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The history of Sète (pronounced "set") goes back to the Roman era when it was known for its pickled fish. Located on the then island of Mont Saint Clair in the Gulf of Lions, Sète gradually developed into a prosperous fishing port. With the silting up of the ports of Aigues Mortes, Agde and Narbonne by the 1200s, Sète had become the major port in the Languedoc region of southern France. Sète's position as a major port was further secured by the completion of the Canal du Midi in 1682 from Sète on the Mediterranean Sea to Toulouse. In conjunction with the Garonne River from Toulouse to Bordeaux, the canal provided an inland route for shipping between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean.

Although devastated during the liberation of southern France towards the end of the Second World War, Sète has recovered. Today, Sète is a town of over 42,000 and, thanks to the silting process, firmly attached to the mainland. It is now the largest French fishing port on the Mediterranean as well as a major commercial port. The largest nearby center is Montpellier which is located about one hour by car to the northeast.

Sète is also known as the Venice of Languedoc. The Canal Royal is one of a number of canals which intersect the lower parts of town although, unlike the gondolas of Venice, the canals of Sète are generally navigated today by powered boats. The town hosts the two week long joutes nautiques each summer, a water jousting tournament with origins in the 17th century.

Vital Statistics

Location: 43°24'N / 3°42'E
Population (1990): 41,916
Political context: an incorporated town in the Hérault Department of France


  • The web page titled SÈTE - VENICE OF LANGUEDOC located at http://www.le-guide.com/sete.html (last accessed 2003/04/25)
  • The web page titled Sète located at http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0844538.html (last accessed 2003/04/25)
  • The web page titled Sete France Cities, Towns and Villages in France located at http://www.2hwy.com/fr/s/sete.htm (last accessed 2003/04/25)
  • The web site titled Le Canal du Midi en Languedoc located at http://www.canalmidi.com/index.html (last accessed 2003/04/25)

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