Ratonneau is one of the islands of the Frioul archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea, off the southern coast of France near Marseille. It is relatively long and thin, approximately 2.5 km long but at most 500 m wide and generally much narrower. It was connected to the nearly island of Pomègues, which runs roughly parallel, by a mole constructed in 1822 to create a port area.

The Frioul archipelago is a group of 4 islands located off the Mediterranean coast of France, approximately at 4 kilometres (2 miles) from Marseille. The islands of the archipelago cover a total land area of approximately 200 hectares.

For centuries the islands were places for Mediterranean sailors to stop, whether they were warriors or adventurers. Their health aspect later played a major role in the protection of Marseille.

Massalia, whose name was probably adapted from an existing language related to Ligurian,was the first Greek settlement in France. It was established within modern Marseille around 600 BC by colonists coming from Phocaea (now Foça, in modern Turkey) on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. The connection between Massalia and the Phoceans is mentioned in Thucydides's Peloponnesian War; he notes that the Phocaean project was opposed by the Carthaginians, whose fleet was defeated. 

According to the legend, Protis, while exploring for a new trading outpost or emporion for Phocaea, discovered the Mediterranean cove of the Lacydon, fed by a freshwater stream and protected by two rocky promontories. Protis was invited inland to a banquet held by the chief of the local Ligurian tribe for suitors seeking the hand of his daughter Gyptis in marriage. At the end of the banquet, Gyptis presented the ceremonial cup of wine to Protis, indicating her unequivocal choice. Following their marriage, they moved to the hill just to the north of the Lacydon; and from this settlement grew Massalia.Robb gives greater weight to the Gyptis story, though he notes that the tradition was to offer water, not wine, to signal the choice of a marriage partner. A second wave of colonists arrived in about 540, when Phocaea was destroyed by the Persians.

Massalia became one of the major trading ports of the ancient world. At its height, in the 4th century BC, it had a population of about 6000 inhabitants on about fifty hectares surrounded by a wall. It was governed as an aristocratic republic, with an assembly formed by the 600 wealthiest citizens. It had a large temple of the cult of Apollo of Delphi on a hilltop overlooking the port and a temple of the cult of Artemis of Ephesus at the other end of the city. The drachmas minted in Massalia were found in all parts of Ligurian-Celtic Gaul. Traders from Massalia ventured into France on the rivers Durance and Rhône and established overland trade routes to Switzerland and Burgundy, reaching as far north as the Baltic Sea. 
Les îles du Frioul, Temple (New)

They exported their own products: local wine, salted pork and fish, aromatic and medicinal plants, coral, and cork. The most famous citizen of Massalia was the mathematician, astronomer and navigator Pytheas. Pytheas made mathematical instruments, which allowed him to establish almost exactly the latitude of Marseille, and he was the first scientist to observe that the tides were connected with the phases of the moon. Between 330 and 320 BC, he organized an expedition by ship into the Atlantic and as far north as England, and to visit Iceland, Shetland, and Norway, where he was the first scientist to describe drift ice and the midnight sun. 
Balades au soleil - Visites - Île de Ratonneau

Though he hoped to establish a sea trading route for tin from Cornwall, his trip was not a commercial success, and it was not repeated. The Massiliots found it cheaper and simpler to trade with Northern Europe over land routes.

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