Archaeologists conducting an extensive survey in the historic city of Nimes in southern France have unearthed two opulent and expansive Roman domus townhouses. These upper-class, multipurpose townhouses were apparently the family dwellings and official headquarters of prominent Roman citizens, who lived in Nimes in the first or second century AD.
Digging in anticipation of an upcoming construction project that threatens the integrity of a known underground depository of Roman artifacts, archaeologists associated with France’s National Research Institute of Preventive Archaeology (INRAP) were delighted to discover these long-buried residences, which were found in Nime’s center, just 100 meters from the celebrated Maison Carrée.
The Luxurious Townhouses Of The Nime’s Roman EliteThese two Roman townhouses proved to be larger and more labyrinthine that expected, based on the findings of preliminary excavations. This, along with their central location, suggests they were occupied by prominent personages who held prestigious positions in the local business or political communities.
Nimes was an especially important city since it had been handpicked to be the regional capital by the Roman Emperor Augustus during his visit to the city in approximately 16 BC. Consequently, those who were responsible for protecting and promoting Roman interests in the city were in a highly privileged position, socially and financially, and would have been expected to live accordingly.
One domus was particularly well preserved, and provides an excellent example of high-style Roman living as it was practiced by elites during the Roman imperial age.
Inside this combination residence/place of business/house of worship, the archaeologists discovered a reception room for visitors that had maintained most of its structural integrity, which is something rarely found during this type of excavation.
The reception room featured geometrically-decorated and intricately-designed floors. Black tiles laid in honeycombed shapes covered some sections of the concrete, while the center of the room was occupied by an interlocking set of marble squares arranged according to the principles of an art technique known as opus sectile, creating a colorful mosaic of three- and four-sided shapes. It was determined that this section of the floor featured marble samples imported from different provinces in the Roman Empire, showing that its patron had spared no expense when building this luxurious structure.
Throughout this room, the archaeologists found piles of crumbing painted plaster pieces, which at one time had been attached to the domus walls. These red-and-black plaster fragments also featured regular geometric designs, of the type favored by Roman elites in the first century AD.
Other impressive features discovered in this building included an underfloor hot-water heating system, and a courtyard that contained a basin coated with shiny white marble.