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The city is located on a small bluff above the river Orb , about 10km from the Mediterranean Sea. At Béziers the Canal du Midi spans the river Orb as an aqueduct called the pont-canal ('bridge-canal').
The site has been occupied since Neolithic times, before the influx of Celts. Roman Betarra was on the road that linked Provence with Iberia. The Romans refounded the city as a new colonia for veterans in 36/35 BCE and called it Colonia Julia Baeterrae Septimanorum. Stones from the Roman amphitheatre were used to construct the city wall during the 3rd century.
White wine was exported to Rome; two dolia discovered in an excavation near Rome are marked, one "I am a wine from Baeterrae and I am five years old," the other simply "white wine of Baeterrae"
During the 10th through 12th centuries Béziers was the center of a viscounty . The viscounts ruled most of the coastal plain around the city, including also the city of Agde. They also controlled the major east-west route through Languedoc, roughly following the old Roman Via Domitia, with the two key bridges over the Orb at Béziers and over the Hérault at Saint-Thibéry .
After the death of viscount William around 990, the viscounty passed to his daughter Garsendis and her husband, count Raimond-Roger of Carcassonne (d. ~1012). It was then ruled by their son Peter-Raimond (d. ~1060) and his son Roger (d. 1067), both of whom were also count of Carcassonne .
Roger died without children, and Béziers passed to his sister Ermengard and her husband Raimond-Bertrand Trencavel. The Trencavels were to rule for the next 142 years, until the coming of the Albigensian Crusade.
Beziers was a Languedoc stronghold of the Cathars, whom Catholics determined were heretics and whom they exterminated in the Albigensian crusade. Béziers was the first city to be sacked, on July 22, 1209, burning the cathedral of Saint Nazaire , which collapsed on the terrified inhabitants who had taken refuge inside. Béziers was then destroyed and all its remaining inhabitants killed. A few parts of the Romanesque cathedral St-Nazaire survived, and it was restored, along with the rest of the city, during the 13th through 15th centuries.
See also: Septimania
Today Béziers is a principal center of the Languedoc viticulture and winemaking industries.
The A75 autoroute passes trhough Béziers.
Modern Béziers fields a rugby team with twelve championships to their credit.
The Béziers Feria offers five days of festivity in the summer.
Béziers was the birthplace of:
- Pierre Paul Riquet (1609 or 1604-1680), engineer and canal-builder responsible for the construction of the Canal du Midi
- Paul Pellisson (1624-1693), author
- Jean Barbeyrac (1674?-1744), jurist
- Jean Antoine Ernest Constans (1833-1913), statesman
- Jean Moulin (1899-1943), a hero of the French Resistance in World War II
- Edgar Faure (1908-1988), French statesman
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