Many Guests of MAS BLANC are visiting the beautiful sites mentioned in this article
The coast of Provence has some of the earliest known sites of human habitation in Europe. Primitive stone tools dated to 1 to 1.05 million years BC were found in the Grotte du Vallonnet near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, between Monaco and Menton. More sophisticated tools, worked on both sides of the stone and dating to 600,000 BC, were found in the Cave of Escale at Saint Estėve-Janson, and tools from 400,000 BC and some of the first fireplaces in Europe were found at Terra Amata in Nice. Tools dating to the Middle Paleolithic (300,000 BC) and Upper Paleolithic (30,000–10,000 BC) were discovered in the Observatory Cave, in the Jardin Exotique of Monaco.
The Greeks in Provence
Traders from the island of Rhodes were visiting the coast of Provence in the 7th century BC. Rhodes pottery from that century has been found in Marseille, near Martigues and Istres, and at Mont Garou and Evenos near Toulon. The traders from Rhodes gave their names to the ancient town of Rhodanousia (now Trinquetaille, across the Rhône river from Arles), and to the main river of Provence, the Rhodanos, today known as the Rhône
The first permanent Greek settlement was Massalia, established at modern-day Marseille in about 600 BC by colonists coming from Phocaea (now Foça, on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor.
Massalia became one of the major trading ports of the ancient world. At its height, in the 4th century BC, it had a population of about 6,000 inhabitants, living on about fifty hectares surrounded by a wall. It was governed as an aristocratic republic, by an assembly of the 600 wealthiest citizens.
The most famous citizen of Massalia was the mathematician, astronomer and navigator Pytheas. Pytheas made mathematical instruments which allowed him to establish almost exactly the latitude of Marseille, and he was the first scientist to observe that the tides were connected with the phases of the moon. Between 330 and 320 BC he organised an expedition by ship into the Atlantic and as far north as England Roman Provence (2nd Under the Catalan dynasty, the 12th century saw the construction of importants founded in 1175.
Good King René, the last ruler of Provence
The 15th century saw a series of wars between the Kings of Aragon and the Counts of Provence. In 1423 the army of Alphonse of Aragon captured Marseille, and in 1443 they captured Naples, and forced its ruler, King René I of Naples, to flee. He eventually settled in one of his remaining territories, Provence.
History and legend has given René the title “Good King René of Provence”, though he only lived in Provence in the last ten years of his life, from 1470 to 1480, and his political policies of territorial expansion were costly and unsuccessful. Provence benefitted from population growth and economic expansion, and René was a generous patron of the arts, sponsoring painters Nicolas Froment, Louis Bréa, and other masters. He also completed one of the finest castles in Provence at Tarascon, on the Rhône river.
1486 to 1789
Soon after Provence became part of France, it became involved in the Wars of Religion that swept the country in the 16th century. Between 1493 and 1501, many Jews were expelled from their homes and sought sanctuary in the region of Avignon, which was still under the direct rule of the Pope. In 1545, the Parliament of Aix ordered the destruction of the villages of Lourmarin, Mérindol, Cabriéres in the Luberon, because their inhabitants were Vaudois, of Italian Piedmontese origin, and were not considered sufficiently orthodox Catholics. Most of Provence remained strongly Catholic, with only one enclave of Protestants, the principality of Orange, Vaucluse, an enclave ruled by Prince William of the House of Orange-Nassau of the Netherlands.
At the beginning of the 16th century, Cardinal Richelieu began to build a naval arsenal and dockyard at Toulon to serve as a base for a new French Mediterreanean fleet.
Under Napoleon IAt the beginning of the 18th century Provence suffered from the economic malaise of the end of the reign of Louis XIV. The plague struck the region between 1720 and 1722, beginning in Marseille, killing some 40,000 people.
Napoleon restored the belongings and power of the families of the old regime in Provence. The British fleet of Admiral Horatio Nelson blockaded Toulon, and almost all maritime commerce was stopped, causing hardship and poverty. When Napoleon was defeated, his fall was celebrated in Provence. When he escaped from Elba on 1 March 1815, and landed at Golfe-Juan, he detoured to avoid the cities of Provence, which were hostile to him.
Provence enjoyed prosperity in the 19th century; the ports of Marseille and Toulon connected Provence with the expanding French Empire in North Africa and the Orient, especially after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
Between World War I and World War II, Provence was bitterly divided between the more conservative rural areas and the more radical big cities. There were widespread strikes in Marseille in 1919, and riots in Toulon in 1935.
After the defeat of France by Germany in June 1940, France was divided into an occupied zone and unoccupied zone, with Provence in the unoccupied zone. Parts of eastern Provence were occupied by Italian soldiers. Collaboration and passive resistance gradually gave way to more active resistance, particularly after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the Communist Party became active in the resistance. Jean Moulin, the deputy of Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free France resistance movement, was parachuted into Eygalières, in the Bouches-du-Rhône on 2 January 1942 to unite the diverse resistance movements in all of France against the Germans.
In November 1942, following Allied landings in North Africa , the Germans occupied all of Provence and then headed for Toulon . The French fleet at Toulon sabotaged its own ships to keep them from falling into German hands.
US 3rd Infantry Division landing atCavalaire-sur-Mer
The Germans began a systematic rounding-up of French Jews and refugees from Nice and Marseille. Many thousands were taken to concentration camps, and few survived. A large quarter around the port of Marseille was emptied of inhabitants and dynamited, so it would not serve as a base for the resistance. Nonetheless, the resistance grew stronger; the leader of the pro-German militia, the Milice, in Marseille was assassinated in April 1943.
After the end of the War, Provence faced an enormous task of repair and reconstruction, particularly of the ports and railroads destroyed during the war. As part of this effort, the first modern concrete apartment block, the Unité d’Habitation of Corbusier, was built in Marseille in 1947–52. In 1962, Provence absorbed a large number of French citizens who left Algeria after its independence. Since that time, large North African communities settled in and around the big cities, particularly Marseille and Toulon.
With an area of over 930 km² (360 mi²), the Camargue is Western Europe’s largest river delta (technically an island, as it is wholly surrounded by water). It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes which are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.
The Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds, the brine ponds providing one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. The marshes are also a prime habitat for many species of insects, notably (and notoriously) some of the most ferocious mosquitoes to be found anywhere in France. It is also famous for bulls and the Camargue horse.