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Strasbourg The city of Strasbourg began as a Celtic settlement near the end of the third century BC, naming it Argentorate.

In 58 BC, Julius Caesar's Roman Army arrived at the shores of the Rhine and built a fortified military camp near the city, now a garrison town which they renamed "Argentoratum."

Between 362 and 1262, the bishops, whose traditional title and task was as "Defenders of the City," of Strasbourg ruled the city, but little by little the town collectively freed itself fro the guardianship of the bishops.

In the fifth century, it was captured by the Franks, who changed its name to Strateburgum, which is derived from the Germanic language and means, roughly, "town at the crossing of roads."

When the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne was dissolved in 842, two of his grandsons, Louis the German, whose official name was Louis II, the king of East Franks and Charles the Bald, officially named Charles II, king of the West Franks took an oath of alliance. They pledged to one another that each would come to the aid of the other in the event they needed help against their brother Lothair, king of the Middle Frank Kingdom named Lotharingia. As they spoke the solemn words of the oath, each brother did so in the language of the other, and both armies cheered wildly. This treaty, known as the Oath of Strassburg, is the oldest existing document to have employed both German and French.

During the Middle Ages, the power struggle continued between the bishops and the people of Strasbourg. The people, ever independent, had become bolder throughout the centuries. The Strasbourg Magistrate (or Town Council) had emancipated itself from the authority of the bishops, but the struggle was not without physical confrontation. The disagreements between the Magistrate and the bishops, and incidence of violence escalated frequently, sometimes to the point of armed clashes.

In 1262, the citizens of Strasbourg rose up against the rule of the bishops in open rebellion in what would become the Battle of Hausbergen. They defeated the ecclesiastic army. As a result, Strasbourg won the privilege of becoming a "free imperial city," but a self-ruling city with some autonomy from the Holy Roman Empire. They became independent of the bishopric and wrote a constitution of their own. They decided to eliminate the supremacy of the noblemen in their town government. And that is indeed what they accomplished. In 1332, craftsmen officiated at the Magistrate, and in 1334, an oath was crafted. The oath is frequently described as a "mini constitution," and every citizen of the city took an oath of loyalty each year in front of the cathedral. This tradition continued until 1789. The constitution of Strasbourg was their pride and joy, and in 1514, Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam proclaimed it as the perfect realization of Plato's "Republic."

Between the 13th and 16th centuries, Strasbourg was one of the most powerful fortifications, surrounded by towers and walls, and the only way into the city was through huge, heavy doors. The fortification served first the German Empire, and then for France.

During the Strasbourg Bishop's War (1592-1604) followed by the Thirty Years' War, the Free City of Strasbourg seemed almost to be running out of steam. The Thirty Years' War raged from 1618 to 1648, and in 1681, it was annexed by the French Crown. After the French Revolution, in 1789, the city lost all of its autonomy. In 1871, after the Siege of Strasbourg, the nearly destroyed city once again became part of the German Empire. The In 1914, in yet another war between Germany and France, France took the city back, but in November of 1918, the Bolshevik Revolution, the city's government found itself under the control of the Workers' & Soldiers' Soviet for a month.

During the second World War, the city was evacuated, many of the returning in 1940 to find their city devastated once again. It was heavily bombed by the United States Air Force, losing 1,500 people and more than 800 houses.

In 1949, Strasbourg became the seat of the Council of Europe; in 1957 it was the seat of the European Parliament; and in 1960, it was the seat of the European Court of Human Rights.

 

 

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