Hugh of Arles was born in 880/1, the eldest surviving son of
Theobald, Count of Arles, and
Bertha of Lotharingia. By inheritance, he was
Count of Arles and
Vienne, which made him one of the most important and influential nobles in the
Kingdom of Provence. After the
Emperor Louis III, who was also King of Provence, was captured, blinded, and exiled from Italy in 905, Hugh became his chief adviser and regent. By 911, most of the royal prerogatives were exercised by Hugh and Louis ceded him the titles dux of Provence and marchio of the
 He moved the capital to his family's chief seat of
Arles and in 912 married
Willa, widow of Rudolph I of Burgundy. Hugh would then unsuccessfully attempt to take Burgundy from Rudolph's son,
Rudolph II of Burgundy.
At an unknown date, a Provençal army led by Hugh, his brother
Hugh Taillefer invaded Lombardy with the support of Hugh's mother. On the basis of the account of
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, this event has been dated to as late as 923–924, but the account of
Liutprand of Cremona dates the event much earlier, between 917 and 920.
About 922, a sizable faction of Italian nobles revolted against the by-then
Emperor Berengar and elected
Rudolph II of Burgundy King of Italy. This started a civil war, which resulted in Berengar's death in 924.