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Originally the Visigoths only lasting province in France, the Principality of Septimania, the southern seaboard of France inhabited by the Occitan, declared its independence from the Visigoths in the year 680. In the years following this it successfully defended itself against all forms of Frankish attack - and by the year 1000, had formed an empire that covered Septimania, Provence and Savoy. Its eventual demise happened around the same time as the Frankish Kingdoms; but even so, Septimania remained a separate nation state - and the area it covered at its height maintained a predominantly Occitan population.
When the Roman Empire finally met its end in 476 AD, the Gallic provinces fell out of the orbit. The Southern provinces were left in the hands of the Visigothic Kingdom, who, over the course of the next two centuries, succeeded in losing most of it to the Franks through a mixture of bad alliances, poor tactics and even poorer logistics. By 680, the fast multiplying Occitans of Septimania had had enough. They launched a rebellion against the Visigoths which proved quite impossible to suppress.
The Franks, who still appeared to be masters of the situation, at first supported the Septimanians in their rebellion. However, at the battle of Perpignan, it became evident that the Septimanians were far better organised than their Visigothic predecessors. Fearing this, the Frankish commanders made a botched up attempt to change sides. The Septimanians crushed them at every engagement, the Franks being so disorganised that they put up only minimum resistance. By June, the Visigoths had ceased their attacks and by August, the Franks had pulled out too. Septimania was declared an independent state later that month. No one was going to stop them.
Expansion into Provence
The Septimanian Royal Family were established in 682 in the town of Narbonne - the capital of the Septimanian state. By 700, the country had a system of government equal to that of Franks, and far superior to the fast deteriorating Visigoths; by 750, it had a regular professional military better than both. It took two crushing campaigns by Enricas the Great to drive the Franks out of Provence, and consolidate the area under Septimanian rule.
Contact with Byzantium
The Franks did not trouble the Septimanians after this for at least two centuries, which allowed the Septimanians to benefit from an economic expansion that outmatched any other Western European state. The Septimanian mercantile marine, which before the Year 800 had been an almost non-existent affair, took on the role of the main trade organisation in the Western Mediterranean. This caused a bout of over-confidence by the Septimanian admirals, who, in 812, launched an attack on the island of Corsica. The island itself was the fief of a Lombard Prince, which was one of the factors that contributed to the ease of its takeover; this was not however, the end of the story. The Lombards, who's many principalities covered most of the area north of the border with Latium (officially a province of the Papal State, but since Byzantium's recovery now a tributary of the Byzantine Empire), were drawing together their forces - and a Byzantine fleet from Sardinia was stirring in their support. The Septimanian army won all form of the battles on land, but the fleet was embarrassed by the Byzantine's superior naval technology. At the Battle of Sartene , the Byzantines decimated the Septimanian fleet; their army went on to overrun half of the island. The Septimanians sued for peace when a larger Byzantine fleet moved against Septimanian naval installations at Toulon in the summer of 813.
The Peace of Toulon
This first Septimanian defeat proved no to be a particularly major setback. The terms were as follows:
- Corsica was to be ceded to the Byzantine Empire.
- Septimania was to pay an indemnity of 5,000 ducats to Lombardy and 2,500 to the Byzantines in compensation for the war.
- Septimanian trade ships were restricted to the waters west of the Italian toe.
- Septimanian warships were to be used for defensive purposes only.
The Byzantines had made their point - and easily had the influence to enforce the terms of the treaty. The Septimanians, on their part, gave up any aspirations of being a naval power. Their trading enterprises, however, continued to boom; with their treasury soon exceeding the combined treasuries of all of the other Western nations combined. Never, however, were they succeed the economic muscle of Byzantium.