Gascony is an area of southwest France that was part of the Province of Guyenne and Gascony prior to the French Revolution. The region is defined, and the distinction between Guyenne and Gascony is unclear, by some they are seen to overlap, while others consider Gascony a part of Guyenne. Most definitions put Gascony east and south of Bordeaux and it is currently divided between the region of Aquitaine and the region of Midi-Pyrénées. Gascony was historically inhabited by Basque-related people who appear to have spoken a language similar to Basque, the name Gascony comes from the same root as the word Basque. From medieval times until today, the Gascon language has been spoken, Gascony is the land of dArtagnan, who inspired Alexandre Dumass character dArtagnan in The Three Musketeers. It is also home to Henry III of Navarre, who became king of France as Henry IV. In pre-Roman times, the inhabitants of Gascony were the Aquitanians, 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. In the 50s BC, Aquitania was conquered by lieutenants of Julius Caesar, later, in 27 BC, during the reign of Emperor Augustus, the province of Gallia Aquitania was created. In 297, as Emperor Diocletian reformed the administrative structures of the Roman Empire, the territory of Novempopulania corresponded quite well to what we call now Gascony. The Aquitania Novempopulana or Novempopulania suffered like the rest of the Western Roman Empire from the invasions of Germanic tribes, the Visigoths were defeated by the Franks in 507, and fled into Spain and Septimania, as well as Albania. Novempopulania then became part of the Frankish Kingdom like the rest of southern France, however, Novempopulania was far away from the home base of the Franks in northern France, and was only very loosely controlled by the Franks. Modern historians reject this hypothesis, which is sustained by no archeological evidence, for Juan José Larrea, and Pierre Bonnassie, a Vascon expansionism in Aquitany is not proved and is not necessary to understand the historical evolution of this region. This Basque-related culture and race is, whatever the origin, attested in Medieval documents, the word Vasconia evolved into Wasconia, and then into Gasconia. The gradual abandonment of the Basque-related Aquitanian language in favor of a local vulgar Latin, was not reversed, the replacing local vulgar Latin evolved into Gascon. It was heavily influenced by the original Aquitanian language, quite paradoxically the Basques from the French side of the Basque Country traditionally call anyone who does not speak Basque a Gascon. Meanwhile, Viking raiders conquered several Gascon towns, among them Bayonne in 842–844 and their attacks in Gascony may have helped the political disintegration of the Duchy until their defeat against William II Sánchez of Gascony in 982. In turn, the weakened ethnic polity known as Duchy of Wasconia/Wascones, unable to get round the general spread of feudalization and his 1152 marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine allowed the future Henry II to gain control of his new wifes possessions of Aquitaine and Gascony. This addition to his already plentiful holdings made Henry the most powerful vassal in France, in 1248, Simon de Montfort was appointed Governor in the unsettled Duchy of Gascony
A map of Gascony, showing a wide definition of the region. Other maps may define a smaller area as Gascony.
Typical view of the hilly countryside of Gascony, with the Pyrenees mountains in the far distance
The Duchy was meant to hold sway over the Basques (Vascones)
Homage of Edward I (kneeling) to Philip IV (seated)