Fun Fact: The name ‘Belgium’ comes from the Romans

Belgium has only existed as a sovereign nation for just under 200 years. But despite its young kingdom, the name “Belgium” has ancient routes that date back to antiquity.

Belgium 2000 years ago was a conglomerate of various tribes. The main tribes were Gallic and Germanic, and they were distinguished by the languages they spoke. As Julius Caesar came to conquer northern Gaul (Morden day northern France, Belgium, southern Netherlands and Luxembourg), he made a differentiation of the peoples within it. He is noted to have said that there was a tribe separated from the main Celtic part of Gaul in the south, by the Marne and the Seine rivers, and from Germania in the north, with the Rhine river. The main tribe living here was called Belgae – the province hereafter became known to the Romans as Belgica.

Belgica was later divided into two sections: Belgica Prima and Belgica Secunda – with Belgic Prima having Trier in Germany as its capital. As there were Gallic and Germanic tribes living in Belgicia, it’s hard to place what tribe was dominant. However, Caesar says the Belgae were separated from the rest of Gaul by language, law and custom, and they had Germanic ancestry; the Gallic tribes had a balanced influence with the Belgae in the south as many tribal leaders names were Gallic.

Not much of Roman presence remains in Belgium as the lines of Belgica Prima and Secunda have since been redrawn multiple times over the past two millennia. However, one city in Belgium not only claims to be the oldest city, but the only Roman administrative capital within the country’s borders. Tongeren in Limburg is a city with clear Roman roots. It was not only mentioned by Caesar but has the only standing Roman walls in the country. Celebrating of this fact, the city of Tongeren also has a Gallo-Roman museum where you can find out more about the history of the province.

So although their presence is sparsely visible, the impact of the Romans was one of recording the peoples of Belgium in history and highlighting that the diversity of two different peoples has been a part of Belgium since Belgium exsisted.