The Antiquity rooms begin by presenting the town, its architecture and decoration, showing the noticeable effects of Romanisation in an Aquitaine that became Roman from 56 B.C. Evidence of this new territorial administration is provided locally by a marble alter officially dedicating the town of the Bituriges Vivisques, the first known tribe of the ancient town of Bordeaux, Burdigala. A marble statue of the emperor Claudius is displayed, and nearby a monumental inscription tells us that under his reign the town's water supply was put in place through the patronage of a certain Caius Julius Secundus. Burdigala was perhaps the regional capital after Saintes and Poitiers and the town was adorned with exceptionally rich, often ostentatious ornamental decoration, which we can see in the famous temple of the Piliers de Tutelle, known from engravings and monumental architectural fragments, or the vast mosaic from a house in the town centre.
The second room presents communication routes and trade, demonstrating the wealth of a town located at a crossroads of maritime, river and land-based corridors that led the population to engage in trade from a very early date. The steles (grave stones) of strangers or artisans, the thousands of coins discovered in the Garonne, the abundant tableware and the tools and objects of daily life all attest to the attractiveness of the town, which had become the focal point for exchanges distributing the goods from the town's hinterland to the rest of the empire.
The following spaces present the romanised Gallic divinities, with statues of Jupiter-Taranis and Jupiter-Cernunos, and those of the classical Roman pantheon such as the great statue of Jupiter discovered in a sanctuary at Mézin (Lot-et-Garonne). This statue was a century earlier than a classical Greek bronze of Hercules (2nd century A.D.), discovered at Bordeaux in 1832 and of truly exceptional quality.
The most recent archaeological excavations have uncovered one of the largest known Gallic mithraea (a temple dedicated to the mystery cult of the god Mithra), from which remarkable statues are presented.
Some of the many steles extracted from the base of the Roman rampart during its demolition are displayed in the space on funerary rituals. They were extracted from the necropolises located outside the town, including that of the "Terre-Nègre", which was extended far to the north-west.
In the 3rd century A.D., Diocletian's reforms redistributed Aquitainian territory, attaching the people north of the Garonne to Aquitania Secunda and those located between the Garonne and Pyrenees to Novempopulania, and the culture in the area changed.
In the last space, objects bearing Christian symbols are presented, together with a very large mosaic indicating the plan of a round basilica evoking the paleochristian period. The Merovingian period is illustrated by products demonstrating Visigoth influence in metalworking (belt buckle plates) and by sculptures from the "Ecole d’Aquitaine" (sarcophagi and capitals in Pyrenean marble).
Room of Antiquity. Photo city hall of Bordeaux