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Languedoc & Roussillon


The Languedoc has a long history, complicated by the fact that its name has changed several times, as have its borders, sometimes radically. The region was settled by Celts, with a Greek colony at what is now Marseille. It started taking form under the Romans as their first province outside Italy, Provincia Gallia Narbonensis. In the fifth century as the Roman Empire fell apart this province was ceded to the Visigoths as Visigothic Septimania (aka Gallia or Narbonensis). Due to Burgundian incursions it shrank to become the Kingdom of Narbonne and later expanded again as the Gothic province of Gallia. In the eighth century it was over-run by Moors and became Moorish Septimania an outpost of al-Andalus. Later in the same century it was again overrun, this time by the Franks, now becoming Carolingian Gothia. As Frankish influence waned, the area became identified as the County of Toulouse, an independent state, sharing a common culture with a broader area known as Languedoc or Occitania, both names preferring to Occitan, the common language of the area. After it was annexed to France in 1272, the County of Toulouse became a province of the Kingdom of France. Known as the Province of the Languedoc. After the revolution in 1789 the province of the Languedoc was divided into two, the eastern part being having the Roussillon attached to it, and being known as the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

In summary the history is as follows:

Gaul. The area (corresponding roughly the modern Languedoc and Provence) was part of Gaul occupied by Celts, with a Greek colony at what is now Marseille.
More on the Languedoc in Celtic times

Provincia Gallia Narbonensis. The Romans founded a colony (Provincia Gallia Narbonensis) in BC 123 covering an area roughly corresponding to the modern Languedoc and modern Provence.
More on Provincia Gallia Narbonensis

Septimania. The western region of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis passed under the control of the Visigoths in 462 and was ceded to their king, Theodoric II. This area was known as Septimania.
More on Visigothic Septimania, Gallia, Narbonensis

Kingdom of Narbonne. As the area fragmented under assaults from the King of Bugundy, the Goths established a Kingdom of Narbonne.
More on the Kingdom of Narbonne

Gothic province of Gallia. The area became a province of the Visigothic Kingdom centred in Iberia.
More on the Gothic province of Gallia

Moorish Septimania. The Moors, under Al-Samh ibn Malik the governor-general of al-Andalus, sweeping up the Iberian peninsula, by 719 overran Septimania.
More on Moorish Septimania

Carolingian Gothia (8th century). When the Franks overran the area they called it Gothia after the reign of Charlemagne. , referring to the previous rulers.
More on Carolingian Gothia

County of Toulouse. As Frankish power diminished, a number of independent states were established in the area.
More on the .County of Toulouse

Languedoc & Occitania. These terms were used to denote an area with a distinct culture, stretching across what is now southern France, of which the County of Toulouse was the largest and central part.
More on Languedoc & Occitania

The Province of the Languedoc. After it was annexed to France in 1272, the County of Toulouse became a province of the Kingdom of France.
More on The Province of the Languedoc

The Languedoc-Roussillon. After the revolution in 1789 the province of the Languedoc was divided into two, the eastern part being having the Roussillon attached to it, and being known as the The Languedoc-Roussillon.
More on the Languedoc-Roussillon region


  • the province of Quercy (now département of Lot and northern half of the département of Tarn-et-Garonne)
  • the province of Agenais (now eastern half of the département of Lot-et-Garonne) to the west of Languedoc,
  • the province of Gévaudan (now département of Lozère),
  • the province of Velay (now the central and eastern part of the département of Haute-Loire),
  • the southern part of the province of Vivarais (now the southern part of the département of Ardèche)
  • the northern half of Provence.

After the French conquest the entire county was dismantled, the central part of it being now called Languedoc.

The gouvernement of Languedoc was created in the middle of the 16th century. In addition to Languedoc proper, it also included the three small provinces of Gévaudan, Velay, and Vivarais (in its entirety), these three provinces being to the northeast of Languedoc.

