Nimes, Or Nismes (anc. Nemausus), a city of France, in Languedoc, capital of the department of Gard, 27 m. N. E. of Montpellier and 62 m. N. W. of Marseilles; pop. in 1872, 63,-394. The city proper is small and irregularly laid out, with narrow streets and ill-built houses; but its three suburbs, one of which, called the Cours Neuf, is larger than the city itself, present a finer aspect, having wide, straight avenues, fine public walks, and handsome buildings. No other town in France can compare with Nimes for its ancient Roman edifices. The maison carree, so called from its rectangular form, is a beautiful Corinthian temple nearly in the centre of the city. It suffered greatly during the middle ages, but since 1789 has been restored. In 1823 it was converted into a museum of paintings and antiquities, called the musée Marie Therese. The amphitheatre, or les arénes, is one of the most perfect structures of its kind extant. It has from 32 to 35 ranges of seats, and was capable of accommodating from 17,000 to 23,000 spectators. It was used as a fortress by the Visigoths and the Saracens, when attacked by the Franks; during the following centuries it was also occupied as a stronghold.
About 2,000 persons had established their abode within this building, when in 1809 it was cleared by order of the prefect; and in 1858 its restoration was begun. The tour magne (turris magna) is the remnant of a tower which flanked the ancient walls. The boulevards now occupy the site of the ramparts, but portions of them are still extant in the porte d'Aiiguste and porte de France, two Roman gates, the former of which is ornamented with sculptures. To these monuments must be added a ruined nymplimim, a fane dedicated to the nymphs, which communicated with a neighboring bath for women, the remains of which have been taken for those of a temple of Diana. The magnificent aqueduct, known as the pont du Gard, is in the vicinity of Nimes. (See Aqueduct, vol. i., p. 613.) Among the edifices of a later period are the cathedral, begun in the 11th century, but constructed chiefly in the 16th and 17th, occupying the site of a temple of Apollo; the church of St. Paul; the palace of justice; the general hospital; the Hôtel-Dieu, rebuilt in 1830; the public library; the central house of detention, which is the citadel built by Vauban over the remains of the old Fort Rohan erected in 1629 by the Huguenots; and the fine monumental fountain by Pradier, erected in 1851, on the esplanade.
In the public garden is still to be seen the fountain that furnished the Roman baths with water. Nimes is the seat of a bishop, and has a high court, tribunals of primary jurisdiction and commerce, a departmental academy, several learned institutions, a lyceum or college, a normal school, a theological seminary, schools of drawing, chemistry and physics, geometry and mechanics as applied to the arts, a society of medicine, a public library of 50,000 volumes, and a cabinet of natural history. Nîmes employs 10,000 operatives in different departments of industry; and its trade in wine and spirits amounts to $1,400,000 a year, and in other articles to more than $3,000,000. It is the great southern mart for raw and manufactured silk. A conseil deprud'hommes and a chamber of commerce watch over the interests of workmen and manufacturers. - Nimes was occupied by the Romans in 121 B. C. It was already one of the most important cities of Gaul and the capital of the Volcae Arecomici. Augustus, Tiberius, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, and Diocletian contributed to its embellishment.
But, pillaged by the Vandals, occupied by the Visigoths from 465 to 507, and then by the Franks, taken by the Saracens, from whom it was wrested by Charles Martel in 737, visited by the Norman pirates, ill treated by its feudal lords, it dwindled away, until in the 14th century its population scarcely amounted to 400. Francis I. assisted in its restoration. Most of its new inhabitants being Huguenots, it suffered during the religious wars, and was severely treated by Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. It was also involved in bloody conflicts in 1791 and 1815.
Maison Carrée, Nimes.
The Amphitheatre of Nimes.