Ancient history



The Eburones were a tribe belonging to the association of Belgian peoples, established in the northeast of (Great) Gaul in the 1st century BC. J.-C.. Julius Caesar describes them as being of Germanic origin.

Their territory corresponds to the modern provinces, in Belgium Limburg, in Holland Dutch Limburg, and a neighboring part of Germany up to Aix-la-Chapelle. This sandy region (Belgian Campine) still speaks this typical singing dialect which is part of the Dutch language group.

Etymology proposed by German etymologists of the word Eburon:eeb-boeren. Eibe, eebe + Bauer, boer(en) (plural). Eibe, eebe =if. Bauer, boer (pronounced bour) =farmer, cultivator. So:yew growers. The Eburons were known for growing yew. This tree gives the wood par excellence for the manufacture of bows. The wood is fibrous, elastic and strong. The best yew wood was grown in sandy regions, where growth is slow and the wood fibers are dense. The yew prunes well. Nowadays, we make hedges. The Latin word for yew is taxus. The region was called Toxandria or Taxandria by the Romans. The Eburone yew was so appreciated in Gaul, which had its own yew, that this quality was named éburo.

Ambiorix, an Eburon chief, is known to have exterminated the 14th Roman legion with its 5 additional cohorts, during the battle of Aduatuca. This may have happened in the Geer valley, in 54 BC. It is the most important Roman loss of the Gallic Wars (8000 legionnaires + the 'followers':merchants, servants, prostitutes , etc.). Because of this rebellion, Caesar tried to exterminate the Eburones, but the lack of figures announced in his work (the Gallic Wars), when he was so verbose and too happy to announce the number of enemies killed and of slaves sold during his victories, shows that Caesar had a hard time getting his hands on the Eburones. According to Caesar, these, on the orders of Ambiorix, took to the maquis and their army was divided, leading a war of attrition and guerrilla warfare for two years. In 52, they are no longer mentioned by Caesar (their name disappearing from history). Their name was changed to Tungri, probably their local name. They left their name to their civitas, today Tongres (Tongeren). Ambiorix was never captured by Caesar, who addressed him some laudatory and moving lines in the Gallic Wars...

Note also that the name of the English city of York is probably linked to the Belgian Eburones. The city was named civitas eburacum by the Romans (city of the Eburones). This is according to the English etymologists by no means a coincidence. To the north is an area called Yorkshire Mores (the heathlands of York county). Local farmers, like the Belgian Eburones, supplemented their meager income with the cultivation of yew. The village must have been known for its yew wood market, hence the Roman reference.

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