The France Page - Regions
Aquitaine covers an area of 41,308 km², 7.6 % of France's total area. It is bounded to the south by Spain, to the east by Midi-Pyrénées, to the north by Poitou-Charentes and Limousin and to the west by the Atlntic Ocean (Bay of Biscay).
Major cities in Aquitaine include Bordeaux, Pau, Bayonne, Mont-de-Marsan, Biarritz, Bergerac, and Périgueux.
Major geographical features include:
* The Côte d'Argent, one of the most famous coasts in France.
* The Bassin d'Arcachon, a large lagoon famous for its oyster farming.
* The confluence of the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers which leads to the vast Gironde estuary.
* The south of the region includes parts of the Pyrenees mountains.
* The Dune de Pilat, near Arcachon is the largest sand dune in Europe.
In Roman times, the province of Gallia Aquitania originally comprised the region of Gaul between the Pyrenees Mountains and the Garonne River, but Augustus Caesar added to it the land between the Garonne and the Loire River. At this stage the province extended inland as far as the Cevennes and covered an area about one third of the size of modern France. Aquitaine was quite thoroughly Romanized in its culture, unlike northern Gaul.
The 4th century AD saw the Roman province of Aquitaine divided into three separate provinces:
* Aquitania prima, the north-eastern portion, including the territories which later became Berry, Bourbonnais, Auvergne, Velay, Gévaudan, Rouergue, Albigeois, Quercy and Marche
* Aquitania secunda, the northwestern portion, with its capital at Burdigala (Bordeaux) and comprising the future Bordelais, Poitou, Saintonge, Angoumois and western Guyenne
* Aquitania tertia or Aquitania Novempopulana (of the "nine peoples"), the southernmost and most strongly Basque portion, adjoining the Pyrenees and covering what later became Bigorre, Comminges, Armagnac, Béarn, the Basque country, Gascony, etc.
In the 5th century, as Roman rule collapsed, the Visigoths filled the power vacuum, until they were driven out in 507 AD by the Franks, with a mixed army of mercenaries and federates, who included Burgundians. When Clotaire II died in 629, he divided the kingdom of the Franks and gave Aquitaine to his son Charibert II, who set up his capital at Toulouse and strengthened his claims by marrying Gisela, the heiress of Aquitania Novempopulana; however, Frankish control was never very secure; they were primitive by comparison and had only the most rudimentary sense of urban life and the res publica. Aquitaine put up little resistance to the Moors in the 8th century, but Charles Martel drove them out, and Aquitaine passed into the Carolingian Empire.
The heirs of Charlemagne divided and redivided their inheritance, and Aquitaine passed out of the control of Neustria, the western kingdom of Charlemagne's house, and in the 9th century the leading local counts gradually freed themselves of the vestiges of royal control. Bernard Plantevelue (ruling 868-86) and his son, William I (ruling 886-918), whose power base was in Auvergne, called themselves dukes of Aquitaine for a time. William V (ruling 995-1030) refounded a new duchy of Aquitaine, that was based in Poitou, and this power center survived. Aquitaine contained Poitiers, Auvergne, and Toulouse. In 1052 the duchy of Gascony (French: Gascogne) became part of "Aquitania", by personal union of duke William VIII. Aquitaine achieved a high literate court culture of courteoisie that peaked under William VIII (ruled 1058-86). Duke William IX, "the troubadour" was a poet himself, and Poitiers became a center of the musical poetry of the troubadours. When William X died (1137), his daughter Eleanor of Aquitaine, the greatest heiress of France, married her guardian, Louis VII of France and followed him on crusade, then had the marriage annulled under the pretext of kinship in 1152 to marry his greatest rival Henry II of England. She maintained an elegant chivalric court at Poitiers. Her sons, Richard I and John, and their successors as kings of England were dukes of Aquitaine (later known as Guienne).
Fighting during the Hundred Years' War enabled Edward III of England to establish the principality of Aquitaine in 1361, freed from any dependence on France, but France recaptured it by 1453. After that the history of Aquitaine became part of the history of France.
See also: Dukes of Aquitaine family tree, Rulers of Auvergne, Languedoc, History of Toulouse.
Population (2002): 2,967,000 (4.97% of the total French population)
French is the predominant language of the region. Other native languages include the Basque Language in the far south of the region, and various forms of Occitan, including the Périgord variety. Immigrants have brought English, Spanish, Arabic, and many other non-native tongues into the region.
The grape is by far the biggest product of the region.
Forestry is also productive in the north of the region, including Europe's largest pine forest.
Natural Gas and petrol are both found and extracted in the area, by companies such as ELF Aquitaine.
Wine-making, distilling and by-products are hugely important to the area as an industry and culturally. According to the US State Department, 7 million hectolitres of wine are produced in Bordeaux.
Aerospace, in particular Dassault systems.
Education, with universities at Pau and Bordeaux, which has over 80,000 students
Tourism is hugely popular, in particular along the Côte d'argent for sun and surfers. There are major resorts at Bayonne, Biarritz, St. Jean de Luz and Hendaye. Chateaux visiting in the Dordogne and hiking and skiing in the Pyrenees are also popular. Holiday homes and camping sites abound.
The region is home to many successful sports teams. In particular worth mentioning are:
* Girondins de Bordeaux, one of France's most successful association football teams.
Rugby Union is particularly popular in the region. Clubs include:
* Biarritz Olympique, finalists in the most recent Heineken Cup.
* CA Bordeaux-Bègles Gironde
* Aviron Bayonnais
* Section Paloise
Bull-fighting is also popular in the region.
Major Surfing championships regularly take place on Aquitaine's coast.
Aquitaine is famous for its wine and related products, including:
* The Bordeaux wine (known as Claret in the United Kingdom) region is perhaps the most famous red wine region in the world. Areas include Pomerol, Saint-Emilion, Graves and the Médoc.
* The region also produces Sauternes a famous sweet white wine.
* Lillet, a fortified wine, is produced in Bordeaux.
* The south-west also produces wine, although it is not nearly as recognised as Bordeaux.
* The Armagnac brandy producing area lies within the region.
* Bergerac wine is produced in the Dordogne.
Famous food products from the area include:
* Pâtés, including pâté de fois gras and pâté basque.
* Crêpes are commonly used in the region's cuisine.
* The Dordogne is famed for its truffles.
* Magret de canard
Source: Wiki under GNU
|| Return to French region map