Paris (Founding)Paris - The site where the city of Paris now sits already had an established settlement when Julius Caesar arrived in the middle of the 1st century B.C.; so the exact date and story (if there is one) of its founding are unknown (its original inhabitants did not have writing, therefore, its founding is considered pre-historic). However, it was probably settled some two centuries earlier by a Celtic tribe known as the Parisii. They built a fishing village on an island in the middle of the Seine River (today's Île de la Cité) and called it Lucoticia (Latinized: Lutetia). The land along the Seine was fertile enough for crops, allowing Lucoticia to grow into a bustling center in the succeeding centuries. When Caesar attacked Gaul, the Parisii tried to fight him off by supporting Vercingetorix. They sent a few thousand men to bolster his army, but to no avail. Lutetia fell under Roman control after Caesar conquered Gaul in 52 B.C.. But the Romans did not make it the capital of the province. That distinction went to Agedincum. In the late Roman period, Attila invaded Gaul and laid waste to the region before being driven back at the Battle of Catalaunian Plains (see Attila the Hun). For some inexplicable reason, though, he left Lutetia untouched. After the Western Empire fell, Childeric of the Salian Franks arrived and overran Lutetia. Clovis, his son, became king of all the Franks and made it his capital in the early 6th century. Sometime between its initial occupation, and its anointing as the Frankish capital, Lutetia was renamed Paris, apparently in honor of the Celtic Parisii. Under the Merovingian Dynasty, which Clovis founded, Paris really began to flourish during the early Medieval Period. But just as it rose on the fortunes of the Merovingians, it likewise declined with the dynasty's downfall. The Merovingians were replaced with the Carolingians in the 8th century, and Charlemagne moved the capital to Aachen.


Paris (Founding)Even worse, the 9th century brought Viking raids. Their fearsome "dragonships" could sail along rivers and the Seine was easily navigable. As a result, Paris fell victim to Viking attacks in 845 and again in 885. During these troubled times, the residents withdrew to the island from which the town was originally founded, the Île de la Cité. It was the only heavily fortified section of Paris. Most of the rest of outlying areas of the city were destroyed. The city survived, however, and about a century later, its fortunes improved with the next ruling dynasty, the Capetians. Hugh Capet, the dynasty's founder, returned the capital to Paris, where it has remained to the present-day. And once again, as it had under the Merovingians, the city began to flourish. It became a major trading hub of Western Europe and grew wealthy. The 12th century saw the transformation of Paris into a cultural center as well, and several major building projects were undertaken. In 1150, the University of Paris was founded (now the Sorbonne). In 1163, ground was broken on Notre Dame Cathedral (completed in 1345). And around 1180, a fortress known as the Palais du Louvre was begun. Today it houses the famous museum. Another famous Parisian landmark, the Bastille was built in the late 14th century. The two capitals of two of the world's most historically influential countries have been inextricably intertwined almost from their very beginnings. London and Paris have been both rivals and allies (usually rivals) for centuries. This relationship is wonderfully captured in the famous work A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.