Marseille is France's second-most populated and prominent city after Paris, of course, and it has a long and interesting history just like the country's capital. There are something like 1.25 million people living in Marseille, a number made up by many diverse cultures from all around the Mediterranean, West Africa and Indochina.
Marseille is not like the rest of Provence in that it has not been prettified for the tourist industry and life continues there all year, not just from May to October. It is France's most significant seaport and has a longstanding trade history that dates back to 600 BC. Greek mariners from Asia Minor founded the port of Massilia at what is now the Vieux Port, then in the 1st century BC the town supported Pompey rather than Caesar, who captured the town and confiscated its fleet in 49 BC, removing Massilia's ability to trade. The counts of Provence breathed life into the town in the 10th century, only for it to be crushed again in 1720 when 50,000 of its 90,000 inhabitants fell victim to the plague, brought in by a Syrian ship.
Marseille has always had a reputation for rebelling against central government and, whilst it has been a part of France since the late 15th century, it avidly supported the 1789 Revolution, sending volunteers to fight in Paris in August 1792. On the way they hummed a new marching tune with rather ferocious lyrics composed earlier that year in Strasbourg, which then became known as La Marseillaise and is now the national anthem. These days the locals are unreserved and friendly, and have little in common with the snooty Cote d'Azur stereotype.
Graphic sourced with thanks from : Suermondt.