History of Belgium

Pre History of Belgium
North-west Europe was inhabited by the Neanderthals. Leftovers and tools from 500 000 years ago have been found on several places. But it would not be before 4000 BC that the first villages up to 100 persons would appear.

With the withdrawing of the ice, the area became attractive for other tribes. The Omalien arrived and became known for ceramic art. The michelsberg tribe would be known for its stone-industry.

History of Belgium from 1200 to 500.

We’d find the Hallstatt culture that was followed by the Celt ‘la-tène’ culture. It’s in this time that the oldest fortified settlements are founded. Soon smaller cities would come out. One of the last tribes were the Belgae. They conquered the area between the Germanics and the Celts and would create a buffer between those two groups.

These old Belgians lived from hunting, spices and fruits. They knew a simple agriculture and animal husbandry. The family is the basis of these communities and soon other classes as nobility and slavery would exist.

Roman empire and The History of Belgium

1. History of Belgium: Massacre of the Nervii
In 57 BC, Julius Caesar passed the Alps and came to Gaul. While going north, he destroyed the tribe of the Nervii. Only 3 of the 600 nobles of the Nervii survived. The Nervii originally dominated the route from Colonia (Köln) and Amiens (Ambiani). Several other tribes are named in the Bello Galico. Like the Remi (Reims), the Atrabates (Arras) and many others.

Those were Gauls. The Nervii were Germans and they were proud of it.

After an early battle in Ambiana where Caesar beat the Nervii, he went north-east with eight legions to the area where they lived. After three days of marching, he was informed that the Belgae waited for him around Sabis, just 15km ahead.

He expected an easy victory and ordered his troops to advance and install their camps there. The Nervii knew better then he could expect the tactics of the Romans. Their strategy was to damage the legions that heavily so that they had to return.

The roman armies were big. A kilometers long row of artillery, troops and transportation made them week. On that moment the attack started. The Nervii knew that the last legions were still far away and they tried to destroy the legions by two.

The Ambiani group arrived too late and the legions could defeat them. When the last legions of Caesar arrived, it was over for the Nervii and they were practically instinct.

But only a few years later they more or less destroyed the legion of Quintus Cicero (brother of the writer). Together with the Eburon they attacked his winter camp. The situation was hopeless for the Romans. Ninety percent of the legion was destroyed before help arrived.

2. History of Belgium: The upraising of the Eburon

The Eburon are another famous tribe that gave Caesar a headache. Two famous kings, Ambiorix (the military leader) and Catuvolcus were named in the bello galico.

It was Ambiorix that destroyed one legion and 5 cohorts around Atuatuca. In the valley of this village the Eburon waited for the Romans and closed the way out. It was a trap and 7000 Roman soldiers and several 1000 of citizens were killed by this raid.

Caesar was furious and demanded the elimination of the Eburon. The next year Caesar’s military strategy was mainly there to destroy them. He invited all other people from Gaul to help him. In a smart move, Caesar captured the head quarters of the Eburon. The Eburon fought back but were defeated. Catuvolcus, an older man who couldn’t run anymore, committed suicide. All those who could, ran away to the depths of the forests. Ambiorix was never caught, never killed and never seen back. It is said that he found safety across the Rhine.

In his writings Caesar declares that the Eburon and the Nervii are instinct. Nothing less was true. A few years later new tribes were founded as the Tungri and the Texuandri. Scientists assume that these were the descendents.

3. History of Belgium: Belgica under the Romans

It’s because of Caesar’s heavy losses that we know about these tribes. Caesar gives interesting explanations of the character of the Belgae and also describes the area. Because of these heavy losses, he described them as the bravest of all. He had to protect his position and told the senate that he has never seen a tribe like the Belgae. Wars between the Belgae and the Romans would continue until the first century AC. It’s only under emperor Claudius that Romanization started.

Roman roads were built and the area became more accessible and attractive for Romans. The tribes had to deliver soldiers to enforce the Roman armies. Trade with Germany and Rome became more and more important. Tungrorum (Tongeren) and Turnacum (Tournai) became the first cities in what is now called Belgium.It has to be said that the roman province Belgica was a lot bigger then the actual country Belgium. A big part of Gaul (France) and Germania (Germany) were a part of this province.

In the first century Belgica was split in Belgica and Germania Inferior (capital Colonia = Köln). A century or two later the province would again be split in Belgica Prima (capital Trevorum = Trier) and Belgica Secunda (Capital Durocortorum = Reims). Two cities that can be found not far from the borders from Belgium!

History of Belgium from the third century -- the Franks started attacking the Romans and even though heavy losses stopped them in the beginning – this announced already the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Rome couldn’t defend the outer borders anymore and gave this task to the Franks and the Goths. Those groups became more and more important and founded their own kingdoms. The Roman influence in Gaul and Belgica decreased and it’s in those times that the basic of new nations was prepared. By the end of the 4th century, Goths, Visigoths, Burgondii, Vandals etc… had to escape for the Huns and penetrated the premises from Rome. Rome was no longer able to stop them and by 450 AC the Roman Empire shrunk until only Italy was left.

History of Belgium: Belgica under Clovis

The Franks arrived in Toxandria in the 3rd and 4th century. This is more or less the area between the Scheldt and the Maas. They were loyal to the Romans and became fouderati. Fouderati had to pay taxes and gave soldiers to the Romans. They got protection and trade possibilities in return. By the end of the 5th century, the roman armies mainly existed out of this fouderati.

They soon rebelled and the Roman Empire collapsed. While the Ostrogots got Rome, the Salian Franks got their part of the cake. The first of famous kings that ruled there was Chlodio. He turned Tournai into his capital. After being defeated by the Romans he became an ally. But with the fall of Rome, he got him self his own kingdom.

His son, Merovech, became a myth. We don’t know a lot about him. But he gave his name to the Merovingian, his family and new dynasty in power. His sun Childerik made the kingdom bigger but it would be their successor that would be remembered most.

Clovis 1 was born in Tournai. He was the first king of the Franks that would unite all Salian Frank tribes under one ruler. In 496 he was almost defeated by the Alamanni. He first prayed to Wodan – who didn’t answer his requests for vicoty– and then to Jezus. An immediate victory followed and he converted to Christianity. With this act, he received permission to attack the Arians. Another version of Christianity but banned by Rome.

He defeated the Bourgondi and the Visigots. The legacy of Clovis is that he united the franks, conquered Gaul and gave it a new religion, Christianity. With the first act he became the only ruler, with the second act he laid the foundations of the later nation: France and with the third act he got the pope as an ally. After his death, his empire would be divided under his four sons. This may or may not have been his intention but was the cause of much internal discord in Gaul and would mean in the long run, the fall of his dynasty.

History of Belgium under Carolus Magnus

After Clovis, there were still a few good Frank kings but soon the mayor of palace - a sort of prime minister - took more and more power.

Charles Martel was the founder of this Carolingian Empire. He was born in Herstal, now Belgium. He was a brilliant general and the father of the western cavalry. He halted the European moor expansion in the battle of Tours and conquered Iberia (Spain). He preserved Europe from the Muslim conquest and Islamization. Europe was changed for ever! He was the catalyst for the feudal system.

Charles didn’t care about titles but his son did. In 751 Pepin the short took the crown of the last Merovingian. He asked the pope:” who should be King, he who has the title, or he who has the power?" The pope, who highly depended on Pepin, agreed that it should be the one with the power. Decades later, the sun of Pepin, Charles the Great would recover for the first time in 350 years the emperor’s crown.

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