•Aude (11100) • Population: 51,546 • Altitude: 11 m
Narbonne is a very interesting and lovely town in the southwest of France, with a long history through Roman and Medieval times. It's full of ancient sites, Medieval palaces, Roman artifacts and a pretty canal connected to the Canal du Midi system.
The ancient town of Narbonne has a number of interesting and historically important sites, and most of them handily located near the center of town, in easy walking distance.
In addition to the historical "sites", the old town has a nice mixture of pedestrian shopping streets and long, narrow Medieval streets to walk through to discover the ancient doorways and old buildings.
On a previous visit to Narbonne, we found the door to a 16th-century hotel particular (now private apartments) had been left purposely open so passers-by could see the beautiful interior. The interior had been nicely refurbished, with a pair of sculpted side-by-side doors. A resident encouraged us to walk all the way in to discover the ancient stairway balconies winding their way to the top.
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History of Narbonne
First record, Founded in 118 BC by the Romans, Colonia Narbo Martius. Narbo was from the Basque for "habitation near the water", and Martius was from the Latin "Mars" for the Roman's God of War to protect the city.
Celto-Ligurian: Prior to the Roman's occupation, Narbonne was a commercial trading center, attached to the Celtic oppidum Montlaures, four km north of the current town.
Gallo-Roman: Narbo Martius was the Roman's oldest colony in Gaul, and was a major stop on the Domitienne Way (Voie Domitienne).
In 45 BC Julius Caesar installed the veterans of the 10th legion in Narbonne and developed the port as a competitor to Marseille (Massalia) while Marseille was revolting against Roman control. In 27 BC Caesar visited Narbonne himself. In 145 Narbonne was destroyed by an accidental fire, and rebuilt in 160 by the emperor Antonin le Pieux. At the end of the Roman era, Narbonne was integrated into the kingdom of the Visigoths of Toulouse.
Medieval: Narbonne was the capital of the Visigoths until the middle of the 6th century. In 719 the town was conquered by the Arabic Berbers, and for the next 40 years was the center for Sarrasin raids northeast into what is now Provence.
In 759 king Pepin the Short captured Narbonne definitely for the French. In the 14th century Narbonne declined seriously, started by the silting up of the Aude river which blocked the town from being a seaport. The Plague came to town about this time as well, Edward the Black of England who ravaged Narbonne, Carcassonne and Castlenaudry.