Lyon, a Roman City
Indeed, Lyon was at one time
the second largest city (after Rome)
in the Empire

Pre-Roman Background

The Rhône River has remained a premier center for trade and agriculture for thousands of years. The river flows south from Lac Léman at Geneva, Switzerland through a region once occupied by the Keltoi, the name given to people in southern France with whom the ancient Greeks traded, in particular by the writer Herodotus. The earliest archæological evidence places Celtic tribes in France and western Germany in the late Bronze Age, around 1200 BC. In the early Iron Age, they are associated with the Hallstatt culture (8th century to 6th century BC), named for an archæological lake site (village) in Austria, where salt was mined. In the 5th century BC (late Iron Age) the La Tène culture, characterized by finely crafted jewelry, weapons, and pottery, spread from eastern Gaul (the English word for the Latin name Gallia) throughout the rest of the Celtic world. Between the 5th and 1st centuries BC, this influence extended from Hispania to the shores of the Black Sea.

The Gaulois subjugated northern Italy, for a time occupied Rome, and seized land even as distant as Turkey (Galatia or Gallogræcia). The Gaulois included Celtic tribes like the Helvetii, the Sequani, and the Aedui, along the Rhône and Saône rivers; the Arverni among the mountains (Cévennes) to the west of the Rhône; and, the Allobroges along the Isère River.

Rome Arrives

October 2, 52BC: Alésia is an ancient town (Alesiam) thought to be situated on Mont Auxois, above the present-day village of Alise-Sainte-Reine in the département of Côte d'Or, France (up-river from Paris). The place remains famous as the site of the siege of Alésia by Julius Cæsar from August into October 52 BC, which became a decisive victory against Gaul when Vercingétorix tried to lift the siege and failed after several attempts. A final battle on October 2 led to a Gallic loss and Vercingétorix's eventual capture.

After two annual campaigns (beginning six years earlier), Cæsar had reached the Middle Meuse and the Atlantic Ocean, which could be said sufficient to declare that the mission had been accomplished. The Gauls, thereafter, regrouped. For the next three years (54-51), Cæsar fought two formidable insurgencies: headed by Ambiorix in Belgæ and Vercingétorix in the central region of Gaul. A summary of the campaigns. More Coins featuring Celts HERE. Cæsar has described the siege in his Commentaries on the War in Gaul (Commentarii de Bello Gallico), Book 7, chapters 63-90. An English translation can be found HERE.

Rhône et Saône

And so it was that Rome conquered all of Gallia. Munatius Plancus, under Julius Caesar established the colonial city of Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum or just Lugdunum (meaning raven or crow on a hill -- today's Fourvière), overlooking small existing Gaulois settlements: what is today Lyon, at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers. The vestiges of the original Roman city are still evident. The main street and two theatres have been excavated. A museum (Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine) sits between the site and the famous but modern Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. see generally

While the western Roman Empire flourished, the Gaulois enjoyed close relations with the Romans. Their fortunes, both in war and peace, became indivisible from those of Rome. Most ancient travelers to northern and western Europe first had to pass, by foot, by animal, or by boat, through Lugdunum. The Romans set up a stadium for the three principle Gauloise territories that met at Lugdunum. There too, was the famous alter seen on many coins minted at the city. The amphitheatre stands near the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône, where sixty Gallic tribes had erected the famous altar to Rome and Augustus. Sitting at the base of the Croix-Rousse district, it can also said to be the center from which Christianity was gradually propagated throughout Gaul The two granite columns of the alter (which I believe had been brought from Egypt) today form 4 piers inside a church in Lyon. More about Lyon is HERE

The Celtic language slipped into disuse as Roman influence grew over the next few centuries. Only a few hundred words survive of the Gaulois. A Romance version of Latin remained, best reflected in Provençal (as well as the Occitan or Langue d'oc tongue and dialects), spoken in the southern third of France, and used by about one-fourth of today's French population.

