1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bouches-du-Rhône

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BOUCHES-DU-RHÔNE, a maritime department of south-eastern France situated at the mouth of the Rhone. Area, 2026 sq. m. Pop. (1906) 765,918. Formed in 1790 from western Provence, it is bounded N. by Vaucluse, from which it is separated by the Durance, E. by Var, W. by Card, and S. by the Mediterranean, along which its seaboard stretches for about 120 m. The western portion consists of the Camargue (q.v.), a low and marshy plain enclosed between the Rhone and the Petit-Rhône, and comprising the Rhone delta. A large portion of its surface is covered by lagoons and pools (étangs), the largest of which is the Étang de Vaccarès; to the east of the Camargue is situated the remarkable stretch of country called the Crau, which is strewn with pebbles like the sea-beach; and farther east and north there are various ranges of mountains of moderate elevation belonging to the Alpine system. The Étang de Berre, a lagoon covering an area of nearly 60 sq. m., is situated near the sea to the south-east of the Crau. A few small tributaries of the Rhone and the Durance, a number of streams, such as the Arc and the Touloubre, which flow into the Étang de Berre, and the Huveaune, which finds its way directly to the sea, are the only rivers that properly belong to the department.

Bouches-du-Rhône enjoys the beautiful climate of the Mediterranean coast, the chief drawback being the mistral, the icy north-west wind blowing from the central plateau of France. The proportion of arable land is small, though the quantity has been considerably increased by artificial irrigation and by the draining of marshland. Cereals, of which wheat and oats are the commonest, are grown in the Camargue and the plain of Aries, but they are of less importance than the olive-tree, which is grown largely in the east of the department and supplies the oil-works of Marseilles. The vine is also cultivated, the method of submersion being used as a safeguard against phylloxera. In the cantons of the north-west large quantities of early vegetables are produced. Of live-stock, sheep alone are raised to any extent. Almonds, figs, capers, mulberry trees and silkworms are sources of considerable profit. Iron is worked, but the most important mines are those of lignite, in which between 2000 and 3000 workmen are employed; the department also produces bauxite, building-stone, lime, cement, gypsum, clay, sand and gravel and marble. The salt marshes employ many workmen, and the amount of sea-salt obtained exceeds in quantity the produce of any other department in France. Marseilles, the capital, is by far the most important industrial town. In its oil-works, soap-works, metallurgical works, shipbuilding works, distilleries, flour-mills, chemical works, tanneries, engineering and machinery works, brick and tile works, manufactories of preserved foods and biscuits, and other industrial establishments, is concentrated most of the manufacturing activity of the department. To these must be added the potteries of the industrial town of Aubagne, the silk-works in the north-west cantons, and various paper and cardboard manufactories, while several of the industries of Marseilles, such as the distilling of oil, metal-founding, shipbuilding and soap-making, are common to the whole of Bouches-du-Rhône. Fishing is also an important industry. Cereals, flour, silk, woollen and cotton goods, wine, brandy, oils, soap, sugar and coffee are chief exports; cereals, oil-seeds, wine and brandy, raw sugar, cattle, timber, silk, wool, cotton, coal, &c., are imported. The foreign commerce of the department, which is principally carried on in the Mediterranean basin, is for the most part concentrated in the capital; the minor ports are Martigues, Cassis and La Ciotat. Internal trade is facilitated by the canal from Aries to Port-de-Bouc and two smaller canals, in all about 35 m. in length. The Rhone and the Petit-Rhône are both navigable within the department.

Bouches-du-Rhône is divided into the three arrondissements of Marseilles, Aix and Arles (33 cantons, 111 communes). It belongs to the archiepiscopal province of Aix, to the region of the XV. army corps, the headquarters of which are at Marseilles, and to the académie (educational division) of Aix. Its court of appeal is at Aix. Marseilles, Aix, Arles, La Ciotat, Martigues, Salon, Les Saintes-Maries, St Rémy, Les Baux and Tarascon, the principal places, are separately noticed. Objects of interest elsewhere may be mentioned. Near Saint-Chamas there is a remarkable Roman bridge over the Touloubre, which probably dates from the 1st century B.C. and is thus the oldest in France. It is supported on one semicircular span and has triumphal arches at either end. At Vernègues there are remains of a Roman temple known as the “Maison-Basse.” The famous abbey of Montmajour, of which the oldest parts are the Romanesque church and cloister, is 2½ m. from Arles. At Orgon there are the ruins of a château of the 15th century, and near La Roque d'Anthéron the church and other buildings of the Cistercian abbey of Silvacane, founded in the 12th century.