Humans have inhabited Marseille and its environs for almost 30,000 years: palaeolithic cave paintings in the underwater Cosquer cave near the calanque of Morgiou date back to between 27,000 and 19,000 BC; and very recent excavations near the railway station have unearthed neolithic brick habitations from around 6000 BC.
Marseille, which can be called the oldest city in France, was founded in 600 BC by Greeks from Phocaea as a trading port under the name Μασσαλία (Massalia; see also List of traditional Greek place names). The connection between Μασσαλία and the Phoceans is mentioned in Book I, 13 of the History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. The precise circumstances and date of founding remain obscure, but nevertheless a legend survives. Protis, while exploring for a new trading outpost or emporion for Phocaea, discovered the Mediterranean cove of the Lacydon, fed by a freshwater stream and protected by two rocky promontories. Protis was invited inland to a banquet held by the chief of the local Ligurian tribe for suitors seeking the hand of his daughter Gyptis in marriage. At the end of the banquet, Gyptis presented the ceremonial cup of wine to Protis, indicating her unequivocal choice. Following their marriage, they moved to thee hill just to the north of the Lacydon; and from this settlement grew Massalia.
Massalia was one of the first Greek ports in Western Europe, growing to a population of over 1000. It was the first settlement given city status in France. Facing an opposing alliance of the Etruscans, Carthage and the Celts, the Greek colony allied itself with the expanding Roman Republic for protection. This protectionist association brought aid in the event of future attacks, and perhaps equally important, it also brought the people of Massalia into the complex Roman market. The city thrived by acting as a link between inland Gaul, hungry for Roman goods and wine (which Massalia was steadily exporting by 500 BC),and