The Vascones (singular Vasco, from Latin gens Vasconum) were a pre-Roman tribe who, at the arrival of the Romans on the 1st Century, inhabited a territory that spanned between the upper course of the Ebro river and the southern basin of the western Pyrenees, a region that coincides with present-day Navarre, western Aragon and northestern La Rioja, in the Iberian Peninsula. The Vascones were, most likely, the ancestors of the present-day Basques to whom they left their name.
Unlike the Aquitanians or Cantabrians, the Vascones seemed to have negotiated their status in the Roman Empire. In the Sertorian War, Pompey established his headquarters in their territory, founding Pompaelo. Romanization was rather intense in the area known as Ager Vasconum (the Ebro valley) but limited in the mountainous Saltus, where evidence of Roman civilization appears only in mining places, harbours, roads, and milestones, e.g. Oiasso. The territory was also important for Romans as a communication knot between northern Hispania and southwestern Gallia, who took good care to station detachments in different spots of the main communication lines.
The Vasconian area presents indications of upheaval (burnt villas, an abundance of mints to pay the garrisons) during the 4th and 5th centuries that have been linked by many historians to the Bagaudae rebellions against feudalization, but also to the depredations of migrating Germanic and Asian tribes—Vandals, Alans, Sueves, Visigoths, possibly Heruls—into Hispania.
Early Middle Ages
In AD 407 Vascon troops fought on the orders of Roman commanders Didimus and Verinianus, repelling an attack by Vandals, Alans and Suebi. In AD 409 the passage of the Germans and Sarmatians toward Hispania went unhindered. The Roman reaction to this invasion and unrest related to the Bagaudae was to give Aquitania and Tarraconensis to the Visigoths, in return for their services as allies by treaty (foederati). The Visigoths soon managed to expel the Vandals to Africa.
After chronicler Hydatius´s death in AD 469 no contemporary source exists reporting on the social and political situation in the Vasconias, as put by himself. At the beginning of the 4th century, Calagurris is still cited as a Vascon town. During the 5th and 6th century, the gap between town and the rural milieu widened, with the former falling much in decay. Since 581 and 587, chronicles start to mention Vascones again, this time hailing from the wilderness, as opposed to the towns that remain attached to Roman culture or under Germanic influence. By this time (7th to 8th centuries), Vascones were not confined to their ancient boundaries, but covered a much larger territory, from Álava in the west to the Loire River in the north. The island of Oléron, along with Ré, formed the Vacetae Insulae or the Vacetian Islands, according to the Cosmographia. where Vaceti are the Vascones by another name. The concept underlying the medieval naming Vascones points to a much wider reality than Strabo's former tribal definition, this time encompassing all Basque-speaking tribes.
The independent Vascones stabilised their first polity under the Merovingian Franks: the Duchy of Vasconia, whose borders to the south remained unclear. This duchy would eventually become Gascony. During the definite re-incorporation of Vasconia to the Frankish Kingdom after 769, Charlemagne destroyed the walls of Pamplona after a failed attempt to conquer Zaragoza, the Vascones annihilated his rearguard in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778—referred as "wasconicam perfidiam" by Frankish chroniclers. Pamplona was later captured by the Cordovan emir Abd al-Rahman I (781), but taken over by the Franks in 806, who assigned its government to a pro-Frankish local Belasko ("al-Galashki"), probably a Basque hailing from present-day Gascony. Some decades later, in 824, a second battle of Roncevaux took place that led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Pamplona, founded with Eneko Arista as head of the new polity, presented by Arab sources as leader of the Vascones (al-Baskunisi). However, the 824 Carolingian expedition itself included two different columns made up of Frankish and Vascones (Gascons).
After the 9th century, the Vascones (Wascones, Guascones) come to be more closely identified in the records with the current territory of Gascony, at the time still a Basque-speaking territory but progressively being replaced by the new rising Romance language, Gascon.
- Vasco - Historia in the Spanish-language Auñamendi Encyclopedia.
- Classical authors such as Livy name cities as Calagurris, Cascantum and Graccurris as Vascon cities.
- Collins, Roger (1990). The Basques (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell. pp. 53–56. ISBN 0631175652.
- Collins (1990), p. 51.
- Collins (1990), pp. 75-76.
- Caro Baroja, Julio (1985). Los vascones y sus vecinos. San Sebastian: Editorial Txertoa. p. 89. ISBN 84-7148-136-7.
- Collins (1990), p. 214.
- Collins (1990), p. 124-126.
- "Iñigo Iñiguez Arista". Auñamendi Entziklopedia. EuskoMedia Fundazioa. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Collins (1990), p. 139.
- Collins (1990), p. 179.
- Collins, Roger. "The Vaccaei, the Vaceti, and the rise of Vasconia." Studia Historica VI. Salamanca, 1988. Reprinted in Roger Collins, Law, Culture and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain. Variorum, 1992. ISBN 0-86078-308-1.
- Collins, Roger (1990). The Basques. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-17565-2.
- Lewis, Archibald R. (1965). The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society, 718–1050. Austin: University of Texas Press.
- Sorauren, Mikel. Historia de Navarra, el Estado Vasco. Pamiela Ed., 1998. ISBN 84-7681-299-X.