LUTETIA PARISIORUM

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Lutetia (sometimes Lutetia Parisiorum or Lucotecia, in French Lutèce) was a town in pre-Roman and Roman Gaul. It was located on what is now the Île de la Cité, an island on the river Seine, in the centre of the modern city of Paris. It was the chief settlement (or oppidum) of the Parisii, a Celtic people who settled in the area during the 3rd century BC.


Most scholars believe that in 52 BC, at the time of Vercingetorix's struggle with Julius Caesar, a small Gallic tribe, the Parisii, were living on the island. It has also been said that a Roman by the name of Lutece founded the Île de la Cité which started as a fortress. At that time, the island was a low-lying area subject to flooding that offered a convenient place to cross the Seine and was also a refuge in times of invasion. However, some modern historians believe the Parisii were based on another, now sunken island. After the conquest of the Celts, the Roman Labienus created a temporary camp on the island, but further Roman settlement developed in the healthier air on the slopes above the Left Bank, at the Roman Lutetia. [1]


Lutetia Parisiorum (Paris) was a typical northern Gallic civitas-capital, with a population of about 7,500. It succeeded a Celtic oppidum located on the Ile de la Cité—an easily defended site which controlled an important route across the River Seine. However continuity of settlement was only assured when the Romans built a road which crossed the river at the same point. The main part of the Romano-Gallic city lay on the left bank. Its layout reflects the Gauls’ ready acceptance of Greco-Roman ideas of urbanisation. There was regular street planning, and lavish provision of public buildings for administration, entertainment and relaxation. To be noted are the central forum complex—which included an open area with surrounding portico, a great hall and temple—and the bath buildings. The city was unwalled, a tribute to secure conditions during the Principate. In true Roman fashion its cemeteries were placed beyond its sacred boundary. The later Roman and medieval cities retreated again to the island in the Seine.

[1] The meaning of name came from Latin: "Midwater-dwelling".

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