From Academic Kids

Gascony (French: Gascogne, pronounced  ; Gascon: Gasconha, pronounced ) is an area in southwest France, and an old province of France. It is currently divided between the Aquitaine région (départements of Landes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, south of Gironde, and south of Lot-et-Garonne) and the Midi-Pyrénées région (départements of Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées, southwest of Tarn-et-Garonne, and west of Haute-Garonne).

Gascony was historically inhabited by Basque related people. It is home to the Gascon language. It is also the land of d'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers, of world-wide fame.

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Typical view of the hilly countryside of Gascony, with the Pyrenees mountains in the far distance

Gascony is also famed for its douceur de vivre ("sweetness of life"): its reputed food (Gascony is home to foie gras and Armagnac brandy), its medieval towns and villages nested amidst green rolling hills, its sunny weather, the beauty of its landscape, with the occasional distant views of the Pyrenees 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 (France, England, Benelux) in search of quiet and peace of mind, who are increasingly buying second homes in Gascony.




In the Antiquity, the inhabitants of Gascony were the Aquitanians, who spoke a language related to the old Basque language. The Aquitanians inhabited a territory limited to the north and east by the Garonne River, to the south by the Pyrenees mountain range, and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. 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 Ausci 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 C. 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 River, thus including the Celtic Gallic people that inhabited the regions between the Garonne and the Loire rivers. These Gallic people were quite different from the non-Indo-European Aquitanians. This was a deliberate policy of Rome, which sought to gather people from different ethnic background into a single province, in order the avoid the development of a regional identity.

In 297, as Emperor Diocletian reformed the administrative structures of the Roman Empire, long claims of the now Romanized descendants of the Aquitanians, who had long desired to be separated from the now also Romanized descendants of the Gallic people inhabiting north of the Garonne, were finally heard and Gallia Aquitania was split into three provinces. The territory south of the Garonne River, corresponding to the original Aquitania, was made a province called Novempopulana (i.e. "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. From 297 on, the name "Aquitaine" was never used again for Gascony, despite it having been its original name, and instead became used only for territories north of the Garonne River.

Novempopulana suffered like the rest of the Western Roman Empire from the invasions of Germanic tribes, most notably the Vandals in 407-409. Later in that century Novempopulana was conquered by the Visigoths and became part of the Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse. The Visigoths were defeated by the Franks in 507, and fled into Spain. 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.

It is then, around 600, that taking advantage of the power vacuum thus created, the Basque clans descended from their refuge in the western Pyrenees and established their hegemony over Novempopulana. This is why Novempopulana became known as Vasconia (i.e. "land of the Vascones", the Latin word "Vasco" later evolving into the word "Basque"). The word Vasconia evolved into Wasconia, and then into Gasconia (w- often evolved into g- under the influence of Romance languages, cf. warrantee and guarantee, William and Guillaume). Although the Basque clans dominated Gascony, the gradual abandonment of the Basque related Aquitanian language in favor of a local vulgar Latin, which was well under its way, was not reversed. This local vulgar Latin later evolved into Gascon. However, Gascon was heavily influenced by the original Aquitanian language (e.g. Latin f- became h-, cf. Latin fortia, French force, Spanish fuerza, Occitan fòrça, but Gascon hòrça).

Dukes and counts of Gascony

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Aerial view of the rolling hills of Gascony

Before listing the names of the dukes and counts of Gascony (or Wasconia as it was then known), a long explanation is needed. This is because these names are recorded under a bewildering number of variants, which makes identification very difficult. These dukes and counts were leaders of the Basque clans that dominated Gascony, and so their native names were Basque. However, as the language of their subjects was mostly a vulgar Latin that evolved into Gascon, their names are also recorded in Gascon. Indeed, eventually the dukes of Gascony probably adopted themselves Gascon, which is reflected in the declining use of authentically Basque names by the last dukes.

In written documents, their names were usually recorded in Latin, which was the favored written language at the time. Today, their names are also frequently found in their French version, and also sometimes in their Spanish version. One example: the Basque name Otsoa (meaning "wolf") was literally translated Lop in Gascon, Lupus in Latin, Loup in French, and Lobo in Spanish. Thus, Duke Otsoa II of Gascony can be known by any of these names, which confuses people not used to the local linguistic situation. Furthermore, even within a set language, there exist many different variants, such as Basque name Santxo (from Latin sanctus, meaning "holy"), which can be found in Basque documents written Antso, Sanzio, Santio, Sanxo, Sancio, and so on.