Some people also consider that the region around Albi was a traditional province, called Albigeois (now département of Tarn), although it is most often considered as being part of Languedoc proper. The provinces of Quercy and Rouergue, despite their old ties with Toulouse, were not incorporated into the gouvernement of Languedoc, instead being attached to the gouvernement of Guienne and its far-away capital Bordeaux. This decision was probably intentional, to avoid reviving the independently-spirited county of Toulouse.

The Province of Languedoc covered an area of approximately 42,700 km² (16,490 sq. miles), roughly the region between the Rhône River (border with Provence) and the Garonne River (border with Gascony), extending northwards to the Cévennes and the Massif Central (border with Auvergne).

The governors of Languedoc resided in Pézenas, on the Mediterranean coast, away from Toulouse but close to Montpellier. In time they had increased their power well beyond military matters, and had become the l administrators and executive power of the province, a trend seen in the other gouvernements of France, but particularly acute in Languedoc. In the Languedoc the Duke of Montmorency, governor of Languedoc, openly rebelled against the king, was defeated and beheaded in Toulouse in 1632 by the order of Richelieu. The kings of France became fearful of the power of the governors, so after King Louis XIV (the Sun King) they had to reside in Versailles and were forbidden to enter the territory of their gouvernement. Thus the gouvernements became hollow structures, but they still carried a sense of the old provinces, and so their names and limits have remained popular until today.

For administrative purposes, Languedoc was divided in two généralités, the généralité of Toulouse and the généralité of Montpellier, the combined territory of the two generalities exactly matching that of the gouvernement of Languedoc. At the head of a generality was an intendant, but in the case of Languedoc there was only one intendant responsible for both generalities, and he was often referred to as the intendant of Languedoc, even though technically speaking he was in fact the intendant of the generality of Toulouse and intendant of the generality of Montpellier.

The generality of Toulouse is also referred to as Upper Languedoc (Haut-Languedoc), while the generality of Montpellier, down to the level of the sea, is referred to as Lower Languedoc (Bas-Languedoc). The intendants of Languedoc resided in Montpellier, and they had a sub-delegate in Toulouse. Montpellier was chosen specifically to diminish the power of Toulouse, which symbolised the old spirit of independence of the county of Toulouse, and whose parlement was very influential. The intendants replaced the governors as administrators of Languedoc, but appointed and dismissed at will by the king, they were no threat to the central state in Versailles. By 1789 they were the most important element of the local administration of the kingdom.

The Parlement of Toulouse

For judicial and legislative matters, Languedoc was overseen by the Parlement of Toulouse, founded in the middle of the 15th century. It was the first parlement created outside of Paris by the kings of France in order to be the equivalent of the Parlement of Paris in the faraway southern territories of the kingdom. The jurisdiction of the Parlement of Toulouse included the whole of the territory of the gouvernement of Languedoc, but it also included the province of Rouergue, most of the province of Quercy, and a part of Gascony. The Parlement of Toulouse was the supreme court of justice for this vast area of France, the court of last resort whose rulings could not be appealed, not even to the Parlement of Paris. The Parlement of Toulouse could also create case law through its decisions, as well as interpret the law. It was also in charge of registering new royal edicts and laws, and could decide to block them if it found them to be in contravention with the liberties and laws of Languedoc.


For purposes of taxation, Languedoc was ruled by the States of Languedoc, whose jurisdiction included only Languedoc proper (and Albigeois), but not Gévaudan, Velay, and Vivarais, which kept each their own provincial states until 1789. Languedoc proper was one of the very few provinces of France which had the privilege to decide over tax matters, the kings of France having suppressed the provincial states in most other provinces of the kingdom. This was a special favour from the kings to ensure that an independently-spirited region faraway from Versailles would remain faithful to the central state. The States of Languedoc met in many different cities, and for some time they established themselves in Pézenas, but in the 18th century they were relocated definitively to Montpellier, where they met once a year, until 1789.


For religious purposes, Languedoc was divided into a number of ecclesiastical provinces.

