Known as the City of Lights, Paris has a rich history and culture. As the capital and largest city in France, it is one of Europe’s major centers of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science and the arts. And each year, millions of tourists flock to the city to enjoy its great food and incredible sights. But has Paris always been the bustling city that it is today? How did it become the capital of France in the first place?
Let’s explore the history of Paris to learn how it became the capital of this gorgeous country.
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The Capital of France
The history of Paris dates back to the 3rd century BC, when the Parisii, a Celtic tribe, settled the banks of the Seine River. The land would eventually become an important trading center. However, in 52 BC, this small village was overtaken by the Romans, and renamed Lutetia (more formally, Lutetia Parisiorum).
Eventually, the town would come to be known as Parisius, and later Paris. Christianity would come to the region in the 3rd century AD, thanks to Saint Denis, who would become the first Bishop of Paris. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the city was occupied by Clovis I, King of the Franks. He made Paris the capital of his empire in 508.
The kings of the Carolingian dynasty, who would come to power in 751, would move the Frankish capital to Aix-la-Chapelle. Little attention was paid to Paris, which became more of a religious center than anything else.
After the Treaty of Verdun (843), the Carolingian Empire was divided into three branches. The western part came to be called West Francia. In 987, Hugh Capet, Count of Paris and Duke of the Franks, was elected as king of this region, and he formed the Capetian dynasty. Gradually, Paris would rise in prominence as the city was built up with walls and royal palaces. By the Middle Ages, Paris would become the most important city in Europe, serving as the political, economic, religious, and cultural capital of France.
The Capetians, and their cadet branches—the Valois and Bourbon—would rule the Kingdom of France until 1792, when the monarchy was abolished during the French Revolution.
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Why Is Paris the Capital of France?
The Kingdom of France would face much adversity throughout its history. While Paris largely served as capital during this time, outside forces occasionally would alter this. Paris’ position as capital would be secure by the 19th century, however.
After the French Revolution, a French Republic was established in 1792. In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte would take control of this Republic, eventually crowning himself Emperor of the French Empire in 1804. Shortly after, he would begin a series of projects with the aim of turning Paris into an imperial capital that would rival the great cities of the past–this included building bridges, palaces, and monuments dedicated to military glory.
Growth would continue in Paris throughout the 19th century, despite two more revolutions in 1830 and 1848. It was during this time that Paris came to be known as a fashion capital, and the construction of monuments like the Eiffel Tower would help turn the city into a popular tourist destination.
Paris would suffer heavy bombardment during World War I, and German occupation during World War II. But during the inter-war period, Paris flourished as a center of modern art, attracting intellectuals, writers, and artists from all over the globe.
Today, Paris remains home to a plethora of monuments, gardens, bridges, museums, and more, all of which help make Paris one of the most beautiful and fascinating capitals in the world.
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