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A Brief History of Bayonne's Basque Country

A Brief History of Bayonne's Basque Country

Basque history goes back many centuries. Bayonne was called Lapurdum during ancient Roman occupation, and the city served as a military compound. Over the years, the city was fortified against enemy attack. It wasn’t until the 11th century that it became known as Bayonne.

The Basque Country served as a major crossroads for centuries. Key armies passed through this centrally-located region en route to Spain and Portugal, including the Romans, Visigoths, Normans, Muslims and Celts. The Basque Country itself also changed hands frequently, and suffered as the setting and even the target of numerous conflicts and battles. There is, however, a rich and diverse culture here, steeped in fine and noble traditions. 

Bayonne's Basque Country Orientation

Bayonne and the French Basque Country’s geography is marked most prominently by two major influences: the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Pyrenees Mountains to the south. Bayonne is especially influenced by water, situated as it is between the ocean and two rivers. Biarritz is just to the south, and Saint-Jean-de-Luz is the last major town before heading south into Spain and neighboring Saint-Sebastian. Pau sits in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains.

The Basque Connection

French Basque culture seems more closely connected with Spain than with France. Much like Catalonia, the French Basque Country shares a shoreline with Spain, and the mountains form the boundary between the two nations. While the Catalans are independent on a more intellectual level, devoted as they are to the history, language and culture, the Basques are fiercer about their autonomy.

Last updated May 25, 2011
Posted in   France  |  Bayonne
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