The Via Domitia is an iconic landmark, established after the conquest of southern Gaul by the Roman authority, It is considered the strategic, political and commercial focus of the province. It runs for almost 250 kilometers from the Rhône (Beaucaire) to the Pyrenees (Les Cluses, Col du Perthus, Col de Panissars). Belonging to the category of Viae Publicae, it is maintained at the expense of the empire and bears the name of its builder, Cneus Domitius Ahenobarbus, first consul to settle in the provincial capital of Narbonne.
Construction began in around 118 BC and the building work was carried out under the supervision of the central government, passed on in the province by the governor. The route crosses the towns involved in the application for "Grand Site de France". It was developped there, in the Béziers - Narbonne section, it is a straight route for almost 9 kilometres, after the bend around the Ponserme viaduct inCapestang lake.
The site, opened by Fonteius in the 69st century BC, is known from Cicero's text. Indeed, several Gallic peoples accuse Fonteius of abuse of power and Cicero delivers a speech, a real plea, in XNUMX BC, to defend the accused man:
" What is this accusation which crosses the Alps more easily than the few steps of the Treasury, which puts more zeal in defending the finances of the Rutènes ( people of Celtic Gaul in the south of the Massif Central)than those of the Roman people, who more willingly use unknown witnesses than those who are known to all, foreigners rather than natives, who think it better to convict with the passionate hatred of barbarians than by the written evidence of local men? "
Cicero even insists when speaking about the behavior of the Gallic peoples on the forum: "See them (...) dispersing, joyful and arrogant, with threats coming from their mouths, throughout the forum, seeking to frighten us with the awful sounds of their barbaric language. "
This was one of the speeches where Cicero gives a very negative image of the "barbarian" Gauls, using a pejorative Greek term which he applies to the accusers of Fonteius.
The Via Domitia was dotted with cylindrical or rectangular-shaped milestones. This regular signposting, inaugurated by Cneus Domitius Ahenobarbus, counted the distance from Narbonne. The markers carried, in addition to the indication of distance, the name and the titles of the emperors who intervened on the way, since Augustus, thus exalting their person and their actions to ensure their popularity. On this route, three miles were returned, close to their initial position; at the pass Malpas mountain pass, at the square in front of Colombiers town hall and on the shores of Bernat lake. The distance between the milestones is approximately 1250 metres, a little less than a Roman mile which is 1480 meters.
The Via Domitia is the oldest and one of the best preserved Roman roads in Gaul. It is part of a huge road network of over 100 km built by the Romans. It was initially a military route to Spain (already a Roman province since 000 BC), a vital route for this first colony founded outside of Italy, then it quickly became a great communication route for information and trade .