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Marseilles(märsā`), Fr. Marseille, city (1990 pop. 807,726), capital of Bouches-du-Rhône dept., SE France, on the Gulf of Lions, an arm of the Mediterranean Sea. It is the second largest city of France and one of its most important seaports; an underground canal (see Rove TunnelRove Tunnel
, southern section of the Marseilles-Rhône Canal, 4.5 mi (7.2 km) long and 72 ft (22 m) wide, Bouches-du-Rhône dept., SE France; opened 1927. Starting near the village of Le Rove, it cuts through the Chaîne de l'Estaque at sea level.
..... Click the link for more information. ) links it with the Rhône River. Marseilles is a major industrial city where flour, vegetable oil, soap, cement, sugar, sulfur, chemicals, and processed foods are produced. The city opened a subway system in 1977, and is connected to most major European cities by rail, road, air, or boat. There is also a history of organized crime and drug traffic in Marseilles, particularly with the Corsican Mafia. The city has a large immigrant population, predominantly North and West Africans who have arrived since the 1970s.
The oldest town of France, it was settled by Phocaean Greeks from Asia Minor c.600 B.C. Known as Massilia, it became an ally of Rome, which annexed it (49 B.C.) after it supported PompeyPompey
(Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus) , 106 B.C.–48 B.C., Roman general, the rival of Julius Caesar. Sometimes called Pompey the Great, he was the son of Cnaeus Pompeius Strabo (consul in 89 B.C.), a commander of equivocal reputation.
..... Click the link for more information. against Julius CaesarCaesar, Julius
(Caius Julius Caesar), 100? B.C.–44 B.C., Roman statesman and general. Rise to Power
Although he was born into the Julian gens, one of the oldest patrician families in Rome, Caesar was always a member of the democratic or popular party.
..... Click the link for more information. . Although the city retained its internal autonomy, it was of secondary importance during the Middle Ages. The upper city was ruled by its bishops from A.D. 539 until 1288, when it was reunited with the lower city, which had been governed independently by a city council since 1214. During the CrusadesCrusades
, series of wars undertaken by European Christians between the 11th and 14th cent. to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. First Crusade
In the 7th cent., Jerusalem was taken by the caliph Umar.
..... Click the link for more information. (11th–14th cent.) Marseilles was a commercial center and a transit port for the Holy Land. The city declined commercially in the first half of the 14th cent. Marseilles was taken by Charles of Anjou (13th cent.) and then absorbed by ProvenceProvence
, region and former province, SE France. It encompasses what now are Var, Vaucluse, and Bouches-du-Rhône depts. and (in part) Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes depts.
..... Click the link for more information. and bequeathed (with Provence) to the French crown in 1481. In the 1700s commerce revived, mainly with the LevantLevant
[Ital.,=east], collective name for the countries of the eastern shore of the Mediterranean from Egypt to, and including, Turkey. The divisions of the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon were called the Levant States, and the term is still sometimes applied to those two nations.
..... Click the link for more information. and the Barbary StatesBarbary States,
term used for the North African states of Tripolitania, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. From the 16th cent. Tripolitania, Tunisia, and Algeria were autonomous provinces of the Turkish Empire. Morocco pursued its own independent development.
..... Click the link for more information. ; although the plague wiped out almost half its population in 1720, Marseilles continued to enjoy prosperity until the civil strife of the French Revolution. In the 19th cent. the French conquest of Algeria and the opening of the Suez Canal led to a tremendous expansion of the port of Marseilles and to the city's industrialization.
The sight of Marseilles from the sea, a gleaming white city rising on a semicircle of bare hills, is famous. The Canebière, the principal thoroughfare, is one of the great avenues of the world. The science and medical schools of the Univ. of Aix-en-Provence are in Marseilles, as are industrial and engineering schools, the National School of Marine Commerce, a number of museums, and an observatory. A landmark of Marseilles harbor is the Château d'IfChâteau d'If
, castle built in 1524 on the small rocky isle of If, in the Mediterranean Sea off Marseilles, SE France. Long used as a state prison, it was made famous by Alexandre Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo.
..... Click the link for more information. castle. Excavations in 1966–67 uncovered what are believed to be vestiges of the ramparts of ancient Massilia.