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Because of its location, Aquitaine has been subject to many external influences since prehistoric times. Prior to its emerging as an independent country in the 14th century, Aquitaine was the focus of countless wars between Lyonesse and Spain regarding its ownership. It was an important source of influence to other regions in the early modern period, when it became a global empire that has left a legacy of over 500 million Occitan speakers today, making it the world's second most spoken first language.
Aquitaine is a democracy with a presidential republican form of government. It is a developed country with the tenth largest economy in the world by nominal GDP, and very high living standards.
From the collapse of Roman power in the West to the half way through the medieval era, the territory of present-day Aquitaine was continually the focus of endless bloody wars between its two powerful neighbours - Lyonesse and Spain. Both regarded the land as rightfully theirs, and neither was willing to compromise for the sake of peace. Time and time again the land and its people were ravaged by one or the other invading armies, causing much resentment towards both and giving life to the idea of Aquitanian independence.
In the 14th century, at a time when Spain was seemingly supreme in western Europe, a conspiracy was begun by the feudal Spanish vassals of the Duchy of Aquitaine and the Duchy of Vasconia. Supported by Prydain and Lyonesse, their aim was to join forces as a single nation and fight for freedom from Spain. In 1308, while the majority of the Spanish army was occupied in Lyonesse, the two declared their independence, were officially elevated to the status of a kingdom by Caliph Heraclius VI, and with the assistance of British troops expelled the Spanish garrisons from the country. One final bloody war was fought as Spain tried for years to regain the Kingdom of Aquitaine, but eventually, much weakened, the Spanish Crown renounced in 1324 all claims to overlordship over Vasconia and Aquitaine.
From this moment on Spain rapidly declined and Aquitaine grew to take its place. By the end of the 15th century it had expanded to become among the most powerful states in Europe, having taken control of Provence, Languedoc, Catalonia and Suburbicarian Italy. And in the 16th century it began to build an empire beyond the ocean, conquering the Maya and much of the Hespirides.
Aquitaine during this time was run by an absolute monarchy, with the king having complete control over all the affairs of the realm. For a good king this system worked quite well, but when the monarch was incompetent, as was the case at the beginning of the 19th century, the country and the people suffered. Unrest grew, until in 1849 armed mobs of the people rose up and overthrew the monarchy. So began the Aquitanian Revolution, that introduced modern ideas of democracy to the world.
Queen Philippa IV and her husband were executed and her family fled into exile. Outraged at this, the other countries of Europe all declared war on Aquitaine and invaded to try and restore the queen's heir to his rightful throne, but somehow the First Aquitanian Republic managed to defeat all invaders and followed them back over the border. Over the next few years Aquitaine conquered much of western Europe and imposed republican governments to control the new puppet states, in what has become known as the First World War.
The official language of Aquitaine is Standard Central Occitan, which is based on the dialect spoken in and around Tolosa. However, there are many recognised regional accents and dialects, such as Provençal, Lemosin and Gascon. The southern Andorran, Catalan and Balearic dialects are sometimes grouped together as a separate Catalan language, but they remain fully mutually comprehensible with Standard Occitan.
Lyonnaise is common in several northern departments and Arpitan, a separate Romance language, is spoken in the upper Rhone valley as well as neighbouring regions of Italy and Swabia. Corsican and Sardinian are spoken on the islands they are named after.
The Basque language was once dominant in the western Pyrenean region, stretching roughly from the Spanish border to the River Garonne. However, it has become somewhat overshadowed by Occitan in recent decades, being spoken mainly by the elderly, and there have been several high-profile campaigns to revive it among the younger generations.