Wednesday 17 December 2014

East Frankish Empire

Prof. T. Reuter in his book Germany in the Early Medieval Ages 800 – 1056 describes the Treaty of Verdun (843 AD) was not so much a negotiated peace settlement but merely an armistice as hostilities resumed after a few years of “peace”. The treaty did define the distribution of the former Carolingian empire among the three sons. Of those three, this project will focus on East Francia and its transition from kingdom to empire.

To gain a better appreciation of this, it would be best to look at the three major regional areas that made up the eastern kingdom and how each influenced the political and military climate of the whole. These are the southern region of Bavaria, Thuringia and the Carinthian march, the central region of Franconia and the march lands to the east and last the northern region of Saxony, Frisia and the march lands facing the Wends.

The Southern region.  
The southern lands had a long established aristocracy coupled with the strong presence of the Church, albeit a German and less Roman. Trade routes running along the Danube and south to Italy gave Bavaria a strong central position within the East Frankish empire.  

Tracing its origins from the mid-6th century, the duchy of Bavaria stretched to lands held by Swabian, Bavarii and Frankish tribes. The ruling house throughout most of the first period was the Agiloffings and through a succession of able leaders expanded their domains beyond the Bohemian Forest in the east and to northern Italy upon the departure of the Lombard tribes.

To secure their hold, the aristocracy encouraged the Christianization of newly won territories while supporting an ever expanding number of Dioceses throughout the kingdom. Together, the aristocracy and church were able to establish policies to secure the steady succession of the ruling house and weather the recurring raids by the Avars.

This all changed when the Carolingians came to power. The last duke, Tassilo III, could not stop Charlemagne’s incorporation of the kingdom into the Frankish Empire. The absorption of Bavarian meant administration would be done by Frankish prefects.

Under Louis the Pious (Emperor) divided the empire, Louis the German was given Bavaria (817) but did not begin governing until 825. In 828 by Imperial Decree, “Avaria” or the March of Pannonia was set up as a frontier bordering the Bavarian realm. Meant to offset the rise of the Moravian threat under Mojmir I, the marchland area came under East Frankish rule in 843 as part of the treaty resolution.

During this period during a series of civil wars (832, 839, 840), Louis expanded his domains by wresting control over Alemannia from his half-brother Charles. Over the years, the Moravian threat would continue and in 856, Louis ceded the Pannonian march to his son Carloman of Bavaria. His first priority was to strengthen the fortifications along the Traisen River and build a castle at Tulln (859) on the Danube.

Upon the death of Louis the German (876), Carloman succeeded him as East Frankish king. Rule of Lower Pannonia then passed on to Arnulf of Carinthia. 

Next, a look at the growth of the Central and Northern regions followed up by developing some historical scenarios.


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