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A map of Gascony, showing a wide definition of the region.
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Flag of Gascony (based on the coat of arms)

Gascony ( , ; Gascon: Gasconha ) is an area of southwest Francemarker that was part of the "Province of Guyenne and Gascony" prior to the French Revolution. The region is vaguely defined and the distinction between Guyenne and Gascony is unclear; sometimes they are considered to overlap, and sometimes Gascony is considered a part of Guyenne. Most definitions put Gascony east and south of Bordeaux.

It is currently divided between the Aquitainemarker région (département of Landesmarker, Pyrénées-Atlantiquesmarker, south and west of Girondemarker, and south of Lot-et-Garonnemarker) and the Midi-Pyrénéesmarker région (départements of Gersmarker, Hautes-Pyrénéesmarker, southwest of Tarn-et-Garonnemarker, and west of Haute-Garonnemarker).

Gascony was historically inhabited by Basque-related people who appear to have spoken a language similar to Basque. The name Gascony comes from the same root as the word Basque (see Wasconia below). From medieval times until the nineteenth century, the Gascon language was spoken, which is a regional variant of the Occitan Language. It is also the land of d'Artagnan, who inspired Alexandre Dumas's character in The Three Musketeers. It is also home to the hero of the play Cyrano de Bergerac (though this character has little in common with the real Cyrano de Bergerac, who was a Parisian) and to famous Henry III of Navarre who later became king of France as Henry IV.

Gascony is also famed for its douceur de vivre ("sweetness of life"): its food (it is home to foie gras and Armagnac brandy), its medieval towns and villages locally called bastides nested amidst green rolling hills, its sunny weather, the beauty of its landscape, with the occasional distant views of the Pyreneesmarker mountain range, all contribute to the popularity of Gascony as a tourist destination. Due to rural exodus, Gascony is one of the least populated areas of western Europe, and so it has recently become a haven for stressed urbanites of northern Europe (chiefly France, England, and the Benelux nations) who, in search of quiet and peace of mind, are increasingly buying second homes in Gascony.



In pre-Roman times, the inhabitants of Gascony were the Aquitanian (Latin: Aquitani), who may have spoken a language related to modern Basque.

The Aquitanians inhabited a territory limited to the north and east by the Garonne Rivermarker, to the south by the Pyreneesmarker mountain range, and to the west by the Atlantic Oceanmarker. The Romans called this territory Aquitania, either from the Latin word aqua (meaning "water"), in reference to the many rivers flowing from the Pyrenees through the area, or from the name of the Aquitanian Auscimarker tribe (whose name seems related to the Basque root eusk- meaning "Basque"), in which case Aquitania would mean "land of the Ausci".

In the 50s BC, Aquitania was conquered by lieutenants of Julius Caesar and became part of the Roman Empire.

Later, in 27 BC, during the reign of Emperor Augustus, the province of Gallia Aquitania was created. Gallia Aquitania was far larger than the original Aquitania, as it extended north of the Garonne River, in fact all the way north to the Loire Rivermarker, thus including the Celtic Gallic people that inhabited the regions between the Garonne and the Loire rivers.

In 297, as Emperor Diocletian reformed the administrative structures of the Roman Empire, Aquitania was split into three provinces.

The territory south of the Garonne River, corresponding to the original Aquitania, was made a province called Novempopulana (that is, "land of the nine tribes"), while the part of Gallia Aquitania north of the Garonne became the province of Aquitanica I and the province of Aquitanica II. The territory of Novempopulana corresponded quite well to what we call now Gascony.


Novempopulana suffered like the rest of the Western Roman Empire from the invasions of Germanic tribes, most notably the Vandals in 407-409. In 416-418, Novempopulana was delivered to the Visigoths as their federate settlement lands and became part of the Visigoth kingdom of Toulousemarker.

The Visigoths were defeated by the Frank in 507, and fled into Spainmarker and Septimaniamarker. Novempopulana then became part of the Frankish Kingdom like the rest of southern France. However, Novempopulana was far away from the home base of the Franks in northern France, and was only very loosely controlled by the Franks.


Old historical litterature sometimes claim the Basque took control of the whole of Novempopulania in the Early Middle Ages, founding its claims on the testimony of Gregory of Tours, on the etymological link between the words ""Basque"" and "Gascon" - both descend from "Vascones" or "Wasconia", the latter being used to name the whole of Novempopulania.

Modern historians reject this hypothesis, which is sustained by no archeological evidence. For Juan José Larrea, and Pierre Bonnassie, "a Vascon expansionism in Aquitany is not proved and is not necessary to understand the historical evolution of this region".

The word Vasconia evolved into Wasconia, and then into Gasconia (w- often evolved into g- under the influence of Romance languages, cf. warranty and guarantee, William and Guillaume). Quite paradoxically (or logically) the Basques from the French side of the Basque Country traditionally call anyone who does not speak Basque a Gascon.

The gradual abandonment of the Basque-related Aquitanian language in favor of a local vulgar Latin, a process which was well under its way, was not reversed. This local vulgar Latin later evolved into Gascon. It was heavily influenced by the original Aquitanian language (for example, Latin f- became h-, cf. Latin fortia, French force, Spanish fuerza, Occitan fòrça, but Gascon hòrça).

Viking invasions (840-982)

Viking raiders conquered several Gascon towns, among them Bayonnemarker in 842-844 .

Their attacks in Gascony may have helped the political disintegration of the Duchy until their defeat against William II Sanchez of Gascony.

Angevin Empire

His 1152 marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine allowed the future Henry II to gain control of his new wife's possessions of Aquitainemarker and Gasconymarker. This addition to his already plentiful holdings, made Henry the most powerful vassal in France.
Homage of Edward I (kneeling) to Philip IV (seated)
In 1248, Simon de Montfort was appointed Governor in the unsettled Duchy of Gascony. Bitter complaints were excited by de Montfort's rigour in suppressing the excesses of both the seigneurs of the nobility, and the contending factions in the great communes. Henry III yielded to the outcry and instituted a formal inquiry into Simon's administration. Simon was formally acquitted on the charges but, in August 1252, he was dsmissed in any case. Henry then himself went to Gascony pursuing a policy of conciliation; he arranged marriage between Edward, his 14 year old son, and Eleanor of Castile, daughter of Alfonso X. Alfonso renounced all claims on Gascony and assisted the Plantagenets against rebels such as Gaston de Bearn who had taken control of the Pyreneesmarker.

In December 1259, Louis IX of France ceded, to Henry, land north and east of Gascony; in return Henry renounced his claim to many of the territories that had been lost by King John

In May 1286 King Edward I paid homage before the new king, Philip IV of France for the lands in Gascony. However in May 1295 Philip 'confiscated' the lands. Between 1295 and 1298 Edward sent three expeditionary forces to recover Gascony but Philip was able to retain most of the territory until the Treaty of Paris in 1303.


The most important towns are :


Main industries are :

Writing about Gascony

Gascony is the setting for Martin Calder's travel memoir, A Summer in Gascony


  1. Juan José Larrea, Pierre Bonnassie: La Navarre du IVe au XIIe siècle: peuplement et société, page 123-129, De Boeck Université, 1998
  2. Harvey, The Plantagenets, p.47
  3. p276 Chronicle of Britain ISBN 1-872031-35-8
  4. p280 Chronicle of Britain ISBN 1-872031-35-8
  5. p297 Chronicle of Britain ISBN 1-872031-35-8

External links

  • Old flag. Given to the Gascons by Pope Clement III during the Third Crusade.
  • This article incorporates some information taken from with permission
  • A modern experience of life in Gascony

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