The earliest historical record of the Low Countries is in Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War, a self-serving account of his conquest of the Gaulish tribes in what are now northern France and Belgium. This was the beginning of a period of Roman domination that was to last for five centuries, deeply influencing the social, political, economic, cultural and religious landscapes of the Low Countries. In a much-quoted passage at the beginning of his Commentaries, Caesar wrote, ‘The Belgae are the bravest of them all’, with the much less often quoted continuation, ‘living furthest from the culture of the province, being least visited by merchants, … and constantly warring with the Germans’. He delineates the lands inhabited by these Belgic Gauls as the area bordered southwards by the Seine and the Marne, westwards by the ocean, and northwards and eastwards by the Rhine. This corresponds to all of present-day Belgium and Luxembourg, roughly the southern half of the Netherlands, part of north-eastern France, and Germany west of the Rhine.
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