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Balaton Principality or Lower Pannonia

27 Jul
July 27, 2012
Pribina

Pribina

The Balaton Principality also known as Lower Pannonia was established by the Franks as a frontier march when they destroyed the Avar state in the western part of the Pannonian plain. About 840, Louis the German gave part of the Balaton Principality at Zala River as a fief to the Slavic Prince Pribina who escaped from Moravia during its struggle for independence with the Carolingian Empire. Pribina established himself as prince with the capital in Blatnograd but he ruled the rest of the Balaton Principality from the Raba river to the rivers Drava and Danube including Syrmia as a frontier count.

Pribina was killed as a Frankish vassal in the battle against Great Moravia in 861 and was succeeded by his son Prince Kocel. Like his father, Kocel was initially also a loyal Frankish vassal but he allied himself with Great Moravian Prince, Rastislav against the Carolingians in 869. Pope Hadrian II named Methodius bishop of Sirmium on Kocel’s request and the Balaton Principality became the center of Slavic liturgical and cultural movement. The reaction of the Carolingian authorities and Frankish-Bavarian clergy on the events in the Balaton Principality was bitter. The Balaton Principality returned under Carolingian rule on Kocel’s death in 876, while Archbishopric of Salzburg suppressed the followers of Methodius. However, the Carolingian rule in the Balaton Principality was very short. The territory of the Balaton Principality was invaded and captured by the Hungarians at the end of the 9th century.

Carolingian Empire

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Frankish Empire under realm of the Carolingian Dynasty commonly referred as the Carolingian Empire reached its height during the reign of Charlemagne (768-814) who incorporated much of Western and Central Europe into the Carolingian Empire. Charlemagne started his military campaigns with the war against the Lombards who recaptured the Lombard cities which were granted to the Papacy by the Donation of Pepin. The request of Pope Hadrian I to provide military assistance against the Lombards was the immediate cause for Charlemagne’s campaign in Italy but the Frankish King was also disturbed by support of the Lombard king Desiderius to Charlemagne’s sister-in-law in her attempt to regain her children’s right to inheritance. The Frankish forces invaded Italy by crossing the Alps in 773, defeated the Lombards and conquered their capital Pavia in 774. Desiderius was deposed and banished to a monastery. Charlemagne proclaimed himself King of the Lombards, while the entire territory of the Lombard Kingdom except for Spoleto and Benevento was incorporated into Carolingian Empire.

Carolingian Empire

Carolingian Empire

Charlemagne started a war against the Saxons in 772, one year earlier than launching his campaign against the Lombards. However, the so-called Saxon Wars which resulted in expansion of the Frankish border almost to the Rhine River lasted for three decades. Meanwhile Charlemagne also led several military campaigns against the Moors in Spain (778-811) and established the Spanish March between the Pyrenees and the Ebro River. Charlemagne subdued Benevento in Southern Italy in 787, Bavaria in 788, destroyed the Avar state between 791 and 803 and led a series of campaigns against the Slavs. He created an empire extending from the Atlantic Ocean on the west, to Danube on the east and from Rhine on the north to Mediterranean Sea on the south before he was crowned emperor on Christmas day in year 800.

Charlemagne was succeeded by Louis the Pious (814-840). The latter divided the Carolingian Empire among his three sons Lothair, Louis the German and Pepin in 817 when the largest partition went to Lothair. The division caused jealousy among the brothers, while redivision after the birth of Charles the Bald from Louis’ second marriage further strained the relationships between his sons. On Louis’ death in 840 broke out a war between the three brothers (Pepin died earlier) Lothair, Louis the German and Charles the Bald which ended with the Treaty of Verdun in 843 and the division of the Carolingian Empire into:

  • the Middle Francia or the central part of the empire (Low Countries, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy, Provence and Italy) was granted to Lothair I
  • the East Francia (today’s Germany) went to to Louis the German
  • the West Francia (today’s France) was gained by Charles the Bald

The Carolingian Empire continued to decline despite the agreement between the Louis’ successors. Charles the Bald had difficulties with constant uprisings in Aquitaine and with the invasions of the Vikings, Middle Francia lacked ethnic and linguistic unity, while East Francia which was economically the weakest part of the former Carolingian Empire was threatened by the Vikings and the Slavs from Moravia.

The Carolingian Empire was severely weakened by the principle of territorial division among the heirs which continued in all three kingdoms. All three sons of Lothair I died without a legitimate male heirs. Thus Italy and the territory between the Alps and North Sea known as Lotharingia were divided between their uncles Charles the Bald and Louis the German. The Carolingian Empire was once again united during the reign of Charles the Fat. He assured himself the imperial title and was elected King of all Franks on the death of Carloman II, the last adult Carolingian of the western branch in 884.

