The site of Avignon was settled very early on; the rocky outcrop (le Rocher les Doms) at the north end of the town, overlooking the Rhône River. Avignon, written as Avennio or Avenio in the ancient texts and inscriptions, takes its name from the Avennius clan. Founded by the Gallic tribe of the Cavares or Cavari, it became the centre of an important Phocaean colony from Massilia (present Marseilles). Avignon is an ancient city with vestiges dating to 3000 BC. Under the Romans, Avenio was a flourishing city of Gallia Narbonensis, the first Transalpine province of the Roman Empire. Barbarians invaded in the 5th century following the collapse of the roman empire. There followed a long series of wars and sieges until the 12th century. It then was established in 1129 as a commune and the city became independent, governed by the knights and the rich citizens under the authority of the Bishop. In 1309 the city was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence, and from 9 March 1309 until 13 January 1377 was the seat of the Papacy instead of Rome. This caused a schism in the Catholic church. At the time, the city and the surrounding Comtat Venaissin were ruled by the kings of Sicily from the house of Anjou. The city is well known for its Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe), where several popes and antipopes lived from the early 14th to early 15th centuries. Avignon belonged to the Papacy until 1791, when, during the disorder of the French Revolution, it was reincorporated with France.
Pablo Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in the same year that Cezanne died, 1906. While it resembles Cezanne's The Bathers, the cubist painting style was a signal of the most dramatic and quick change in the history of art.