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(prôväNs`), 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. Those departments and Hautes-Alpes now constitute the administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Nice, Marseilles, Toulon, Avignon, Arles, and Aix-en-Provence (the historic capital) are the chief cities of Provence. The fertile valley of the Rhône and the French Riviera produce fruits and vegetables (citrus fruits, olive oil, mulberry trees). Cattle are raised in the Camargue. The startling scenery has inspired such painters as Cézanne and Renoir. There are many old towns and historic remains.

The coastal strip was settled c.600 B.C. by Greeks; Phoenician merchants also settled there, and in the 2d cent. B.C. the Romans established colonies. A part of Narbonensis (see GaulGaul
, Lat. Gallia, ancient designation for the land S and W of the Rhine, W of the Alps, and N of the Pyrenees. The name was extended by the Romans to include Italy from Lucca and Rimini northwards, excluding Liguria.
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), Provence was the oldest of the Roman possessions beyond the Alps; it took its name from Provincia, meaning province. Christianity was implanted very early, and by the 4th cent. the area was a haven for monasteries. It was invaded by the Visigoths (5th cent.), the Franks (6th cent.), and the Arabs (8th cent.), who were repelled by Charles Martel. But Roman institutions continued to have a profound cultural influence. The Provençal language was the standard literary idiom throughout S France in the Middle Ages and is used by some Provençal writers today (see langue d'oc and langue d'oïllangue d'oc and langue d'oïl
, names of the two principal groups of medieval French dialects. Langue d'oc
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; Provençal literatureProvençal literature,
vernacular literature of S France. Provençal, or Occitan, as the language is now often called, appears to have been the first vernacular tongue used in French commerce and literature.
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In 879 the count of Arles established the kingdom of Cisjurane Burgundy, or Provence, which in 933 was united with Transjurane Burgundy to form the Kingdom of Arles (see Arles, kingdom ofArles, kingdom of,
was formed in 933, when Rudolf II, king of Transjurane Burgundy, united the kingdom of Provence or Cisjurane Burgundy to his lands and established his capital at Arles.
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). The major part of Provence, held by the house of AragónAragón, house of,
family that ruled in Aragón, Catalonia, Majorca, Sicily, Naples, Sardinia, Athens, and other territories in the Middle Ages. It was descended from Ramiro I of Aragón (1035–63), natural son of Sancho III of Navarre.
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, passed (1246) to the AngevinAngevin
[Fr.,=of Anjou], name of two medieval dynasties originating in France. The first ruled over parts of France and over Jerusalem and England; the second ruled over parts of France and over Naples, Hungary, and Poland, with a claim to Jerusalem.
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 dynasty of Naples through marriage, and under the Angevins the towns became virtually independent republics. King René left Provence to his nephew, Charles of Maine, who left it to the French crown (1486). OrangeOrange
, town (1990 pop. 28,136), Vaucluse dept., SE France. An agricultural market center, the town also produces refined sugar, pâtés, preserves, wool, and shoes. Tourism is also important. Orange was an earldom probably founded by Charlemagne.
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 was added in 1672; Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin in 1791; and Nice and Menton in 1860.


See F. M. Ford, Provence (1979); J. Flower, Provence (1987).



a historical region in southeastern France, on the Mediterranean coast, mostly in the French Alps. The city of Aix-en-Provence is its historical capital. Together with the historical region of Nice, it forms the economic planning region of Provence-Côte d’Azur. The region comprises the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône, Var, Vaucluse, Hautes-Alpes, Basses-Alpes, and Alpes-Maritimes. The area is 31,800 sq km. In 1974 the population was 3,600,000, of which more than 80 percent was urban. The chief city is Marseille; other important cities are Nice, Toulon, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon.

Provence is a rapidly growing industrial region, and its resort and tourist industries are of great economic importance. The main industrial sectors are machine building (including shipbuilding), petroleum refining, the petrochemical industry, and food processing. These industries are concentrated chiefly in Marseille and its satellite cities of Berre-l’Étang, Lavéra, and Marignane. Ferrous metallurgy is being developed in Fos-sur-Mer. Most of France’s bauxite ores are mined in Provence, near Brignoles, and sea salt and brown coal are also mined in the region. Hydroelectric power plants are located on the Durance, Verdon, and other rivers. Sheep and goats are raised in the mountains. The valleys and coastal areas grow grapes, subtropical fruits, vegetables, flowers, olives, essential-oil crops, and wheat. The Rhône delta is the main rice-producing region of France. The country’s chief resort area, the Côte d’Azur, is located in the east of the region.


In the second century B.C., what is now Provence was conquered by Rome and became the first Roman province on the far side of the Alps (Provincia Romana; hence the name Provence). In the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., Provence was conquered by the Visigoths and later by the Burgundians. In 536 it was annexed to the Frankish kingdom. Provence was an independent kingdom from 855 to 863 and became part of the kingdom of Lower Burgundy in 879. In the united Burgundian kingdom, which was formed around 933, Provence had the status of a county. From 1113 to 1246 it belonged to the counts of Barcelona, and from 1246 to 1481 it was ruled by the Anjou dynasty. The maritime cities of Provence—especially Marseille—had developed early and became at this time important centers of Mediterranean trade.

In 1481, Provence was joined to France but retained its provincial autonomy. Provence’s autonomy, however, was gradually curtailed by royal authority; for example, the post of governor was established in Provence in 1489, and the province was divided into seneschalses in 1535. In the 17th century, significant popular uprisings took place in Provence, chiefly in protest against taxation. Most of Provence’s special privileges were eliminated in the second half of the 17th century, after the insurrection of 1660 was crushed in Marseille. When France was divided into departments at the time of the French Revolution, Provence ceased to exist as a province.

Until the 16th century, the word “Provence” was used broadly to designate the entire southern part of France. In that meaning the word designates the cradle of the unique Provençal culture.


Busquet, R., and V. L. Bourrilly. Histoire de la Provence, 4th ed. Paris, 1966.
Histoire de la Provence. [Toulouse, 1969.]


a former province of SE France, on the Mediterranean, and the River Rhône: forms part of the administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
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