Modern administrative divisions

Resulting from this intricate entanglement of administrations and jurisdictions so typical of France before the French Revolution, it is hard to say which city was the capital city of Languedoc. Toulouse and Montpellier both often claim to be the capital of Languedoc. As a matter of fact, in the 18th century the monarchy clearly favouredMontpellier, a city much smaller than Toulouse, and with less history and memories attached to it than the ancient metropolis of Toulouse, of which the kings of France were always fearful. However, most people consider that Toulouse is the real capital city of the province of Languedoc, due to its old status as centre of the county of Toulouse, and due to the mighty power of its parlement. On maps (both ancient and modern) showing the provinces of France in 1789 (or rather the gouvernements), Toulouse is always marked as the capital city of Languedoc.

The province of Languedoc has been divided between four modern-day régions:

  • 55.5% of its former territory lies in the Languedoc-Roussillon région, capital city Montpellier, covering the départements of Gard, Hérault, Aude, Lozère, and the extreme-north of Pyrénées-Orientales, which account for 86.5% of the territory of Languedoc-Roussillon. The remaining 13.5% is Roussillon (Pyrénées-Orientales), a province which was never part of Languedoc historically.
  • 24.8% of its former territory lies in the Midi-Pyrénées région, capital city Toulouse, covering the département of Tarn, as well as the eastern half of Haute-Garonne, the southeast of Tarn-et-Garonne, and the Northwest and Northeast of Ariège, which account for 23.4% of the territory of Midi-Pyrénées. The remaining 76.6% is made of Quercy and Rouergue, as well as the province of County of Foix (which had been a vassal of the county of Toulouse in the Middle Ages), several small provinces of the Pyrenees mountains, and a large part of Gascony.
  • 13% lies in the Rhône-Alpes région, covering the département of Ardèche, which accounts for 12.7% of the territory of Rhône-Alpes
  • 6.7% lies in the Auvergne région, covering the central and eastern part of the département of Haute-Loire, which account for 11% of the territory of modern-day Auvergne region

Population and cities

On the traditional territory of the province of Languedoc there live approximately 3,650,000 people (as of 1999 census), 52% of these in the Languedoc-Roussillon région, 35% in the Midi-Pyrénées région, 8% in the Rhône-Alpes région, and 5% in the Auvergne région.

The territory of the former province shows a stark contrast between some densely populated areas (coastal plains as well as metropolitan area of Toulouse in the interior) where density is between 150 inhabitants per km²/390 inh. per sq. mile (coastal plains) and 300 inh. Per km²/780 inh. Per sq. mile (plain of Toulouse), and the hilly and mountainous interior where density is extremely low, the Cévennes area in the south of Lozère having one of the lowest densities of Europe with only 7.4 inhabitants per km² (19 inh. Per sq. mile).

The five largest metropolitan areas on the territory of the former province of Languedoc are (as of 1999 census): Toulouse (964,797), Montpellier (459,916), Nîmes (221,455), Béziers (124,967), and Alès (89,390).

The population of the former province of Languedoc is currently the fastest-growing in France, and also among the fastest-growing in Europe, as an increasing flow of people from northern France and the north of Europe relocating to the sunbelt of Europe, in which Languedoc is located. Growth is particularly strong in the metropolitan areas of Toulouse and Montpellier, which are the two fastest growing metropolitan areas in Europe at the moment. However, the interior of Languedoc is still losing inhabitants, which increases the difference of density.

Population of the coast of Languedoc as well as the region of Toulouse is young, educated, and affluent, whereas in the interior the population tends to be much older, with significantly lower incomes, and with a lower percentage of high school and especially college graduates.




Languedoc-Roussillon (Occitan: Lengadòc-Rosselhon; Catalan: Llenguadoc-Rosselló) is one of the 26 regions of France. It comprises five departments, and borders the other French regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Rhône-Alpes, Auvergne, Midi-Pyrénées on the one side, and Spain, Andorra and the Mediterranean Sea on the other side.