August 1, 10BC: On this day in Lugdunum Gaul, or as we know it today, Lyon, France, was born Claudius Cæsar Tiberius Drusus Nero Germanicus, the nephew of Tiberius and grandson of the wife of Augustus. He became emperor after Caligula. Julius Cæsar founded Roman Lugdunum, when he subdued the Gaulois, at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, overlooking a native celtic village. Modern Lyon encompasses these two towns and much more.
Saint Pothin (87-177) was (according to Eusibus of Cæseria) the first Bishop of Lyon and of Gaul under Roman rule, sent from the school of Saint Polycarpe of Smyrna. He, along with Saint Irénée (Irenæus), came to the Gauloise people and built the first cathedral structure in the oldest part of the city (at the base of the Roman Hill). St. Pothin is among the names mentioned from the Martyrs of Lyon and Vienne (feast Day June 2nd -- his death). L'amphithèâtre des trois Gaules restauré. Au fond, on distingue le poteau placé à l’époque moderne en évocation des martyrs -- Image HERE. Indeed, some raise the tantalizing question about Polycarpe: reliquiæ ejus Lugduni in crypta habentur ?

Le 19 février 197 -- Victoire de Septime Sévère à Lyon: une bataille met aux prises deux prétendants à l'empire de Rome. Elle s'achève par la victoire de Septime Sévère, le général de l'armée romaine du Danube, sur son rival, le gouverneur de Bretagne, Clodius Albinus. Le vainqueur pille et détruit Lyon avant d'imposer sa loi à Rome . . .

Next to Roman Era Graveyard Justus (Saint Just) was the third Bishop of Lyon (circa 375AD), but he died in Egypt. The citizens of Lyon retrieved the body and returned it to be encrypted with Saint Irénée (un mausolée de la grande nécropole), today within the archeological park at 11 Rue des Macchabées. The church of Saint Justus, just next door (pictured below on right), dates from the 16th and 17th centuries; however, there were at least three previous Christian structures on the site (the earliest dating from the 5th century).

Grenoble, tucked away among the mountains where the Drac and Isère rivers merge, has a somewhat similar beginning as Lyon, being first a tribal center called Cularo. Later it became a Roman city, eventually called Gratianopolis, Grenoble being a corruption of the Latin. At age 23 the Emperor Gratian (for whom the city was named) was murdered at Lyon by the mutinying commander of the Roman armies of Britain (August 25, 383), before the Emperor could reach the safety of the Alps. The Roman hold on Gaul slipped away. Lyon became independent.

This Modern City Pays Tribute to its Past from which it is Built

Saint Just Saint Pothin

The architectural remains upon which is built the flamboyant Gothic church of Saint Nizier are supposed to be those of the primitive cathedral in which Saints Pothin and Irenæus celebrated the Holy Rites. Some ancient structures also remain under and beside the current cathedral of Saint Jean, which dates from the early years of the twelfth century (À l’intérieur de la Cathédrale St Jean, située dans le Vieux-Lyon, se trouve une magnifique horloge astronomique). The church (above left), which is today named for the first bishop of Lyon, is a fairly modern one of neo-classical design.

Vieux or By the end of the fifth century Lyon had become the capital of the Kingdom of Burgundy, but after 534 it passed to those loyal to the kings of France. Ravaged by the Saracens in 725, the city was restored through the liberality of Charlemagne, who established a rich library in the monastery of Ile Barbe. From 879-1032 Lyon formed part of the Kingdom of Provence and afterwards of the second Kingdom of Burgundy. When in 1302 Rudolph III, the Sluggard, ceded his states to Conrad, the Salic Emperor of Germany, the portion of Lyon situated on the left bank of the Saône became, at least nominally, an imperial city. Finally, Archbishop Burchard, brother of Rudolph, claimed rights of sovereignty over Lyon as inherited from his mother, Mathilde of France; in this way the government of Lyon instead of being exercised by the distant emperor, became a matter of dispute between French counts who claimed it as an inheritance.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception was solemnized at Lyon about 1128, perhaps at the instance of St. Anselm of Canterbury, and St. Bernard wrote to the canons of Lyon to complain that they should have instituted a feast without consulting the pope. As soon as Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, had been proclaimed Blessed (1173), his cultus was instituted at Lyon. Lyon of the twelfth century thus has a renowned place in the history of Catholic liturgy and even of dogma; but, the twelfth century was also marked by the heresy of Peter Waldo and the Waldenses {the Poor Men of Lyon, a group organized by Waldo, a wealthy merchant of Lyon who were opposed by Jean de Bellème (1181-1193)}, as well as by important changes in the political situation. The French Crown annexed the independent trading city of Lyon in 1307, after being removed from Provence. By 1310 Lyon had lost its independent status. The Black Plague killed half of Lyon's population reducing it to 40,000 people (circa 1343).

