France // The Rhône valley //

St-Romain-en-Gal: Musée Gallo-Romain

Across the Rhône from Vienne, several hectares of Roman ruins constitute the site of St-Romain-en-Gal, also the name of the modern town surrounding it. Before exploring the excavations, you enter the vast glass and steel building holding the Musée Gallo-Romain, which is dominated by some superb mosaics, though those on display are just a fraction of the 250 or so that were discovered along the river bank; the most outstanding example is the olive green coloured Punishment of Lycurgus, which is placed in a separate room on the upper floor.

The site itself – discovered as recently as 1968 – attests to a significant community dating from the first century BC to the third AD, and comprises domestic houses, a craftsmen’s district including the significant remains of a fulling mill, a commercial area with market halls and warehouses, and, most impressive of all, the wrestlers’ baths, complete with marble toilets displaying some remarkable frescoes.