Provence, a region and a former province of southeastern France. The region is bounded on the north by the Dauphiné region; on the east by Italy; on the south by the Mediterranean Sea; and on the west by the Languedoc region. Provence is largely mountainous, being crossed by the Provence Alps for most of its length and by the Maritime Alps on the Italian border. The relatively flat coastal area is the French Riviera. Chief cities are Marseille, Nice, Toulon, and Cannes, all on the Mediterranean.
Provence is drained by the Rhône River and one of its tributaries, the Durance. Fertile land is limited by the rough terrain, and most farming is in the river valleys and the coastal area. It is an important fruit- and vegetable-producing region. Livestock is also raised here.
The coastal area was settled by Greeks about 600 B.C. It came under the protection of Rome in the second century B.C. and was later absorbed by the empire. After 400 A.D. the region was invaded successively by Visigoths, Burgundians, and Arabs. The Kingdom of Provence was established in 879 and joined the Kingdom of Arles in 933. During the 12th and 13th centuries the region was noted for its troubadours, or minstrels, who spread the Provencal language throughout southern France.
In the late 15th century Provence became a province of France. In the late 18th century, during the French Revolution, Provence was divided into several departments and ceased to exist as a province.