The first known hominid settlements in the Nice area date back about 400,000 years; the Terra Amata archeological site shows one of the earliest uses of fire, construction of houses, and flint findings dated to around 230,000 years ago. Nice (Nicaea) was probably founded around 350 BC by the Greeks of Massalia (Marseille), and was given the name of Nikaia (Νίκαια) in honour of a victory over the neighbouring Ligurians; Nike (Νίκη) was the Greek goddess of victory. The city soon became one of the busiest trading ports on the Ligurian coast; but it had an important rival in the Roman town of Cemenelum, which continued to exist as a separate city until the time of the Lombard invasions. The ruins of Cemenelum are in Cimiez, now a district of Nice.
In the 7th century, Nice joined the Genoese League formed by the towns of Liguria. In 729 the city repulsed the Saracens; but in 859 and again in 880 the Saracens pillaged and burned it, and for most of the 10th century remained masters of the surrounding country.
During the Middle Ages, Nice participated in the wars and history of Italy. As an ally of Pisa it was the enemy of Genoa, and both the King of France and the Holy Roman Emperor endeavoured to subjugate it; but in spite of this it maintained its municipal liberties. During the 13th and 14th centuries the city fell more than once into the hands of the Counts of Provence, but it regained its independence even though related to Genoa.
Duchy of Savoy (red) and other independent Italian states in 1494.
This section does not cite any sources
. (November 2017)
The medieval city walls surrounded the Old Town. The landward side was protected by the River Paillon, which was later covered over and is now the tram route towards the Acropolis.
The east side of the town was protected by fortifications on Castle Hill. Another river flowed into the port on the east side of Castle Hill. Engravings suggest that the port area was also defended by walls.
Under Monoprix in Place de Garibaldi are excavated remains of a well-defended city gate on the main road from Turin.
Nice and Savoy
Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia (blue) and other independent Italian states in 1843.
In 1388 the commune placed itself under the protection of the Counts of Savoy. Nice participated – directly or indirectly – in the history of Savoy until 1860.
The maritime strength of Nice now rapidly increased until it was able to cope with the Barbary pirates; the fortifications were largely extended and the roads to the city improved. In 1561 Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy abolished the use of Latin as an administrative language and established the Italian language as the official language of government affairs in Nice.
During the struggle between Francis I and Charles V great damage was caused by the passage of the armies invading Provence; pestilence and famine raged in the city for several years. In 1538, in the nearby town of Villeneuve-Loubet, through the mediation of Pope Paul III, the two monarchs concluded a ten years' truce.
In 1543, Nice was attacked by the united Franco-Ottoman forces of Francis I and Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, in the Siege of Nice; though the inhabitants repulsed the assault which followed the terrible bombardment, they were ultimately compelled to surrender, and Barbarossa was allowed to pillage the city and to carry off 2,500 captives. Pestilence appeared again in 1550 and 1580.
In 1600, Nice was briefly taken by the Duke of Guise. By opening the ports of the county to all nations, and proclaiming full freedom of trade (1626), the commerce of the city was given great stimulus, the noble families taking part in its mercantile enterprises.
Captured by Nicolas Catinat in 1691, Nice was restored to Savoy in 1696; but it was again besieged by the French in 1705, and in the following year its citadel and ramparts were demolished.
The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) once more gave the city back to the Duke of Savoy, who was on that same occasion recognised as King of Sicily. In the peaceful years which followed, the "new town" was built. From 1744 until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) the French and Spaniards were again in possession. In 1775 the king, who in 1718 had swapped his sovereignty of Sicily for the Kingdom of Sardinia, destroyed all that remained of the ancient liberties of the commune. Conquered in 1792 by the armies of the First French Republic, the County of Nice continued to be part of France until 1814; but after that date it reverted to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.
After the Treaty of Turin was signed in 1860 between the Sardinian king and Napoleon III, the County was again and definitively ceded to France as a territorial reward for French assistance in the Second Italian War of Independence against Austria, which saw Lombardy united with Piedmont-Sardinia. The cession was ratified by a regional referendum: over 25,000 electors out of a total of 30,700 were in favour of the attachment to France. Savoy was also transferred to the French crown by similar means. Giuseppe Garibaldi, born in Nice, opposed the cession to France, arguing that the ballot was rigged by the French.
