History of Toulouse

What Research Reveals About the Incredible History of Toulouse

The Crown of Southern France, the city of Toulouse, has a rich history. Once a county, it is now the capital city of the Midi-Pyrénées region in France. The city attracts millions of visitors every year to the Capitole de Toulouse, Bazacle, Pont Neuf and Institut national des sciences appliquées, among many other local wonders.
The city of Toulouse in France was inhabited as far back as the 8th century BC. It was a natural preference for human inhabitation, due to its proximity and association with the Garonne River and a natural incline towards the Atlantic Ocean. In time, Toulouse became the focal point for international trade that thrived around the waters of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The land was most suitable for agriculture in that era. The city gets its name from the Aquitanian language. Though its meaning remains unknown, research reveals that the name has remained unchanged over centuries.

Synoptic History of Toulouse

Toulouse shares with the modern world a rich history, steeped in traditions and cultural impact generated around invasions and trade. Archaeological research reveals that its earliest denizens were the Aquitanians. In time, the Iberians made Toulouse their home. Alongside the inhabitation of the land by the non-Indo-Europeans around the 3rd century BC, the Celtic Gallic tribe from Belgium, the Volcae Tectosages became the first Indo-European people in the region. This is the same city that Julius Caesar referred to as Tolosates in De Bello Gallico. With the gold and silver mines nearby, Toulouse was by far, one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

The earliest invasion of the city was by the Romans in 125 BC. They came in contact with the land when they laid siege on the colony of Narbo Martius or Narbonne, in 118 BC. They immediately capitalized on the available wealth and central location of the terrain for trade. The Romans established a fortress to the north of the city, but did not interfere much with either independent Aquitania or the inhabitants of Tolosa. The Cimbri tribe defeated the Romans and took control of the region in 109 BC. However, it wasn't long before the Romans defeated the Cimbris and assumed charge over Toulouse for the second time. In the course of the next century, it was completely incorporated into Roman territory.

Toulouse has always been a strategically important military garrison of the Roman realm. The history of this enigmatic city was most affected by the relocation of the city to the north of the hills, around 10-30 AD. The population relocated to a new city that flaunted high walls all around. This was a dream project of Emperor Augustus. Tolosa was made a civitas or capital of Gallia Narbonensis. In the presence of imperial favor, the city witnessed a rapid make-over. It not only remained one of the major cities of the Roman Empire, but also earned honorific status of 'Palladia', to immortalize Pallas Athena, the Roman goddess of fine arts and knowledge.

Palladia Tolosa was famous for its aqueducts, theaters and thermae. It earned recognition as the fourth largest city of the Roman Empire, after Rome, Arles and Treves. This was also the era when Christianity made Toulouse its home. The spread of Christianity under the strong influence of the first bishop of Toulouse, Saint Sernin, co-existed alongside the clauses of the Edict of Milan, a code that established religious freedom. Germanic invasions and Vandal siege witnessed resistance, scenes of desolation and famine became common. When the Visigoth King Ataulf captured the prestigious and wealthy city of Toulouse, it was chosen as their capital, ending the Roman rule. It has remained stable and prosperous throughout history. It has witnessed the rule of the Franks, Merovingians, Arabs, Charlemagne and even Frédelon sovereignty. It remained an integral part of early church administration and the crusades, as well as the French Revolution. Today, the city is a center of the European aerospace industry and home to one of the oldest universities in Europe.