Our Shared History

Between the Garonne and Rhône rivers there lies a vast space, bordered in the north by the foothills of the Massif Central and in the south by the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean sea. For twenty-seven centuries, this area of southern Europe, with its multitude of subtly-interconnected spaces and communities, has seen peoples of different cultures and spiritualities interact and intermingle. The regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées have always forged close links and created opportunities for exchange. For proof, look no further than our history…

27 centuries’ worth of shared history

Separated since the 1960s by an administrative border, the areas that form the regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées have held a shared destiny on many occasions during their respective histories.
It was in the 2nd century B.C. that a Roman conquest of the area would first shape the future administrative region of Languedoc. As the most important city in Roman Gaul, Narbonne became the centre of its own province, La Narbonnaise, which extended from the west of Toulouse to what is now Provence. During the Late Empire, Toulouse overtook Narbonne and became, at the beginning of the 5th century, the capital of the kingdom of the Visigoths, which occupied the south-western section of Gaul. A century later, the Visigoths were defeated by the Franks, falling back into Spain and retaining only the portion of Gaul known as Septimanie - an area which corresponds to modern-day Languedoc-Roussillon minus the territory of Lozère. “For the first time in generations, “Toulousian” Languedoc was thus separated from Mediterranean Languedoc. [1]
Under the rule of the Carolingians, the county of Toulouse occupied an area extending up as far as the Rhône river. The territory of Languedoc was still divided, but grew in influence during the 11th century. Towns and cities sprang up, including Montpellier. A literary language known as “Occitan” was established, allowing the poetry of the troubadours to flourish throughout the region.

The Estates of Languedoc

Somewhat paradoxically, it was by joining the kingdom of France in 1271 that Languedoc was able to achieve domestic unity. “Instead of a series of independent principalities, we’re now looking at a unified royal Languedoc”, writes Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie(2). The province was placed under the authority of a governor, but the provincial nobility were represented under a deliberative assembly known as the États du Languedoc (Estates of Languedoc). In 1444, Languedoc was endowed with an official court of law - the Parliament of Toulouse. “Over the next three centuries, the Estates and the Parliament would serve as the two most important administrative institutions in the province,” notes Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. [2]
The French Revolution would mark the end of Languedoc as an administrative entity. The territory was broken up into eight départements: Haute-Loire, Ardèche, Lozère, Gard, Hérault, Aude, Tarn and Haute-Garonne. The 1960s saw the formation of “upper” and “lower” Languedoc as administrative regions, but the two remained separate entities.


2nd century B.C.
Rome establishes La Narbonnaise - the first province of the Roman Empire to be located outside the Italian peninsula. The capital is known as Narbo-Maritus (Narbonne). This Gallo-Roman period also saw the emergence of the 
cities of Nemausus (Nîmes) and Tolosa (Toulouse).

La Narbonnaise is 
conquered by the Visigoths

Late 10th century
Foundation of Montpellier

Crusade against the Albigensians (Cathars)

Languedoc becomes part of 
the kingdom of France

Establishment of the Parliament 
of Toulouse

1667 - 1681
 of the Midi canal

The headquarters of the Estates 
of Languedoc is settled in 

Creation of the départements, a new administrative entity

Creation of the Regions, 
which at the time were 
 simple public establishments

The Regions become distinct public entities, 
with the same status as 
and Communes.


The history of the region begins in the 7th century B.C. with the arrival of the Iberians, a people from the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian peninsula. Having crossed the Pyrenees, they settled between the Adour and the Orb and founded a number of towns such as Auch, Lombez and Elne. In the 5th century B.C., the Iberians were displaced by the arrival of a Celtic tribe, the Volcae, who also settled between the Garonne and the Rhône.
The first “golden age” of the area that would become our great region began in the 2nd century B.C., when the Roman Empire established its first province outside the Italian peninsula. Its capital, Narbo-Martius, (Narbonne), would give its name to the surrounding area of La Narbonnaise. This province extended from the western side of Toulouse to the banks of lake Geneva. As Rome’s first stronghold against the feared Gaulish peoples, La Narbonnaise provided the empire with a safe route between the Italian and Iberian peninsulas. Caesar’s Roman legions would also use it as a support base to conquer the rest of Gaul. This Gallo-Roman period saw the development of Narbonne, as well as Nemausus (Nîmes) and Tolosa (Toulouse).

