Aix-en-provence History, France
The city of Aix-en-Provence, France sits near what used to be the crossroads of two major European trade routes. The area had been settled by Celtic Gauls and Ligurians. Their capital village, Entremont, was slightly north of today’s town site when the area was captured and destroyed by Roman armies in 122 B.C. The Romans founded a new town there, Aquae Sextiae Salluviorum, because of the plentiful hot and cold springs that acted as natural spas. Besides this indulgence, the town’s location provided an easy route to both Italy and Spain. These factors helped the town to grow and prosper into a Roman provincial capital with amphitheaters, villas, and strong fortifications.
Because of the city’s importance, it was an obvious target to invaders and it experienced them in succession beginning in 474 A.D. The Germanic barbarians were the first and were followed by the Ostrogoths, the Zisigoths, the Franks, the Lombards, and then the Saxons, followed by the Saracens. These invasions took place over the course of almost 500 years and dealt a devastating blow to the city.
Ever since the Franks had taken the city in 536 A.D., it had been under the rule of the Kingdom of Burgundy. This changed after 972 A.D. when Guillaume II, the Count of Provence, and his armies held back the Saracen invaders. The citizens of Provence moved their loyalties to the count’s descendants and slowly freed themselves from Burgundy, who by that time had aligned with the Holy Roman Empire. This allowed Aix-en-Provence to experience a long-overdue rebirth and to blossom culturally for over 500 years during the reign of such dynastic counts as the Angevine kings, Louis I d’Anjou, Louis II, and finally, “Good King” Rene. By the end of the reign of the last king of Provence, Aix-en-Provence had become an enticement for scholars and artists who visited the court from all over Europe.
The end of sovereign Provence came when Charles III bequeathed the country to the king of France, Louis XI, in 1481. At this time, the French governor Palamede, settled in Aix-en-Provence and the city became the capital of the region. Despite several wars between France and the Holy Roman Empire for control of Provence, the city continued to prosper through the mid-1700’s. During this time, there were many beautiful homes, fountains, and other monuments built in the town.
The beautifying and development of the city came to an abrupt halt in 1789 with the introduction of the French Revolution. During this time-period, the capital of the region was moved to Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence lost much of the esteem given to it by France. The beauty of the city did not die, however, and awoke again several years after the Revolution ended. The city did not heed the Industrial Revolution either; and during that time Aix-en-Provence saw the creation of more beautiful buildings and the opening of several universities instead of developing industries and factories. Despite the urbanization, which took place in the 1900’s, Aix-en-Provence’s many artistic and architectural treasures have survived; and the city’s Festival d’Art Lyrique, which began in 1948, is another demonstration of the city’s loyalties to its artistic roots.
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