Roussillon

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For other uses, see Roussillon (disambiguation).
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Canigó.jpeg
Mount Canigó (2785m), a Catalan landmark

Roussillon (Catalan Rosselló; Spanish Rosellón) is one of the historical Catalan Countries corresponding roughly to the present-day southern French département of Pyrénées-Orientales (Eastern Pyrenees). It is also called French Catalonia, but only a minority (40%) of its inhabitants now speak Catalan and only 60% understand the language.

The former province derived its name from a small fortified place near Perpignan called Ruscino (Rosceliona, Castel Rossello), where the chieftains of Gaul met to consider Hannibal's request for a conference. The district formed part of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis from 121 BC to AD 462, when it was ceded with the rest of Septimania to the Visigoth Theodoric II. His successor, Amalaric, on his defeat by Clovis in 531 retired to Spain, leaving a governor in Septimania. In 719 the Saracens crossed the Pyrenees, and Septimania was held by them until their defeat by Pippin in 756. On the invasion of Spain by Charlemagne in 778 he found the borderlands wasted by the Saracenic wars, and the inhabitants hiding among the mountains. He accordingly made grants of land to Visigothic refugees from Spain, and founded several monasteries, round which the people gathered for protection. In 792 the Saracens again invaded France, but were repulsed by Louis, King of Aquitaine, whose rule extended over all Catalonia as far as Barcelona. The different portions of his kingdom in time grew into allodial fiefs, and in 893 Sunyer II became the first hereditary count of Rosselló. But his rule only extended over the eastern part of what became the later province. The western part, the Cerdanya, was ruled in 900 by Miron as first count, and one of his grandsons, Bernat, was the first hereditary count of the middle portion, or Besalú.

In 1111 Ramòn Berenger III, Count of Barcelona, inherited the fief of Besalú, to which was added in 1117 that of Cerdanya; and in 1172 his grandson, Alfonso II of Aragon, united Rosselló to his other territories on the death of the last count, Gerard II. The counts of Rosselló, Cerdanya, and Besalú were not sufficiently powerful to indulge in any wars of ambition. Their energies had been devoted to furthering the welfare of their people. Under the Aragonese monarchs the progress of the united province still continued, and Collioure, the port of Perpignan, became a centre of Mediterranean trade.

But the country was destined to pay the penalty of its position on the frontiers of France and Spain in the long struggle for ascendancy between these two powers. By the treaty of Corbeil (1258) Louis IX of France formally surrendered the sovereignty of Rosselló and the ancient countship of Barcelona to Aragon, recognizing a centuries-old reality. Jaume I of Aragon had wrested the Balearic Isles from the Moors and left them with Rosselló to his son Jaume (1276), with the title of King of Majorca. The consequent disputes of this monarch with his brother Pere III of Aragon were not lost sight of by Philip III of France in his quarrel with the latter about the crown of the Two Sicilies. Philip espoused Jaume's cause and led an army into Aragon, but, retreating, died at Perpignan in 1285. Jaume then became reconciled to his brother, and in 1311 was succeeded by his son Sancho, who founded the cathedral of Perpignan shortly before his death in 1324. His successor Jaume II refused to do homage to Philip VI of France for the seigniory of Montpellier, and applied to Pere IV of Aragon for aid. Pere not only refused it, but on various pretexts declared war against him, and seized Majorca and Rosselló in 1344. The province was now again united to Aragon, and enjoyed peace until 1462. In this year the disputes between Joan II and his son about the crown of Navarre gave Louis XI of France an pretext to support Joan against his subjects, who had risen in revolt. The province having been pawned to Louis for 300,000 crowns, it was occupied by the French troops until 1493, when Charles VIII restored it to Ferdinand and Isabella. During the war between France and Spain (1496-1498) the people suffered equally from the Spanish garrisons and the French invaders. But dislike of the Castilians was soon effaced in the pride of sharing in the glory of Charles V, and in 1542, when Perpignan was besieged by the dauphin, the inhabitants supported their monarch.

When the Catalans rose against the Castilians in 1641, Louis XIII (of France) entered the conflict on the side of the former. After a protracted war, the treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) secured Rossellón and part of the Cerdanya to the French crown, which they joined to create the French province of Roussillon. The next fifty years saw a concerted effort by Louis XIV both to ensure the political allegiance of his new subjects, and to alter their cultural identity. He was successful in the former, but failed in the latter. Outside the capital of Perpignan, Roussillon remained distinctly Catalan in outlook and culture until the late nineteenth century, when industrialization began to replace Catalan identity with French.

During the French Revolution, the Old Regime province of Roussillon was re-named the Departement des Pyrénées-Orientales, by which name it is still formally known in France. The old name of Roussillon did contribute to the French région of Languedoc-Roussillon.


ca:Rosselló de:Roussillon eo:Rusiljono fr:Roussillon nl:Roussillon

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