Arnulf of Carinthia

Arnulf of Carinthia

The unification of the Carolingian Empire lasted only until 887 when Charles the Fat was deposed. The illegitimate son of his brother Carloman, Arnulf of Carinthia was elected King of the East Franks, while non-Carolingian kings were elected in West Francia, Upper and Lower Burgundy, and Italy. Arnulf managed to retain a kind of supreme authority over kings of West Francia and Burgundy, gained Italy and the imperial title but his success was short lasting. Arnulf’s heir Louis the Child (900-911) was minor on his death and lost even the formal supremacy over West Francia where was elected Charles the Simple. The eastern frontiers were at the time severely endangered by the Hungarians who invaded and plundered Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, Lotharingia, Bavaria and Italy. Failure of the kings of the East Franks against the invaders in 9th and 10th centuries resulted in division of East Francia into stem duchies: Swabia, Bavaria, Saxony and Franconia.

Louis the Child died in 911 without a male heir. The Saxons and Franconians elected Duke of Franconia, Conrad I who was later also accepted by the Bavarians and Swabians. Election of Conrad I (911-918) finally ended the Carolingian rule in East Francia which is referred as the Medieval German state from the coronation of Henry I the Fowler in 919 onwards. The West Francia was ruled by the Carolingian Dynasty intermittently until 987 when Hugh Capet established the Capetian dynasty, while the kingdom came to be known as France.

Byzantine Empire (5th – 9th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The establishment of the Byzantine Empire is commonly dated to year 324 when Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great (306-337) moved the imperial capital to Byzantium which came to be known as Constantinople. The Western and Eastern (Byzantine) parts of the Roman Empire were finally divided on the death of Emperor Theodosius I in 395.

Emperor Justinian I

Emperor Justinian I

In contrary to the Western Roman Empire which was destroyed by the barbarian invasions, the Byzantine Empire managed to repulse the invasions of the Visigoths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgarians and the Persians which marked the reigns of Arcadius (395-408), Theodosius II (408-450), Marcian (450-457), Leo I (457-474), Leo II (474), Zeno (474-745 and 476-491), Anastasius I (491-518) and Justin I (518-527). Justin’s successor Justinian I (527-565) restored the former power of the Byzantine Empire. Ambitions of Justinian I to restore the territory of the former Roman Empire resulted in successful military campaign against the Vandals in Northern Africa in 533-534, recapture of Italy from the Ostrogoths in so-called Gothic War (535-540 and 542-552) and of southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula from the Visigoths in 552.

Justinian I was triumphal in Western Europe but the Byzantine Empire was greatly weakened by the attacks of the Persians on the east and threatened by the invasions of the Slavs, Bulgarians, Huns and Avars on the north at the beginning of the 6th century. Thus the reigns of Justinian’s successors Justin II (565-574) and Tiberius II Constantine (574-582) were marked by the Persian-Byzantine Wars and Slavic invasions in the north, while much of Italy has been captured by the Lombards. Maurice (582-602) transformed the shattered Byzantine Empire into a well-organized medieval state. He restored the Byzantine authority in Western Europe and North Africa by reorganizing the Byzantine dominions into exarchates ruled by the military governors or exarchs.

Maurice was killed in an army rebellion in 602 and the Byzantine throne was assumed by Phocas (602-610) who served as an officer during Maurice’s Balkan campaigns. The Byzantine Empire reached its lowest point during Phocas’ reign and was greatly weakened by the invasions of the Slavs on the north and of the Persians on the east. The Byzantine throne was in very serious situation assumed by Heraclius (610-641) who deposed Phocas and had him killed. Heraclius decisively defeated the Persians in 629 but he neglected the northern frontiers. Slavic peoples settled in the Balkan by year 615, while Heraclius barely managed to defend Constantinople from the Avars. Heraclius’ reign was also marked by increased Hellenization of Byzantine social, political and cultural life as well as by military reorganization of provinces into Themes.

Heraclius was succeeded by his son Constantine III (641) who died only after four months and was succeeded by his younger half-brother Heraclonas (614). However, rumors that he murdered Constantine III resulted in revolt and his deposition. The new Byzantine Emperor became the son of Constantine III, Constans II (641-668) under the regency of the senators. His early reign was characterized by the invasions of the Arabs who captured Egypt, extended their influence in North Africa and seized the islands of Cyprus, Rhodes, Kos and Crete. The Arabs defeated the Byzantine fleet in the naval Battle at Phoinike (off Lycia) in 655 but they were unable to take advantage of the victory because of the inner conflicts. When the Arab threat on the east ceased Constans II launched a campaign against the Slavs in Macedonia and forced them to recognize the Byzantine rule. Afterwards Constans II concentrated on Italy but the Papacy felt strong enough and refused Monothelitism as a compromise between the Eastern and Western Churches. Meanwhile Constans II became very unpopular and he was assassinated in Syracuse in 668.

