Besancon (anc. Vesontio), a town of France, capital of the department of Doubs, on both sides of the river Doubs, and on the Rhone and Rhine canals, 198 m. S. E. of Paris; pop. in 1866, 46,961. It is strongly fortified, with a citadel built by Vauban, is the seat of an archbishop, and has a school of artillery, a library of 80,000 volumes, academies of science and art, a seminary for priests, and a botanical garden. There are many hospitals and a deaf and dumb asylum. Among the prominent buildings arc the prefecture and the ancient palace of Cardinal Granvelle, archbishop of Besancon, who founded a university here, which existed till the first revolution. The town and its vicinity abound with Roman remains, and a vast amphitheatre has been lately excavated. The principal articles of trade are corn, timber, staves, cheese, ironware, cloth, leather, and wine. Agricultural implements, iron, steel, and copper ware, paper hangings, cotton, silk, and woollen goods, and other articles are manufactured; and Besancon rivals Geneva in watches, of which 300,000 are made annually, employing over 2,000 persons.
Over 600,000 bottles of seltzer water are put up annually. - Ancient Vesontio was the chief city of the Sequani, and under the Roman empire was the capital of Maxima Sequanorum. It was rebuilt early in the 5th century by the Burgundians, after having been destroyed by the Alemanni, but was again ravaged by the Huns.' It successively belonged to the Frankish kingdom, to the kingdom of Aries, and to the German empire; became the capital of Franche-Comte, and under Frederick I. a free imperial city, and subsequently shared the fortunes of that province, passing with it to France in 1678. In 1814 it was in vain besieged by the Austrians. Victor Hugo, Fourier, and Proudhon were born here.