A History of Provence
If the picturesque villages and rolling landscape of Provence isn’t enough to tempt you, then perhaps its rich history will be enough to make this southern French region your next holiday destination. Provence existed long before France, and the people of Provence, particularly in the interior, have kept a cultural identity that persists to this day.
Provence was inhabited by Ligures since Neolithic times; by the Celtic since about 900 BC, and by Greek colonists since about 600 BC. It was conquered by Rome at the end of the 2nd century BC and became the first Roman province outside of Italy. From 879 until 1486, it was a semi-independent state ruled by the Counts of Provence. In 1481, the title passed to the Louis XI of France and in 1486 Provence was legally incorporated into France.
The Greeks and Romans
Around 600 B.C. the Phocaeans, Greeks from the city of Phocaea in Asia Minor, established the prosperous Mediterranean seaport of Massilia. It’s possible that the Phocaeans took their name from Phoenicians, great seafarers who possibly had a settlement on the same spot even earlier. Massilia eventually came under Roman rule. Under Roman rule the entire province covering the south of France from the Pyrenees to the Alps was known as ‘Gallia Narbonensis’. Due to the importance of this region, being sufficiently close to Rome, it was known in everyday speech as ‘Provincia’ or ‘the province’. What we know in modern French as ‘La Provence’.
Over time, this name became definitively attached to the eastern part of ‘Gallia Narbonensis’, the area to the east of the Rhone, whose capital was a town called Aquae Sextiae, Aix-en-Provence in modern day France. Roman civilisation flourished in this part of southern France that was not too dissimilar to Latium, the region around Rome; the richness of this region in Classical times can still be seen today, and the the area round the lower Rhone valley has fine classical remains, including the amphitheater at Orange, the Pont du Gard aqueduct, the arena at Arles, the remarkable Roman remains at Nimes, just outside modern-day Provence, with many more sites still standing.
After the Romans
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Provence was occupied by many different peoples who fought for control over the region. The coastal areas in particular were occupied in their time by Visigoths and Ostrogoths, as well as by Catalans and Moors.
Most of Provence was incorporated into France in 1486. So in historical terms, Provence is older than France itself, and was a center of cultural learning and commerce long before Paris and northern France acquired the territorial importance and recognition that they have today.
Benvengudo Hotel is a 4 star luxury boutique hotel located in Les Baux-de-Provence. Set in an authentic Provencal country house, its idyllic location offers a perfect base from which to explore this remarkable region in the South of France.
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