The origins of Lyon

What we principally know of the past of Lyon is Lugdunum, capital city of the three Gauls. However the site conceals much older remains. As early as the Stone Age, settlements are found on the Vaise plain. In the 2nd century before Christ the heights of Fourvière are populated by people organizing rites. At this time the name Lugdunum-Fortress of light or hill of the god Lug- appears in the ancient texts. There was nothing to suggest that this place, very little favourable to human settlement, was going to be a political, religious and economic capital city in the Roman Gaul a few centuries later.

The status of capital city will be  officialized in 43 before Christ by Lucius Minatius Plancus, former general of Julius Caesar who puts his soldiers at the confluence of the Saône and Rhône.

The peak of the Roman colony and the persecution of the first martyrs

In the middle of the 2nd century after Christ, Lugdunum is at its peak. The city has the authority  to issue the money like in Rome.  Its position is backed up by the construction of a federal sanctuary where the sixty tribes of the Roman Gaul must swear allegiance to Rome and the deified emperor every year.

Under the aegis of St Polycarpe from Smyrne, the first Christian community coming  from the East arrives in Lyon. Led by St Pothin, the first bishop of Lyon, this community increases and gains followers very quickly.

La persécution des premiers chrétiens

The Christians incur the Romans’hostility by refusing to swear allegiance to Rome and the Emperor, thus showing their belief in a unique God.

In 177 after Christ  48 of them will be arrrested, tortured and thrown to prison. Many of them, like  Saint Blandine, patron Saint of Lyon, will die as martyrs. The city, weakened by the victory of the emperor Septime Severe at the end of the 2nd century after Christ, will finally lose its status of capital city of the three Gauls in 297 after Christ. The city will be plundered and the Fourviere hill abandoned in favour of the Saone banks.


Great figures