The region is made up of the following historical provinces:

68.7% of Languedoc-Roussillon was formerly part the province of Languedoc: the departments of Aude, Gard, Hérault the extreme south and extreme east of Lozère, and the extreme north of Pyrénées-Orientales. The former province of Languedoc also extends over the Midi-Pyrénées region, including the old capital of Languedoc Toulouse.

17.9% of Languedoc-Roussillon was formerly the province of Gévaudan: Lozère department. A small part of the former Gévaudan lies inside the current Auvergne region. Gévaudan is often considered to be a sub-province inside the province of Languedoc, in which case Languedoc would account for 86.6% of Languedoc-Roussillon.

13.4% of Languedoc-Roussillon, located in the southernmost part of the region, is a collection of five historical Catalan pays: Roussillon, Vallespir, Conflent, Capcir, and Cerdagne, all of which are in turn included -east to west- in the Pyrénées-Orientales département. These pays were part of the Ancient Regime province of Roussillon, owning its name to the largest and most populous of the five pays, Roussillon. "Province of Roussillon and adjacent lands of Cerdagne" was indeed the name that was officially used after the area became French in 1659, based on the historical division of the five pays between the county of Roussillon (Roussillon and Vallespir) and the county of Cerdagne (Cerdagne, Capcir, and Conflent).

Llívia is a town of Cerdanya, province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain, that forms a Spanish exclave surrounded by French territory (Pyrénées-Orientales département).

Major communities

At the regional elections in March 2004, the socialist mayor of Montpellier Georges Frêche, a maverick in French politics, conquered the region, defeating its center-right president. Since then, Georges Frêche has embarked on a complete overhaul of the region and its institutions. The flag of the region, which displayed the cross of Languedoc as well as the Flag of Roussillon (the "Senyera"), was changed for a new nondescript flag with no reference to the old provinces, except in terms of the colours (red and yellow), which are the colours of both Languedoc and all the territories from the former Crown of Aragon.

Frêche also wanted to change the name of the region, wishing to erase its duality (Languedoc vs. Roussillon) and strengthen its unity. Thus, he wanted to rename the region "Septimanie" (Septimania), the name created by the Romans at the end of the Roman Empire for the coastal area corresponding quite well to present day Languedoc-Roussillon (including Roussillon, but not including Gévaudan), and used in the early Middle Ages for the area. A strong opposition of the population led to Georges Frêche giving up on his idea.

Catalan nationalists in Roussillon would like the Pyrénées-Orientales department to secede from Languedoc-Roussillon and become a region in its own right, under the proposed name of "Catalunya Nord" (Northern Catalonia).

On the other hand there are some who would like to merge the Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées regions, reunifying the old province of Languedoc, and creating a large region.

Prior to the 1960s, Occitan and Catalan were the dominant languages of the area.

Occitan literature - still sometimes called Provençal literature - is a body of texts written in Occitan in what is nowadays the South of France. It originated in the poetry of the eleventh- and twelfth- century Troubadours, and inspired the rise of vernacular literature throughout medieval Europe.

Music. Aimeric de Peguilhan, Giraut de Bornelh and Bertran de Born were major influences in troubadour composition, in the High Middle Ages. The troubadour tradition is associated with originating from the region.

The Romantic music composer Déodat de Séverac was born in the region, and, following his schooling in Paris, he returned to the region to compose. He sought to incorporate the music indigenous to the area in his compositions.

Wine. The Languedoc-Roussillon region is a major wine producing area - the largest in the world - dominated by 740,300 acres (2,996 km2) of vineyards, three times the area of all the vineyards in Bordeaux. The region has been an important wine making centre for centuries. Grapevines are said to have existed in the South of France since the Pliocene period - before the existence of Homo sapiens. The first vineyards of Gaul developed around two towns: Béziers and Narbonne. The Mediterranean climate and plentiful land with soil ranging from rocky sand to thick clay was very suitable for the production of wine, and it is estimated that one in ten bottles of the world's wine was produced in this region during the 20th century.

