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Au pays de la Reine Blanche

i5nntyNo historian doubts the Romans came to Rennes-les-Bains. Some say the written proof of this is found on a curious stone fragment from Rennes-les-Bains, which could just as well be an altar. It’s author is none other than Pompey Strabo “the cross-eyed!” He lived during the era of the ancient Roman civilization which began with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom. His best claim to fame is being the father of the more well known Pompey Magnus.

Pompey the cross-eyed is said to have traveled through Rennes-les-Bains en route to Spain. He was a well connected lad. His mother, Lucilia was a sister of satire poet Gaius Lucilius, himself a member of the Circle of Scipio. This group of philosophers, poets, and politicians were patronized by their namesake, Scipio Aemilianus, the famous Roman General. Lucilia herself was a great friend of Scipio.

Pompey’s  father was Sextus Pompeius, who gained a great reputation as a learned man. The senator Cicero, praised Sextus in his writings for his accurate knowledge of geometry, Stoicism and jurisprudence. Sextus was present with Pompey in his camp during the Social War.

Pompey’s sister Pompeia married Marcus Atius Balbus and their eventual descendants led in a direct line to the immortalised founder of the Roman Principate and first Roman emperor, the mighty Augustus. Augustus controlled the Roman Empire from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.

Such strong Roman links to the country of our Reine Blanche!

Should it then surprise us that a legend about treasure be implanted in such a nebulous context? After all, many traditions support this legend. One such is about the empty mines in the area, whispered to contain an immeasurable hoard within the dark bowels of it’s Earth. A more modern tradition is about those in the 17th century who were looking for the deposit. It could not have been the locals, too poor to carry out such a large scale operation. History herself  supplies us with the name of the person on whose behalf they searched . It was none other than Colbert, identified by Lamoignon de Basville, the famous Minister of Finances of France from 1665 to 1683 under the rule of King Louis XIV.

Legend might also make us inclined to lean towards the idea that the named person on the tombstone/altar as recorded by Pompey Strabo is buried in the necropolis of Rocko-Negre. Much mining has gone on there for years. If Pompey Strabo indeed was the tomb inscriptions’ author then who was the real occupant in the tomb?

Perhaps it is here that the mystery of the “pays de la Reine Blanche” lies?