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Holy Roman Empire (10th – 13th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The imperial coronation of the German King Otto I by Pope John XII in Rome in 962 is traditionally viewed as the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire but the term came in use several centuries after Otto’s coronation. The Kingdom of Germany was afterwards still ruled by the German kings who were at the same time Holy Roman Emperors. However, not all German kings were crowned emperors. Some scholars date the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire in year 800 when Charlemagne was crowned emperor although the continuous line of emperors began with imperial coronation of Otto I in 962, while the basis of the Holy Roman Empire formed the German lands, Lotharingia and Italy. West Francia emerged as an independent kingdom which came to be known as France about the same time.

Otto I was succeeded by his son Otto II (973-983) who was crowned German King as well as Holy Roman Emperor and continued his father’s policy. He defeated Henry II, Duke of Bavaria called the Wrangler or the Quarrelsome and captured the Duchy of Carinthia in 978. Otto II also achieved a settlement with King Lothair of France in 980 and afterwards launched a campaign against the Saracens in Southern Italy. He conquered Taranto and led several successful military campaigns in Calabria but he was severely defeated near Stilo in 982. Otto’s campaigns in Italy enabled the Slavic peoples on the eastern frontier of Germany to recapture the territories between the Rivers Oder and Elbe. Otto II had his son Otto III confirmed as King of Germany in 983 and prepared a new campaign against the Saracens but he died suddenly in the same year leaving the throne to his three year old son.

Otto III

Otto III

The regency was assumed by mother of Otto III, the Byzantine princess Theophanu who turned out to be a successful ruler. Otto III was still a minor at the time of her death in 991 and the regency passed to his grandmother Adelaide. She was less active than Theophanu and left over the regency to Archbishop of Mainz until Otto III reached majority in 994. In 996, he went to Rome, suppressed the rebellion of the Roman nobleman Crescentius II and had his cousin Bruno of Carinthia elected as Pope Gregory V who crowned him emperor. Otto III spent most of his time in Italy and retuned to Germany only occasionally to suppress several revolts. He permanently moved to Rome in 999 and planned to revive the glory and power of ancient Rome. Gerbert of Aurillac, Archbishop of Reims supported Otto’s plans and the latter had him elected as Pope Sylvester II. The election of Gerbert of Aurillac as Pope provoked a revolt of the German dukes and population of Rome. They rebelled and expelled both emperor and pope. Otto III died in the middle of his preparations against the rebells without a male heir in 1002 resulting in bitter rivalry over the throne.

The German throne was won by Henry II with support of the clergy, in first place of the Archbishop of Mainz. Henry II was son of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria and the last Holy Emperor of the Saxon (or Ottonian) dynasty. He (1002-1024) strengthened his position in Germany and asserted his authority in Northern Italy after launching two military campaigns. Henry II also launched several military campaigns against Boleslaus I of Poland but one of his greatest achievements was gaining the inheritance of the Kingdom of Burgundy which was an important gain for his successor Conrad II (1024-1039) from the Salian Dynasty.

Henry IV

Henry IV

Conrad II had his son Henry III elected as King of Germany during his lifetime and left him a strong position on his death. Henry III launched several military campaigns and extended the borders of the Holy Roman Empire but his primal concern were religious matters and support to the monastic reform movements. His involvement in papal affairs and restoration of papal power caused severe difficulties to his successor Henry IV (1056-1102). The latter came into conflict with the Papacy over the question of lay investiture of clerics. Pope Gregory VII threatened him with excommunication because of his interference in Italian and German episcopal life in 1075 but Henry IV convoked a synod of bishops and princes in Worms which deposed Gregory VII in 1076. Pope Gregory VII excommunicated Henry IV and all the bishops named by him. Mutual excommunication provoked a bitter conflict between the secular and religious powers which came to be known as the Investiture Controversy. In addition, Henry also had to face an opposition of the bishops and German princes who turned against him and elected Rudolf of Rheinfeld, Duke of Swabia as anti-king. Henry IV went to Canossa and submitted to the Pope who lifted the excommunication and afterwards dealt with the supporters of the rival king.

Gregory VII excommunicated Henry IV for the second time in 1080 but Henry captured Rome, deposed Gregory and installed antipope Clement III who crowned him emperor in 1084. Henry achieved recognition of his son Conrad as king and as his legal heir in n 1087 but Conrad turned against his father shortly afterwards. Henry IV defeated his rebellious son in 1097 and designated his younger son Henry (future Henry V) as his successor. He had sworn that he would never follow his brother’s example but he deposed his father in 1106.

Henry V (1106-1125) settled the Investiture Controversy with the Concordat of Worms in 1122. However, the Investiture Controversy greatly strengthened position of the German princes which became obvious on the death of Henry V in 1125. The electors refused Henry’s candidate, Frederick II of Swabia as his heir and elected Lothair III of Supplinburg, Duke of Saxony. The German princes also refused the candidate of of Lothair III, Henry the Proud and elected Conrad III of the Hohenstaufen dynasty on Lothair’s death in 1137. Henry the Proud denounced his claims to the throne but he refused to swear loyalty to the new German King because the latter demanded from him to give up one of his duchies. Conrad III conquered Saxony and Bavaria but he provoked a serious rivalry between the Welfs and Hohenstaufen families in southern Germany, Bavaria and Swabia which escalated into armed conflicts, similar to a civil war.

