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Balaton Principality or Lower Pannonia

27 Jul
July 27, 2012


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.

Great Moravia

27 Jul
July 27, 2012
Cyril and Methodius

Cyril and Methodius

Decline of the Carolingian Empire in the middle of the 9th century was taken advantage by the Slavic peoples who established the Empire of Great Moravia in today’s Bohemia, Silesia, Slovakia, southern Poland and northern Hungary. About the same time the territory of Great Moravia became a conflict area between East Francia and the Byzantine Empire. Great Moravian Prince, Rastislav (r. 846-870) turned to the Byzantine Emperor Michael III with an aim to loose himself of the Carolingian political as well as religious pressure. Thus Rastislav asked the Byzantine Emperor to send him teachers who would interpret Christianity in the Slavic vernacular. Missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius arrived in Great Moravia in 864 but Svatopluk I (r. 871-894) who overthrown Rastislav with Carolingian support expelled the followers of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

The period after the Svatopluk’s death in 894 was marked by the internal struggles and constant warfare with East Francia which was taken advantage by the Hungarians who invaded and destroyed Great Moravia in the early 10th century.

Kingdom of France (9th – 13th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

Like East Francia, West Francia gradually evolved into an independent kingdom after the Treaty of Verdun of 843. Some historians date the establishment of Medieval French kingdom to year 843 when the sons of Pepin the Pious divided the Carolingian Empire among themselves. However, the majority of the scholars date the establishment of France to year 987 when the direct Carolingian line of kings was replaced by the Capetian line of kings.

The territory of future French kingdom was politically divided into several independent duchies and counties in the 9th and 10th centuries, while all attempts to unify the territory under sole ruler failed. In addition to weak central government, West Francia was seriously threatened by an eventual invasion on all frontiers: the Saracens on the south, the Hungarians on the east and the Normans on the north.

Hugh Capet who became the King of France and founder of the Capetian Dynasty in 987 had to face with two difficult problems. He directly controlled only the territory at Seine and Loire rivers with cities of Paris and Orleans, while Duke of Normandy was the king of England at the same time. The first four Capetian Kings of France (Hugh 987-996, Robert 996-1031, Henry 1031-1060 and Philip 1060-1108) did not manage to unify France but they established a solid base for the future rise of France as the leading monarchy in Europe by strengthening the Capetian Dynasty on the French throne.

Philip II Augustus

Philip II Augustus

The process of establishment of a strong central power was slow but it was successfully completed by the fifth Capetian King, Louis VI the Fat (1108-1137). His successor Louis VII (1137-1180) continued the policy of consolidation of the French lands but he had to face the rising power of the English King Henry II who gained lordship over much of France through marriage with Louis’ ex-wife and ex-queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. However, disputes between the Henry’s descendants over the division of the French territories enabled Philip II or Philip Augustus (1180-1223) to regain the influence over most of the lost territory. The English Kings retained power only in southwestern Duchy of Guyenne after the defeat in the Battle of Bouvines in 1214, while France evolved into the leading European power. However, the emergence of France as the leading European power would be impossible without a strong central authority which was finally established under Philip II. He limited the power of the great barons who were practically independent rulers by that time and strengthened his authority by favoring the middle class over the nobles and clergy.

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.

Frankish Kingdom (5th – 9th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012
Clovis I

Clovis I

The Frankish Kingdom was the strongest and the most powerful of all medieval Germanic kingdoms established on ruins of the Western Roman Empire. The Frankish Kingdom started to rise during the reign of Clovis I (482-511) who conquered the neighboring Frankish tribes, defeated Visigoths with center in Toulouse and Alamanni in 496, and established himself as sole king of all Franks. Clovis’ conversion into Catholicism in 498 by which he gained the support of the Roman population and of the Catholic Church played an important role in the future development of the Frankish Kingdom as well. The territorial expansion in the 5th and first half of the 6th centuries under the Merovingian Dynasty was followed by an inner crisis that was caused by the division of the kingdom into Austrasia, Neustria and Burgundy. Clotaire II (613-629) reunited the Frankish Kingdom and was proclaimed the King of all the Franks but further divisions took place after the death of Dagobert I in 639 and resulted in decline of Merovingian power and rise of the mayors of the palace.

