Andrew Andersen



(Maps: Putzgers, F.W., Historischer Schul-Atlas, Bielefeld, 1929)






The fall of Rome in A.D. 476 was the end of ancient history and the beginning of new era of Western history and new European civilization that amalgamated “classical” Roman and “barbarian” Germanic features. By the end of the century, Germanic tribes formed several kingdoms in West-central and Southern Europe, the strongest of them being those of Westgoths, Ostgoths and Franks.


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In 486 King Clovis of the Salian Franks believed to be a descendant of a legendary hero Merovech began the Merovingian Dynasty. After being baptized in 496 by the Bishop of Rheims, he became the first Christian King of the Germans and encouraged his subjects to convert. The successors of Clovis expanded the kingdom at the expense of other tribes and formed a strong state. However, the last 200 years of the dynasty were marked by the decline and strife.


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In 732 the Frankish army of Charles Martel (“Charles the Hammer”) defeated a huge Arab army of Abd-er-Rahman at the battles of Tours and Poitiers. Those two battles put an end to the Islamic invasion of Europe.

In 768 the Frankish crown went to Charlemagne who ruled until 814. His reign was marked by further expansion as a result of which his kingdom covered most of West-central Europe including modern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, most of Germany and Austria, Northern Italy and parts of Spain. In 800, the Pope of Rome crowned Charlemagne Emperor formally restoring Christian Roman Empire, now dominated by the Germans as the main ethnic element.

One of the major features of the new Empire was the bipolar nature of its power: the Emperor was a military and administrative leader why the Pope of Rome was a spiritual one. It was under Charlemagne and his son Louis (814-840) when European feudal hierarchy was formed.



Charlemagne was the first leader who attempted to unite Europe after the fall of Rome



The death of Louis was followed by the strife for power resulting in the Treaty of Verdun (843) according to which the empire was divided among the three descendants of Louis who became the Kings of the East Frankish Kingdom that later developed into Germany with Austria as its part, West Frankish Kingdom that later became France and the Middle Kingdom that became Burgundy-Arelat to be later divided between France Germany and Italy. The parts of the former Frankish Empire also became different linguistically. As a result of strong Latin cultural influence, the main language of West Frankish Kingdom was Old French, while East Frankish Kingdom continued speaking various German dialects. As for the Middle Kingdom, it remained more or less bilingual.


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In contrast to West- and Middle Kingdoms, East Frankish Kingdom disintegrated further into the Duchies of Bavaria, Franconia, Lorraine, Saxony and Swabia that in fact, became independent domains only nominally subordinate to the King. The death of the last Carolingian in 911 marked the beginning of German fragmentation into the smaller states.



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