The Phocaeans who founded Massalia (Latin: Massilia) in 600 BC were probably the first Greek settlers of any consequence in the Western Mediterranean. There is a doubtful tradition that the Rhodians were an earlier thalassocracy in the region after the Trojan War (Euseb. 225). The placename Rhode, modern Rosas, scarcely gives a sufficient proof of their active presence. The traditional date of their activity is the tenth century BC, but there is no evidence that the Greeks were present in the area in any significant strength before the seventh century BC (Morel 1967:380). Before the arrival of the Greeks, Phoenicians colonised the coasts of Spain and Southern France, and these areas were within the Carthaginian sphere of influence. By the time the Phocaean Greeks settled at Massilia, other places of settlement had effectively been closed to them by hostility of the Carthaginians and the Etruscans (Morel 1967:399). The people of Phocaea abandoned the home city in Ionia to the Persians in 545 BC, and decided to find a new home in the west. At this point, the patience of Carthaginians and Etruscans wore out, and hostilities began which were eventually to result in the doubtful Greek victory of Alalia in 540 BC, which so damaged Greek power that the Greeks had to abandon the colony of Alalia in Corsica from which their remnants only escaped with great difficulty.
The story that the king of Tartessus gave the Phocaeans funds to build the walls of Massilia is not convincing in the form in which it has been handed down. A more plausible explanation is that the new western trade route was brilliantly profitable to the earliest Greek adventurers (Clerc 1929:84). Herodotus tells (4.152) how Colaeus of Samos set sail from home for Egypt, but an adverse wind took him to Tartessus where he sold his cargo at