AQUITAINE, the name of an ancient province in France, the extent of which has varied considerably from time to time. About the time of Julius Caesar the name Aquitania was given to that part of Gaul lying between the Pyrenees and the Garonne, and its inhabitants were a race, or races, distinct from the Celts. The name Aquitania is probably a form of Auscetani, which in its turn is a lengthened form of Ausces, and is thus cognate with the words Basque and Wasconia, i.e. Gascony. Although many of the tribes of Aquitania submitted to Julius Caesar, it was not until about 28 B.C. that the district was brought under the Roman yoke. In keeping with the Roman policy of denationalization, the term Aquitania was extended, and under Augustus it included the whole of Gaul south and west of the Loire and the Allier, and thus ceased to possess ethnographical importance. In the 3rd century A.D. this larger Aquitania was divided into three parts: Aquitania Prima, the eastern part of the district between the Loire and the Garonne; Aquitania Secunda, the western part of the same district; and Aquitania Tertia, or Novempopulana, the region between the Garonne and the Pyrenees, or the original Aquitania. The seats of government were respectively Bourges, Bordeaux and Eauze; the province contained twenty-six cities, and was in the diocese of Vienne. Like the rest of Gaul, Aquitania absorbed a large measure of Roman civilization, and this continued to distinguish the district down to a late period. In the 5th century the Visigoths established themselves in Aquitania Secunda, and also in parts of Aquitania Prima and Novempopulana, but after the defeat of their king Alaric II. by the Franks under Clovis in 507, they were supplanted by their conquerors. Clovis and his successors extended their authority nominally to the Pyrenees, but, as Guizot has remarked, "the conquest of Aquitania by Clovis left it almost as alien to the people and king of Franks as it had formerly been." Subsequently during the Merovingian period it was contended for by the feeble rulers of the various Frankish kingdoms, and was frequently partitioned among them; but the Aquitanians had little difficulty in effectually resisting this authority, although they did not establish themselves as a separate kingdom. About 628, indeed, they gathered around Charibert, or Haribert, a brother of the Frankish king, Dagobert I., in the hope of national independence; but after his death in 630 they returned to their former condition. But this effort, although a failure, brought about a certain measure of concord between the two principal races inhabiting the district, and so prepared the way for the stubborn resistance which, subsequently, the Aquitanians were able to offer to the Franks.
The first line of dukes began about 660 with one Felix, who, like his successor, Lupus, probably owned allegiance to the Frankish kings, and whose seat of government was Toulouse. About the end of the 7th century an adventurer named Odo, or Eudes, made himself master of this region. Attacked by the Saracens he inflicted on them a crushing defeat, but when they reappeared, he was obliged to invoke the aid of Charles Martel, who, as the price of his support, claimed and received the homage of his ally. Odo was succeeded by his son Hunald, who after carrying on a war against the Franks under Pippin the Short, retired to a convent, leaving both the kingdom and the conflict to Waifer, or Guaifer. For some years Waifer strenuously carried on an unequal struggle with the Franks, but he was assassinated in 768, and with him perished the national independence, although not the national individuality, of the Aquitanians. In 781 Charlemagne bestowed Aquitaine upon his young son, Louis, and as Louis was generally described as a king, Aquitaine is referred to during the Carolingian period as a kingdom, and not as a duchy. When Louis succeeded Charlemagne as emperor in 814, he granted Aquitaine to his son Pippin, on whose death in 838 the Aquitanians chose his son Pippin II. (d. 865) as their king. The emperor Louis I., however, opposed this arrangement and gave the kingdom to his youngest son Charles, afterwards the emperor Charles the Bald. Now followed a time of confusion and conflict which resulted eventually in the success of Charles, although from 845 to 852 Pippin was in possession of the kingdom. In 852 Pippin was imprisoned by Charles the Bald, who soon afterwards gave to the Aquitanians his own son Charles as their king. On the death of the younger Charles in 866, his brother Louis the Stammerer succeeded to the kingdom, and when, in 877, Louis became king of the Franks, Aquitaine was united to the Frankish crown.
A new period now begins in the history of Aquitaine. By a treaty made in 845 between Charles the Bald and Pippin II. the kingdom had been diminished by the loss of Poitou, Saintonge and Angoumois, which had been given to Rainulf I., count of Poitiers. Somewhat earlier than this date the title of duke of the Aquitanians had been revived, and this was now borne by Rainulf, although it was also claimed by the counts of Toulouse. The new duchy of Aquitaine, comprising the three districts already mentioned, remained in the hands of Rainulf's successors, in spite of some trouble with their Frankish overlords, until 893 when Count Rainulf II. was poisoned by order of King Charles III. the Simple. Charles then bestowed the duchy upon William the Pious, count of Auvergne, the founder of the abbey of Cluny, who was succeeded in 918 by his nephew, Count William II., who died in 926. A succession of dukes followed, one of whom, William IV., fought against Hugh Capet, king of France, and another of whom, William V., called the Great, was able considerably to strengthen and extend his authority, although he failed in his attempt to secure the Lombard crown. William's duchy almost reached the limits of the Roman Aquitania Prima and Secunda, but did not stretch south of the Garonne, a district which was in the possession of the Gascons. William died in 1030, and the names of William VI. (d. 1038), Odo or Eudes (d. 1039), who joined Gascony to his duchy, William VII. and William VIII. bring us down to William IX. (d. 1127), who succeeded in 1087, and made himself famous as a crusader and a troubadour. William X. (d. 1137) married his daughter Eleanor to Louis VII., king of France, and Aquitaine went as her dowry. When Eleanor was divorced from Louis and was married in 1152 to Henry II. of England the duchy passed to her new husband, who, having suppressed a revolt there, gave it to his son Richard. When Richard died in 1199, it reverted to Eleanor, and on her death five years later, was united to the English crown and henceforward followed the fortunes of the English possessions in France. Aquitaine as it came to the English kings stretched as of old from the Loire to the Pyrenees, but its extent was curtailed on the south-east by the wide lands of the counts of Toulouse. The name Guienne, a corruption of Aquitaine, seems to have come into use about the 10th century, and the subsequent history of Aquitaine is merged in that of Gascony (q.v.) and Guienne (q.v.).
See E. Desjardins, Géographie historique el administrative de la Gaule romaine (Paris, 1876, 93); A. Luchaire, Les Origines linguistiques de l'Aquitaine (Paris, 1877); A. Longnon, Géographie de la Gaule au VIe siècle (Paris, 1876); A. Perroud, Les Origines du premier duché d'Aquitaine (Paris, 1881); and E. Mabille, Le Royaume d'Aquitaine et ses marches sous les Carlovingiens (Paris, 1870).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)