Nice France City Facts
Signs of prehistoric man have been excavated at Nice, and an excellent display was presented at the excavation location in the Musée de Terra Amata.
The foundation of ancient Nice was on the Chateau Hill (Colline du Chateau), overlooking and between the present old town and the port. The only archeological remains recovered there were some ceramic fragments, possibly dating to the Greeks of Marseille of the 6th or 5th century BC. The ruins of a 10th century cathedral can now be seen there (photo).
On the hill of Cimiez, 3 km north of Le Chateau, were the remains of an oppidum belonging to the Ligurian tribe.
The Greek Massaliote colony of Nikaia was probably located at the present old town (Vieux Nice), where the Paillon river joined the sea. The name Nikaia may have derived from "Nike", or victory, following the defeat of the local Ligurian tribe. Although there was a Greek acropolis on the Colline du Chateau, the Greeks were probably here along with the Ligurians, and with their cooperation.
In 154 BC, the Romans helped Massalia defend Nikaia and Antipolis (Antibes) from attack other (non-Vediantii) Ligurians.
Auguste conquered the Alpine tribes, and in 14 BC established Cemenelum, at Cimiez, as the regional center of the Alpes Maritimae. Cemenelum was not an important city. It wasn't walled, had no fort, forum or temple, and was never seriously threatened until the end of the 4th century. The barbarians passed through at the end of the 4th century, laying waste and destruction, beginning the decline of the Roman occupation along with the Western Roman Empire.
There was an amphitheater, and the remains can be seen today in the park at Cimiez. The main Roman site at Cimiez, which can be visited through the museum, have extensive baths. The Moureille aqueduct water distribution point began here, and water still flowed in lower sections of the aqueduct up to 1974.
Medieval Nice grew up around the cathedral on the Colline du Chateau. In the 12th century, Raimond-Bérenger V, the Count of Provence, ruled Nice. In 1388, eastern Provence passed under the rule of the Maison de Savoie, and the "Comté de Nice was formed as a new province, with Nice as the principal city.
Nice remained the key defensive point for the Var, centered around the Colline du Chateau. In 1543, after combined French and Turkish forces took momentary control of the citadel, the inhabitants of the upper city regrouped down below, at the site of old Nikaia, to form what eventually became the present city of Nice.
Nice suffered from most of the plague epidemics along the Mediterranean, aggravated by bad sanitary conditions. The plague of 1631 caused over 10,000 deaths.
End of the Chateau. Louis XIV occupied Nice in 1691-1696, and again in 1706-1713. This second time, he destroyed the chateau and all other military installations.
The Port. Digging of the "Port of Lympia" was started in 1748.
"Les Anglais" and the Republic. The English began arriving for their winter vacations around 1730. Troops of the new French Republic invaded the Comté de Nice in 1793, and Nice was the capital of their department Alpes-Maritimes from 1793 to 1814. At the start of the Restauration, in 1814, Nice returned to control of Savoy, and became even more popular with foreign visitors, especially the English. The Promenade des Anglais was built, along with other amenities for the visitors.
Nice is French. The treaty of 24 March 1860, followed by a plebiscite on 15-16 April, returned the Comté de Nice to France, and its popularity as a winter resort increased even more. In 1887, the poet Stéphen Liégeard baptized the region the "Cote d'Azur".
The "Belle Epoque" was the period from 1880 to 1914. Queen Victoria visited regularly from 1895 to 1899, staying at what is now the Victoria Hotel at Cimiez. The Carnival dates back to the Middle Ages, but took its current form in 1873 with the creation of the Comité des Fêtes
The airport was opened in 1945. The University of Nice began in 1965, followed by the Conservatoire National de Musique and the Opera.
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T hough the English aristocracy of the mid-19th century somewhat arrogantly like to claim the RIviera for themselves, the majority of the towns along the coast of the Mediterranean have a truly ancient history - and Nice is no exception.
The citizens of Nice trace their city's name back to the Greek Nikaia- City of Victory. Though other accounts say that it was founded by the Marseillais in 350 BC.
Whichever is the closer to truth matters not. Nice has been created and shaped by successive waves of foreigners who occupied the eastern end of the Bay of Angels facing Antibes .
Of course, the Romans had their time in Nice (as they did in most of Europe). After their decline and fall, the city became part of Provence until 1388. Then the Savoies of Switzerland and Northern Italy took over.
In 1543, the Niçois had an opportunity to demonstrate their sense of humour. In order to frighten off advance guards of an invading Turkish army, a common laundress of ample proportions who was also exceedingly ugly, climbed a ladder and showed them her vast and bare derriere. With surprising good sense, the Turks retreated and the new heroine of Nice was adopted as the patron saint of the city. No simple virgins for the Niçois.
In mid-19th century while Nice still belonged to Italy, King Immanuel III hit on a plan to enrich his country the easy way. He sold Nice to Napoleon III in exchange for French financial and military help. Although the deal was done secretly the Niçois were allowed to vote so they could not say that they were being sold down the river. Although that famous statesman Garibaldi - who was born in Nice - urged them to vote against the deal, there was an overwhelming majority in favour. The voting booths were manned by units of the French army and this may well have affected the outcome.
So the English were by no means the first settlers here. But, when they did arrive, they brought a prosperity to the Niçois never before known. Even before the end of the 18th century there was no shortage of English food and drink. The English built houses, and because they were religious they built churches. Soon they would need a cemetery - and so the place expanded. But during the winter of 1821-22 an unusually sharp frost prohibited more building and there was much unemployment. The English church demonstrated its practicality by raising funds and putting many of the unemployed to work to build a walkway by the sea. This is how the Promenade des Anglais came to be built - and named.
After the incorporation of Nice into France, the railway from Marseilles was extended. That of course really put Nice on the map, and as a result, Nice became the first city to have a tourist-based economy. Until then, people travelled for economic, religous, or cultural reasons. Now, for the first time people travelled for pleasure. They came south to "get away from it all" and "to get away with everything". The modern tourist industry was born. Pretty impressive, as the word tourist did not even exist in the French language at that time.It does now - Le Tourism .
One final point is worthy of mention. The eagle's head on the coat of arms,
which had swivelled from left to right depending on whether Nice was owned by
France or Italy, now became permanently facing to the right, and so it remains
to this day - to the relief of the Niçois. In heraldic conventions, a
left-facing eagle denotes an illegitimate branch of the family.
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