The region is the largest contributor to the European Union's glut of wine known as the wine lake.

Sud de France. The Languedoc-Roussillon region has adopted a marque to help market its products, in particular, but not limited to, wine. The 'Sud de France' (Southern France) marque was adopted in 2006 to help customers abroad not familiar with the Appellation system to recognise those wines that originated in the L-R area, but the marque is also used for other products, some of which include cheeses, olive oils and pies.




The present Languedoc represents the southern half of the area covered by the ancient Roman's first province outside Italy. The northern part is now called Provence. The area shares much common history with the Languedoc, having successively been connected and disconnected over the centuries. For more on Provence and its history, click on the following link which will open a new window to Beyond the French Riviera






The Frankish king Clovis defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Vouillé. Afterwards, the child-king Amalaric was carried for safety into the Iberian Peninsula. Aquitania passed into the hands of the Franks, and Septimania, with other Visigothic territories in Gaul, was ruled by Amalaric's maternal grandfather, Theodoric the Great.


Theodoric the Great created the first kingdom of Septimania, retaining its traditional capital at Narbonne. He appointed as his regent an Ostrogothic nobleman named Theudis.


The young Amalaric was proclaimed king.


Theodoric died. Amalaric assumed full royal power in the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania, relinquishing Provence to his cousin Athalaric. He married Clotilda, daughter of Clovis, but found, as other royal husbands of Merovingian princesses found, that the entanglement brought on him the penalty of a Frankish invasion.


Amalaric lost his life in the Frankish invasion, and Arian Visigothic Septimania was the last part of Gaul to remain in Visigothic hands.


Prince Theudebert son of Theuderic of Austrasia (Merovingian Frankish not Gothic) invaded Septimania in concert with Prince Gunthar son of King Chlothar. Gunthar stopped at Rodez and did not invade Septimania. Theudebert took and held the country as far as Béziers and Carbiriers from which he took the woman Deuteria as a wife. Theudebert and his half brother Childebert invaded Spain as far as Saragossa 534-538. At some point soon after this, the Visigoths regained the territory they had lost in Theudebert's invasion.


Merovingian King of Burgundy Guntram raised a force to invade Septimania as a prelude to conquest of Spain. His forces plundered from Nîmes to Carcassonne (where the Frankish Count Terentiolus of Limoges was killed) but were unable to take the walled cities. Visigothic Prince Recared came in response from Spain to Narbonne and as far as Nîmes and invaded nearby Frankish territories as far as Tolosa for plunder and to punish the Franks for the invasion (Gregory of Tours Book VIII 30-31 and 38). Frankish rebel Dukes Desiderius and Austrovald at that time in control of Tolosa raised an army and attacked Carcassonne. Desiderius was defeated and killed and Austrovald retreated with his for Tolosa (Gregory of Tours Book VIII 44).


Septimania came under Catholic Rule in 587 with the conversion of Recared, who had become the King of the Visigoths in 586 with his father, Leovigild's death. At that time Arian Bishop Athaloc and Counts Granista and Wildigern revolted against Recared in Septimania but were defeated (Gregory of Tours Book IX 15 and John of Biclar) Most of the Christian population of the province were already Catholic and Arian Christians largely converted with the death of Athaloc soon after Recared's conversion.


Merovingian King of Burgundy Guntram again tried to invade Septimania sending Austrovald to Carcassonne and Boso and Antestius to other cities. King Recared sent General Claudius who defeated the Franks and preserved the territory of Septimania under Visigothic Rule.


The Moors over-ran Septimania.


Al-Samh set up his capital at Narbonne, which the Moors called Arb?na. He offered the still largely Arian inhabitants generous terms.

