A Brief History of Cannes

history of cannes

Cannes is located on the French Riviera. The city is known for its glitz and glamour but was Cannes always a prestigious town?

By the 2nd century BC, the Ligurian Oxybii established a settlement here. This was known as Aegitna. However, historians are unsure what the name means. They used the area as a port between the Lerins Islands and the fishing village. As you might expect Cannes started as every other fishing village in the French Riviera, a small fishing village and no where near the size you will know Cannes to now be.

Cannes started out in the place which is known today as the old town of Cannes, Le Suquet, including the old harbour (Le Vieux Port) where fisherman came and docked their boats, after a day of catching fish.

It is also believed that Cannes was the site of a small Ligurian port, which ended up a Roman outpost located in Le Suquet.

Ancient History
The history of Cannes stretches back to 1000BC, as archaeological findings have revealed that there was human life in the Neolithic and the Iron Age in Cannes. Archaeological findings suggest the first settlers in Cannes were the Oxybian side of the Lingurian tribe. These individuals are said to have first inhabited the old town of Cannes. The early settlement stretches back to the 6th century BC when Cannes was a real urban settlement.

Medieval History
In 891 there was an attack by the Saracens which lasted until the end of the 10th century which ruined Cannes, known as Canua back then. It is believed that Canua derived from the term ‘canna’ which means reed or cane, named after the once reedy shore. The name Cannes first appeared in 1030 in a deed of donation by Rodoard’s son to the Abbot with the mention of ‘De Portu Canue’. Canue derives from a Lingurian word for peak or height. This refers to the hill on which ‘Le Suquet’ is located on, and a watchtower was built on. The watchtower was built to protect them from the Saracen’s. It was constructed in 1035 and completed at the end of the 11th century. The tower remains to this day and is lit up in the evening on the old town of Cannes.

In 1530 Cannes became independent from the monks who had controlled the city for many years. Cannes was disrupted by the plague and in 1520 the worst epidemic broke out killing over half the population.

During the 1800’s British and Spanish troops tried to invade and gain control of the Lerins Islands but were driven away by the French.

In the 19th century multiply railways were completed and the introduction of trams occurred. The tram system was operated between 1900 and 1933 and tourism flourished in Cannes. Population grew between the period of 1814 to 1924 but World War I put a hold to it. A lot of hotels were made into hospitals for the wounded.

During the Second World War Cannes were occupied by their neighbours Italy and the Germans. In August 1944 Cannes were struck by the final attack from the sea and with the allied landings, Cannes returned to a calm and relaxing city. After this the Cannes film festival was picked up and launched and became a premium event. Overtime Cannes has been a city of tourism for many wealthy and famous people, starting with the British and Russians.

In the Belle Epoque, many of the beautiful buildings you can see in Cannes today. This includes hotels like The Martinez, The Majestic and The Carlton. They were built to accommodate the growing population of Cannes, but also to meet the increasing popularity amongst the wealthy European Aristocrats to holidayed in Cannes.

In 1838 the new port was built and in 1863 the train station of Cannes significantly decreased the time to travel to Cannes from Paris making the town by the Riviera hugely popular to Frenchmen living in Paris.

In the 20th century Cannes really modernised with new schools, post offices, and sport centres being built making Cannes what it is today.

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