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Marseille History, France

Marseille has quite a few accomplishments to be proud of. Not only is it the third largest and populous city in France, but it is also the oldest, and on top of that it is also the largest port at the Mediterranean Sea. Despite being surrounded by a score of well-known tourist attractions such as Cannes or Montpellier, Marseille still manages to gather a sizeable visitor crowd of its own. Marseille has a rich and almost adventurous history, and many of its most prized treasures are relics of the past. As opposed to the low-tempo atmosphere of other Mediterranean cities, Marseille has a grittier, rawer feel, like a pice ripped out of France’s eventful history. This Marseille History Guide will reveal you more about the past of this exciting city.

Marseille History - Foundation and Middle Ages

Marseille was established around 600 BC as a Greek colony. The Phocean colonists founded a trading port under the name of Massalia, and the town was an important link o the Greek Empire with more remote parts of the continent. Massilia, as the Romans called it, remained independent until the reign of Julius Caesar, when it joined the losing side of the civil war and was brought under Roman control in 49 BC. Under Roman rule, the city flourished. Christianity was purportedly brought to Marseille by Mary Magdalen and her brother Lazarus in first century AD, thus making Marseille into a diocese. After the fall of the Empire, Marseille was ransacked by migrant tribes, and eventually came under the rule of Charlemagne. The port continued to grow and develop, and during the Middle Ages until it was hit by the Black Death in 1348. The plague killed off most of the population, but Marseille managed to recover. At the end of the 15th century, Marseille was officially integrated into France. In the early years of the 16th century, King Francis I visited Marseille and built the Chateau d’If of Monte Cristo fame.

Marseille History - Modern Times and Present

In the 18th century, another outbreak of plague terrorized Marseille, killing more than 100.000 inhabitants. Marseille actively supported the French Revolution and sent about 500 soldiers to contribute to the efforts of the revolutionaries. The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, is the song sung by the soldiers of Marseille on their way to Paris. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution transformed Marseille into a manufacturing city, although much of people’s income came from trade. During World War II, Marseille was bombed both by the Germans and the Allied Army, destroying many historical monuments. The city was almost completely rebuilt by 1950. Despite some economic and social problems, today Marseille is one of the liveliest and most picturesque cities in southern France.

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Marseille City Ratings

  • Rating68%
    City Rank238
  • History & Culture: rated for 90%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 80%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 70%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 70%
  • Food: rated for 70%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 60%
  • Shopping: not rated
  • Public Transportation: rated for 50%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 60%
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