Pepin of Herstal, the Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia defeated allied forces of Theuderic III, King of the Franks and Berthar, the Mayor of the Palace of Neustria and Burgundy in the Battle of Tertry in 687 becoming de facto ruler of the Frankish Kingdom. Pepin also subdued the Alemanni, Frisians, Bavarians and Bretons, and captured Aquitaine, while Thuringia managed to renew its independence for a short period. On Pepin’s death his illegitimate son Charles Martel (714-741) seized power in Austrasia. Charles Martel is best known for defeating the Muslim invaders in the Battle of Tours in 732 and stopping the Muslim advance in Western Europe. On the death of Charles Martel his two sons Carloman and Pepin the Short became the Mayors of the Palaces of Neustria and of Austrasia. However, Carloman went into monastery Monte Cassino in 747 leaving Pepin the Short as the sole mayor of the palace.

Pepin the Short deposed the last Merovingian king Childeric III and confined him to a monastery with support of Pope Zachary in 751. Afterwards he had himself elected as King of the Franks by an assembly of Frankish leading-men and was anointed at Soissons. Pepin’s coronation finally ended the Merovingian rule in the Frankish Kingdom and established the Carolingian Dynasty as the new ruling dynasty. The reign of Pepin the Short was also notable for the incorporation of Aquitaine into the Frankish Kingdom, installation of Tassilo III in Bavaria as duke under Frankish overlordship and Frankish victory over the Lombards. Like the Merovingian kings, Pepin the Short divided the Frankish Kingdom among his sons on his death: Carloman and Charlemagne (768-814) but Charlemagne became sole ruler of the Franks after Carloman’s sudden death in 771.

The Early Middle Ages Invasions, Migrations and Kingdoms

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

Germanic Kingdoms

Migration of the Germanic peoples (ca. 300-500), also known as the first phase of the Migration Period came to an end by the end of the 5th century when the Germanic tribes settled in Western, Central, Southern and Southeast Europe where they established their own kingdoms: Visigothic Kingdom, Burgundian Kingdom, Thuringian Kingdom, Kingdom of the Gepids, Ostrogothic Kingdom, Suebic Kingdom, Kingdom of Alamanni, Lombard Kingdom and the strongest of all – the Frankish Kingdom which came to be known as the Carolingian Empire. The Germanic peoples also reached Great Britain which saw the emergence of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms or the Heptarchy, while the Vandals even migrated to North Africa.

All early medieval Germanic kingdoms were short-lived except for the Carolingian Empire and Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms in Great Britain. Nearly all the remaining Germanic kingdoms in Central and Western Europe as well as in Italy were conquered by the Franks by the end of the 8th century, while the Visigothic Kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula was destroyed by the Moors in the early 8th century.

Slavic States

Migration of the Germanic peoples was followed by migration of the Slavic peoples or the second phase of the Migration period (ca. 500-700). The Slavic peoples settled the territory between the Laba River on the west and Volga River on the east, and Baltic Sea on the north and Adriatic, Aegean and Black seas on the south where they established independent states: Great Moravia, Kievan Rus, Poland, Balaton Principality or Lower Pannonia, Serbia, (King) Samo’s Empire or Samo’s Realm, Carantania, Bohemia and Medieval Croatian state.

Like early medieval Germanic kingdoms, many Slavic states ceased to exist by the end of the Early Middle Ages. Most of them were conquered by their powerful neighboring states – the Carolingian Empire and later Holy Roman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire.

Invasion of the Avars and Bulgarians

In addition to migration of Germanic and Slavic peoples, Europe in the Early Middle Ages saw the invasion of the Avars and Bulgarians. Avars, nomadic people from Eurasia invaded Europe in 6th century. In alliance with the Lombards, they destroyed the Kingdom of the Gepids on the territory of the former Roman province of Dacia in 567. One year later, the Avars settled in the Danube River area and established a state which was destroyed by the Franks in 803.

The Bulgarians (Turkic origin, later slavicized) settled between the lower course of the Danube River and the Balkan Mountains in the 7th century. They subjugated Slavic peoples on the area and established an empire around 680.

Muslim Conquest of the Iberian Peninsula and the Battle of Tours

The Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Moors in 711. The Muslims conquered the entire Hispania except for the Kingdom of Asturias by 718 when they moved northeast over the Pyrenees. The Muslim advance in Western Europe came to an end after they were decisively defeated by Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours in 732.

