County of Vasconia

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The County of Vasconia (Basque: Baskoniako Konderria, Spanish: Condado de Vasconia, French: Comté de Vasconie) was a medieval domain attested as of 824 (Count of Vasconia Aznar Sanchez). It may have comprised the lands between the western Pyrenees and the river Adour.

Background[edit]

After Pepin the Short's war on Aquitaine, Charlemagne started Frankish penetration into the Duchy of Vasconia (778) by taking the Church on his side and appointing Frankish and Burgundian counts loyal to him, even creating new counties on Vasconia’s lands (Fezensac), or extending the existing ones (Toulouse), so fragmenting the previous autochthonous territorial and political unity. The territory farther away from the Garonne was made into a county.

Establishment[edit]

The Basque count (also cited as duke) of Hither Vasconia Aznar Sanchez led the Carolingian expedition against Pamplona in 824, and was captured, but he was released years later for his kinship with the captors. The region to the north of the Pyrenees remained in a state of rebellion, and Aznar Sanchez makes a comeback opposing Pepin I, but he was killed in 836 in confusing circumstances ("died a horrible death").

His brother Sancho II Sanchez (Sans Sancion) succeeded him. He opposed both Seguin's family based in the region of Bordeaux and central Frankish authority, both Pepin I and Louis the Pious, who were reluctant to acknowledge him Duke of Vasconia. Sancho supported Pepin II of Aquitaine until Sancho took over most of present-day Gascony, and eventually Charles the Bald confirmed him as duke of Vasconia (851). The county seems to have been re-incorporated to Gascony (Vasconia) with Sancho II Sanchez, but his lineage was broken soon after, and a new dynasty of Gascon Basque dukes seem to have taken over.

Norsemen raids[edit]

While records on the region of the Adour are scanty thereafter for the next 150 years, in 886 Garcia II Sanchez is cited with the title comes et marchio in limitibus oceani ("count and margrave to the limits of the ocean"). Norsemen are attested during this period as raiding upstream the banks of the Adour, destroying also monasteries not heard of thereafter. The Norsemen stationed themselves at the mouth of the Adour in or next to Bayonne, and in other coastal areas, until they were definitely defeated by William II Sanchez of Gascony (982). In 1020, the County of Labourd and Bayonne emerged for the first time in the same area as a result of a treaty between Pamplona and Gascony.