Usually, the dukes and counts of Gascony had two names, the first one being their given name, the second one being the given name of their father (e.g.: Duke Sancho I Lobo, which means this is Duke Sancho I, son of Lobo). This custom later generated the Spanish family names, with the adding of suffix -ez meaning "son of". E.g.: Juan Sanchez literally means "Juan, son of Sancho". For a few dukes of Gascony, the second name is not the given name of their father, but it is a nickname that they gained over time and that replaced the given name of their father, such as the famous duke Sans III Mitarra, where Mitarra is not the name of his father, but a nickname of Arab origin meaning "the Terror", a nickname given to him by the Moors after his resounding successes against them.

In the list below, the dukes and counts of Gascony are listed according to their Gascon names (based on the current spelling of Gascon, not the medieval spelling, which was fluctuating anyway). Basque was not chosen, as Basque names present too many variants, and anyway the later dukes adopted the Gascon language. In parenthesis appear the most frequently found versions of their names in other languages.

Although all the different names under which the dukes of Gascony are known are just different versions of the same names in different languages, it should be noted that there is one duke of Gascony known by two names that are completely different names, and not merely two versions of the same name: Duke Semen (a.k.a. Duke Siguin). Semen is a Basque name (sometimes written Semeno, Xemen, Ximen, etc., which gave the Spanish family names Ximenez and Jimenez). Nobody knows for sure if Semen is either the Basque version of the biblical name Simon, or a native Basque name based on the Basque word seme (meaning "son"). On the other hand, Siguin (modern Gascon Seguin) is a name of Germanic origin (Sig-, i.e. "victory", cf. modern German Sieg, and -win, i.e. "friend", related to modern English win). At the time of writing this article, it was not possible to determine which of these two names is the correct name of duke Semen/Siguin. Both are found.