Looking from the Hill East across the Saône Inspite of these setbacks, the first book published in the French language was printed in Lyon in 1473. The 16th century saw numerous famous French writers like physician and philosopher François Rabelais or poets Louise Labe and Ronsard publish their masterworks here. The economic prosperity and cultural flourish of the Renaissance then was endangered by the wars between Catholics and Protestants. From the 1560's on, massacres and acts of vengeance took place all over town. People were burnt and churches were destroyed, emptying the town of much of its population and merchants. Lyon, which once rivaled Paris with its own set of Hôtels Particulier, became France's second, clearly bourgeoise city. In the 17th and 18th centuries the city was thriving because of the silk trade and the garment industry. It also benefited from the favors of the French crown, notably under Louis XIV's reign. The city streets were redesigned and the city hall, the Hospital and other buildings renovated.

The French Revolution put an end to this quiet and prosperous period. In 1793, Lyon chose the Girondists' side against the "Convention" (the government that reigned from September 1792 to September 1795) and was considered too royalist. As a result, she had to endure a 2-month siege.

In contrast, the Industrial Revolution brought Lyon much more than the expansion of the garment industry. The chemical sector, tied to that industry (tanning and dye stuffs), saw strong development with the colorant products constituting a foundation for the success of the future giant of French chemistry: Rhône-Poulenc. The pharmaceutical sector was represented by Marcel Merieux. Besides Rhône-Poulenc and Merieux, one should not fail to mention Berliet, a key company in the French automotive industry. The exceptional banking institution, Le Credit Lyonnais, began in 1860 as an outgrowth of the prosperity in these sectors. At the end of the century, the brothers Lumière perfected the cinematographe, creating the modern movie industry. The economical growth of Lyon also sprang from the new railway links to the nearby industrial city Saint-Étienne, supposedly the first commercial rail line built in Europe.

Avec à l'ouest la colline de Fourvière et au nord le plateau de la Croix Rousse, il était naturel que Lyon intégrât très vite des funiculaires (que tout Lyonnais qui se respecte appelle ficelle) et des crémaillères dans son réseau de transport urbain naissant. D'ailleurs, les premières ficelles furent ouvertes avant que la première ligne de tramway ne le fût (3 juin 1862 contre 11 octobre 1880). Au total, le réseau connut 5 lignes. Trois sont aujourd'hui encore exploitées, deux en tant que telles, et une, après modification, intégrée au réseau de métro. Il est important de noter que nos ficelles sont bien des lignes de transports urbains à part entière, et non des lignes à vocation touristique.

The Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière is named after Lyon's patron Sainte. Built between 1872 and 1896, its unusual design draws from a variety of architectural influences. It features fine mosaics, superb stained glass, and a crypt of Saint Joseph. From atop the Fourvière hill, the basilica perches majestically over the city. It may be seen from many vantage points, including from the TGV line just as you cross over the impressive Saône River bridge north of the city.

Lyon's prominence culminated in it being chosen the site for the 1914 World Exposition (a reprise of the 1894 and other trade fairs). La Foire de Lyon has become a staple of the community, usually held for a few weeks in March. Stamps of Historic Lyon

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photo is near the middle of the page

During World War II, since it was located on the frontier between the occupied and free zone, Lyon played a significant role as the headquarters of the French Resistance, fighting against the Nazi regime and its collaborators, notably under the leadership of Jean Moulin, martyr for a Free France. It was bombed in May 1944, just before being freed (in September). After the war, as everywhere else in France, the population and the city grew again. During the Trente Glorieuses, communication and transportation infrastructure was built to give Lyon its European dimension: the Satolas airport, now-called Saint-Exupéry (1975), the metro (1978), the Fourvière Tunnel where the super-highway passes through Lyon and the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse (high-speed train)) linking Paris and Lyon in a then unheard of two-hour journey.

