Life in Cemelenum

Cemelenum is an ancient Roman city in Cimiez, high on the hills that overlook Nice.

Cemelenum - Western baths
Western baths

Emperor Augustus founded the military garrison in 14 BC to protect the Via Julia Augusta.

This major road connected Rome with its ‘province’ and linked it to other Roman roads in Arles.

At least 3 Roman cohorts (1000-1500 men) were garrisoned here; at one time, 10,000 people lived in Cemelenum!

As a result, there are hundreds of ruins and artifacts in Cimiez and neighbouring areas.

However, only the arenas and the baths have been excavated and studied in detail so far.

They constitute the open-air section of the archaeological museum of Cimiez-Nice.

Cemelenum arenas

Amazingly, these arenas were considered as ‘small’ at the time, as they ‘only’ had a capacity of about 5,000 spectators!

However, they functioned in the same way as larger arenas with gladiator fights, wild animal hunts, tortures, executions and games.

Cemelenum Roman baths

Bathing was an important part of daily Roman life.

Cemelenum arenas

It was a hygienic practice, but also a social event, as bathers relaxed and visited together.

Cemelenum had three separate baths; all had marble floors and seating areas lit by glass windows.

Bathers entered the Tepidarium (warm room), then moved to the Laconicum (a round room of intense dry heat) and the Caldarium (hot room).

Those using the Northern Baths and Western Baths then swam in the Natatio (warm water pool), then had a final bath in the Frigidarium (cold room).

Cemelenum - Bacchus bronze mask
Bacchus bronze mask

Each bath also had an area devoted to exercising and vast gardens, but also facilities such as latrines.

Aqueducts fed them and an elaborate network of pipes circulated water through the pools, flushed the latrines and then carried used water away.

An underfloor system of ducts or hypocaust heated the water, but also the floors and rooms.

Heated air was produced from wood fires in a central furnace room and circulated freely through the ducts.

The ducts funneled smoke up flues in the walls and expelled it outside.

The baths’ warmest rooms were obviously located closest to the furnace room; cold rooms farther away.

Cemelenum – Archaeological Museum of Nice

The indoor archaeological museum boasts a wealth of potteries, sculptures and of course amphorae.

Ancient Mediterranean folks already used amphorae during the Neolithic to transport various liquid and dry commodities.

Cemelenum - Amphorae

The amphorae at Cemelenum were most likely used to transport and store wine.

The oldest relics exhibited in the museum date from around 1100 BC, as by the late Bronze Age the area was already fully inhabited!

However, the Greeks and the Romans left us the main bulk of artifacts.

These include a larger-than-life marble sculpture of Antonia Augusta that dates from the 1st century AD.

Antonia was the daughter of Mark Anthony, the mother of Claudius, the grandmother of Caligula and the great-grandmother of Nero!

Department of Alpes-Maritimes – Nice
Coordinates: Lat 43.719309 – Long 7.275125

Credits: Photos are ©melangedmagic – Evelyn Jackson – Photo Wikimedia Commons: header

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