Des Origines to the Moyen Age (My English Translation):

In Part I of Une Vie de Cité Paris , Poète gives the history of Paris, Lutecia, in what was originally called Gaul.  He uses images and illustrations of the new city built by the Romans thirty years before the birth of Christ.  (The following is a summation of Part I from my translation and includes my notes from Sorbonne lectures on the history of Paris.):

Paris was born at the crossing of four great natural roads on the island île de la Cité, and the river Seine. Originally established in 37BC by Tibère César Auguste for the god Jupiter, the Gallo-Romains recreated their home here and called this new land Lutetia. The remains of this civilization can still be found in the crypte archeologique notre dame paris under the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Arenes de Lutece and the Musée du Cluny roman baths. The area around the Pantheon and Sorbonne, down rue Soufflot, was a Roman marketplace. Le Théâtre de Roman is at the place of the lycée Saint-Louis on rue Racine.

Arènes de Lutèce, 1st century AD
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L’Arenes de Lutece, 1848
Arènes de Lutèce, modern day


The Gallo-Roman civilization was developed on the hill of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève (modern day Pantheon) and extended all the way down the modern rue Saint-Jacques to the Port Royal. This area was thoroughly Romanized with a population of approximately 8000.  As most of Lutetia was marshy riverbanks, the Romans built their theater, forum, and baths at the top of the hill.  In recent years, almost a century after the publishing of this book, ancient paved Roman roads have been discovered near the Pantheon along with artifacts and engravings from this time period in the 3rd century and are exhibited in the Musée du Cluny.  Included in these artifacts are engravings of fishermen rendering their daily nourishment from the Seine river. Poète copies the images from Lutecia à Cenabum to illustrate Lutetia in images (12-23).  Image (16) illustrates a map by Peutinger showing the aqueduct d’Arcueil built by the Romans to obtain potable water.

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Thermal baths of Cluny, 17th century
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Musee du Cluny thermal bath,    modern day

In addition, an important discovery from this 20th century excavation produced the evidence of Christianisme coming from Lyon to Paris (22,23). There, sépultures chrétiennes les plus anciennes dating from the 3rd century show the legend of Saint-Denis-de-la-Chartre (250 AD) who brought Christianity to Paris. St. Denis became the city’s first bishop but unfortunately was decapitated on the hill of Mons Mercurius, modern day Montmartre, during a barbarian attack. There is a mural in the Pantheon of the martyrdom of St. Denis in which he picked up his decapitated head and continued to preach the word of God for 6 miles to the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève.  After this attack, a wall and fortress was built (modern day Louvre Museum) around the Ile de la Cité, and the city was renamed Paris. The ground floor of the Louvre has a newly excavated portion of this fortress and wall to be viewed.

In the 5th century, Paris was captured by the Franks and then in the 9th century by the Vikings.  Paris began to flourish in the 11th century, known as the Moyen Age (Middle Ages), growing to a population of 200,000 and becoming the largest city in Europe.  My subsequent post will cover this prosperous time in Paris history.

Further Reading:

 Marcel Poète. (1925) Une Vie de Cité : Paris de sa Naissance a Nos Jours,
      Album. Edited by Auguste Picard.

Copyright 2017 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (