Agde : a greek city where waters meet
Agde is a town with 2,600 years worth of history and is a place where fresh and salt water mingle, where the River Hérault and the Canal du Midi meet the Mediterranean. Come and wander through its shopping streets and shady walks.
Agde is a town of Greek origin and has a maritime history. It used to be called 'Good Fortune' (from the Greek 'Agathé Tyché') and is situated on the banks of the Hérault river and at the foot of the Mont Saint-Loup, the last spur of the Auvergne volcano chain. This geological feature makes its architecture unique in the region: basalt is ever-present in all its buildings.
Agde from past to present
750,000 years ago, a volcanic eruption caused the formation of the Mont Saint-Loup. The two lava flows created the basalt mound on which the town was built and explain the existence of Cap d'Agde and its cliffs.
From the 5th century BC, the Phocaeans (Greeks from Ionia), who had been attracted by the strategic position and the richness of the volcanic soil, founded a trading post at the mouth of the river Hérault. At first this was just a simple trading station between Marseille and Spain, but Agathé Tyché gradually became a flourishing and organised town, with its river port, ramparts and right-angled streets. In the 3rd Century the Celts, Iberians and Ligurians created a colourful civilisation at the heart of Agde, to which the Eastern Greeks added culture and refinement.
Troubles all through the Middle Ages
In the 5th century BC, Agde became a bishopric that lasted for thirteen centuries. The Vandals ransacked the town in 471 and then it was the turn of the Visigoths to hold it in their power until the end of the 7th century. From 714 onwards, the Moors invaded Gaul. The town was destroyed for the first time on the orders of Charles Martel, who pushed his advantage against the Muslims of Southern Gaul to establish the Carolingian dynasty by force. Agde, like Béziers, was delivered from the Moors, but in ruins. In the middle of the 8th century, Agde became part of the Frankish kingdom, in a county that extended from Béziers to Nîmes.
At the end of the 12th century, the Bishop of Agde bought up the viscount of the towns loans and became lord of the County of Agde. Once finished, the Saint Etienne Cathedral made up part of the ramparts of the town. The bishops remained the secular and spiritual leaders of the Agde and its diocese up to the Revolution.
In 1629, while inspecting the coastline, Richelieu envisaged a great port sheltered by Cap d'Agde and the Brescou island by building a jetty. The decision was taken by order of the King's Council and in 1632 the work began. The Cardinal's death on 4 December 1642 delayed the works and, due to lack of subsidies, the port of Cap d'Agde was finally abandoned in 1651. The idea became topical again, three centuries later, with the development of Cap d'Agde at the beginning of the 1970s.
The Canal du Midi and the flourishing trade
In 1666 a royal edict authorised the construction of the Canal du Midi by Baron Pierre-Paul Riquet, linking the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The canal was opened in 1681. At this time, the Hérault assisted maritime traffic and activity in the port of Agde reached its height. This commercial activity brought wealth to the town, and numerous monuments and sumptuous private mansions were built.
In 1697, Agde registered its final coat of arms three blue faces on a field of gold. The three blue faces showed the sea, the river and the canal and the field of gold represented the sand. From the Revolution to the 20th century.
At the time of the Revolution, there was an insurrection in Agde. Under public pressure, the Bishop of Agde, Monseigneur de Saint-Simon, fled the town for Paris, where he was guillotined during the last days of the Terror. During the Revolution, Agde played a major role in provisioning the French armies from the Pyrénées Orientales and Italy.
In 1939, a refugee camp was built along the Sète road to receive refugees from Spain following the fall of Barcelona and the defeat of the Republican army. Other refugees followed: Czechs, Belgians, Jews and Indo-chinese. In November 1942, the arrival of the Germans brought about the dispersion of the Agde camp.
From its maritime history, Agde retains its tradition of warmth of welcome and openness, and has a rich historic heritage to be discovered on both sea and land.
Agde looks to the future and, together with Le Cap d'Agde, Le Grau d'Agde and La Tamarissière, it has become a major international tourist venue. But it is more than just a tourist resort: it is a whole new concept, a new way of life: Ancient Agde has taken the plunge into modernity.
The process of cultural development can be seen particularly in the support given to art, with the Site des Métiers d'Art which encourages the establishment of art studios in the historic part of the town, and also the development of historical knowledge through archaeological research, as recent discoveries show that Agde possesses real treasures underground and underwater.
Agde now has 22 000 inhabitants.