Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ancient Belgium

Nothing makes me angry more than the comments of people who say that Belgium is not a real/legitimate/proper country. That is simply untrue. Belgium has been around for a very long time. Just the modern Kingdom of Belgium has been around since 1830 which makes it older, in terms of the government and constitutional monarchy, than the united Germany, Italy, the modern Fifth French Republic, the Russian Federation and many others. However, like I have posted about before, even before there was the modern Kingdom of Belgium there was the United States of Belgium (though it did not last long) from which much of the inspiration for the 1830 Revolution originated. Before that there was still a distinct difference from what was called the Austrian Netherlands sometimes, also called Royal Belgium in contrast to Federal Belgium which was the Dutch United Provinces. But even long before any of that, in ancient times, there was the Belgae.

The Belgae were written about by the Roman conqueror Julius Caesar during his campaign in Gaul (France) when he recorded that the area was inhabited by the Aquitani, Galli and Belgae. During his wars in the region he was impressed particularly by the ferocity of the Belgae and described them as the bravest of his enemies. Julius Caesar thought the Belgae had originated in Germany but no one really knows what their origins were. The Belgae included, according to Caesar, the Eburones, Condrusi, Caerosi and Paemani tribes of the Belgae alliance were Germanic. Other tribes identified themselves in such a way but some Belgae were recorded as having Gaulish names and other evidence shows considerable Celtic influence so, in the end, no one can really say what exactly the ethnic group was. So you see, some things never change. Knowledge of these ancient roots were revived when modern Belgium became independent with the Belgic chieftain Ambiorix becoming a celebrated national figure for his resistance of Roman conquest.
The Romans later made Belgica one of their provinces and later a diocese, as Gallia Belgica. Emperor Diocletian divided the area into Belgica Prima and Belgica Secunda. The Roman province of Belgica was extremely large and at one point covered big portions of what is now France and Germany as well as all of the current low countries. When Roman power began to decline the provinces of Belgica were invaded by the Vandals and the Burgundians and later became the central area of the Carolingian empire established by the Franks. This is when the country was under the rule of King Clovis I and when the Belgians were first converted to Christianity, probably by Irish monks. This is interesting to note since it was the Irish rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I that helped Belgium remain Catholic in later centuries when the English and Dutch were at war with the Spanish and Belgians.

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