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At the beginning of the Christian Era, the Basque lands lay within the area of influence of the Roman Empire. Basque, which is thought to have been the language of the first European settlers, predating the arrival of the Indo-Europeans, was also the only pre-Roman tongue to survive the incursion of Latin in the area conquered by Rome. With the decline of Roman rule from the fifth century on, the Vascones kept up a constant fight with the Visigothic people who sought to dominate the Ebro valley, and then with the Franks who had settled in Aquitaine. After the fall of Rome, Basque reinforced its position, spreading to its maximum territorial extension by the year 1000.

49. Some specialists believe that old Basque is the former Aquitaine language. For others, it is the ancient language of Europe. Researching the origin of European place names, they relate the Basque language to that of the prehistoric inhabitants of Europe, before the arrival of the Indo-Europeans. These theses consider that there was a common language or of families of languages with a shared root, related to Basque, which were spoken in parts of Europe. Early Basque (proto-Euskera) would therefore be the language of the first European settlers. At the time of Caesar's Gallic Wars (58-51 BC), the language was used as far north as the River Garonne, north of Bordeaux and as far east as Toulouse, and in the south as far as the middle Ebro valley. 50. Roman legionary and trumpeter, first century AD. 51. During the period of contact with Roman culture, in the first few centuries AD, Basque was used on altar stones and tombs. First-century grave stele from Lerga (Navarre), with native anthroponyms. 52. Pamplona city walls 53. Pompey came to fight Sertorius in the year 75. That year he wintered in Vascone territory, founding the city of Pompelon (Pamplona). 54. In 2005 and 2006, 400 graffiti were found at the Roman site at Iruña-Veleia (Alava), dating from the 2nd-5th centuries AD, of which 50 contained words and phrases in Basque (ata, ama, neba; zuri, urdin, gorri; lura, sua; egin, ian, lo). If proved to be authentic, it would mean that there was a focus of Basque language literacy in this era. 55. In the year 400, Basque-Roman troops defeated the Vandals. In 409, Swabians, Vandals and Alani entered the Iberian peninsula across the Pyrenees. Rome lost its province of Aquitaine but the Visigoths systematically failed in their attempt to overrun Basque territories. 56. Basque was the only pre-Roman language to survive Latin in the area conquered by Rome. Two millennia later, despite the great influence of medieval, classic and ecclesiastical Latin, and later of Romance languages, the Basque language has retained its features. 57. Visigothic warrior. 58. Personal effects of sixth-century Vascone warriors: belt buckle from Buzaga (Navarre) and francisca –a battle axe– from Aldaieta (Alava). 59. In 449, the Swabian Reccared attacked the Basques in an unsuccessful attempt to take complete control of the Ebro valley. In 507, the Visigoths were pushed out of Aquitaine by the Franks, the Germanic tribes from the west. The Basque territories lay between two kingdoms: the Franks to the north across the River Garonne and the Visigoths to the south at the Ebro. In 581, the two launched an unsuccessful attack on Vasconia. The Franks made a second attack in 587 but were defeated by the Basques on the plains of Aquitaine. 60. Later, the Franks created the Marches, buffer-zones to prevent penetration by other peoples. The duchy of Vasconia was originally a Frankish March, formed in the seventh century to protect the Aquitaine border with the Vascones. 61. Moslem invasion of the Iberian peninsula (711) and conquest of its Visigothic kingdom. 62. The linguistic structure of Basque, entirely different to that of the neighbouring languages, probably aided its survival, preventing it from being easily absorbed by Romance and Celtic languages. 63. Emperor Charlemagne 63. Emperor Charlemagne. 64. The Vascones fought the Franks on several occasions. The most famous incident was in 778, when they defeated Charlemagne at Orreaga (Roncesvalles), destroying his rearguard and killing Roland and the twelve paladins. 65. Around 824, Iñigo Arista founded the Kingdom of Pamplona, which was to become the Kingdom of Navarre on either side of the Pyrenees and along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. 66. Frankish warrior. 67. In the scriptoria of monasteries and the court, where the teachings of the Christian-Latin world were developed, Basque was considered to be a rusticum vocabulum (1045), a vernacular language. Most of the population, however, lived in a monolingual Basquespeaking universe. In 924, the Moorish chronicler, Al-Himyari, spoke of a land of high mountains and deep valleys, inhabited by poor, underfed people who spoke Basque (bashkunis) which made the impossible to understand. 68. The Basque-Muladi dynasty of the Banu Qas ruled the upper Ebro valley in the ninth century: Garzia semeno (son of Garces), García Ximenez, or Carcia I Ximenez, Duke of Gascony, from 816 to 818 AD. 69. The borders of the kingdom with the Moors and the Franks were consolidated around 905 AD. The kingdom of Navarre, most of whose subjects spoke Basque, reached its zenith around the year 1,000. Sancho III (Sancho the Great) (1000-1035) reigned above all south of the Pyrenees, from Burgos and present-day Cantabria to Aragon.
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