Toulon, France

Toulon is the fifteenth city in France, the center city of the 9th French urban area. It is both the prefecture and the economic center of the Var department. The capital of Var is at the center of an urban area and an employment area reaching more than 600,000 inhabitants in 2011.

Toulon is mainly a military port. This comes from its geography: the port is protected by a harbor and overlooked by a mountain which allowed observation. All these assets gave it a strategic position.

During the last decades, the city has acquired a bad reputation because of certain mafia affairs, then, more recently, through the passage of the National Front to the town hall. This reputation still sticks to the city, although it makes many efforts to bring back culture and develop its space.

In fact, living in Toulon is much more pleasant than one might think (Toulon is the 63rd most popular city in France according to the ranking established by the magazine Le Point (“Where do we live best in France?” in 2008 ).There are still some pretty places which are not disfigured by the town planning of the 1980s and the Mediterranean climate and the presence of the sea are very appreciable. The people of Toulon were previously nicknamed the Mokkos, but this is less and less frequent.



Toulon Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-la-Seds
The Notre-Dame-de-la-Seds Cathedral in Toulon, also known as Sainte-Marie-de-la-Seds or Sainte-Marie-Majeure, is a Catholic cathedral located in Toulon, in the Var department. It is the seat of the diocese of Toulon, erected in the fifth century. The current building is of eleventh century Romanesque architecture, altered in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and classified as a historic monument since 1997.


Toulon Opera House
The Toulon opera house is a building specially designed for the performance of operas. It is located in the city of Toulon in France. This opera has been listed as a historical monument since December 2, 1988.

Royal Tower
The Royal Tower, also called Grosse Tour, is a cannon tower built in Toulon at the tip of Pipady, at the beginning of the 16th century (1514) at the initiative of Louis XII, in order to protect the harbor from enemy intrusions.



Before Roman colonization, Toulon was a shelter for Greek ships crossing between Massalia and Olbia, and a fishery for murex, a large sea snail used to dye togas. Export of carm produced from a cochineal of the Kermès oak. The Ligurians (the oldest settled), then the Celts, the Greeks and the Phoenicians of Carthage traded there and then clashed there, until the Massaliotes appealed to Rome, first against the grip of Carthage, (victorious against the Massaliotes at the battle of Aléria in -545) then against the Celto-Ligures of the hinterland.

From -181, Marseille began to call on the armies of Rome, which had become the great Mediterranean power, to help it put an end to the looting of the Celto-Ligurians and to defend its colonies. Rome, after several campaigns against the Celto-Ligurians who attacked the links of the coastal and maritime route, finally annexed the region in the year -120 BC (except the territory of Massilia which will remain an independent and faithful ally until the civil war between Caesar and Pompey).

Under Roman rule, "Telo" then becomes Telo Martius (from Martius: Latin god of war). This name is equivalent to that of Narbo (current Narbonne) which became Narbo Martius in -118. These two ports of concomitant foundation will therefore be two military stopovers from Rome on the Gallic coast, completed later by Fossæ Marianæ around -104, at the mouth of the Rhône (now Fos-sur-Mer). The Roman colony of Aix-en-Provence was founded concomitantly in -118.

This region thus becomes the transalpine province of Gaul, later called Roman Gaul, to distinguish it from unconquered Gaul (Hairy Gaul, Belgian Gaul, Aquitaine) then the Roman province of Narbonnaise. The occupied zone extends to Tolosa (Toulouse) and to Lake Geneva, creating a land link between the Roman territories in Spain and Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy, Po plain). The Greek colony of Massalia (Marseille) and its hinterland form a free enclave within the Narbonnaise.

Telo Martius then became one of the two imperial dye factories of Gaul for purple, a natural red color dye, and of great financial value, thanks to the exploitation of murex and cochineals of the Kermes oaks, then dominant in its territory.


Middle Ages

Point of release of the merchant ships, Telo, then Tholon, Tolon, Touloun endeavors to protect this exceptional site, frequently looted by Saracen pirates (especially in 1178 and 1197), but also, in times of scarcity, base of sea ​​loot shipments to the east or south of the western Mediterranean.

