Antibes Juan-les-Pins, a rich history

From Antiquity to the Belle Epoque

The Antipolis trading post

The history of Antibes Juan-les-Pins goes back several millennia. In 5th century B.C., after having founded Marseille (Massalia), the Greeks established a trading post which they named Antipolis, before creating one in Nice (Nikaia).

Civitas antipolitana

Antipolis became Roman of its own free will and experienced considerable growth. One factor in its economic development was the Aurelia road, one of the main routes used by the Gauls and which led through the city. Many monuments (theatre, amphitheatre, agora, thermal baths, aqueducts, triumphal arches...) were built there. It became an important emporium through which many ships transited, delivering wine, oil and ceramics. At the same time, the town made good use of local resources, in particular fish and salt. It produced several seasonings thereby ensuring access to Roman tables, such as garum, a fish-based product left to ferment in the sun in salt water mixed with honey until fully dissolved: this was then filtered.

From Antipolis to Antiboul

After Constantine's reign, the Roman empire collapsed, leaving behind in Antibes "the ruins of its fallen splendour." Antipolis took the name of Antiboul and in 442, Saint-Hermentaire settled there, the town's first bishop. But insecurity was rife and did not favour the economy, least of all maritime trade. Saracen hoards made frequent raids along the shore. In 1243, Pope Innocent IV decided to transfer the Episcopal See to Grasse, arguing that the town no longer met the necessary safety requirements for people and goods.

Antibes, royal city

Once Provence was annexed to France in 1481, Antibes became the outermost stonghold of the kingdom, facing the County of Nice and the enemy Savoy states. As such, it found itself at the heart of the war being waged between François 1er and Charles Quint for European domination. The town of Antibes, already ravaged in 1524 was besieged by land and sea in 1536 and sacked by a powerful and experienced army of 50,000 men, supported by Andrea Doria's fleet, won by Charles-Quint. François 1er showed his appreciation for the attitude of his subjects, confirming their privileges in June 1538.

During the latter half of the 16th century, Provence was a bloody battlefield. The Wars of Religion coincided with a new foreign invasion led by the King of Spain, Philippe II. His ally, the Duke of Savoy, besieged Antibes, which was sacked once again. So Henri IV sent the Duke of Epernon, who won back the town on 6th December 1592. Henri IV's conversion and the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes interrupted hostilities. In 1600, Antibes welcomed Marie de Médicis, the new queen of France, who came from Italy to join her new  royal husband.

Louis XIV entrusted the famous military architect Vauban with the reinforcement of the city's defences. Vauban redesigned the fortifications, before the town experienced the worst siege of its history in 1746, during the war of the Austrian succession. Under the leadership of Joseph-David, Count of Sade and commander of the stronghold, for 57 days Antibes heroically resisted the onslaught of 2600 bombs and 200 Austrian firepots. On 1st February, the siege finally ended and the valiant defenders hailed the vanguard of the liberating army with cries of "Vive le Roi!" (Long live the King).

Antibes and the Empire

The revolution was relatively calm in Antibes, where young General Bonaparte settled his family before distinguishing himself during the siege of Toulon. Once he became Emperor Napoleon, he had many faithful followers in the stronghold. Some even became important members of State, starting with Marshal Masséna, "enfant chéri de la victoire" (dear child of the victory), and Marshal Reille... This explains why, when Napoléon escaped from Elba Island and landed at Golfe Juan on 1st March 1815, he had thought to stop in Antibes. But times had changed and so had the people of Antibes. They gave him a cold welcome and the Emperor was obliged to avoid the city which no longer wanted him... As a reward for loyalty, Louis XVIII gave Antibes back the title of "Bonne Ville" (good town) which the Emperor had annulled. It also gained a new coat of arms.

A new era

Closely fought over for many years by France and the House of Savoy, the county of Nice became French once and for all in 1860. Having thereby lost all its strategic importance, cramped within the rampart walls rendering any expansion of the city impossible, Antibes knocked down part of these in order to expand into the surrounding countryside. Thus began the fabulous expansion towards Cap d'Antibes, which favoured the development of horticulture, followed by the creation in 1882 of the seaside resort Juan-les-Pins which, thanks to the phenomenal growth of tourism on the Côte d'Azur, was to become the biggest fashionable summer destination on the coastline, welcoming the international elite from political, high society and artistic circles (Fitzgerald, Picasso, Marlene Dietrich, the Kennedy family etc.)

American Story

In fact, the great Juan les Pins adventure began after the First World War. Traditionally deserted during the hot summers months, the resort took on a summer rhythm thanks to visitors from America, land of the free. Amid the pine groves and a few discreet villas, Frank-Jay Gould, heir to the American railway tycoon, launched the first big and fashionable summer seaside resort. In partnership with the Frenchman Edouard Baudoin, one of the developers of Deauville, he bought the old casino by the sea and transformed it into one of the most beautiful and active casinos on the Côte d'Azur, welcoming members of high society and the intellectual elite: Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, John Dos Passos, Picasso etc. Cap d’Antibes and Juan were to inspire Francis-Scott Fitzgerald's most famous novel, Tender is the Night, as well as another of his masterpieces: Tales of the Jazz Age.

In May 1927, Frank-Jay Gould opened Le Provençal, the first big luxury hotel on the Côte  d'Azur, which along with the casino became the driving force in Juan. Since then, Juan-les-Pins has become a trendy resort and over the years and seasons, has never ceased to shine as one of the most famous and popular seaside resorts in Europe.