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27 Jul

The Early Middle Ages Invasions, Migrations and Kingdoms

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.

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