No less a tyrant than Julius Caesar declared that the Belgians
to be a stiff-necked people who resisted colonization. The Spanish,
the French, the Austrians and the Dutch would one by one fall
before the indomitable will of the Flemish people. By the 13th
century, Ghent had become the second largest city in northern
Europe, and the world's first stock exchange was created in
The Burgundians ushered in a golden age in which the genius of
Erasmus was nurtured by a newly founded university in Louvain,
artist Paul Rubens produced paintings of unsurpassed technical
skill, and vast fortunes poured through the port of Antwerp.
The principality of Liege, which covered the largest part of
southern Belgium, was an independent state under the umbrella of
the German Saint Empire. But Wallonia has been occupied by man
since the Stone Age, thanks to its many natural caves.
Among its prodigal sons, Wallonia counts the musician César
Franck, the physician Zénobe Gramme, and the writer Georges
Simenon, creator of the immortal Maigret.
Other famous personalities of the country are the painters
Brueghel and Van Dyck for the Flemish school, Magritte and Delvaux
for the Surrealism trend, and the architect Victor Horta who
invented the Art Nouveau style.
Historically, Belgium was used as the battlefield of Europe,
since it was in the heart of the continent, between the former
French, British and German empires. In 1830, the Belgians started
their own revolution against Dutch occupation and became
independent as a constitutional and hereditary monarchy.
Now its territory is divided into provinces and municipalities.
There are three major communities and three regions: Wallonia,
Flanders and Brussels. These new institutions have received
enormous power from the federal government and have their own
legislative and executive bodies.