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 Viennois. 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 Boso, and
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.