Belgium Ethnography and Ancient History

Belgium Ethnography

Recent studies allow a more exact and complete knowledge of the ethnography and history of ancient Belgica, compared to the information already given to the Belgian voice (VI, p. 503).

Since ancient Belgica had a much greater extension than present-day Belgium, we need to broaden our view to the entire area between the Rhine, the Scheldt, the Seine and the Marne. The most ancient populations are known to us only from archaeological relics: of the Mesvinian, Mousterian and Aurignacian facies for the Paleolithic age; of various facies for Mesolithic; of “Omalian” type for the Neolithic.

With the end of the Neolithic period, and with the subsequent Bronze Age, ethnological questions begin to be glimpsed, in relation to the findings of the excavations. Particularly noteworthy are the stations on stilts, which on the one hand recall those of Savoy, the Rhenish area, etc., on the other the Crannogs across the Channel, and which, linked with the spread of the incineration rite for the dead, and with the toponymy of the “Etruscan” type such as that in – enna (Arduenna, Taruenna, Cevenna, Vienna, etc.), suggest an offshoot of the north-Etruscans, pushed towards the north-west.

But the most widespread pre- Celtic ethnos, at least starting from the southern and coastal part of Belgica, towards the south, must have been the “Ligurian” one, still attested in the century. It goes. C., from Imilcone (see below) on the Channel. With this also agrees the persistence in the region, and in the finitime ones, of a Ligurian-type onomastic, such as the one with the ending – asco and – asca. The scarce furnishings of the late Bronze Age must belong to these Ligurians.

According to topmbadirectory, the thesis, commonly accepted, according to which around 500 a. C. the Celts entered the Belgian region, and only two centuries later, around 300, the Belgian relatives, which would have superimposed on those proto-Celts, must be rejected on the basis of literary sources. Caesar (De belGall., II, 4,1) affirms only that a large part of those who were called Belgae in his time, were Germans, who had come from over the Rhine for a long time and superimposed – merging with them – to the Belgians- Celts; but it does not give us any information about the origin of the latter.

Instead it seems evident that the Belgians, like the other Celts, came from the Danube area; that they actually constituted one of the first Celtic expansions towards the west and north-west; and that they brought with them the first phase of the typical civilization of iron, called Hallstatt.

In fact, archaeologically, it is possible to follow a whole vein of this civilization that penetrates as far as Belgica, through Switzerland and the Lorraine area; that is, for those regions where Caesar located the Celtic tribes closest to the Belgians (De bello gall., I, 5,4; 9; 10; 11; 25,5-6; 40,11; VII, 56,2; 63, 7; VIII, 1.2; Strabo, IV, 1.1; Pliny, Nathist., IV, 17, 106). This priority also explains the linguistic data, from which it appears that those early Celts spoke the so-called “Goidelic” type dialect, while the arriving Celts used the “Cymric” type dialect: and this because they must have come from the western Danubian area, and these from the East, where phonetic phenomena common also to the Italic Osco-Umbrian dialects had formed due to their geographical proximity. That the Hallstatt civilization was imported with a migration of people, when it was already formed, is demonstrated by the lack of transition phases with the previous facies in Belgica.

The gradual transition, especially in the southernmost areas of the country, to the subsequent civilization of La Tène, is due to the cultural radiation from the Celtic area near Marseille, where that type of Celtic-Greek cultural koinè originated. During these two phases of the civilization of the Belgians, the first penetrations of Germans from beyond the Rhine had to be verified; but they soon had to Celtise themselves, becoming part of the Belgians.

Archaeologically, this partial and early infiltration of Germani seems to explain: the persistence of the crematorium, which was also used by the Germans in northern Belgica; the modesty of the furnishings of various necropolises, especially in the early period of the age of La Tène; the frequent fortifications, such as at Hastedon, Buzenol and Titelberg, and the hidden and then forgotten treasures (see Frasnes-lez-Buissenal in Hainaut), which testify to a troubled life during the Celtic era. On the other hand, for the language, the prevailing of Celtic over the speech of German migrants must have been general and precocious, already before the age of Caesar.

This spontaneous phenomenon was then favored by the work of Rome, after the conquest, because, in order to withstand the action of ever new infiltrations by Germans, the cohesion of the Belgians with the other Gauls was strengthened, thus saving Celticism; while, later, an area of ​​military and ethnic barrage was created between the Gallic and Germanic worlds, with the creation, along the Rhine, of the two provinces of “Germany” profoundly Latinized by the action of the castra of the legions: in this way even the most Germanized of the Belgian tribes, such as those of the Nervi and the Treveri, had to lose or greatly veil their Germanism.

The Romanization of Belgica was greatly favored by the construction of a large stable road network, with the related works, in place of the old tracks; and from the creation, especially in the southernmost part, of at least one real city or municipium for each of the tribes: which explains how many modern cities, such as Amiens, Beauvais, Arras, Tongres, Metz, Meaux, Reims, Senlis, Soissons, Trèves, Vermand, Langres, have names that derive from those of the ancient tribes. In the northern part, that is to say in the Celto-Germanic part of Belgica, the cities were less numerous; while the villae were typical, which continued the Roman buildings, already described by Caesar; from them derived, also for toponymy, many of the current rural municipalities.

The problem of the ethnic and cultural importance of the new Germanic migrations, which poured into Belgica in the late Empire, especially those of the Franks, and of the relations between them and the current linguistic separation between Flemings and Walloons, was in the latter years faced several times, against the background of opposing nationalisms, and therefore forced, more or less, in opposite directions. In our opinion, we cannot deny that the Franks went as far as the Walloon land, indeed at least as far as the Seine; but, while in some areas they were culturally absorbed, and a neo-Latin dialect took over, in others they prevailed, and with them a Germanic dialect. This is not only due to the varying numerical proportion, in the different areas, between indigenous people and migrants, and to the different reaction on the latter of the areas with strong Celto-Roman populations gathered in municipalities, or scattered instead in small agricultural streets that can be easily controlled; but also to the fact that the Germanic action of the new immigrants in the more northern and eastern areas, awakened and strengthened the Germanic ethnic layer, which had already penetrated more numerously in the pre-Roman age and which, if it had been Belgianized and then Romanized, however, it was not completely extinguished, but latent.

Belgium Ethnography