Monday, August 31, 2015

The Boundary Between Flanders And Wallonia

Belgium split in two (or three, depending on who and where you are)
Who's heard of Belgium is also aware of the the sometimes, and unfortunately, great differences between its two main regions (Brussels notwithstanding): Flanders (the Flemish-speaking, Northern side) and Wallonia (the French-speaking, Southern portion).

What is really interesting, however, is that though this separation hasn't always existed (indeed, Belgium used to be a Celtic country before the "Germans" and Romans invaded them), this boundary between the two regions is perhaps much older than one might think, and takes us all the way back to...

358 C.E.

A Celtic Belgic tribe fighting a Roman legionnaire, long before the area was invaded by the Franks.

Belgium's main waterways with the current boundary
This was in great part due to a Roman road built somewhat along this current separation from the start of the Lys River in Belgium straight over to the Meuse near Visé, with a little detour south of present-Brussels.

Those living north of the road, in what was then considered the poorer regions, were the Salian Franks (from where the Merovingians originated), who came in from the Rhine delta, and became the Flemish's ancestors.

South of this road were the Gallo-Romans whose language is the ancestor of Wallonia's dialects.

The Franks in Roman Belgium
For a very long time, people thought the reason for the Franks leaving the southern part of Belgium alone was due to the presence of a massive forested area, but researchers now believe that the latter not being truly impenetrable, it's more likely that the huge amount of Roman forts and even bigger Gallo-Roman population may have been enough of a deterrent for "those barbarians."

Another interesting regional language tidbit is the fact that the southern part of Belgium (Arlon) along with Luxembourg both speak a third dialect which resembles German in many ways. This dialect descends from the Ripuarian Franks whose domain covered the area between the Meuse and Rhine rivers.

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