Around 600 BC, Greek mariners founded Massilia, a trading post, at what is now Marseille’s Vieux Port. In the 1st century BC the city lost out by backing Pompey the Great rather than Julius Caesar: Caesar’s forces captured Massilia in 49 BC and directed Roman trade elsewhere.
Marseille became part of France in the 1480s. Its citizens embraced the French Revolution, sending 500 volunteers to defend Paris in 1792. Heading north, they sang a rousing march, ever after dubbed ‘La Marseillaise’ – now the national anthem. Trade with North Africa escalated after France occupied Algeria in 1830 and the Suez Canal opened in 1869. After the World Wars, a steady flow of migration from North Africa began and with it the rapid expansion of Marseille’s periphery. Since 1995 the Marseille-Euroméditerranée urban renewal and economic development project has worked wonders, improving the city geographically and culturally.