Posted by Tineke on September 15, 1997 at 09:21:46:
In response to "where stood belgia, the netherlands?" - shakespeare, written by greg on September 14, 1997 at 23:02:11
The term Belgica was introduced by Julius Caesar. It indicated a province of Gaul, stretching from the Seine to the Rhine. So this area was a lot bigger than Belgium is now. The capital was Reims. The tribes were called Belgae. Where exactly the term came from, we're not sure. Some people think it's from "verbolgen" meaning angry, wrathful, others think it's from "Balg" which a sort of bag, bellows.
Actually Belgae is a collective noun for many different tribes, like the Nerviers, Menapiërs, Eburons,…These were all Celts, although there was a lot of Germanic influence.
After Julius Caesar had invaded Belgica, he called the Belgae the bravest of all Gauls! (I don't know if you know the Asterix comic books, there you can see a map of Europe during the possession of the Romans. They're my favourite comic books, really funny especially if you know a little history.)
Invasions by the Franks from east of the Rhine reaching a peak in the 5th century forced the Romans gradually to abandon their hold on the area. They had, however had a lasting influence on its language. It is believed that here the language border was formed. The Southern area (now Wallonia) still kept its Roman language, while the northern part (Flanders, Holland) spoke a Germanic language. The Romans changed more than just the language, through Latin; they had an influence on its place names, its road network and its religion. This north western corner of Europe had been gradually converted to Christianity.
By now, under the shadowy and often intangible control of Frankish rulers, they were, to some extent defended by local chiefs, for example the counts of Flanders.
The boundaries of the lands controlled by the first counts of Flanders were changeable but involved relations with both the rulers of France and of Germany. Complicated feudal relationships meant that the Counts of Flanders were vassals of the Kings of France for their lands west of the Scheldt, and the rulers of Germany for lands east of the same river which in 925 became the permanent boundary between France and the empire. So Belgium was divided in different counties and duchies under control by different rulers.
I don't think the term Belgium was used in this period.
I'm not going to bore you with the next part of our history. It's too complicated! We've been ruled by the Burgundians, the Habsburgs, the Spanish, the Austrians, French, …I think in these times we were referred to as the Netherlands or the Lower Countries. The Netherlands split during the time of Spanish rulers. The South (Flanders) was Roman Catholic, while the Northern part (Holland) became Protestant. Now the present border between Belgium and Holland was formed.
I've been checking encyclopaedias and other books about the Belgian history. During these times, the word Belgium is never mentioned. I noticed it one more time, apparently at the end of the 18th century we were "the united Belgian States", but not for long. Soon we were invaded by the Austrians and later we became part of France. This was over after the battle at Waterloo, just outside Brussels. This is the Regency Period, so maybe Jane Austen might have heard of the term Belgian after all. But again, I'm not sure. Our history is sooo complicated, we were never taught properly at school, because it would take ages to teach us all that.
I know that next we became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. A combination of circumstances led the Belgian revolution when Flanders and Wallonia at last came to stand side by side in the Kingdom of Belgium. Our first king was King Leopold I of Saksen-Coburg.
My conclusion is that the Belgian history is older than the Kingdom Belgium, so I do think the term Belgia, Belgae or whatever was known in the Regency period. But I don't think it was used to indicate this country, because at that time this country didn't exist. I've looked in an historical atlas. So I've seen a map of Europe of the Regency Period. It's clear that Belgium nearly has the same shape like at present, but the term Belgium isn't used. We're referred to as the Southern Netherlands. If you talk about the geography of a place, where this or that river is, you talk about the present country. So if Elinor would have talked about this place, she should have said the Netherlands. I'm sure that Margaret wouldn't have found the word Belgium in her atlas.
For example, now we know the term Prussia as a country that once existed. When we want to say where the Wisla is, we won't say it's in Prussia, but in Poland.
I hope this clears up a few things. I'm sorry about the long post. I must say this has been very challenging, indulging in our own history. My family thinks I'm crazy, writing this with an encyclopaedia, a historical atlas and some other history books laying all over the place. But I enjoyed it!
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