Al-Samh quickly pacified the other cities. With Narbonne secure, and equally important, its port, for the Arab mariners were masters now of the Western Mediterranean , he swiftly subdued the largely unresisting cities, still controlled by their Visigoth counts: taking Alet and Béziers, Agde, Lodève, Maguelonne and Nîmes


By now Al-Samh was reinforced and ready to lay siege to Toulouse, a possession that would open up Aquitaine to him on the same terms as Septimania. But his plans were overthrown in the disastrous Battle of Toulouse (721), with immense losses, in which al-Samh was so seriously wounded that he soon died at Narbonne.


Arab forces soundly based in Narbonne and easily resupplied by sea, struck eastwards.


Arab raid on Autun.


The Berber wali of Narbonne and the region of Cerdanya, Uthman ibn Naissa, called "Munuza" by the Franks, who was recently linked by marriage to duke Eudes of Aquitaine, revolted against Córdoba, and was defeated and killed.


October: An Islamic invasion force made up primarily of Berber and Arab cavalry under Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi encountered Charles Martel and his veteran Frankish army between Tours and Poitiers and was defeated, and Abd er-Rahman was killed, at what the majority of historians consider the macrohistorical "Battle of Tours" that stopped the Moorish advance.

  Frankish Conquest

The Franks took the territory round Toulouse. Charles Martel directed his attention to Narbonne.


Charles Martel destroyed Arles, Avignon, and Nîmes, but unsuccessfully attacked Narbonne, which was defended by its Goths, and Jews under the command of its governor Yusuf, 'Abd er-Rahman's heir. Having crushed the relief force at the River Berre, he left Narbonne isolated.

around 747: The government of the Septimania region (and the Upper Mark, from the Pyrenees to the river Ebro) was given to Aumar Ben Aumar.

752: The Gothic counts of Nîmes, Melguelh, Agde and Béziers refused allegiance to the emir at Córdoba and declared their loyalty to the Frankish king. The count of Nîmes, Ansemund, had some authority over the remaining counts. The Gothic counts and the Franks then began to besiege Narbonne, where Miló was probably the count (as successor of the count Gilbert), but Narbonne resisted.

An anti-Frank reaction, led by Ermeniard, killed Ansemund, but the uprising was without success and Radulf was designated new count by the Frankish court.

About 755: Abd al-Rahman Ben Uqba replaced Aumar Ben Aumar.

759: Charles Martel's son, Pippin the Younger besiegedNarbonne, which capitulated. The county was granted to Miló, who was the Gothic count in Muslim times.
760: The Franks took the region of Roussillon.
767: After the fight against Waifred of Aquitaine, Albi, Rouergue, Gévaudan, and the city of Toulouse were conquered.
777: The wali of Barcelona, Sulayman al-Arabi, and the wali of Huesca, Abu Taur, offered their submission to Charlemagne and also the submission of Husayn, wali of Zaragoza.
778: Charlemagne invaded the Upper Mark. Husayn refused allegiance and Charlemagne had to retreat.
778: August 15: In the Pyrenees , the Basques defeated Charlemagne's forces in the Roncesvalles. Charlemagne found Septimania and the borderlands so devastated and depopulated by warfare, with the inhabitants hiding among the mountains, that he made grants of land that were some of the earliest identifiable fiefs to Visigothic and other refugees. He also founded several monasteries in Septimania, around which the people gathered for protection. Beyond Septimania to the south Charlemagne established the Hispanic Marches in the borderlands of his empire. Septimania passed to Louis, king in Aquitaine, but it was governed by Frankish margraves and then dukes (from 817) of Septimania.
826: The Frankish noble Bernat of Septimania (also, Bernat of Gothia) became ruler of Septimania and the Hispanic Marches and ruled them until 832. His career characterised the turbulent 9th century in Septimania. His appointment as Count of Barcelona in 826 occasioned a general uprising of the Catalan lords at this intrusion of Frankish power. For suppressing Berenguer of Toulouse and the Catalans, Louis the Pious rewarded Bernat with a series of counties, which roughly delimit 9th century Septimania: Narbonne, Béziers, Agde, Magalona, Nîmes and Uzès.
843: Bernard rose against Charles the Bald.
844: Bernard was apprehended at Toulouse and beheaded.





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