adapted to the new Roman regime. Let's let Strabo, an ancient Roman describe them:

"Formerly the Allobroges kept up warfare with many myriads of men, whereas now they till the plains and the glens that are in the Alps, and all of them live in villages, except that the most notable of them, inhabitants of Vienna (formerly a village, but called, nevertheless, the "metropolis" of the tribe), have built it up into a city. It is situated on the Rhodanus [Rhone]. This river runs from the Alps in great volume and impetuosity". Strabo, Geography 4.1.11

Strabo was certainly right about the Rhone River especially after all of this rain. It's an immense amount of flowing H2O.


In fact, the Rhone held the key to this tribe's success, wealth and prestigious position in Roman Gaul especially with Augustus' reorganisation of Gaul in 27 B.C. Several archaeological discoveries testify to Vienne's importance in Roman Gaul: the huge warehouses on the left bank, the prestigious villas of Saint Romain-en-Gal (right bank) and the many monumental structures in the city today.

The Gallo-Roman Museum at Saint-Romain-en-Gal is built over and around a former district of Roman Vienne. In 1967 during the construction of a school the site was revealed. The Rhone Department bought the 7 hectare site and it was not until 1996 that a state-of-the art museum was built. It's a museum dedicated to the site's history but the site is also placed in the wider context of Gallo-Roman Vienne.

The Gallo-Roman baths in the foreground; the magic museum is built over several houses

The prosperity of Gallo-Roman Vienne is obvious in this museum the moment you walk into it. On the foyer wall is a colourful and imposing mosaic based on the myth of the 'Golden Fleece'.

This mosaic turned out to be only a taste of many more extraordinary mosaics found on site at Saint-Romain-en-Gal. Another spectacular mosaic was the 'Ocean God' from the 'La Maison des Dieux Océan' named after it.

This house is monumental. I found it hard to believe its size-2500 square metres. This Gallo-Roman mansion had a vestibule entrance with a round marble fountain surrounded by a mosaic floor (the one above) that set the nautical theme for the entire house: pools framed the peristyle courtyards.

The bloke in the background 'moi' is still in the same villa!

Although this is the biggest house on the site, there were many other opulent 'maisons' in this suburb containing hypocaust heating, large mosaic floors, private latrines, wall paintings and gardens with water features.

A view of the mosaic collection An intricate pattern made with great skill

A cupid theme The bird theme was popular

Saint-Romain-en-Gal Gallo-Roman Museum is exceptional in its design, collection, conservation and amenities for visitors. It even has a top class restaurant overlooking the Rhone. Unfortunately, it was booked out for lunch!

After a 5 hour stint in this museum and its adjoining archaeological site we crawled back to our hotel. Bonsoir!!!

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