The remake of Old Lyon actually started in the early 1960s, when Culture Minister Andre Malraux classified Vieux Lyon, the largest homogeneous Renaissance ensemble in France, a historical monument. A popular Lyonnais saying goes: You've got to give time plenty of time. So who can be surprised if it has taken four decades to conjure back the splendor of yore? Many, many pictures of Lyon today:

The major TGV line ran first from to Lyon (Gare Perrache and Part Dieu) from Paris (Gare de Lyon). The latest Station on the line is Aéroport de Lyon, St-Exupéry. Bus Pictures are HERE.

immer im Bau

Some older transportation on the Ligne

Au cœur du vignoble beaujolais: Villefranche sur Saône is the capital of Beaujolias where in the middle of the 12th century the Lord of Beaujeu, Humbert III first made the wine. Indeed so wonderful is this year's vintage, that a new comet Holmes has arrived to mark the event {warning: satire}. History of this Ancient Practice

À Lyon, ville des trois fleuves (le Rhône, la Saône et le Beaujolais) où est née la tradition du Beaujolais nouveau, cela a commencé à 00h00 (midnight). Made from the Gamay grape, the French Beaujolais Nouveau is the most famous example of a "vin de primeur" – a wine that is made to consume just a few weeks after the grape harvest. Thus, the name "nouveau," means "new." Traditionally, the Beaujolais region celebrated this mid-November new-wine event to herald the end of the harvest, and it was not until after WWII that the wine was even available to those outside the Beaujolais region (la tradition du beaujolais nouveau remonte à datant du 13 novembre 1951). The Gamay grape produced in Beaujolais is actually a mutant of the more-familiar Pinot Noir, although these two grapes create very different styles of wine. But compare — Beaujolais Nouveau represents a celebration of the recent harvest, just as is Thanksgiving to some degree. And its light, grape sweetness can be balanced by (pairs well with) the varied flavors found at the Thanksgiving table. The price in France, typically less than 5 €uros or $7.00 at today's exchange rate for a regular bottle; but, you can get fancier and unfiltered versions that cost a little more. Vienne

The Roman Vienna lies just south of Lyon -- Saint-Étienne, Clermont-Ferrand et Valence -- Voiron -- Grenoble -- Romans-sur-Isère (Drôme département) -- Hautrive -- Chamonix, Annecy, Aix-les-Bains, Chambéry and Albertville

"For me 2009 is the vintage of the sun (vintage du soleil) - in fact, this is the best vintage of my lifetime," exults Georges Duboeuf, the so-called King of Beaujolais, whose multiple labels seem to dominate most wine shops' Beaujolais sections. "The [2009] Beaujolais Crus are opulent, exceptionally full-bodied and fabulous. This vintage will be talked about for years to come." W. J. Deutsch & Sons Ltd., distributes Duboeuf's wines in the U.S. and the firm says much the same thing. The firm Barton & Guestier, as well as, Louis Jadot are also famous negociants or producers of Beaujolais wine.

These are the Gamay (grape)-based wines of the Beaujolais appellation, which lies south of Burgundy near France's gastronomic capital, Lyon. The Beaujolais "Crus," you may recall, are the wines from 10 villages in the Beaujolais region whose vineyards are considered so superior that their labels may bear the village name rather than the more generic "Beaujolais." These crus occupy the northern half of the region, with generic Beaujolais in the south. The complete list of the crus, from south to north: Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly, Régnié, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent, Chénas, Juliénas and Saint-Amour. (; see also Atlanta Wine Examiner -- All the grapes in the Beaujolais region must be picked by hand ... Beaujolais Nouveau cannot be made from grapes grown in the 10 crus.

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