Arras, the capital of the Pas-de-Calais, was first the capital of the Atrébates. These Celtic tribes, originally from Gaul Belgium (Gallia Belgica in Latin), a territory that included the current Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, north-eastern France and West Germany, invaded northern Gaul between the 4th and 2nd centuries before the Christian era. In 52 BC, the Atrebates and their leader Commios took up the cause of the Gauls who were fighting for their independence in Alesia. This rallying led to the installation of Caesar and his troops in Atrebacy. At the end of the first century BC, Emperor Augustus reorganized the Belgian provinces. Nemetacum was then founded on the hill of Baudimont and became one of the seventeen capitals of Gallia Belgica. In the 5th century, the great Germanic invasions and the arrival of the Franks were accompanied by the evangelisation of the town, which would have been the work of Saint Vaast (500-540). In the 7th century, the abbey bearing his name was built on the hill of La Madeleine, which thus became the second centre of development of the city.

In the 12th century, Arras experienced a new economic golden age thanks to the trade of sheets, which were exported as far as the East. With almost 20,000 inhabitants, it was then one of the most prosperous cities in Flanders. The Crinchon, which flowed between the episcopal city and the city of aldermen, cut this two-headed city in two. In the 13th century, Arras became one of the largest literary centres in Europe, thanks in particular to the poets Jehan Bodel and Adam de la Halle. In the 14th century, the manufacture of luxury tapestries reached such a level of perfection that the word "arrazi" began to be used to designate a tapestry throughout the world. But the city was not only known for its fabrics. After holding Joan of Arc captive for some time, Arras was the scene of the peace treaty of the Hundred Years' War in 1435. In 1477, after the death of Charles the Bold, who had taken control of the city, Louis XI renamed it Franchise, drove the inhabitants out and caused the fleeing of the drapery craftsmen who had made its wealth and reputation. By a game of inheritance, Arras was integrated into the Southern Netherlands and came under the authority of Emperor Charles V, also King of Spain. Under Spanish rule, the Scarpe River was finally channelled to Douai and the city was now able to turn to river trade. In 1659, after a long siege of the city by Turenne, the Treaty of the Pyrenees officially reunited Artois with France. Wary of both external and internal enemies, Louis XIV registered Arras in Vauban's "pré carré", which immediately qualified the new citadel as "Belle Inutile". However, between the barracks district and the esplanade of the citadel (around today's Place Victor Hugo), the Lower Town developed in the century following, designed according to a rare octagonal plan.

Craft production of lace replaced tapestry production before the porcelain industry became successful at the end of the 18th century, under the impetus of the four Delemer sisters. During the Revolution, one name attracted attention, that of Robespierre. Born in Arras in 1758 and guillotined in 1794, he was a lawyer at the Council of Artois before leaving for Paris as a deputy of the Third State. Member and effective head of the Committee of Public Salvation, he instituted the Terror.

Under the Empire, Arras became the prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais department, in which agriculture developed with the cultivation of beetroot, but also industry with the exploitation of coal.

During the 1914-1918 war, Arras formed a salient on the front line, a position that exposed it for the duration of the conflict. Three-quarters of the city was destroyed. Fortunately, the two famous squares were rebuilt identically. Twenty years later, during the next war, the city was again severely damaged. During the next thirty years, a prominent figure dominated the life of the town. Re-elected many times, the deputy mayor Guy Mollet was a man of national stature. Under his leadership, Arras became a modern and attractive city. Today, its position as a crossroads of motorways and railways favours economic settlements in the industrial zones on its outskirts. Arras has become a tertiary and food-processing city that is notably home to the European production platform of the ice giant, Häagen-Dazs.

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