Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Marseilles france

The Phocaean City : Marseilles

In the year 599 BC, the Phocaeans, wanting to establish an entry into Gaul, launched a maritime expedition lead by a man named Protis. Arriving in the Bay of Marseilles, Protis donned his most beautiful garments and presented himself to the King, carrying beautiful gifts, in order to ask for his authorization to found a city. However, on that precise day, the King was organizing an enormous feast in honor of his only daughter, Gyptis, for whom he wished to find a husband. Custom said that after a scrumptious and solemn meal, where strangers could even partake, the young girl would appear, dressed in her most beautiful attire, and offer a cup to her chosen one. The beautiful girl was immediately seduced by the handsome Protis and it is to him that she chose to give the cup. Somewhat surprised, the old King consented to the marriage and gave in dowry the area hoped for by the newcomers. And that is how Massalia, the Phocaean City, future city of Marseilles, was established.
A Revolutionary Chant : The Marseillaise

Following the declaration of war with Austria, the mayor of Strasbourg asked Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, captain of engineering and amateur musician, to compose a war song. During the night of April 24th to 25th, 1792 he wrote the "the War Chant for the Rhine Army". The melody became quite popular in the entire country and was played during a patriotic banquet held in Marseilles. The Revolutionary forces from Marseilles sang it proudly upon their arrival in Paris and during their invasion of the Tuileries Gardens on July 30th, 1792. The Parisians spontaneously baptized it "The Marseillaise". However, in sign of recognition to the Republicans, it was forbidden during the reign of Napoleon, Louis Eighteenth and Napoleon the Third. Returned to its honorary state after the revolution of 1830, it became the national anthem under the Third Republic. The irony of it all is that Rouget de Lisle was in fact a royalist! He was imprisoned and barely escaped the guillotine for having refused to pledge allegiance to the new constitution.

The Sardine That Blocked the Port Entrance
"We" say, in France (understanding that the "we" excludes the people of Marseilles), that the people of Marseilles have a tendency to exaggerate their stories. And it is stated, by these local people, that one day a sardine (the little fish!) blocked the entrance to the port. But this is not said in jest, a slight distortion maybe! In 1778, the Viscount of Barras, officer of the marine infantry regiment from Pondichery in India was captured by the British. Benefiting from special accords for prisoner of war exchanges, he embarked the following year on a boat, named the "Sartine", which was not armed. To prevent potential attacks upon it, the captain would raise certain cartel flags that the enemy would recognize. However, the rule was not respected, because on May 1st, 10 months after being at sea without incident, a British war boat attacked the "Sartine" with two fatal canon volleys. The ship finished its trip and ran aground at the entrance to the old port. It is therefore not a "sardine" that blocked the port of Marseilles but a ship named "La Sartine", on a beautiful spring day in 1780!
Marseilles france

A Mediterranean Alcatraz : A Special Prison
Unless one was in solitary confinement, the "tenants" of the castle of If could communicate freely and stroll the terrace of the dungeon unrestricted. Although the Knight of Anselme, accused of a plot against the monarchy, was found strangled in his cell in 1580, others, on the contrary enjoyed almost a happy life: the Count of Mirabeau, famous activist of the French Revolution, incarcerated in 1774 at his father’s request, managed to cajole the commanding warden and seduce the canteen woman. However, one must not forget the thousands of Protestants who perished on the island under terrible conditions. One must also mention that the Chateau of If became famous thanks to a fictional character: Edmond Dantes. Victim of a plot, he was arrested and imprisoned at the chateau on the day of his wedding. He succeeded in escaping 14 years later, thereby creating the myth of being the sole escapee from the chateau d’If, and pursued his vengeance incessantly. We will stop here without continuing the story as we recommend the reading of one of the most famous books, written in 1845 by Alexandre Dumas, also translated throughout the world and the inspiration for no less than 23 movies: "The Count of Monte Christo."

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