The history of Belgium began with the invasion of the Romans, several decades before the birth of Christ, when Julius Caesar conquered Gaul (ancient name of France). Belgium is one of the relatively young countries of the Western European continent having attained its independence only in 1830, less than 200 years ago. Due to its strategic location at the heart of Europe, Belgium was the battleground for the major European powers, from the Romans to the United Kingdom of Netherlands. Here is a brief outline of the different periods in the history of Belgium.
Ancient History of Belgium
Belgium gets its name from the earliest occupants of the country who were known as the Belgae, one of the Celtic tribes of ancient Gaul. After Julius Caesar conquered the entire city of Gaul, the Romans named their new province Gallia Belgica. The Roman Empire under Julius Caesar reigned for almost 500 years before their collapse in the 5 th century.
A Germanic Tribe known as the Franks were instrumental in overthrowing the Roman Empire from Gaul. Many centuries later, during the reign of Charlemagne, Gaul was reunited and the rest of Western Europe was included to his empire. Under his rule, arts, commerce and classical learning was greatly fostered and Belgium developed into a center of major European events. However, Charlemagne's successors were unable to retain control over such a vast territory and failed to keep the empire together.
This resulted in Belgium being gradually split, with Flanders, the northwestern part going to France and the southeastern part, falling under Germany.
Medieval History of Belgium
The division of Belgium marked the establishment of the rule of the Counts of Flanders. Under their rule, important commercial cities like Bruges, Ghent and Ypres prospered immensely. This resulted in more fortified and virtually independent cities in Flanders than the South of Belgium. The golden era of Flanders began with great economic prosperity, whereby wool imported from England was woven into fine cloth and sold to Europe. Meanwhile, the powerful neighbor of the south, France, wanted a share of the wealth of Flanders. This resulted in 100 years of war which ended with Burgundy becoming the ruler of Flanders in the year 1384.
The Burgundian Era
During the Burgundian period, Under Philip the Good, Burgundy extended its control over the southern part of Belgium, including Brussels, Namur and Liege. Under Philip's reign, the period witnessed great cultural developments.
Antwerp became an important commercial city in the region, after Bruges' water passage to the North Sea gradually silted. The middle of the 16 th century witnessed a long period of instability instigated mostly by a lot of religious unrest. Gradually Antwerp lost its commercial status after the signing of the Treaty of Muster in 1648 whereby Netherland was granted its independence.
The road to independence was a long one for the Belgians. Over the subsequent years, several battles were fought, treaties signed and eventually with the commencement of a revolution on 20 January, 1831 Belgium was granted independence from the Netherlands.
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