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Marseillan (Municipality, Hérault, France)

Last modified: 2022-01-29 by ivan sache
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Flag of Marseillan - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 6 March 2004

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Presentation of Marseillan

The municipality of Marseillan (7,392 inhabitants in 2006; 5,171 ha; municipal website) is located on the Thau Lagoon, in coastal Languedoc, between Sète and Béziers.

Marseillan is today divided into two boroughs, Marseillan-Ville (Town), whose port of commerce was very active in the 19th century, and Marseillan-Plage (Beach), built on the mouth of the grau de Pisse-Saumes to the Mediterranean Sea. The Thau Laggon stretches over 7,500 hectares and is linked to the Mediterranean Sea by two narrow bottlenecks locally called grau. The southern grau is the grau de Pisse-Saumes (Pisses refers to piss and Saumes to brackish - saumâtre - water).
Marseillan is also located on the mouth of the canal du Midi, a 241-km long canal linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterraean Sea via the river Garonne. The canal was built from 1666 to 1681 by engineer Pierre-Paul de Riquet (1604-1680).

Marseillan was founded in the 6th century BP by Greek colonists from Phokia (Asia Minor). There is no evidence that the colonists came from Marseilles, an other, much bigger Phokian colony.

Wine-growing is probably the oldest activity in Marseillan. In 1813, Joseph Noilly invented Noilly-Prat, a naturally sweet (without addition of sugar) aromatized vermouth, used for instance in sauces for fish and shellfish. The first trials of sulfate sprays against fungal diseases on grapevine were performed in Marseillan. Most vineyards was destroyed by the phylloxera in 1876 and completely replanted. In the beginning of the 20th century, overproduction and competition with the wines from Algeria caused a big economical crisis in Languedoc. In 1907, the innkeeper Marcellin Albert organized the winegrowers' revolt and founded the newspaper Le Tocsin. There were huge demonstrations in Montpellier and Béziers. On 12 May, 1,000 out of the 2,000 active inhabitants of Marseillan joined a 500,000 demonstration in Béziers. Clémenceau, then President of the Council and Minister of Interior, sent the local 17th infantry regiment to repress the manifestation. The soldiers refused to shoot their countrymen and mutinied. The regiment was "transported" to Gafsa, in Tunisia.

The statue of the Republic placed in front of the town hall is said to be the oldest Marianne in France. Made by Taillefer, bought after a public fund raising, and inaugurated on 1 November 1878, Marianne is crowned with laurel and tramples a fleur-de-lis. She holds in the right hand the tables of the Constitution and in the left hand the triangle of equality.

Ivan Sache, 6 March 2004

Flag of Marseillan

The flag of Marseillan is blue with the municipal logo.
The main element of the logo is a crab. The inhabitants of Marseillan are nicknamed "Crabs". The local football-club, founded in 1907, is called Le Crabe Sportif Marseillanais.
The crab has nothing to do with the municipal coat of arms, "Argent three pales gules".

Dominique Cureau, 8 March 2004