Serious situation in the Kingdom of Germany and the Second Crusade prevented Conrad III to go to Rome and thus he became the first German King not to be crowned emperor after Henry I. Conrad III designated his nephew Frederick, Duke of Swabia as his heir. Frederick was a descendant of Germany’s leading families – the Welf and Hohenstaufen and the German princes accepted Conrad’s choice with an aim to end the conflict between the Welfs and Hohenstaufens. Frederic I Barbarossa (for his red beard he was given nick-name Barbarossa) was elected as German King in 1152 and ended the conflict between the Welfs and Hohenstaufens by 1056. Afterwards he intervened in Italy, suppressed the Commune of Rome (established in 1143-44) and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1155. However, his military campaigns against the Italian cities failed. The Peace of Constance signed in 1183 resulted in a triumph of the Pope and the Lombard League (since 1167 the center of the opposition against the emperor). The Italian cities retained their independence under formal imperial overlordship, while Pope Alexander III achieved Frederic’s recognition. Following the Italian campaigns Frederic I concentrated on internal affairs and revenged to Henry the Lion who refused providing him military assistance in Italy. German court stripped Henry of his lands (Duchy of Saxony and Bavaria) and declared him an outlaw. The event completed the process of disintegration of stem duchies as well as the process of development of a new college, the Prince-Electors of the Holy Roman Empire who became the imperial vassals.

Frederick I

Frederick I

Frederic I Barbarossa was succeeded by his second born son Henry VI who was elected King of the Romans or “Emperor to-be” already in 1169. Henry VI took over the rule in 1189 when his father went on the Third Crusade. Henry VI (1190-1197) gained the Kingdom of Sicily through marriage with Constance of Sicily, the sole legitimate heir of William II of Sicily who died in 1189. With aim to grant his descendants the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Sicily he wanted to make the imperial crown hereditary. However, his attempts caused a bitter opposition of the German Princes as well as of the Pope who fell threatened by an eventual union of the Kingdom of Germany and the Kingdom of Sicily.

The question of the succession remained unsolved until Henry’s death in 1197 and lead to serious conflicts over the throne. Frederic who was elected King of Germany was at the time of Henry’s death in Sicily and could not return to Germany because of the rebellion of the Lombard League. Thus Frederic returned to Sicily where he was crowned King of Sicily. The adherents of the Hohenstaufen family in Germany elected his uncle Philip of Swabia as German king in 1198. Few months later, Archbishop of Cologne who was supported by the English elected the son of Henry the Lion, Otto IV of Brunswick as King of Germany and crowned him in Aachen. Non of the rival German kings was not regarded as fully legitimate (because Frederic was elected king earlier) but the rivalry for the German throne continued. Otto had the support of Richard the Lionheart and later of John of England, while King Philip II of France supported Philip of Swabia. Eventually both sides turned to Pope Innocent III with aim to solve the question. Innocent III decided in Otto’s favor and excommunicated Philip in 1200/1201. However, Philip became increasingly popular in Germany, while Otto lost financial support from England after John of England lost Normandy, Anjou and Poitou. Pope Innocent III started to negotiate with Philip of Swabia but the latter was murdered in 1208. His adherents renounced the election of a new candidate and recognized Otto IV as King of Germany. In 1209, Otto IV was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Innocent III in Rome.

Otto IV tried to capture the Kingdom of Sicily from Frederic after his imperial coronation. His attempts disturbed the Pope who feared for his lands in central Italy and thus he gave his support to Frederic who went to Germany and gained recognition as German King. The conflict over the German throne finally ended with the Battle of Bouvines that was fought between the supporters of the rival kings, England and France in 1214. Philip II of France decisively defeated Otto IV who fought on the English side, while Frederic II who did not participate in the battle was crowned King of Germany in 1215. Otto IV did not give his claims to the throne until his death in 1218 but he lost all the support in Germany after the defeat in the Battle of Bouvines.

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.

Kingdom of Asturias (5th – 9th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Kingdom of Asturias situated north of the Cantabrian Mountains was the only Christian kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula that managed to withstand the Moorish invasion. The Kingdom of Asturias was established by the legendary Pelayo (Pelagius) who defeated the Moorish forces in the Battle of Covadonga in 718. Pelayo’s victory against the Moors in the Battle of Covadonga in 718 is traditionally regarded as the beginning of the Reconquista or the Christian re-conquest of Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim Moors.

Pelayo was succeeded by his son Favila in 739 but he was supposedly killed by a bear on a hunt in the same year. He was succeeded by Alfonso I or Alfonso the Catholic (739-757) who conquered Galicia, Alamanca, Astorga, Leon, part of Navarre and reached Castile by capturing Segovia and Avila. Alfonso’s successors successfully withstood the Moorish attacks, continued the expansion of the Kingdom of Asturias and incorporated the northwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula by about 775.

Kingdom of Asturias

Kingdom of Asturias

The territorial expansion of the Kingdom of Asturias on expense of the Moors continued under Alfonso II (791-842) who reached almost to Lisbon. The reign of Alfonso II was also marked by his recognition as king by Charlemagne and by the Pope which greatly increased the prestige and influence of the Kingdom of Asturias.

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.

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.

Thuringian Kingdom

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Thuringian Kingdom situated in today’s central Germany between the Elbe and the Danube was established in the late 5th century. It reached its height and territorial peak during the reign of Hermanfrid, son of King Bessinus and the last independent king of the Thuringii. The Thuringian Kingdom was conquered by the Franks in 531-532 and afterwards governed by the Frankish dukes. Charlemagne transformed the former Thuringian Kingdom into a frontier march for his campaigns against the Slavs.

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.

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