Near the springs of the river Marne, in Balesmes-sur-Marne (Haute-Marne), here’s the cave of Sabinus: it’s 20 metres deep, 30 long, 1,30 high. But who was Sabinus? What about he and his wife Eponine from Langres, who hid here for 9 years, in 70 BC?
Julius Sabinus was a Lingon chief. Lingon? What’s this? An old Gallic people living near Andematunum, the current city of Langres. Langres was allied with Ceasar since his arrival in Gaul, and at that time, it was a big Gallo-Roman city, very prosperous.
In 78 BC, when emperor Nero died, Sabinus tried at all cost to take power and to found his own Gallic empire: the imperium Galliarum. Whoa, this name really got something!
Sabinus was in complete rebellion against the Roman power and with his army, he invaded the land of the Séquanes, another Gallic people allied with the Romans. Sabinus suffered a big bitter defeat. After the collapse of the Lingon people, the emperor took off their Roman citizenship and asked the life of 70000 warriors: it was the end!
There was trouble ahead for Sabinus: he had to run away. For that, he played dead, burnt his own house and took shelter in the cave with his wife Eponine. Out of the question to arouse suspicion: during the day, she mourned for her husband and at night, she met him in the cave. This little game lasted 9 years. In the meantime, they had 2 kids.
But Romans finally discovered them… and brought them to emperor Vespasian. Eponine asked for her husband’s pardon: mercy!! said she. Mercy? No way! Vespasian didn’t care: Sabinus will be execute.
So, Eponine said to the emperor: ″I spent the most happiest days in the cave with Sabinus than you on your throne by daylight.″ She didn’t want to live if her Julius died, so she asked to be executed to… Eponine became after that the real symbol of courage and fidelity
So, Sabinus and his cave: legend? Real story? We know that the couple really hide themselves in the area, but in this cave, well, we don't know.
In 1860, an archaeologist found here Roman coins with Nero’s portrait. And details showing that wooden houses were built around the cave, houses which were burnt! They also found amphora and potteries from the Gallo-Roman era but also pearls. Oh, a woman lived here, so!
Not to mention that the Latin historian Dion Cassius wrote about the cave where Sabinus lived: he said it was a grave, a ″sepulchre″: and actually, they excavated Gallic graves in one of the two rooms, under Gallo-Roman pieces!