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  • Writer's pictureDavid Natale

Launching Pad for Provence 2023!

As I prepare to lead my 10th Provence cruise from Lyon to Arles I thought it would be fun to give a little historical context to this incredible city of art, culture, and culinary delights! As we wonder the cobbled streets, it is always interesting to know a little about those who came before us, so I cut the Lyon historical time line down to 5 distinct periods.


Lyon, France, is a city with a rich history that stretches back over 2,000 years. Situated in east-central France, Lyon is known for its historical significance, architectural beauty, and cultural heritage. Here's an overview of the city's history:


Ancient Roman Period (43 BCE - 5th century CE):

Lyon was founded in 43 BCE as the Roman city of Lugdunum. It became the capital of the Gauls and an important regional administrative center. Under the Roman Empire, Lugdunum prospered, and it was renowned for its trade, banking, and education. The city was also the birthplace of the Roman Emperor Claudius.


Medieval Era (5th century - 15th century):

With the decline of the Roman Empire, Lyon experienced a period of instability and was frequently invaded by various Germanic tribes. In the 9th century, it became a part of the Kingdom of Arles and later the Holy Roman Empire. Lyon gradually regained its importance as a commercial and cultural center.


Renaissance and Silk Trade (15th century - 17th century):

During the Renaissance, Lyon played a crucial role in the European silk trade. The city became renowned for its silk production, and Lyon's merchants established trade links with the Ottoman Empire and other parts of Europe. The silk industry brought wealth and prosperity to Lyon, and the city's architectural heritage was enriched with numerous elegant mansions and buildings.


French Revolution and Industrialization (18th century - 19th century):

Lyon played a significant role during the French Revolution. It was a center of anti-monarchical sentiments and saw intense revolutionary activities. However, after the Revolution, Lyon faced a period of economic decline. It later rebounded during the Industrial Revolution and emerged as a major industrial center, particularly in textiles, chemicals, and engineering.


World Wars and Modern Era (20th century - present):

Like many other cities in France, Lyon was deeply affected by the two World Wars. It suffered from bombings and occupation during World War II. After the war, Lyon experienced rapid reconstruction and urban development. The city expanded its infrastructure, and modern architecture complemented its historic buildings.


Today, Lyon is known as a vibrant cultural, gastronomic, and economic hub. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its well-preserved historic center. Lyon is celebrated for its culinary excellence, with numerous Michelin-starred restaurants and a thriving food culture.


The city also hosts major events such as the Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières) and is home to several renowned educational institutions.

Lyon's rich history, blending ancient Roman roots, medieval heritage, and contributions to the Renaissance and industrialization periods, continues to shape its identity as a captivating and dynamic city in France.


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