Constantine IV and his retinue

Constantine IV and his retinue

The army in Sicily proclaimed Mezezius (668-669) the new Byzantine Emperor but the Exarch of Ravenna assassinated the usurper. The Byzantine throne was assumed by Constans’ son Constantine IV (668-685). The reign of Constantine IV was marked by increased Arab pressure and annual Arab attacks on Constantinople but the Byzantines managed to withstand the Arab attacks. The Arabs withdrew and agreed to pay tribute to the Byzantine Empire after decisive defeat in the Battle of Syllaeum in Pamphylia in 678 when the Byzantines used the Greek fire for the first time. Constantine IV launched a military campaign against the Bulgarians immediately after the Battle of Syllaeum but he failed to stop the Bulgarian expansion. Constantine IV was succeeded by his son Justinian II (685-695 and 705-711) who continued military campaigns in the Balkans and renewed the war against the Arabs. His administrative reforms were opposed by the aristocracy and resulted in his deposition in 695. The Byzantine throne was assumed by Leontios (695-698) who was deposed and imprisoned after three years of reign by Tiberios III (698-705). The latter acted as the Byzantine Emperor until 705 when Justinian II returned and restored his power. Justinian’s second reign was characterized by brutal suppression of his opponents which provoked an uprising. Justinian II was captured and executed together with his son from his second marriage with Theodora of Khazaria in 711. Thus the rule of the Heraclian dynasty founded by Emperor Heraclius (610-641) came to an end.

The period following the execution of Justinian II in 711 and the accession of Leo III in 717 was marked by a civil war and rapid switches on the Byzantine throne. The period of instability as well as of the Arab threat ended with the accession of Leo III the Isaurian (711-741) whose reign was also notable for a series of edicts against the worship of images (726-729). Leo’s prohibition of veneration of the icons provoked a long struggle over iconoclasm which reached its height under his son and successor Constantine V (741-775). However, many of his rigid decrees against the use of images in worship were abolished by his son and successor Leo IV (775-780), while his wife Irene that acted as regent to Leo’s 10-year-old son and successor Constantine VI (780-797) restored the veneration of icons. Irene summoned the Council of Nicaea in 787 which formally revived the adoration of images. The circles that strongly opposed to the adoration of images supported Constantine VI who wanted to rule as sole emperor. Irene was banished in 790 but she was recalled two years later and granted the title of empress. Shortly after her return Irene organized a conspiracy, overthrown her son and ruled as sole empress from 797 to 802. Irene’s revival of adoration of images improved the relations with the Papacy but the Byzantine influence in Western Europe began to decline.

Carantania

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

Carantania situated in today’s Carinthia was established in the 7th century. Carantania was a part of the King Samo’s Empire as Marca Vinedorum until 658. It retained its independence after the collapse of the King Samo’s Empire until the middle of the 8th century. Carantanians felt threatened by the Avars who captured much of the former King Samo’s Empire and turned for help to Bavarians. Allied Carantanian and Bavarian forces defeated the Avars in 743 but Carantania was forced to recognize the Bavarian rule in return for their military assistance against the Avars. However, Bavaria was incorporated into the Frankish Kingdom about the same time and thus Carantania came under the Frankish rule.

King Samo’s Empire or Samo’s Realm

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

(King) Samo’s Empire or Samo’s Realm was the first know Slavic state established by a Frankish merchant named Samo in present-day Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Lower Austria and Carinthia in 626. King Samo’s Empire evolved into a powerful kingdom which successfully withstood the attacks of the Avars on the east as well as the Franks on the west. However, the state collapsed after Samo’s death in 658 and most of its territory was captured by the Avars. The Slavs in today’s Carinthia retained their independence and established a principality known as Carantania.

Avar Khaganate (Empire)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Avars were nomadic people from Eurasia who invaded Eastern Europe in the 6th century and settled in the Danube River area in the second half of the 6th century. In alliance with the Lombards they destroyed the Kingdom of the Gepids in 567 and forced the Lombards to move to northern Italy one year later.

Avar Khaganate

Avar Khaganate

The Avars settled in the Pannonian plain and established the Avar Khaganate after the Lombard withdrawal to Italy. The Avar Khaganate also incorporated various Slavic peoples who had an inferior status within the khaganate. However, Avar raids in the Balkans and eastern Alps enabled the Slavic population to settle the region, especially after the fall of Sirmium in 582. Unsuccessful attacks of combined Avar-Slavic forces on Constantinople and Thessaloniki in 617 followed by a failed siege of Constantinople in 626 has severely weakened the Avar domination over the Slavic peoples. The Avars retreated to the Pannonian plain and left most of the Balkans in the hands of the Slavs. The inner conflicts and exterior pressure further weakened the Avar state which was finally destroyed by Charlemagne between 791 and 803.

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