Carolingian Empire

The Frankish Kingdom evolved into the strongest of all newly emerged medieval kingdoms under the Carolingian dynasty and reached its height and the greatest territorial extent under Charlemagne (768-814). After his death, the Carolingian Empire started to decline and was divided into three kingdoms with the Treaty of Verdun in 843.

At the beginning of the 10th century, the former Charlemagne’s empire permanently split into two halves – East and West Francia, the precursors of the Holy Roman Empire and Kingdom of France, respectively.

Muslim Conquest of Sicily

The Saracens, Arabs from Syria launched their first attacks on Sicily in the mid-7th century. They captured nearly entire Sicily and southern Italian cities of Tarent and Bari from the Byzantine Empire in the mid-9th century from where they were invading central Italy and southern France.

Hungarian Invasions

The Hungarians invaded Europe from the east and settled on the territory of the former Avar state between the rivers of Danube and Tisa at the end of the 9th century. They represented a serious threat to the Central Europe until 955 when they were decisively defeated by Otto the Great in the Battle of Lechfeld. Afterwards, they settled in the Pannonian Basin, converted to Christianity, and adopted European culture and political system.

Viking Invasions

The Vikings or Norsemen seriously endangered the Western Europe in the 9th century. They were invading deep into the Carolingian territory and besieged Paris several times forcing Charles the Simple to give the Viking leader Rollo the lower Seine area (today’s Normandy) as a fief in 911.

The Viking invasions were a serious threat to the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms as well. The Anglo-Saxon kings who were unable to repulse the invaders had to accept the establishment of an independent Viking settlement in England (Danelaw) in the second half of the 9th century.

Political Changes in the Early Middle Ages

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

Rise of Germanic Kingdoms

The first phase of the Migration Period (ca. 300-500) and the fall of the Western Roman Empire was followed by the emergence of the Germanic kingdoms in Central, Western, Southeast and South Europe, and even North Africa: Visigothic Kingdom, Burgundian Kingdom, Vandal Kingdom in North Africa, Thuringian Kingdom, Kingdom of the Gepids, Ostrogothic Kingdom, Suebic Kingdom, Kingdom of Alamanni, Lombard Kingdom and the Frankish Kingdom which later came to be known as the Carolingian Empire (realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty). Virtually all early medieval Germanic kingdoms ceased to exist by the end of the Early Middle Ages including the most powerful of all – the Carolingian Empire.

Realm of the Franks under Charlemagne

The Franks under Clovis I (481-511) established the strongest state in Western Europe which reached its height under Charlemagne (768-814) when it encompassed much of Western and Central Europe. Charlemagne was crowned Imperator Romanorum (Emperor of the Romans) by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day in 800 and came to be regarded as the renewer of the Western Roman Empire.

Division of Carolingian Empire

Charlemagne’s empire was divided between the three sons of Louis the Pious (814-840) into three kingdoms with the Treaty of Verdun in 843:

  • Lothair I received the central part of Carolingian Empire (Low Countries, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy, Provence and Italy)
  • Louis the German acquired the eastern part (today’s Germany)
  • and Charles the Bold gained the western part (today’s France)

Division of the Carolingian Empire in 843 and further disintegration of the former Charlemagne’s empire in the 9th century laid the foundation for the rise of the future European powers: Kingdom of France and Holy Roman Empire.

Anglo-Saxon England

England was invaded by barbarian peoples after the withdrawal of the Romans in 410. Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians occupied much of Great Britain by the end of 6th century and established their own kingdoms known as the Heptarchy. Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex eventually emerged as the strongest of all Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms and subdued other political units. Neither of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms was able to repulse the Danish invasions at the beginning of the 9th resulting in establishment of Danelaw.

Emergence of Slavic States

The first phase of the Migration Period was followed by migration of the Slavic peoples (ca. 500-700) resulting in emergence of Slavic states in Eastern Europe, part of Central Europe and the Balkans: Great Moravia, Bohemia, Kievan Rus, Balaton Principality or Lower Pannonia, Serbia, (King) Samo’s Empire or Samo’s Realm, Carantania, Medieval Croatian State and Bulgarian Empire. By the end of the Early Middle Ages most of the mentioned Slavic states were conquered by the powerful neighboring states and ceased to exist as independent kingdoms.

