It has a primarily agricultural economy. It is located about 21 km north of Avignon.
Roman Orange was founded in 35 BC by veterans of the Second legion as Arausio (after the local Celtic water god), or Colonia Julia Firma Secundanorum Arausio in full, "the Julian colony of Arausio established by the soldiers of the second legion." The name was originally unrelated to that of the orange fruit, but was later conflated with it (see Orange (word)).
A previous Celtic settlement with that name existed in the same place and a major battle, which is generally known as the Battle of Arausio, had been fought in 105 BC between two Roman armies and the Cimbri and Teutones tribes.
Arausio covered an area of some and was well endowed with civic monuments – as well as the theatre and arch, it had a monumental temple complex and a forum.
It was the capital of a wide area of northern Provence, which was parcelled up into lots for the Roman colonists. "Orange of two thousand years ago was a miniature Rome, complete with many of the public buildings that would have been familiar to a citizen of the Roman Empire, except that the scale of the buildings had been reduced – a smaller theater to accommodate a smaller population, for example."
The town prospered. It was sacked by the Visigoths in 412. It became a bishopric in the fourth century, and the hill fort of the Celtic Cavares was renamed for Saint Eutrope, the first bishop of Saintes. Christian Orange hosted two synods, in 441 and 529. The latter of the Councils of Orange was of importance in condemning the Pelagian heresy. The Diocese of Orange persisted until the French Revolution, and was formally suppressed in 1801.
The sovereign Carolingian counts of Orange had their origin in the eighth century, and passed into the family of the lords of Baux. The Baux counts of Orange became fully independent with the breakup of the Kingdom of Arles after 1033. From the twelfth century, Orange was raised to a minor principality, the Principality of Orange, as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire. During this period the town and the principality of Orange belonged to the administration and province of Dauphiné.
When William the Silent, count of Nassau, with estates in the Netherlands, inherited the title Prince of Orange in 1544, the Principality was incorporated into the holdings of what became the House of Orange-Nassau. This pitched it into the Protestant side in the Wars of Religion, during which the town was badly damaged. In 1568 the Eighty Years' War began with William as stadtholder leading the bid for independence from Spain. William the Silent was assassinated in Delft in 1584. It was his son, Maurice of Nassau (Prince of Orange after his elder brother died in 1618), with the help of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who solidified the independence of the Dutch republic. The United Provinces survived to become the Netherlands, which is still ruled by the House of Orange-Nassau. William, Prince of Orange, ruled England as William III of England. Orange gave its name to other Dutch-influenced parts of the world, such as the Oranges (West Orange, South Orange, East Orange, Orange) in New Jersey, USA, and the Orange Free State in South Africa.
The city remained part of scattered Nassau holdings until it was captured by the forces of Louis XIV in 1672 during the Franco-Dutch War, again captured in August 1682 and was finally ceded to France in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht that ended the wars of Louis XIV. Following the French Revolution of 1789, Orange was absorbed into the French of Drôme, then Bouches-du-Rhône, then finally Vaucluse. However, the title remained with the Dutch Princes of Orange.
Orange attracted international attention in the 1990s, when it elected a member of the far right-wing Front National as its mayor. It is now run by Jacques Bompard, a member of the conservative Movement for France which he joined after having resigned from the Front National.