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Kingdom of Croatia

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The early history of Medieval Croatian State is mostly unknown. The Frankish sources from the end of the 8th century mention Woinomyrus Sclavus who was according to some scholars a Croatian Duke but the opinions about his origin are greatly divided. History of Medieval Croatian State becomes more clear in the second decade of the 9th century when Prince of Savia, Ljudevit Posavski led a rebellion against the Franks. Croatia was at the time ruled by Prince Borna who joined the Franks against Ljudevit Posavski. The Franks crushed the rebellion in 822, while Ljudevit Posavski escaped in Bosnia and notified the Franks that he was willing to subdue to the emperor. Ljudevit returned to Croatia on the death of Borna in 823 but he was assassinated, probably on Frankish order. The destiny of Slavic principality of Savia afterwards remains unknown but written sources from the end of the 9th century mention Prince Braslav, a loyal German vassal who met with Emperor Arnulf in 892.

Borna’s nephew and heir Vladislav was succeeded by Prince Mislav. More is known about Mislav’s successor Trpimir (c. 845-864) who defeated the Bulgarians and Dalmatian cities and strengthened the Medieval Croatian State. Trpimir was succeeded by Domagoj (c. 864-876) who was not member of the Trpimirovic Dynasty. His reign was marked by increased Byzantine influence and Croatian throne was assumed by Sedeslav/Zdeslav from the Trpimirovic Dynasty with Byzantine help in 878. Sedeslav was succeeded by Branimir (879-892) who turned against the Byzantine Empire and established closer bonds with the Papacy. Branimir reconciled with the Byzantine Empire later, while the Medieval Croatian State developed into an important power on the Adriatic coast.

Branimir was succeeded by Mutimir (892-c.920) of whom very little is known. His successor Tomislav I (c. 910-928) was proclaimed king although is not known when and by whom. However, the Medieval Croatian State fell into inner crisis under Tomislav’s successors Trpimir II, Kresimir I and Miroslav I. A civil war broke out during the reign of Miroslav I (945-949) resulting in rapid switches on the Croatian throne and rise of the local leaders. Raska (Serbia) under Caslav Klonimirovic captured Bosnia, while Stefan Drzislav (d. 997) also felt threatened by Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria. Drzislav joined the Byzantine Emperor Basil II against Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria but his success was short-lasting. Venice stopped paying a tax to the Croatian King for safe sealing in 996, while Drzislav died shortly afterwards.

Drzislav’s death was followed by a war over succession among his three sons Svetoslav, Kresimir III and Gojislav which was taken advantage by the Venetians under Pietro II Orseolo who captured the Croatian lands along the Adriatic Sea. The Croatian crown was eventually assumed by Kresimir III who was forced to subdue to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II who destroyed the Bulgarians under Tsar Samuil. Both Byzantine and Venetian pressure on Kingdom of Croatia (the Byzantine Emperor Basil II died in 1025 and the Orseolo family was expelled from Venice in 1026) ceased in the second decade of the 11th century. However, Kresimir’s successor Stefan I (c. 1030-1058) had to face with the Normans who emerged as an important political force in Southern Italy.

Kingdom of Croatia reached its territorial peak under Kresimir IV (1058-1074). He established his supremacy over Dalmatian cities about 1069 and is titled “rex Dalmatiae atque Croatiae” (king of Dalmatia and Croatia) in all documents which is by some Croatian historians regarded as evidence of Kresimir’s independence from the Byzantine Empire concerning Dalmatia. Kresimir IV was deposed in 1074 and the Croatian throne was assumed by Zvonimir (1075-1089) with the support of Pope Gregory VII. Zvonimir is the first historically proven King of Croatia but little is known about his rule. The majority of the documents is faked and thus Zvonimir’s role in the Byzantine-Norman struggles in the Adriatic remains unknown. He was succeeded by Stjepan II (1089-1091) who was the last King of Croatia of Trpimirovic Dynasty.

Zvonimir’s widow, Jelena who was the sister of Ladislaus I of Hungary refused to recognize Stjepan II as King of Croatia and appealed to the King of Hungary to assume the Croatian throne. The Hungarian attempt failed and king of Croatia became a man named Peter (1092-1097) of whom is known only that he ruled from Knin. However, Ladislaus’ successor Coloman invaded Croatia as soon as he reconciled with the Pope, defeated the Croatian forces in the Battle of Gvozd Mountain in 1097 and killed the last King of Croatia. Coloman was crowned King of Croatia in 1102 and the Kingdom of Croatia was incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary.

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.

Papal States (5th – 9th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Papal States were established with the Donation of Pepin in 756 and besides the lands granted by the Frankish King Pepin the Short (the lands of Exarchate of Ravenna in central Italy) encompassed the Duchy of Rome (today’s Lazio), Sutri and some hill towns in Latium which were granted to the Papacy by the Lombard King Liutprand with the Donation of Sutri in 728.

Pope Stephen II accepting the Donation of Pepin

Pope Stephen II accepting the Donation of Pepin

The collaboration between the Popes and Frankish Kings was crucial for the rise of power and establishment of the Papal States with Popes as spiritual and secular leaders. Pepin the Short deposed the last Merovingian King Childeric III and crowned himself King of the Franks with Pope Zachary’s approval. In return for Zachary’s support Pepin the Short provided military assistance to Pope Stephen II against the Lombards and recaptured the lands between the cities of Rome and Ravenna which were granted to Papacy with the Donation of Pepin in 756.

The Donation of Pepin provided the legal basis for the establishment of the Papal States. The Popes also legitimized the establishment of the Papal States with the forged Donation of Constantine according to which the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great granted the dominion over the city of Rome and the entire Western Roman Empire to Pope Sylvester (314-33) and his successors. Good relations between the Papacy and the Frankish Kingdom continued under Pepin’s successor Charlemagne (768-814) who confirmed the donation of his father and was crowned Emperor of the Romans by the Pope Leo III on Christmas Day (December 25) in 800.

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.

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.

Suebic (Suevic) Kingdom

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Suebic Kingdom was established during the reign of Hermeric after the invasion in today’s Galicia and northern Portugal in 410. Hermeric abdicated in 438 in favor of his son Rechila who conquered Merida in 439 and Seville in 441. Afterwards Suebi turned northwards and captured Ebro valley and Lerida.

Location of the Suebic Kingdom

Location of the Suebic Kingdom

Suebic territorial expansion disturbed the Roman Emperor Avitus who persuaded the Visigoths to attack the Suebic Kingdom. In alliance with the Burgundians and the Franks, the Visigoths defeated the Suebi near Astroga in 456. The Suebic Kingdom was severely weakened by the defeat at Astroga but it retained itself until 585 when it was finally conquered by the Visigoths.

Kingdom of Alamanni (Alemanni)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Alamanni (Alemanni) settled in northern Italy in the 3rd century and occupied today’s eastern France, southwestern Germany and northeastern Switzerland by the 5th century. The Alamanni were ruled by kings throughout the 4th and 5th centuries and reached their height in the second half of the 5th century when they began to expand eastwards as well as westwards. However, their expansion resulted in the conflict with the Franks under Clovis I who decisively defeated the Alamanni forces in the Battle of Tolbiac in 496. Alamanni were subjugated by the Franks and lost their political independence.

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.

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