The death of Queen Joan I opened a succession crisis at the head of the county of Provence, the towns of the Union of Aix (1382-1387) supporting Charles de Duras against Louis I of Anjou. Toulon is part of the Union d'Aix, before making a promise of surrender on September 13, 1387 to Marie de Blois, regent of Louis II of Anjou, before concluding a truce with L'Isle-Saint-Geniès and the lord de Gémenos (December), then to pay homage on March 17, 1388.

After the attachment of Provence to France, Toulon becomes a place of naval construction (under Charles VIII) and its harbor is used to shelter military fleets.


Old Regime and Revolution

Vauban fortifies the city of Toulon which receives the Mediterranean squadron of Louis XIV. Toulon is, with Brest, the only port capable of accommodating large warships in the 17th and 18th centuries. The latter, which are heavier and heavier because of the ever heavier weight of their artillery, require ever greater drafts, ie 7 m after 1680. The site is even better than that of Brest under prevailing westerly winds, which makes it difficult for the squadrons to exit. Toulon does not have this problem, but the Mediterranean is an almost closed sea, and in the event of war, the Toulon squadron must bypass Spain to join that of Brest, which takes a lot of time. After 1704, there is the added risk of being spotted and attacked by the British forces in Gibraltar when crossing the Atlantic, as was the case in 1758 and 1759 during the Seven Years' War.

A prison was installed there, the condemned sleeping on old dismasted boats, and working on land during the day (not all were chained); others (subject to the most severe penalties) were assigned to the chiourmes of the royal galleys, with very high mortality. At the end of their sentence, many remained in the region.

In 1707, Victor-Amédée II of Savoy attacks the city, blocked by the ships of C. Showell, in July and the fleet is scuttled. The night between August 22 and 23, the Savoyards retreated to Nice.


Toulon was the place of departure and arrival of most of the major French military and colonial expeditions to Africa during the Ancien Régime and in the 19th century: for example, the expedition to Egypt, organized by Najac and Vence, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, left Toulon on May 19, 1798. Bonaparte had also earned his stripes of brigadier general on December 22, 1793, after the siege of Toulon and its reconquest by the revolutionary armies. The city had been opened to the English by the royalist fraction of its inhabitants. It was to be renamed by the National Convention which, by decree of 4 Nivôse Year II (December 24, 1793), stipulated: “The infamous name of Toulon is suppressed. This commune will henceforth bear the name of Port-la-Montagne ”.

The question arose as to whether Toulon had been "punished for its treason" by the fact that the seat of the prefecture was not assigned to it in 1800, when the prefectural body was created. The argument of a personal grudge of Bonaparte towards the Toulonnais justifying this transfer is not admissible: not only did Toulon first have to become a great port of war again, but also it should be noted that the two other great French military ports at the same time, did not receive the status of prefecture either. Thus Cherbourg was only a sub-prefecture (the prefecture of Manche being attributed to Saint-Lô), as was Brest (the prefecture of Finistère returning to Quimper). That Toulon was only a sub-prefecture was therefore not, as such, a historical and administrative aberration. What prevailed in Napoleon’s eyes were military and logistical considerations. From this point of view, Toulon was arguably the best military port in the Empire. The port was relatively difficult to block by the English squadrons which saw French squadrons escape, like twice that of Vice-Admiral Villeneuve in 1805, intended to unblock the Channel, but also that of Vice-Admiral Ganteaume in 1808, supplying Corfu, while entering the port without being worried by the English. The arsenal and shipyards of Toulon launched the ships of the line at the most regular rhythm, which was favored by the supply of oak wood available in the forests of the Rhône watershed, easily routed from the mouth of the river, while Brest was difficult to supply wood. Toulon had the best crew training conditions compared to other French ports.


Contemporary period (19th - 20th centuries)

During the nineteenth century, Toulon welcomed significant Italian immigration linked to industrial and naval development, as well as many Corsicans.

The permutations of the French Navy with the arsenal of Brest also create a Breton community.

The port of Toulon saw historic moments when the Russian squadron, commanded by Admiral Avellan, visited the French fleet to seal the Franco-Russian alliance, while France was previously isolated diplomatically. This gave rise to great festivities led by Vice-Admiral de Boissoudy, Vice-Admiral Vignes and Mr. Ferrero, Mayor of Toulon.

