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Belgium/Belg~ / Bulg~ (ancient history) (2)


Hello Pito.

Per your advice, apparently AllExperts doesn't have a facility for a second follow up question so I had to do it this way. Thank you for putting so much effort into this. I truly appreciate it.

Anyway, to repeat the question (just so there actually is a question in the question):

Can you tell me anything about the origin of "Belg" and (as I suspect) does it have any links to "bulg"? What words are there in Flemish, with those roots, and which might give clues?

All the best,

Hello Dan,

so here is a (short) explanation. I am not a history expert so it might be good to verify some stuff or to read up.
One of the main problems is actually that there is still some debate going on (especially on what it really means, see later).

The first time the word "België (Belgium)" was used, it was used by Julias Caesar. He used the word "Belgica" and he used it to describe an area consisting of Northern France, Belgium, the south part of the Netherlands and south-west Germany.
The people living in Belgium were called "Belgae". (Caesars Commentarii de bello Gallico describes this). But there were many tribes living here and you can debate on what he ment with them and who actually were the true "Belgae".

A big problem in the entire history is actually that Caesar used different descriptions. In 57 before Chr he gave a description that was different than what he wrote in 54 before Chr. Caesar "played" with names to somehow explain his actions (losing or winning).
He was for example only "allowed" or responsible for the Gauls. In the beginning he did not consider the Belgiums (belgae) as true gauls. This ment he could not attack them or annex them because he was only responsible for the "gauls".
So later he changed his "terminology" for what a gaul really is. This way he could also attack and annex the Belgae.
(a fun note: Belgium is actually not just an english term, it is also Latin, and it was the name Caesar gave to place where the Belgae lived).
In his book the Bello Gallico he ment with Belgium an area where the Ambiani, Caleti, Bellovaci, Suessione and Silvanectes lived.

After the destruction of the Roman empire the borders also changed so "belgae" was again different.
Keep in mind as well: many of the tribes here moved and did not stay at the same place, so it was actually hard to determine which tribes where living in Belgium.
I think you can state that Belgium was more a place name (geographic) rather than a name for certain tribes.
(although I have to admit, it seems that it was mainly used back them to describe certain tribes)

Where does the word Belgae come from? Well one explanation is the inso-european word *bʰelǵʰ , means swelling. Literally as figuratively.
(getting angry fast, "swelling" , angry...)
So it would refer to people getting upset fast, easy to irritate, fighting very fast for little reasons.
It could fit to what Caesar described as the people living here in Belgium.
In dutch there is a sentence: belgen dapperste der galliers. (it comes from Caesar his work, Commentarii de bello Gallico)
It means (hard to translate): Belgians, the bravest of all gauls. Now here they see it as something very positive (being very brave) but actually the real truth is a bit different. What it actually ment was that the Belgians (belgae) were the most uncivilized, aggressive, barbarian civilian. So it was more a bad reputation or insult given by Caesar.

Another explanation for the origin of the word is that it comes from a gaul word: Belo, it means "brilliant" . I can not give a lot information on this because it seems a theory that is not very well studied. It is linked with the Welsh word Bal (white spot on the head or fire r from the English Balefire).
(and many more like bolas, bélyj... some seem to mean white, others fire...)

For the "bulge" => it refers to what I explained with swelling, so Caesar used Belgae as some sort of mocking for people "swelling, turning red" very fast, getting angry fast, not civilized...

I hope this helps.



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I can help you with general questions about Belgium or the langauge(s).


I have been living in Belgium since I was born... Studied here too and work here.

I have 2 masters degree, but they are not related to this "field".

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