Many Italians from Nizza then moved to the Ligurian towns of Ventimiglia, Bordighera and Ospedaletti, giving rise to a local branch of the movement of the Italian irredentists which considered the re-acquisition of Nice to be one of their nationalist goals.
In 1900, the Tramway de Nice electrified its horse-drawn streetcars and spread its network to the entire département from Menton to Cagnes-sur-Mer. By the 1930s more bus connections were added in the area.
In the 1930s, Nice hosted international car racing in the Formula Libre (predecessor to Formula One) on the so-called
Circuit Nice. The circuit started along the waterfront just south of the Jardin Albert I, then headed westward along the Promenade des Anglais followed by a hairpin turn at the Hotel Negresco to come back eastward and around the Jardin Albert I before heading again east along the beach on the Quai des Etats-Unis.
As war broke out in September 1939, Nice became a city of refuge for many displaced foreigners, notably Jews fleeing the Nazi progression into Eastern Europe. From Nice many sought further shelter in the French colonies, Morocco and North and South America. After July 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy Regime, antisemitic aggressions accelerated the exodus, starting in July 1941 and continuing through 1942. On 26 August 1942, 655 Jews of foreign origin were rounded up by the Laval government and interned in the Auvare barracks. Of these, 560 were deported to Drancy internment camp on 31 August 1942. Due to the activity of the Jewish banker Angelo Donati and of the Capuchin friar Père Marie-Benoît the local authorities hindered the application of anti-Jewish Vichy laws.
The first résistants to the new regime were a group of High School seniors of the Lycée de Nice, now Lycée Masséna, in September 1940, later arrested and executed in 1944 near Castellane. The first public demonstrations occurred on 14 July 1942 when several hundred protesters took to the streets along the Avenue de la Victoire and in the Place Masséna. In November 1942 German troops moved into most of unoccupied France, but Italian troops moved into a smaller zone including Nice. A certain ambivalence remained among the population, many of whom were recent immigrants of Italian ancestry. However, the resistance gained momentum after the Italian surrender in 1943 when the German army occupied the former Italian zone. Reprisals intensified between December 1943 and July 1944, when many partisans were tortured and executed by the local Gestapo and the French Milice. Nice was also heavily bombarded by American aircraft in preparation for the Allied landing in Provence (1000 dead or wounded and more than 5600 people homeless) and famine ensued during summer 1944.
American paratroopers entered the city on 30 August 1944 and Nice was finally liberated.
The consequences of the war were heavy: the population decreased by 15% and economic life was totally disrupted.
The waterfall on the Colline du Château (Castle Hill)
In the second half of the 20th century, Nice enjoyed an economic boom primarily driven by tourism and construction. Two men dominated this period: Jean Médecin, mayor for 33 years from 1928 to 1943 and from 1947 to 1965, and his son Jacques, mayor for 24 years from 1966 to 1990. Under their leadership, there was extensive urban renewal, including many new constructions. These included the convention centre, theatres, new thoroughfares and expressways. The arrival of the Pieds-Noirs, refugees from Algeria after 1962 independence, also gave the city a boost and somewhat changed the make-up of its population and traditional views. By the late 1980s, rumors of political corruption in the city government surfaced; and eventually formal accusations against Jacques Médecin forced him to flee France in 1990. Later arrested in Uruguay in 1993, he was extradited back to France in 1994, convicted of several counts of corruption and associated crimes and sentenced to imprisonment.
On 16 October 1979, a landslide and an undersea slide caused two tsunamis that hit the western coast of Nice; these events killed between 8 and 23 people.
In February 2001, European leaders met in Nice to negotiate and sign what is now the Treaty of Nice, amending the institutions of the European Union.
In 2003, local Chief Prosecutor Éric de Montgolfier alleged that some judicial cases involving local personalities had been suspiciously derailed by the local judiciary, which he suspected of having unhealthy contacts through Masonic lodges with the defendants. A controversial official report stated later that Montgolfier had made unwarranted accusations.
On 14 July 2016, a truck was deliberately driven into a crowd of people by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel on the Promenade des Anglais. The crowd was watching a fireworks display in celebration of Bastille Day. Eighty-seven people were killed, including the perpetrator, who was shot dead by police. Another 202 were injured, with 52 in critical care and 25 in intensive care, according to the Paris prosecutor.