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History of Monaco
 
 
 

Early History

The Rock of Monaco served as a shelter for the area's early inhabitants from the end of the Paleolithic period, approximately 300,000 BC, evidence of which has been found in a cave in St. Judist's Gardens. According to the accounts of historian Diodorus Siculus and geographer Strabo, the area's first permanent settlers were the mountain-dwelling Ligures, who emigrated from their native city of Genoa, Italy. However, the ancient Ligurian language, which was apparently not Indo-European, is not connected to the Italian dialect spoken by the modern inhabitants of Liguria, nor to the modern Monegasque language.

The Phocaeans of Massalia founded the colony of Monoikos, named for its Ligurian inhabitants, in the 6th century BC in the area now known as Monaco. Monoikos was associated with Hercules, venerated in this location alone as Hercules Monoecus (i.e. the lone-dweller).

Roman Rule & The Middle Ages

After the Gallic Wars, Monoecus, which served as a stopping-point for Julius Caesar on his way to campaign in Greece, fell under Roman control as part of the Maritime Alps province (Gallia Transalpina).

Monaco remained under Roman control until the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476, from which point the area was ravaged by Saracens and various barbarian tribes. Though these raids left the area almost entirely depopulated, the Saracens were expelled in 975, and by the 11th century the area was again populated by Ligurians.

In 1191, Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI granted suzerainty over the area to the city of Genoa, the native home of the Ligurians. On June 10, 1215, a detachment of Genoese Ghibellines led by Fulco del Cassello began the construction of a fortress atop the Rock of Monaco. This date is often cited as the beginning of Monaco's modern history.

As the Ghibellines intended their fortress to be a strategic military stronghold and centre of control for the area, they set about creating a settlement around the base of the Rock to support the garrison; in an attempt to lure residents from Genoa and the surrounding cities, they offered land grants and tax exemption to new settlers.

The House of Grimaldi

The Grimaldis, descended from Otto Canella and taking their name from his son Grimaldo, were an ancient and prominent Guelphic Genoese family who, in the course of the civil strife in Genoa between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, took refuge in Monaco, accompanied by various other Guelphic families, most notably the Fieschis.

François Grimaldi seized the Rock of Monaco in 1297; the area remained under the control of the Grimaldi family to the present day, except when under French control from 1793 to May 17, 1814. Designated as a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna after Napoleon's defeat, Monaco's sovereignty was confirmed by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. The Prince of Monaco was an absolute ruler until a constitution was promulgated in 1911.


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