Paris Down The Rue St Martin

Looking down on Paris from the sky or, more conveniently, upon its plan spread out on the table, you will see a long thin line which stretches from the most north-eastern point of the city limits to the point where it crosses the Seine, to keep straight on to the Cité Universitaire and on to the southwest.

This line is that of the oldest commercial highway in Europe!

It was over this road that the Phenicians, coming from Cornwall, England, with tin, hundreds of years before Caesar, arrived at the little settlement in the Seine, where, no doubt, they enjoyed its security, before going on to the Mediterranean, a sea they knew well and by which they would reach Phenicia with their merchandise, worth its weight in gold.

To me this is one of the most marvelous facts: that that old road which was trod by ancient importers of Phenicia, should still be here for us to walk its full length! Names were given to its different parts a thousand years after the days of the Phenicians, and the name of St Martin be-longs to this upper part; across the Seine its continuation, the rue St Jacques, was paved first by the Romans. Some of the paving which succeeded it in the 12th century is to be seen in the garden of the Cluny Museum.

The very form the walls of Paris took shows where that old route had had its urban influence. The circle of the wall of 1841 might have been nearly perfect had it not taken account of the fact that along this road was an agglomeration of houses which must be brought in to the city. And if you look at the successive walls of Paris on the diagram, you will see that this highway was much more the axis of Paris than the Seine itself.