Middle Ages The period (…)

Middle Ages
The period that preceded the fall of the western Roman Empire, marked by the so-called ‘barbarian’ invasions, caused Rome to forge alliances with some of its old enemies. As such, the Visigoths, a people originating from the coasts of the Baltic sea who pillaged Rome in 410, were given the lands of south-western Gaul in 418. Around their capital, Toulouse, the Visigoths established the first of the ‘barbarian’ kingdoms, which at its height in the 6th century would extend from the Loire to Guadalquivir in Andalusia, with Toledo as its capital. At the battle of Voullié in 507, the Franks (led by King Clovis) defeated the Visigoths, who retreated behind the Pyrenees, retaining only their territory on the eastern side of the mountains - an area equating roughly to modern-day Languedoc-Roussillon. Known as Septimanie because of the seven cities it was made up of (Elne, Narbonne, Carcassonne, Béziers, Agde, Maguelone and Nîmes), and also as Gothie (‘land of the goths’), this area would remain in the hands of the Visigoths until it was conquered by the Saracens.
In the early 8th century, Arab-Berber armies crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to begin their conquest of the Iberian peninsula, before taking over areas of modern-day France. They captured Narbonne, but were defeated at Toulouse. The Battle of Toulouse in 721 brought the Muslim conquests north of the Pyrenees to a halt, 11 years before their final attempted invasion, which was pushed back by Charles Martel at Poitiers in 732. Nevertheless, Narbonne would continue to depend on the Caliphate of Cordoba over the coming years.
At the end of the 8th century, Guilhem, grandson of Charles Martel and German cousin of Charlemagne, reconquered the Muslim-held territories around the Rhône, reaching as far as Barcelona. Named as the first Count of Toulouse, he retired to the abbey of Gellone, which he himself had founded and is now known as Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. His life became the subject of legends and folk tales, and he became known as Guillaume d’Orange.
Under the orders of Raymond IV de Saint-Gilles, the County of Toulouse took on the shape of La Narbonnaise, extending from the Garonne to the Rhône. The Albigensian Crusade, first directed against the heretical Cathars, then against the Count of Toulouse who had supported them, would come to an end with the annexation of the lands of Toulouse to the kingdom of France, at the end of the 12th century.

Revolution - Modern Era

Somewhat ironically, it was unification with the former county of Toulouse that gave Languedoc a level of relative autonomy. The newly-established Estates of Languedoc were responsible for levying taxes, and were based first in Toulouse and then Montpellier, where they established a permanent headquarters in 1736. From the 15th - 18th centuries, the Estates’ influence extended as part of the wider jurisdiction of the Parliament of Toulouse, the second-most important body in the kingdom with the power to deliver justice in the name of the King.
The construction of the Midi Canal, designed by Pierre-Paul Riquet and completed in less than 15 years, solidified the interconnection between Upper and Lower Languedoc. During the French Revolution, the desire to wipe away all traces of former royal administration led to the old provinces being broken up into “departments.” In the mid-19th century, the rediscovery of the lyrical ballads of the Troubadours across Europe gave birth to an influential literary movement, spearheaded by Frédéric Mistral. Soon, in Montpellier, Toulouse and Montauban, intellectuals and writers were in contact with Catalans, bringing the Occitan language, or “langue d’oc”, into the modern age.

Modern Day Several laws (…)

Modern Day
Several laws and government decrees have led to the definition of the Region as the administrative authority we know today.
Territorial reforms introduced in 2015 redrew the borders of 22 former French regions, leaving only 13 in their place. The vast region of Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerranée was born from the union of the Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon regions. In total, 13 French departments make up the region, endowing this vast area with an infinite number of landscapes and hillsides.

[1Histoire du Languedoc, compiled by Philippe Wolff (Privat, 1967)

[2Histoire du Languedoc (PUF, 1962)