Montpellier is a city in the south of France. It is the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, as well as the prefecture (administrative capital) of the Herault departement. Population of the city (commune) of Montpellier at the 1999 census was 225,392 inhabitants, whereas the whole metropolitan area (in French: aire urbaine) had a population of 459,916 inhabitants in 1999. As of February 2004 estimates, the population of the city of Montpellier reached 244,700 inhabitants, meaning a 1.7% population growth per year between 1999 and 2004.
The city is situated on hilly ground 10 km (6 miles) inland from the Mediterranean coast, on the River Lez. The name of the city, originally Monspessulanus, is said to have stood for mont pele (the naked hill, because the vegetation was poor), or le mont de la colline (the mount of the hill); an alternative theory is that it was named for the hill of Monte Pestelario.
Montpellier is one of the few cities in France without a (Gallo-)Roman background. In the Early Middle Ages the nearby episcopal town of Maguelone was the major settlement in the area, but raids by pirates encouraged settlement a little further inland. Montpellier, first mentioned in a document of 985, was founded under a local feudal dynasty, the Guillem counts of Toulouse, who joined together two hamlets, built a castle and walls around the settlement.
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