In August 1935, a year before the reign of the Popular Front, violent uprisings by workers at the Toulon shipyards opposed the austerity policy. This resulted in a large number of deaths and injuries; a state of emergency has been imposed.


Second World War

The city was bombed on June 13, 1940 by the Italian Regia Aeronautica. Due to the unfavorable weather conditions, however, little damage will be inflicted on the port to infrastructure.

Severely tested during the Second World War (scuttling of the fleet on November 27, 1942 the day before the German occupation, American bombardments of November 24, 1943), Toulon was liberated on August 27, 1944 by units of the 1st marching division of infantry (1st DMI), 9th Colonial Infantry Division (9th DIC), 3rd Algerian Infantry Division (3rd DIA) and 1st Armored Division (1st Armored Division) of Army B. The forces were composed of Europeans from North Africa and mainland France, Maghrebis (mainly 3rd ATR) and Senegalese skirmishers. All the French military forces are commanded by General de Lattre de Tassigny.


The town was decorated, on November 11, 1948, with the 1939-1945 War Cross with a bronze palm40.


From 1945 to 2000

After the war, the ravaged port had to be rebuilt, as well as many destroyed homes; in addition, at the end of the Algerian war, the influx of Pieds-Noirs returning from Algeria necessitated the rapid construction of new housing: around the old town, which was deteriorating, new districts of collective housing. "Little Chicago" was nicknamed after WWII for a nefarious neighborhood located at the bottom of the Old Town, just outside the main gate of the arsenal. This nickname was given by fishermen, which largely contributed to establishing the bad reputation of the city in the 1950s.

The district is run by organized crime whose emblematic figures are Jean-Louis Fargette - a mobster murdered in 1993 - and Maurice Arreckx. The latter was mayor of Toulon from 1959 to 1985, then chairman of the Var general council from 1985 to 1994 and senator from 1986 to 1995. “At the start of their career in organized crime, Fargette and his henchmen were engaged in activities. traditional neighborhoods, such as the racketeering of bistros, which they set on fire when they were not paid for, relates François Trucy, mayor of the city from 1985 to 1995. Then, Fargette moved on to construction and real estate business, in s 'associating with my predecessor, Maurice Arreckx. "

Journalists Simon Fontvieille and Jean-Baptiste Malet note that “together, the elected and the mobster reigned over Toulon for more than two decades. They upset the face of the city by building huge concrete warts and weaving networks of patronage allegiance. During the legislative elections of 1978, Arreckx placed Fargette at the head of an electoral office and asked him to ensure the security of the meetings of his party, the Union for French Democracy (UDF). When Prime Minister Raymond Barre went to Toulon to support the UDF candidates, it was Fargette, then stuck in organized crime, who climbed to the rostrum to deliver the welcome speech ... "

The city regained its status of prefecture in November 1974. From the 1970s Toulon experienced a strong economic and social decline, and had to face various problems. A high unemployment rate, a development of delinquency, especially in the city center in full disrepair, a saturation of road traffic linked to the poor motorway service of the agglomeration, a business-like management of the city, in particular under the mandate of the mayor Maurice Arreckx, contribute to the victory of the National Front in the municipal elections of 1995, governing the city until 2001.


21st century: an inevitable change

At the start of the 21st century, Toulon is seeking to improve its image and assert itself as a true regional metropolis, through a revaluation of its old center, an improvement in communication infrastructures, and economic development.

In 2001, the outgoing mayor and ex-frontist Jean-Marie Le Chevallier was beaten at the end of the first round of the municipal elections by the one who would be the first magistrate of Toulon, Hubert Falco. The latter begins with the reduction of charges for the city, indebted at the time to the tune of 214 million euros, and the rehabilitation of Toulon, and in particular of the old center. It also set up with eleven neighboring municipalities the Toulon Provence Méditerranée agglomeration community on December 31, 2001 to support the major projects of the Toulon metropolis.

In December 2009, Toulon received the Marianne d'Or for sustainable development for its commitment to innovative and modern actions that participate in the local development of the municipality41. In spring 2014, the city saw the work of the Toulon tunnel being completed after about 50 years of waiting.