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 Paris History

The city of Paris is over two millennia old. It was founded on an island 375 kilometres away from the estuary on the Seine on the English Channel. In the prehistoric era, the Seine hollowed out a bowl in the earth, which the city now occupies. It is divided into the Right Bank and the Left Bank, which are terms designating location in relation to the Seine.

As a matter of fact, the present-day site of Paris was settled as far back as 5000 BC. Mammoth bones and the remains of reindeer and deer from that time were discovered in a mine at Beaugrenelle in 1886. Neolithic tombs have been excavated in the courtyards of the Louvre. Traces of a prehistoric workshop have been detected, as well.

The first permanent settlers were hunters and gatherers. The area enjoyed a mild climate throughout the year due to the flat topography, with the hills of Montmartre being an exception. The highest point in the city is at 129 metres above sea level. However, it was first and foremost the Seine that brought the first settlers. The river is navigable all year round, and forms a network of rivers with its tributaries, which allowed settlers to travel throughout a large region. Several canoes dating from around 4000 BC were discovered at Bercy in 1991. Eventually, the river transformed the area into a major trade junction.

The Ile de la Cité was a haven in the middle of the river. This is the biggest island and the historic core of Paris, where a fort was erected. What’s more, Celtic tribes arrived in the region, but the first important village was that of the Gauls around 250 BC. They constructed a bridge across the Seine. Paris was then called Lutetia, a town of the Gaulish Parisii tribe. It received its current name around 400 AD.

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Prehistoric Era

In 52 BC, Lutetia was conquered by Labienus, a lieutenant of the Roman Empire. For centuries, Gauls and Romans lived side by side, as the Romans were tolerant in terms of religion. Over time, Lutetia became a major Imperial trade centre. The Parisian amphitheatre and ancient public baths are the remnants of this Gallo-Roman city. Today, the city’s Medieval museum, Musée de Cluny, is located in the baths which are visible from the street.

Over the course of Roman rule, the Gauls acquired many of the Romans’ qualities, yet sustained a distinct identity. Under the Edict of Emperor Caracalla of 212 AD, all inhabitants of the Roman Empire became citizens. The differences between Romans and Gauls were neutralized with the advent of Christianity in the 3rd Century. However, afterwards insecurity reappeared in the Empire. Pagans threatened and later settled in the Roman Empire, which collapsed when Rome was sacked in 476 AD.

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