As far back as 500 BC, the north central region now known as Germany was once occupied by the Celts and at its northern reaches Teutonic tribes. By 113 BC, German tribes began to invade along the Mediterranean in 113 BC, the Romans started their campaigns to push these Germani back. Their efforts against the Germanic tribes included many successful campaigns under the Roman general Gaius Marius, and then later by Julius Caesar in 55 and 53 BC.
After a major defeat in AD 9, the Romans gave up their hopes of fully conquering Germany and erected a line of fortifications from the Rhine to the Danube to keep out the Germanic tribes. However, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Franks, Alemanni, Brugundians, Vandals, Goths, and others flooded into the region. By the Middle Ages, German tribes occupied most of the western portions of the Roman Empire, adopting much of the previous Roman culture and technology and the Christian religion.
In 800, Charlemagne was made the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by the pope. He brought a degree of unity to Germany that was previously unknown as he named Austria the Ostmark, which meant eastern border region, in order to stem the tide of the determined Hungarian and Slavic armies who wanted to annex Austrian territories into their own empires.
Charlemagne died in 814 and his empire was divided into three by the Treaty of Verdun in 843. Louis the German acquired the eastern portion that would become Germany. Shortly after this time, the rising feudal society lead to the partition of Germany into the five duchies of Saxony, Swabia, Franconia, Lorraine, and Bavaria. Originally districts of the Carolingian Empire, these duchies became independent political entities in the 10th and 11th centuries. The Carolingian rule of Germany ended was ended in 911 and Henry of Saxony was elected king by the German dukes in 919.
However, it was the Saxon king Otto I the Great (936-973), who forced Germany to unify. Otto, in fact, persuaded the Dukes of Lorraine, Franconia, Swabia and Bavaria to act as his attendants in the coronation ceremony at Aachen. The King subordinated the dukes, made the German Church a national institution, and fused the German tribes into a powerful state. In 955, Otto decisively defeated the Hungarian invasions and Austria, a word meaning Kingdom of the East, became a Bavarian protectorate. Otto was also crowned emperor by Pope John XII in 962, which marked the genesis of the medieval Holy Roman Empire.
At the end of the 15th century, as a result of feudalism, the German states in the Holy Roman Empire still lacked strong, unified central governments and local nobles or small political units fragmented political authority. Local powers, whether cities, nobles, or princes, remained autonomous and prevented the Holy Roman Empire from utilizing its resources and organizing itself like the new monarchies in the other European states. At the same time, the population was rising and trade was increasing. Social mobility also increased, but poverty became its counterpart. In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation shattered the dominance that Western Christendom had experienced for over a thousand years. The novel ideas of religious thinkers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin transformed traditional views of God, human beings and society. As a result, the moral stature, organization, and power of the Catholic Church was also altered by the Catholic Counter-Reformation. And as religious upheavals intensified, revolutionary thought erupted on many other levels of society. So that in the 17th century, the governments in the German states became centralized, writers and artists expressed their discontentment, and the European countries began to colonize the New World.
After 1815, the various German states began to move toward the creation of a modern and united German nation. The Congress Of Vienna, which concluded the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, gave the rich territories of the Rhineland and of Westphalia to Prussia. The following the Revolutions of 1848, and the rise of Bismarck, Germany expanded territorially, developed its economy, and emerged as a great world power. German Unification was proclaimed in 1871, by which time Germany had attained roughly the size and boundaries it would have in the 20th century.
- ^ Swyrich, Archive materials
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