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Toulon History, France

According to archaeologists, the area in which the city of Toulon, France resides has been inhabited since the Stone Age.  The known history of the area begins during the 7th century B.C. when Greek and Anatolian immigrants settled along the coast of what is now France in order to establish trade routes.                                            Around 300 years later, a group of ancient tribal peoples closely related to the Celts, known as Ligurians, also settled there.

After defeating the Ligurians, the Romans began to colonize the area.  One of these settlements, was Telo Martius.  The name of the settlement gradually evolved from Telo to Tholon to Tolon to Toulon.  The town became one of the Romans’ principal purple dye manufacturers.

Christianity reached Toulon during the 5th century A.D.  One of the most renowned men to hold the title of Bishop of Toulon was Saint Cyprian.

As the Roman Empire began to fall the area was invaded by barbarians and Toulon, which was now unprotected, became the target of many attacks by the Saracen Muslims and also by pirates.  In 1095, the Toulon Cathedral was built.  Almost 400 years later, the region in which Toulon resides was made into an official French province. 

Beginning in 1497, the residents of Toulon had to deal with several military issues.  One of the biggest events happened in 1524.  During this year, the Tour Royale, a fort which was built in order to protect the harbor, was completed.  Less than a year later, the fort’s commander sold it to an attacking Imperial army and the city was forced to surrender. 

Nineteen years later, the King of France, Francois I, invited an Ottoman fleet to Toulon with the hope that the Ottomans would defeat the Imperials for them.  Instead, the Ottoman sailors forced the residents of Toulon out and occupied the town for several months during the winter. 

The 18th century brought more hard times for the residents of Toulon.  In 1720, 13,000 people, which would have been half of the town’s population at that time, were killed by the Black Plague.  Later in the century, the French Revolution struck Toulon.  The majority of the town, who were Royalists, handed the town over to a British naval fleet.  However, a French force, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, expelled the British. 

After this point in history, residents in Toulon were able to experience some peace for a little over a century.  In 1820, the Venus de Milo landed in Toulon on its way to the Louvre museum.  A few decades later, the Toulon Opera House was opened. 

During World War II, Toulon experienced more unrest.  Since the southern portion of France was occupied by Germany, Toulon was bombed heavily by the Allied armies.  During the following decades, Toulon became a prominent French city.

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