Muslim Conquests in Europe

The European political map went through further changes after the Muslim conquests in the early 8th century. The Umayyads conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula except for Kingdom of Asturias between 711 and 718. The Muslim conquests in Western Europe came to an end after the Umayyad forces were decisively defeated by Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours in 732.

Arrival of the Hungarians

Arrival of the Hungarians at the end of the 9th century had a major impact on the course history of medieval Europe as well. Europe was horrified by their devastating raids which came to an end only when they were decisively defeated by Otto the Great in the Battle of Lechfeld in 955. After the defeat against Otto the Great, the Hungarians settled in the Pannonian basin, adopted Christianity as well as European culture and political system.

Byzantine Empire under Justinian I

The Byzantine Empire managed to withstand the barbarian invasions but it went through dramatic political and territorial changes in the Early Middle Ages. The eastern half of the former Roman Empire reached its golden age under Justinian I (527-565) who recaptured North Africa from the Vandals and Italy from the Ostrogoths.

Byzantine-Sassanid Wars

The period after Justinian’s death was marked by wars with Persia under the Sassanid dynasty as well as the migration of the peoples. The Byzantines lost much of their territory in Italy after the invasion of the Lombards in Italy in 568, while the Slavic peoples threatened the Byzantine northern frontiers. The Byzantine Empire decisively defeated the Sassanids in 629 and recovered some of the lost territories but neglected its northern frontiers. This enabled the Slavic peoples to capture the entire Balkan Peninsula by 615.

Byzantine Empire under Basil I

Iconoclasm in the 8th and fist half of the 9th century caused an inner crisis which was followed by a civil war and siege of Constantinople (821-823). The Byzantine Empire recovered under Basil I (867-886) and expanded its political and cultural influence in the Balkans. Sicily and parts of Southern Italy were lost to the Saracens in the mid-9th century.

The Early Middle Ages

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Early Middle Ages refers to a period in European history that followed the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. It is traditionally dated from the 5th to the end of the 10th century when Europe went through major political, economic, cultural, social, demographic changes.

Following the migration of the Germanic (ca. 300-500) and Slavic peoples (from the end of the 4th century to about 700), Europe saw the emergence of barbarian kingdoms most of which were short-lived and unable to maintain Roman institutions and infrastructure. By the end of the Early Middle Ages most of these kingdoms collapsed or were absorbed by their powerful neighbors such as the Carolingian Empire and the Byzantine Empire, while the Iberian Peninsula was captured by the Muslims in the early 8th century.

The Early Middle Ages was marked by economic decline although most historians believe that it was not as severe as previously thought. In addition, the economic decline in Western Europe started long before the deposition of the last Western Roman Emperor and even the beginning of the Migration Period. The Roman Empire fell into severe economic, political, social and spiritual crisis in the 3rd century which resulted in far-reaching changes that gradually led to emergence of medieval Europe.

During the Crisis of the 3rd Century and the period that followed, the Roman Empire saw collapse of the traditional trade networks, decline of cities as economic and cultural centers, emergence of half-free tenant peasants (coloni) who worked on large Roman estates and paid a rent to the land holder, and rise of Christianity providing a model to the medieval economy, culture and social organization. By the end of the Early Middle Ages, manorialism (also referred to as seigneuralism) became the predominant economic and social system in Western and Central Europe, while the entire Europe was virtually Christianized.

The barbarian peoples were culturally backward in compare to highly developed Roman art, architecture and literature. No major constructions were built nor planned until the 8th century except for religious buildings most of which were baptisteries. On the other hand, Byzantine art and architecture reached their height during the Early Middle Ages and the majority of major scientific works were created by Byzantine scholars. The scholars in the West who were almost exclusively clergymen have been primarily concerned with theological issues.

Arrival of new peoples in Europe resulted in dramatic demographic and ethnic changes. The migration of the Germanic and Slavic peoples was followed by the arrival of the Avars and Bulgarians, while the end of the Early Middle Ages was marked by the invasions of the Hungarians and Vikings. A part of the indigenous population was killed but the vast majority merged with the new settlers which resulted in formation of new ethnic groups.

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