You might have studied the French Revolution in history class, but what do you know about Paris’ ancient past? How did the city come to be? Read on for the story behind the birth of the City of Lights…
It was when the Parisii, a Celtic tribe, settled on the banks of the river Seine in the 3rd century BC, founding a settlement called Lutetia (Lutèce) that the story of Paris really began. The location was ideal for river trade, and was stragically well-located. It was for this reason that, in 52 BC, Julius Caesar attacked. He was successful, and it was after this “battle of Lutetia” that the settlement started to take shape, with a roman city built on the left bank. Over time, the typically roman ampitheater “les Arènes de Lutèce” was built, as were the Cluny public baths. The romans were to stay from AD 212 to the late 5th century. The city flourished: by the 3rd century, it is estimated that there were around 10,000 inhabitants.
But the city didn’t actually stay in one place. In the 4th century, Lutetia had become a garrison for fighting against the Barbarians, and was moved to t, where defensive walls were constructed. It was at this point that she was given the name by which we know her now: Paris! She would also come under attack from the Normans and the Franks from the 5th to the 9th centuries. Basically, things weren’t easy for baby Paris.
451 marks the year of one of Paris’ earliest but most important historical events. With the infamous Attila the Hun marching towards the city, a nun called Geneviève persuaded all the inhabitants of Paris not to flee, but to fast and pray. Miraculously, Attila suddenly changed course, and went to Orléans instead. Geneviève then became the patron saint of Paris. The church named after her is one of my personal favorites, tucked behind the Pantheon, and often overlooked by tourists.
It was in 508 that Clovis, leader of the Franks, made Paris the capital of his kingdom, marking the end of Antiquity, and the start of Paris’ Medieval chapter…but that’s a story for another time!