Roman Pyramid of Vienne - History and Facts | History Hit

Roman Pyramid of Vienne

Vienne, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

The Roman Pyramid of Vienne is a monument which would once have formed the centrepiece of Vienne’s Roman Circus.

Peta Stamper

12 Apr 2021

About Roman Pyramid of Vienne

The Roman Pyramid of Vienne (La Pyramide de Vienne) is a monument which would once have formed the centrepiece of the French city of Vienne’s Roman Circus.

While described as a pyramid, this is instead more of a triumphal monument made up of an arched base topped with a square-based pyramid tower. Modelled after the one the monuments found at Rome’s Circus Maximus, La Pyramide de Vienne dates back to the 2nd century AD.

Roman Pyramid of Vienne history

Originally an Iron Age settlement inhabited by the Gallic tribe of Allobroges, Vienne became a Roman colony around 47 BC under the expansion led by Julius Caesar. The Allobrodges managed to expel the Romans, the exiles from the conflict founding the colony of Lugdunum (now Lyon).

Known as Vienna by the Romans, during the early Empire the colony regained its former privileges. In 260, Postumus was proclaimed emperor of a short-lived Gallo-Roman empire in the city. However, Vienne later became the provincial capital of the Diocesis Viennensis when the empire embraced Christianity.

In 1967, archaeologists started to dig and discovered an entire Roman city. The remains included defensive ramparts and a theatre, as well as aqueducts and Roman roads. The city’s most important remaining Roman monuments included an early temple of Augustus and Livia which was later converted into a church.

The second significant monument was the Roman Pyramid, resting on a portico of 4 arches. The pyramid would have been part of the Roman circus, a large open-aired venue for public events around 460 metres long.

Roman Pyramid of Vienne today

Today, the Roman Pyramid of Vienne stands proud among modern housing, still occupying a central place along the Roman roads. You can walk through the portico imagining the momentary glory felt by ancient competitors in public games.

Legend dating to the 13th century has it that the pyramid was either the tomb of the exiled Herod Archelaus or of Pontius Pilate, but that is likely the result of earlier mystery around Roman monuments. The nearby Gallo-Romeo Musuem is just a short panoramic walk along the river and certainly worth visiting to gain a fuller understanding of Vienne’s Roman past.

Getting to Roman Pyramid of Vienne

The pyramid is a 10 minute walk from Vienne’s train station. If using public transport, the nearest bus stop is Guétal on bus lines 2 and 3, a 2 minute walk from the pyramid. There is public parking nearby on Rue Emile Romanet.

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