The brave Phocaean Greeks from Ionia ventured across the Mediterranean in their sea-going galleys from the sixth century BC, founding colonies at Marseille, on Corsica, and in Catalonia as they went. Parties from Marseille continued to explore the French coast in the fifth century, landing at the base of an extinct volcano, Mont Saint-Loup, on the river Hérault. They were looking for sites to set up trading posts, and here they founded Agde, built of the volcanic black basalt. One export of the new settlement was slaves, another basalt mill stones, both quite unpleasant cargoes. Agde is a handsome and historic old town (not the same as modern Cap d’Agde, nearby, home of the finest nudist beaches in France).
A whole new civilization came on these ships – the local tribes (Iberians, Ligurians and Celts) began to find out about cultivating vines and olives, money, irrigation, architecture, writing, new belief systems, even hairstyles and footwear and, no doubt, food and cooking, since the valleys of the Aude and the Hérault can boast the earliest traces of Greek pots in the whole of the Midi.