Saint-Tropez was the antique Athenopolis, or Heraclea Caccabaris, the name used again by the Thermidoriens in 1793. In "modern" times, the town was listed as Ecclesia Sancti Torpetis in 1055, named after one of Nero's centurians who was beheaded in Pisa for the sake of his religion. Torpès' body and his head, along with a dog and a cock, was placed in a boat and set adrift. The dog and cock were intended to devour the man's remains, but he was still intact, so to speak, when the boat came ashore where the town of St Tropez stands today. The current name of Saint Tropez came after the Revolution.
Numerous prehistoric vestiges have been discovered on the St-Tropez peninsula, including at Capon, Les Salinelles, Vinol and the little island of La Moutte. At least 20 prehistoric habitations have been located between the Gulf of St-Tropez and the bay of Cavalaire.
Greeks and Romans left many signs of their passage, both on land and sea. Gallo-Roman shipwrecks have been found at La Moutte and Rabiou. Greek and Phoenician and ancient-Italian shipwrecks are at San Peyre and off Cap Camarat. Thirteen huge statues of Carrare marble destined for the Temple of Augustus in Narbonne were discovered off St-Tropez; they were brought to the surface in 1951 and taken to Fréjus.
In the 11th century, St Tropez was a priory of St-Victor. In the following centuries, the town was ruled by the viscounts of Marseilles, the Castellanes and the Suffrens. Saracen raids drove the inhabitants into the hills, and the war between Louis II d'Anjou and Charles de Duras in the 14th century razed the town completely.
St Tropez was rebuilt by Genoise families and in the 15th century it was organized as an independent republic. In the 16th century, St Tropez was a popular seaport, first for corsairs and adventurers and later for fishing, shipbuilding and trading. There were frequent attacks during the 16th and 17th centuries by Turks, Spanish and troops of the Duc de Savoie.
At the beginning of the 20th century, St Tropez's principle industry was its port, for shipping and, somewhat, fishing. The port was destroyed in 1944, and rebuilt after the war. In the early 1950's, the Bohemian artists quarter in Paris had made St Tropez their summer quarters, and the famous writers, actors and painters brought the town a reputation that remains to this day.