HISTORY: BEGINNINGS Paris’ history goes back over 2,000 years when almost 60 Celtic peoples known as the Gauls inhabited the region, most prominently in the Paris Basin on the Ile de la Cité. One of their ethnic groups, the Parisii, eventually gave the modern city their name. The Gauls consisted of warrior peoples who hunted, fished, and made their livings in huts with thatched roofs. The religion they practiced, called Druidism, praised scenery; numerous modern religious celebrations include remains of Druidic worship. The most important celebration, la fête du gui (mistletoe) kicked off the new year. They also burned the Yule log to observe the return to light after a long, dark season of winter.
HISTORY: BEGINNINGS (CONT.) The Parisii ‘s head soldier, Vercingétorix, was defeated by the Roman Army under Julius Caesar (c. 100-44 B.C.) around 50 B.C. The Romans renamed the Gaulish capital Lutetia; it remained named so until a Germanic people called the Franks (therefore the name for modern France) reconquered it. The Franks’ king, Clovis (465-511), converted to Christianity and claimed the old name of Paris for its capital. By brute force, Clovis created the Merovingian reign of kings, making a code of laws called the Salic Law. In 800, Charlemagne (747-814) moved his capital from Aix-la-Chapelle to Paris, which made Paris the lasting capital city of what is now present-day France. Another group of intruders called the Vikings (actually Norsemen) constantly occupied and sacked Paris until they eventually became a sophisticated part of the society.
HISTORY: MIDDLE AGES By the mid-twelfth century, King Philippe Auguste (1165-1223) transformed Paris into a proper medieval city with a shielding wall around it. He constructed his fortress, which was little more than a citadel on the location of the present-day Louvre. No one knows what the word Louvre means, other than that it is believed to originate from the Latin word for wolves. Philippe housed his wolf-hunting dogs in the castle. The Middle Ages witnessed the start of the cathedral Notre Dome de Paris’s construction in 1163; it is one of the most well-known models of Gothic structural design. The University of Paris, one of the biggest universities in the world, was founded during the Middle Ages. The city of Paris, enclosed by walls, still lay on the Ile de la Cité in the middle of the River Seine.
UNIVERSITY OF PARIS
HISTORY: THE FRENCH REVOLUTION Steadily, the city of Paris became so largely populated that the walls were raised further and further out to hold the growing public. The last of these protecting walls was annihilated in 1919 by the Third French Republic’s government. The French kings slowly increased and revised the Louvre to become the kings’ citadel. The French Revolution of 1789-1793 was a turning point for Paris’ renovation; during that unstable period, there were uprisings in the streets and the people blockaded the narrow, winding streets to put a stop to the government’s authority. Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821) presided over the building of monuments and the establishment of a modern sewer system, which redecorated and cleaned the city. The monarchy’s short restoration (1848-1870) saw the rebuilding of Paris from a medieval town to a city of magnificent attractiveness and splendor.
HISTORY: THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (CONT.) Under the leadership of Baron Hausmann (1809-1891), the boulevards were enlarged so that they could not be easily blockaded anymore. Parks and memorials were built, the Louvre was completed, the Opera House was constructed, and an extensive system of sewers was built. Paris was organized into its modern- day 20 arrondissements. Building codes were imposed to maintain the neo-classical appearance and to retain a low building height.
PARIS OPERA HOUSE (PALAIS GARNIER) ANDTHE MONA LISA
HISTORY: THE EIFFEL TOWER In 1889, Paris was the site of the World’s Fair; the newest crowing glory, the Eiffel Tower, was made public. At the time of the tower’s construction, it was believed to be an outrage; the French people wanted it removed immediately. The tower outdid the debate to become Paris’ icon. Paris joined London in constructing the subway (the Métropolitain) in 1900. The metro stations at the turn of the century were stunning examples of Art Deco, with intricately planned ironwork gates; some of these remain in existence even today.
HISTORY: WORLD WAR II In World War II, the city of Paris was nearly demolished by German bombs. All of the Louvre art museum’s treasures were concealed by the French people during the war, so that the invading Nazis could not steal them. Charles de Gaulle’s government brought France’s government to the current Fifth Republic in 1958.
MODERN-DAY PARIS Today, Paris is indeed a feast for every sense. The city’s orthodox beauty is incredible in the evening when many of its landmarks are lighted. A new opera house has been added at the old site of La Bastille (a political penitentiary used before and during the French Revolution) and some high-rise buildings have been erected outside the central area. On the whole, Paris is still true to Baron Hausmann’s architectural plans. The large, main boulevards are packed 24 hours per day. A tourist may relax in a sidewalk café or visit any of the numerous museums the city offers. Whether it is from a café or a stylish five-star restaurant, the food is appetizing. Customers can find the most recent in fashion or look through the flea markets for a good deal.
MODERN-DAY PARIS (CONT.) The rebuilding of the Beaubourg area with the obliteration of Les Halles (a central market place) and the building of the Centre Pompidou (arts) in place of it took place in the new urban restoration of the 1990s. The International Communication Center has been expanded with new business midpoints in La Défense. At the start of the 21st century, Paris has kept all the fascination, mystery, and legend of its enchanted past; this is why Paris is ranked highly among travel destinations around the world.