In the 3rd century AD, the area was the site of a Roman castrum, named Lapurdum. It was a military place, but not a port. In 840, the Vikings launched a large-scale inland offensive and settled outside the city on the river bank. Lapurdum was an oppidum and they needed a port. Bayonne (from Basque ibai 'river') became a key place on the route between the Adour and Ebro Rivers. This commercial route was the main goal of Danish invaders in France. By this route, they could easily reach Tortosa, which was the main marketplace in Europe dealing with slaves.
By the 12th century the city was an important port. The French, however, realised Bayonne's strategic site near the Spanish border and in 1578 dug a canal to redirect the river through the city once again.
Bayonne endured numerous sieges from Plantagenet times until the end of the First French Empire in 1814. In the 17th century, Vauban built large fortifications and the Citadelle in and around the city. These proved crucial in 1813 and 1814, when Wellington's army besieged the city in the Napoleonic Wars, only taking it when they used a bridge of ships across the Adour to position artillery around the city. Now is a militay installation with the barrack of 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine (1er RPIMA) special force af French Army
By boothy443 @ 2007-08-10 22:32:15