The Dark Ages
Welcome to Marseilles. This port city on the Southern coast of what is now France has had a turbulent history. The area has been occupied by humans for more than 30,000 years and can be called the oldest city in France. The city itself was founded by Greeks in 600 BC, and was then known as Massalia.
Massalia survived the collapse of Greek power in the Mediterranean by allying itself with Rome. When Carthage, the Celts and the Etruscans all eyed Massalia greedily, their pact with Rome kept them safe. Massalia remained independent until the reign of Julius Caesar. After a failed civil war alongside Pompey, Massalia – called Massilia by the Romans – became a part of the Roman Empire in earnest.
Despite its new status as a Roman territory, Marseilles continued to flourish during this period. It is also during the Roman era that Christianity began to take root in the region. The Diocese of Marseilles was founded in the 1st century AD.
During the decline of the Roman Empire, Marseilles fell under the sway of the Visigoths. This lasted until the mid-6th century when Frankish kings conquered the town. By the 10th century, it had regained much of its lost trading power due to the nearby courts of Provence.
To the vampires, the story is much the same although the key players are different. As the first Greek city in France, Marseilles has been home to vampires for more than 1500 years. Prior to Greek expansion, France was home only to the odd feral Gangrel or hermit. With the Greeks came the Ventrue, Lasombra and Toreador – as well as the lower clans that move in their wake.
When Carthage fell, many vampiric refugees from that doomed city fled to Marseilles. Carthage’s conflicts with Rome (and the Roman vampires) made the independent frontier port an ideal place to find shelter, and the long-reigning Ventrue Prince Itocles (a Greek by birth) was accepting if not welcoming to the new population of Rome-hating vampires.
As the three primary vampiric kingdoms of Western Europe (The Sea of Shadows, the Courts of Love and the Kingdom of the Black Cross) grew, Marseilles found itself right in the middle. The city has found itself to be the location of numerous political negotiations over the centuries. Throughout this, it has remained more or less independent. Each kingdom realizes that if it strikes to claim Marseilles for itself that it will be in a vulnerable position, defending the city against the other two powers. Instead, all three seem content to scheme about the city rather than attempt a martial coup.
The current Prince of Marseilles is a Ventrue named Reinhart – a German by birth – who has dwelled in the city for nearly 300 years, and has been Prince almost as long. He holds no allegience to any of the major powers in Western Europe. His unwillingness to choose a side may be catching up to him however, as agents of the three kingdoms have all escalated their activities in the port.