History of Belgium

Explore Belgium History

Though the area now known as Belgium has been inhabited by humans for centuries, the earliest named group of people where the Belgae. These were mostly Celtic people living in the northern regions of Gaul. In 54 BC the legions of Julius Ceasar invaded and conquered the Belgae. Belgium, an area much bigger than what it is now, flourished under Roman rule.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Germanic tribes invaded the province. The Franks established a new kingdom, under the rule of the Merovingian Dynasty. This dynasty was relatively short-lived and was soon replaced by the Carolingian Dynasty. This was toppled not to long afterwards when Charlemagne brought a large portion of Europe under his control and became crowed as the Emperor of the Holy Romany Empire.

After the defeat of the Vikings in 981, the Frankish lands were continually divided and reunified until they were eventually divided into France and the Holy Roman Empire. This resulted in the northern and southern halves of Belgium having different language influences. Eventually, the Holy Roman Emperors lost control of their domains and the territories were re-divided into smaller feudal states. It was during this period that Mosan and Romanesque art flourished. Before long, most of these states fought for independence from feudal rule.

By 1433, Belgian, Luxembourgian and the Low Countries were assimilated with Burgundy under the rule of Philip the good. The lands were re-defined and changed during his reign. During this time, almost all major Belgian cities became centers of commerce and began to thrive. By the end of the 16th century, Flemish tapestries hung on castle walls throughout the continent. In 1549, Charles V issued a decree stating that the seventeen provinces of the 'Spanish Netherlands' should be separate from both the Empire and France. The Spanish Netherlands was basically the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Differing religious interested eventually resulted in the Eighty Years War within the Spanish Netherlands. The division caused a dividing of the region resulting in what is now known as modern day Belgium.


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