In ancient times, Metz, then known as Divodurum (meaning Holy Village or Holy Fortress in Latin), was the capital of the Celtic Mediomatrici, and the name of this tribe, abbreviated latter to Mettis, formed the origin of the present name. At the beginning of the Christian Era, the site was already occupied by the Romans. Metz became one of the principal towns of Gallia, more populous than Lutetia (ancestor of present-day Paris), rich thanks to its wine exports and having one of the largest amphitheaters of the country. An aqueduct of and 118 arches, extending from Gorze to Metz, was constructed in the 2nd century AD to supply the city with water, serving notably for public bathing. As a well-fortified town at the junction of several military roads, it soon grew to great importance. One of the last Roman strongholds to surrender to the Germanic tribes, it was captured by the Huns of Attila in 451, who left standing only a solitary chapel and finally passed, about the end of the fifth century, into the hands of the Franks.
Though the first Christian churches were to be found outside the city, the existence in the fifth century of the oratory of Saint Stephen within the city walls has been fully proved. In the beginning of the seventh century the oldest monastic establishments were those of Saint Glossinde and Saint Peter. Since King Sigibert I, Metz frequently was the residence of the Merovingian kings of Austrasia and especially the reign of Queen Brunhilda reflected great splendor on the town. The town preserved the good-will of the rulers, when the Carolingians acceded to the Frankish throne, as it had long been a base of their family and one of their primal ancestors, Saint Arnuff, as well as his son Chlodulf, had been bishops of Metz. Emperor Charlemagne considered making Metz his chief residence before he finally decided in favor of Aachen.
There is evidence that the earliest western musical notation, in the form of neumes in camp aperto (without staff-lines), was created at Metz around 800, as a result of Charlemagne's desire for Frankish church musicians to retain the performance nuances used by the Roman singers. In the basilica, Louis the Pious, King of the Franks, and his half-brother the Bishop Drogo were buried, and King Charles the Bald was crowned there.