Beziers's Short History
Béziers is now the “sous prefecture” and the second city of the Hérault department, and with a population of around 75,000 inhabitants the fourth city of the region Languedoc-Roussillon.
The city was founded by Greek colonizers in the 6th century BC.
In the 1st century BC the Romans, newcomers in the region where they create a new province called Septimania, set up a new city under the name Baeterrae, city crossed by Via Domitia, the highway linking Rome with Iberian peninsula.
During the Middle Ages the inhabitants of Béziers go through two historic massacres.
The first momentous slaughter of the city’s population took place in 1169. The instigator was none other than the Viscount of Béziers, Roger II Trencaval, who wanted to avenge the murder of his father Raimond I Trencavel, killed in 1167 in the city, and who brought the armies of the king of Aragon to slay the residents.
The second one took place in 1209 when Béziers was the first city burned down by the Albigensian crusaders. It is while his troops were attacking the city that Arnaud Amaury, the Cistercian abbot, was asked how to distinguish between the heretics and the Catholics. His answer “Kill them all, the Lord will recognize His own” still resonates after centuries. That day, 22nd of July 1209, day of Sainte Madeleine 7,000 people were butchered!
There were not only fights but also songs and poetry during the middle ages and Béziers was the home town of many troubadours, the most famous being Matfre Ermengaud the author of the longest medieval poem “Breviari d’amor” 35,000 verses.
Béziers is the birth place of a genius. It is here that Pierre Paul Riquet the architect of the Canal du Midi was born on the 29th of June 1609.
Béziers history is interlinked with the history of vine growing in the South of France.
During the roman domination the region’s wine is exported to Rome from the port of Valras on the Mediterranean Sea. Later the vine cultures are destroyed by the Moors who invade the South of France in the 8th century AD.
The Christian religion, reestablished after the Moors are forced to withdraw from Europe, with its need of wine used during the religious services has a positive impact in the region’s viticulture.
Starting from the 12th century the wine makers of what is now Languedoc Rousillon are forced by the development of the wine production of Bordeaux, Provence and Burgundy to create new competitive wines. They become known for their sweet wines like Muscat, Picardan and Mistelle.
During the 18th and19th century Béziers flourishes due to wine production and export.
Every year during the month of August, the city is the host of the “Feria” the biggest summer event in Languedoc-Roussillon, that center around the corridas that take place in the new arenas built in 1897.