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(ăk`wĭtān, äkētĕn`), Lat. Aquitania, former duchy and kingdom in SW France. Julius Caesar conquered the Aquitani, an Iberian people of SW Gaul, in 56 B.C. The province that he created occupied the territory between the Garonne River and the Pyrenees; under Roman rule it was extended northward and eastward almost as far as the Loire River. It had been thoroughly Romanized when it was occupied (5th cent.) by the VisigothsVisigoths
(West Goths), division of the Goths, one of the most important groups of Germans. Having settled in the region W of the Black Sea in the 3d cent. A.D., the Goths soon split into two divisions, the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths.
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, and the persistence of Latin culture made it a rich but indigestible addition to the Frankish realm after the defeat (507) of the Visigoths by the Frankish ruler Clovis I. In the chaotic strife among Clovis's successors, much of Aquitaine escaped Frankish control. After the separation of GasconyGascony
, Fr. Gascogne, region of SW France. It is now coextensive with the departments of Landes, Gers, and Hautes-Pyrénées and parts of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn-et-Garonne, Haute-Garonne, Gironde, and Ariège.
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 from Aquitaine (7th cent.), the area N of the Garonne was considered Aquitaine proper.

From 670, Aquitaine was ruled by semi-independent native dukes, but an Arab invasion (718) forced the Aquitanian duke Eudes to seek the protection of the Frankish ruler Charles Martel, who defeated (732) the Arabs. In 781, CharlemagneCharlemagne
(Charles the Great or Charles I) [O.Fr.,=Charles the great], 742?–814, emperor of the West (800–814), Carolingian king of the Franks (768–814).
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, who subdued the native nobles, made Aquitaine into a kingdom for his son Louis (later emperor of the West Louis ILouis I
or Louis the Pious,
Fr. Louis le Pieux or Louis le Débonnaire, 778–840, emperor of the West (814–40), son and successor of Charlemagne. He was crowned king of Aquitaine in 781 and co-emperor with his father in 813.
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). After the death (838) of Louis's son Pepin I, Louis added Aquitaine to the West Frankish kingdom of Neustria (France) and granted it to his youngest son Charles the Bald (Charles IICharles II
or Charles the Bald,
823–77, emperor of the West (875–77) and king of the West Franks (843–77); son of Emperor Louis I by a second marriage.
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, emperor of the West). A group of Aquitanian nobles made Pepin's young son, Pepin II, king, and a struggle for control ensued between Charles and the Aquitanians (840–52; 862–65). Charles was the eventual victor. During this period Aquitaine was subject to attacks by both Normans and Muslims. The repeated invasions, combined with the civil wars, weakened Carolingian control over Aquitaine, despite Charles the Bald's victory over Pepin II. Charles's successors were forced to recognize the hereditary rights of a number of independent noble families, and during the 10th cent. royal influence virtually disappeared.

After 973 the counts of Poitou bore the title of duke of Aquitaine; their control beyond Poitou, however, was not realized for many years. In the 11th cent. the dukes of Aquitaine expanded at the expense of their weaker neighbors, establishing themselves over all Aquitaine and Gascony. The new duchy of Aquitaine was one of the most powerful states in western Europe. The marriage (1137) of Eleanor of AquitaineEleanor of Aquitaine
, 1122?–1204, queen consort first of Louis VII of France and then of Henry II of England. Daughter and heiress of William X, duke of Aquitaine, she married Louis in 1137 shortly before his accession to the throne.
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 to French king Louis VII joined Aquitaine to France. Eleanor's subsequent marriage to Henry II, duke of Normandy, who became king of England in 1154, initiated a long struggle between France and England for possession of Aquitaine. Henry and his successors held Aquitaine in vassalage from the kings of France. Over the years, however, France regained various parts of Aquitaine from England, and in the Hundred Years WarHundred Years War,
1337–1453, conflict between England and France. Causes

Its basic cause was a dynastic quarrel that originated when the conquest of England by William of Normandy created a state lying on both sides of the English Channel. In the 14th cent.
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 France recovered all of Aquitaine. After its recovery, Aquitaine was constituted as the French province of Guienne, a name that had been used interchangeably with Aquitaine for many years.

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a region of SW France, on the Bay of Biscay: a former Roman province and medieval duchy. It is generally flat in the west, rising to the slopes of the Massif Central in the northeast and the Pyrenees in the south; mainly agricultural
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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