The town of Agde is justly proud of its 2600 years of ancient history. This ancient city has Greek origins and has always been associated with its maritime trade due to its positioning. Due to its location both on the banks of the Herault River and, more recently, at the end of the Canal du Midi it has always been strategically well-placed for water trade.
Today Agde is no longer a large trading post but rather the gateway to the most popular beach resort in France, Cap d’Agde. The main industry here is tourism and the resort can hold up to 175,000 holiday makers at any one time. Agde itself is seeing an increase in property development as more and more investors look to move into the Languedoc Roussillon. Second home owners in particular are drawn here due to the very convenient travel links. The airports of Beziers and Montpellier are both close and the AP motorway serves Toulouse, Avignon and over the border to Spain.
The whole area around Agde was formed long before the Greeks arrived. 750,000 years ago the lava flow of volcanic eruptions created the landscape that we see today. Indeed Agde itself is built on the basalt rock from the eruption. In the fifth century BC the area saw its first inhabitants as the Phoenicians arrived and were quick to see the benefits and potential of this areas location. To begin with the main business route was between Marseille and Spain. Over time the city grew and flourished and by the third century the area was very multicultural with inhabitants from across the globe.
The city saw many different changes during the Middle Ages, overrun first by the vandals and then the Visigoths, from the 700 onwards it was the Moors turn to take over. It was not until the 12th century that this area was fully integrated into France.
It was the building of the Canal du Midi, a national world heritage site and an amazing feat of human engineering, that really increased trade here and brought the city to prominence, suddenly business was opened up not only to the east but now all away cross-country to the Atlantic coast.
The French Revolution was certainly felt here as well. There was an insurrection here and the Bishop of Agde, Saint-Simon, was forced to flee for Paris where he, like many others, was executed in those last days of those dark times.
Today the old city of Agde is a much quieter place and it is hard to believe that it was once such bustling center of business. Here today Agde is more of a satellite town for Montpellier, rather than the center of trade itself, but this is very much a benefit to the tourist who can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the quiet streets where many Artisan shops sell attractive wares. Agde still has quite a large population with around 22,000 people living here and the public markets each week are definitely worth a visit if you have the time.