Since the Basque language is unrelated to Indo-European, it is often thought that they represent the people or culture who occupied Europe before the spread of Indo-European languages there.
It is thought that Basques are a remnant of the early inhabitants of Western Europe, specifically those of the Franco-Cantabrian region. Basque tribes were already mentioned in Roman times by Strabo and Pliny, including the Vascones, the Aquitani, and others. There is enough evidence to support that at that time and later they spoke old varieties of the Basque language.
In the Early Middle Ages, up to 9–10th centuries, the territory between the Ebro and Garonne rivers was known as Vasconia, a blur ethnic area and polity struggling to fend off the pressure of the Iberian Visigothic kingdom and Muslim rule on the south and the Frankish push on the north. A Basque presence is cited on the southern banks of the Loire river also in the 7–8th centuries. By the turn of the millennium, after Muslim invasions and Frankish expansion under Charlemagne, the territory of Vasconia, which was to become Gascony, fragmented into different feudal regions, for example, the viscountcies of Soule and Labourd out of former tribal systems and minor realms,County of Vasconia, while south of the Pyrenees the Kingdom of Castile, Kingdom of Pamplona and the Pyrenean counties of Aragon, Sobrarbe, Ribagorza which was later merged into the Kingdom of Aragon, and Pallars arose as the main regional powers with Basque population in the ninth century.
The Kingdom of Pamplona, a central Basque realm, later known as Navarre, experienced feudalization and was subjected to the influences of its vaster Aragonese, Castilian and French neighbours, with Castile annexing key western territories of it in the 11th and the twelfth century, so depriving the kingdom of a direct way out to the ocean. Eventually the bulk of the realm would fall to the thrust of Spanish troops from 1512 to 1521 after a civil war. The Navarrese territory north of the Pyrenees remaining out of Spanish rule would end up being formally absorbed to France in 1620.
Nevertheless the Basque provinces enjoyed a great deal of self-government until the French Revolution in the North and the civil wars named Carlist Wars in the South when the Basques supported heir apparent Carlos and his descendants to the cry of "God, Fatherland, King" (Charters abolished). Since then, despite the current limited self-governing status of the Basque Autonomous Community and Navarre as settled by the Spanish Constitution, a significant part of Basque society is still attempting higher degrees of self-empowerment, sometimes by acts of violence.