22 August 2010
Soldiers on the Pilier des nautes (Musée de Cluny)
An Iranian friend happened to be in Europe, so I went to Paris to meet him. Because we did not arrive on the same time, I had some time to visit the monuments from the Roman age, which I had never seen before. To be honest, the ruins of the amphitheater are a nice park, but not really worth a detour; nor are the Roman statues in the Musée de Cluny sufficient to justify a trip to France. What made this trip great was visiting the Louvre together, and sharing a pizza.
Yet, there’s certainly something to be seen in the capital of the ancient Parisii, which was once known as Lutetia. There’s a beautiful website here. My photos, with a short history of Lutetia, are here.
It’s this month’s only addition to the Livius site. Spending three days in Paris, while you have a lot to do at home, is deadly for any schedule – or at least makes it next to impossible to write more than one new page.
21 August 2010
For any lover of Antiquity, the Louvre will in Paris be one of the main places to visit, but there is more to see. Along the Rue Monge, you will find the remains of an ancient amphitheater. Where gladiators once fought, you will now find a nice park where people are playing a more innocent sport, pétanque.
If you walk to the west along the Rue des Écoles (as it happens, an ancient road), you will reach the Musée de Cluny, the medieval museum of Paris. One of its largest rooms, however, used to be the frigidarium of one of the three known bathhouses of ancient Lutetia. You will see some ancient sculpture, including Paris’ most famous monument from the Roman age, the Pilier des Nautes. There’s also a well-known statue that was once believed to represent Julian the Apostate, but is in fact a priest of Serapis from the age of Hadrian. The room itself, by the way, was once identified as the place where Julian was proclaimed emperor.
To be honest, the Roman remains of ancient Paris are not extremely impressive and should not be your only reason to visit the Musée de Cluny. It’s a medieval museum, after all, and the real attractions are the stained glass of the Sainte-Chapelle, ivories, tapestries, and sculpture.
31 March 2008
Coin from Nîmes
The French Musée des Antiquités nationales (National collection of Antiquities) can be visited in St-Germain-en-Laye, a bit west of Paris. The museum is in an old castle with a nice garden. If you expect the main archaeological finds from France, you will be disappointed: the museum offers a general view of French archaeology, starting in the Stone Age, and continuing to the Franks. (In France, the most splendid finds are usually in local museums.) In the chapel are objects from other cultures, which help you to see the development of Gaul in a global perspective.)
Among the finds are bronze age helmets, iron age cuirasses, several finds from Alesia (this room was closed when we visited the museum), Roman oil lamps, inscriptions, a glass cup with a representation of the Sacrifice of Isaac (this object easily justifies a detour), several statues, and finally brooches and weapons from the Germanic peoples who settled in Gaul after the fall of the Roman empire. It is easy to spend two hours.
Although photography is permitted, do not expect too much of it. The glass displays and the lights are particularly unhelpful. The metro station (RER, line A, Saint Germain) is opposite the museum, where you will also find cheap underground parking places. The museum itself is free.