On a beautiful summer day, I felt like a walk. A Roman walk to be precise. At the archaeological site of Ambrussum you can do just that. And it’s free! This Roman settlement is one of the historical sites you can visit along the Via Domitia, the Roman road that connected Rome with Cadiz in Spain. Visiting the exceptional collection of over 2,000 years old ruins, I felt like I was diving back in history.
Around 3 to 4 centuries B.C., Ambrussum was a Gallic settlement including an oppidum and ramparts. A “relais routier”, or staging post, was then constructed around 30 B.C. when the Romans conquered Gaul. These staging posts were built on Roman roads every 10 to 15 kilometres. Travellers could rest there while using facilities like hotels, inns, thermal baths and even a forge for any necessary repairs. At the visitor centre, I had a look at the small, informative museum. Keep in mind that you’re in France, so the visitor centre and museum close at lunchtime.
Le Pont Ambroix
With the map I got from the visitor centre, I followed the 2,3 kilometres marked trail. Along the path, I found informational signs (both in French and English), which brought the site to life. When I reached the single remaining arch of the Ambroix bridge, I decided to have my picnic in this serene spot. Le Pont Ambroix used to be an impressive construction which led the Via Domitia over the Vidourle River. It’s hard to imagine, but this bridge used to have at least nine arches over 150 metres.
From the Ambroix bridge, people could either choose to continue along the Via Domitia or to follow the paved way to the oppidum. However, this cobbled road (right on the picture below) is often confused with the Via Domitia (left on the picture below). While the Via Domitia hasn’t quite stood the test of time, the paved way still shows the deep wheel ruts of ancient carriages.
Continuing my way to the top of “la colline Devès”, I enjoyed the view of Lunel on one side and the Pic Saint-Loup on the other. Meanwhile, I was treated to a concert of ‘cigales’ hidden in the garrigue scrubland. The ramparts on top of the hill are the oldest visible remains of Ambrussum and date back to the Gallic period.
Even today, archaeological excavations are being done, and new ruins have been found. In fact, 95 % of the site still hasn’t been researched. There’s a lot of work left to do! All of these new finds help to better understand the evolution of Ambrussum and its role throughout history. As the organisation of Ambrussum likes to involve visitors, they organise guided tours, Roman battles, plays, food tastings and more on offer for tourists.