Summary

From: A handbook for travellers in France

Vienne, a town of 19,052 Inhab., stretches its buildings along the l. bank of the Rhóne, faced by a tolerably handsome quay, at the foot of precipitous hills, and runs up a small valley between 2 heights: the one, Mont Salomon, crowned by a ruined castle of the middle ages; the other, Mont Pipet, originally a fortified camp of the Romans.

The Castle of Salomon passes with the common people for the prison of Pilate, who was banished to Vienne in Gaul, according to Eusebius and others, after his return from Judaea to Rome.

From the valley behind Vienne, the Gère issues out into the Rhone, turning in its passage many mill-wheels, and giving activity to manufactures of coarse cloth, pasteboard, iron-forges, &c.

“Vienna vulgo Vienne” by Braun & Hogenberg, 1598. Source:Sanderus maps. Used with permission.

Vienne is one of the most ancient towns in France, having been already a flourishing place before Lyons is known to have existed. It is mentioned by Cajsar, by Ausonius, in the line,

“Accolit Alpinis opulenta Vienna calonis”

and by Martial, who calls it

“opulenta Vienna,”

and it is natural to expect to find some remains of its Roman possessors. Besides numerous water-conduits and substructions of masonry, the chief Roman building is a Temple, supposed to have been dedicated to Augustus, in form somewhat like the Maison Carrée at Nismes, but much injured during the middle ages by having the interstices of its columns built up with masonry, and the columns themselves rasped to bring them to a level with the walls, in order to convert it into a church. It is now a mttseum, and contains a number of sculptured and architectural fragments found in and about the town, a very rich frieze, inscriptions, terra-cottas, capitals of columns, &c. A Greyhound in marble, two Boys quarrelling about a Bird (a common subject of antique sculpture), and 2 bronze Dolphins found in the Rhone, are worth notice.

Behind the Place du Pilori is a lofty double arch and vault, with pillars inside, called Arche de Triomphe, but in reality part of the portico of the ancient Forum. It now leads to the modern theatre.

On the slopes of Mont Pipet the remains of the seats of a Roman theatre may, it is said, be traced among the vineyards, but they are very inconsiderable. Lastly, outside the town, below it, is the Roman obelisk, or Aiguille, described [as]….  Immediately below Vienne, in the midst of a field, on the rt. of the road to Avignon, stands a Roman obelisk, called L”Aiguille, 76 ft. high, including its square base, pierced by a double arch, and supported at the angles by pillars of clumsy proportions. The whole is of excellent masonry, the stones being fastened together, not by mortar, but by iron clamps. Its destination is unknown, and it bears no trace of an inscription, but was probably a sepulchral monument.

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