"Marseilles isn't a city for tourists. There's nothing to see. Its beauty can't be photographed. It can only be shared. It's a place where you have to take sides, be passionately for or against. Only then can you see what there is to see. And you realize, too late, that you're in the middle of a tragedy. An ancient tragedy in which the hero is death. In Marseilles, even to lose you have to know how to fight." - Jean-Claude Izzo
Historical Description Edit
"Now known as Marseilles, the ancient city of Massalia in southern France was founded by Greeks from the region of Ionia in western Turkey. It became an important trading settlement, linking Gaul to the
Mediterranean world while remaining culturally Greek. Having supported Rome against Carthage in the mortal conflict that was the Second Punic War, Massalia was allowed to maintain its independence despite its wealth, small size, and proximity to Rome.
However, this freedom came to an end when the city backed Julius Caesar's rival Pompey the Great in 49 BCE. Caesar's legions conquered Massalia and it was added to the territories of Rome. Its most famous citizen was the explorer Pytheas, who circumnavigated Britain and may have discovered Iceland."
Massalia, whose name was probably adapted from an existing language related to Ligurian, was the first Greek settlement in France. It was established within modern Marseille around 600 BC by colonists coming from Phocaea (now Foça, in modern Turkey) on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. The connection between Massalia and the Phoceans is mentioned in Thucydides's Peloponnesian War; he notes that the Phocaean
project was opposed by the Carthaginians, whose fleet was defeated. The founding of Massalia has also been recorded as a legend. According to the legend, Protis, while exploring for a new trading outpost or emporion for Phocaea, discovered the Mediterranean cove of the Lacydon, fed by a freshwater stream and protected by two rocky promontories. Protis was invited inland to a banquet held by the chief of the local
Ligurian tribe for suitors seeking the hand of his daughter Gyptis in marriage. At the end of the banquet, Gyptis presented the ceremonial cup of wine to Protis, indicating her unequivocal choice. Following their marriage, they moved to the hill just to the north of the Lacydon; and from this settlement grew Massalia. Robb gives greater weight to the Gyptis story, though he notes that the tradition was to offer water, not wine, to signal the choice of a marriage partner. The second wave of colonists arrived in about 540 when Phocaea was destroyed by the Persians.
The state of Gaul around 58 BC Edit
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 6000 inhabitants on about fifty hectares surrounded by a wall. It was governed as an aristocratic republic, with an assembly formed by the 600 wealthiest citizens. It had a large temple of the cult of Apollo of Delphi on a hilltop overlooking the port and a temple of the cult of Artemis of Ephesus at the
other end of the city. The drachmas minted in Massalia were found in all parts of Ligurian-Celtic Gaul. Traders from Massalia ventured into France on the rivers Durance and Rhône and established overland trade routes to Switzerland and Burgundy, reaching as far north as the Baltic Sea. They exported their own products: local wine, salted pork and fish, aromatic and medicinal plants, coral, and cork. 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 organized an expedition by ship into the Atlantic and as far north as England, and to visit Iceland, Shetland, and Norway, where he was the first scientist to describe drift ice and the midnight sun. Though he hoped to establish a sea trading route for tin from Cornwall, his trip was not a commercial success, and it was not repeated. The Massiliots found it cheaper and simpler to trade with Northern Europe over land routes.
Remains of the Roman harbor at Massalia, near today's Old Port Edit
The city thrived by acting as a link between inland Gaul, hungry for Roman goods and wine (which Massalia was steadily exporting by 500 BC), and Rome's insatiable need for new products and slaves. During the Punic Wars, Hannibal crossed the Alps north of the city. In 123 BC, Massalia was faced by an invasion of the Allobroges and Arverni under Bituitus; it entered into an alliance with Rome, receiving protection—Roman legions under Q. Fabius Maximus and Gn. Domitius Ahenobarbus defeated the Gauls at Vindalium in 121 BC—in exchange for yielding a strip of land through its territory which was used to construct the Via Domitia, a road to Spain. The city thus maintained its independence a little longer, although the Romans organized their province of Transalpine Gaul around it and constructed a colony at Narbo Martius (Narbonne) in 118 BC which subsequently competed economically with Massalia.
Massalia at the time of Caesar's siege in 49 BC. Edit
During Julius Caesar's war against Pompey and most of the Senate, Massalia allied itself with the exiled government; closing its gates to Caesar on his way to Spain in April of 49 BC, the city was besieged. Despite reinforcement by L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, Massalia's fleet was defeated and the city fell by September. It maintained nominal autonomy but lost its trading empire and was largely brought under Roman dominion.
The statesman Titus Annius Milo, then living in exile in Marseille, joked that no one could miss Rome as long as they could eat the delicious red mullet of Marseille. Marseille adapted well to its new status under Rome. Most of the archaeological remnants of the original Greek settlement were replaced by later Roman additions. During the Roman era, the city was controlled by a directory of 15 selected "first" among 600 senators. Three of them had the pre-eminence and the essence of the executive power. The city's laws among other things forbade the drinking of wine by women and allowed, by a vote of the senators, assistance to a person to commit suicide.
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