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Provence History

Provence was a district of France dating named after the Roman Provincia Romana. The boundry was roughly from the Rhône to Italy and the Mediterranean to the central Alps, and included the departments Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Var, and parts of the Alpes-Maritimes and Vaucluse.

Ancient Provence is considered to contain the Comtat Venaissin and the Comté de Nice, and includes the following areas.

Provence Rhodanienne: Comtat Venaissin, Crau, Camargue.

Provence Intérieure: the mountain areas Sainte-Victoire, Sainte-Baume, Maures, Esterel, the central plains, the Plateau de Valensole and all of the southern Alps.

Provence Maritime: the coastal area between the Rhône and Italy (including Marseilles to Nice).

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The earliest colonies were founded around the 6th century BC by Greeks moving out from Marseilles. In the 2nd century BC, the Romans "helped" the Massaliotes fight off the Celtic-Ligurian tribes, and ended up in control.

In 27 BC, the Roman senatorial province of Narbonnaise was created. In 250 AD, Narbonnaise was split up, with the western part retaining the name Narbonnaise and the eastern part becomming Viennoise.

In 49 BC, Marseilles was captured by Cesar. Provence was christanized very early on, from where it spread to the rest of France.

From 476, the region was invaded successively the Visigoths, Burgondes and Ostrogoths.

The Burgondes were an ancient Germanic people of Scandinavian origin established in Gaule and Germanie during the 5th century. First beaten by Aetius (436) they conquered the Saône and the Rhône basin, and were finally put down by the Franks in 532. Their name is the origin of the Bourgogne region.

In 536, Provence was incorporated into the kingdom of the Franks.

During the time of the Saracen invasions of the 8th century, Provence suffered both from the Saracens and Carolingien rulers of France [see Kings]. Provence was integrated into the Franco Empire by Pepin the Short (Pépin le Bref) in the 8th century [see Kings].

In 843, the first Kingdom of Provence was founded. In the 10th century, the kingdom of Bourgogne-Provence was founded.

From the 11th to 13th centuries, Provence was rife with feudol divisions. The recorded beginnings of many of the Provencal towns and villages date from the beginning of this period. Also during this time, the Crusades resulted in the development of commerce with the Levant, resulting in important economic growth.

In 1246, the Compté de Provence passed to the house of d'Anjou. This was a period of prosperity, especially under the reign of King René, the King of Naples (1434-1480).

In 1481, following the death of King René, the states of Aix recognized Louis XI as the Count of Provence, effectively annexing Provence to France.

In 1790, Provence was divided into the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône, Var and Basses-Alpes (today the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence).

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