List of dukes and counts

Abbreviations: B.=Basque, S.=Spanish, L.=Latin, F.=French

  • Lop II (a.k.a. B. Otsoa II, L. Lupus II, F. Loup II), was duke of Gascony around 770. The ancestors of Lop II are not known. It is often claimed that Lop II was related to dukes Odo of Aquitaine and Hunald of Aquitaine, some people even saying that Lop II was the son of Duke Odo of Aquitaine, but this is not true, as no medieval document telling us the family of Lop II has survived.
  • Sans I Lop (a.k.a. B. Antso I Otsoa, S. Sancho I Lobo, F. Sanche I Loup) (son of previous), duke of Gascony (was already duke in 801, died ca. 812)
  • Semen Lop (a.k.a. B. Semeno Otsoa, F. Semen Loup, also Siguin) (older brother of previous), duke of Gascony (ca. 812-died ca. 816)
  • Gassia I Semen (a.k.a. B. Gartzia I Semeno, F. Garcia I Siguin) (son of previous), duke of Gascony (816-died in 818)
  • Lop III Centullo (a.k.a. B. Otsoa III Wasco, L. Lupus III Centullus, F. Loup III Centulle) (son of previous), duke of Gascony (818-deposed in 819 by king Pippin I of Aquitaine)
  • Aznar I Sans (a.k.a. B. Aznar I Antso, S. Aznar I Sancho, F. Aznard I Sanche, and strangely also called Aznar I Galíndez in Spain) (son of Sans I Lop), count of Vasconia Citerior (i.e. Gascony) (made count by Pippin I in 820-died in 836), founder of the county of Aragon (see his descendance at: List of Aragonese monarchs). One of his sons, Gassia of Comminges, became count of Comminges, and thus separated Comminges from Gascony (see his descendance at: List of counts of Comminges).
  • Sans II Sancion (a.k.a. S. Sancho II Sanción, F. Sanche II Sancion) (brother of previous), count of Vasconia Citerior against the will of Pippin I (836-852), then duke of Gascony (852-died in 855)
  • Arnaut (a.k.a. B. Arnaut, F. Arnaud, the medieval spelling Arnold is also found) (son of Emenon, count of Perigord and his wife Sancia, herself sister of Sans II Sancion), duke of Gascony (855-died in 864)
  • Sans III Mitarra (a.k.a. B. Antso III Handia (Handia="the Great" in Basque), S. Sancho III Mitarra, F. Sanche III Mitarra, or Sanche III Menditarra) (son of Semen Gassia, himself son of Gassia I Semen, and of Sancia Aznarez, herself daugher of Aznar I Sans), duke of Gascony (864-before 893)
  • Gassia II Sans (a.k.a. B. Gartzia II Antso, S. Garcia II Sancho, F. Garcia II Sanche) (son of previous), called "the Bent", duke of Gascony (before 893-ca. 930)
  • Sans IV Gassia (a.k.a. B. Antso IV Gartzia, S. Sancho IV Garcia, F. Sanche IV Garcia) (son of previous), duke of Gascony (ca. 930- ? ). Gascony was divided between Sans IV Gassia and his brothers: Guilhem Gassia inherited Fezensac and Armagnac and is the ancestor of the counts of these lands, while Arnaut Gassia inherited Astarac and is the ancestor of the counts of Astarac. From that time on, the territory really controlled by the dukes of Gascony was reduced generation after generation.
  • Sans V Sancion (a.k.a. B. Antso V Sancion, S. Sancho V Sanción, Sanche V Sancion) (son of previous), duke of Gascony ( ? -ca. 961)
  • Guilhem Sans (a.k.a. B. Gilen Antso, S. Guillermo Sancho, F. Guillaume Sanche) (brother of previous), duke of Gascony (ca. 961-at least until 996)
  • Bernat I Guilhem (a.k.a. B. Bernart Gilen, F. Bernard Guillaume) (son of previous), duke of Gascony (sometime after 996-died December 25, 1009)
  • Sans VI Guilhem (a.k.a. B. Antso VI Gilen, F. Sanche VI Guillaume) (brother of previous), duke of Gascony (1009-died October 4, 1032)
  • Odon of Aquitaine (a.k.a. F. Eudes) (son of Duke William V of Aquitaine and his second wife Prisca, sister of Sans VI Guilhem), duke of Gascony (1032-died March 10, 1039). Odon inherited the duchy of Gascony at the death of his uncle Sans VI Guilhem, who did not have sons. In December 1038, his older half-brother Duke William VI of Aquitaine died without an heir, and so Odon became duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitiers (1038-1039). Thus Gascony was united with Aquitaine (or rather reunited, since it had been part of Aquitaine in Antiquity and in the days of the Carolingian kings of Aquitaine).
  • Bernat II Tumapaler of Armagnac (a.k.a. F. Bernard II Tumapaler) (son of Count Guiraut I Trancaleon of Armagnac and of his wife Adalais of Aquitaine, sister of Odon of Aquitaine) (born 1020 - died after 1064), duke of Gascony (1039-ceded title 1052), count of Armagnac (1020-abdicated 1061). Was recognized Duke of Gascony at the death of his uncle Odon of Aquitaine in 1039 as he was a direct descendant of Duke Guilhem Sans of Gascony. Later his title was contested by his uncle Guy-Geoffroy of Aquitaine, younger half-brother of Odon of Aquitaine, but not descending from Duke Guilhem Sans of Gascony. Guy-Geoffroy married Garsende of Périgord, daughter of Count Aldabert II of Périgord and his wife Alausie, herself the second daughter of the late duke Sans VI Guilhem of Gascony, thus reinforcing his claim to the title of Duke of Gascony. Eventually, after a protracted fight, Bernat II Tumapaler was defeated and had to relinquish the title of Duke of Gascony to Guy-Geoffroy. However, by then the title was almost empty, as most of Gascony had been dismembered and was in the hand of the counts of Béarn, Bigorre, Armagnac, Comminges, Astarac, and so on. Guy-Geoffroy had only conquered a rump Gascony
  • In 1058 Guy-Geoffroy succeeded his childless older brother William VII of Aquitaine as duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitiers, becoming Duke William VIII of Aquitaine. In May 1063 he defeated a rebellion of the lords of Gascony headed by Bernat II Tupamaler, and decisively put an end to the dreams of reviving the independent duchy of Gascony. From then on, Gascony was securely tied to Aquitaine/Poitiers, and followed the destiny of Aquitaine: it fell into the house of Plantagenet with Eleanor of Aquitaine, and so became an English possession. Then, it was conquered by France over England at the end of the Hundred Years' War.

The unity of Gascony had disappeared already in the 10th century, and so those wishing to learn more about the history of Gascony should look at the particular histories of Béarn, Armagnac, Bigorre, Comminges, Nébouzan, and so on.


The most important towns are :


Main industries are :

  • fishing
  • stock raising
  • wine making
  • brandy distilling
  • tourism

External link

es:Gascuña fr:Gascogne sv:Gascogne


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