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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Carolingian Empire, 752 - 911

Charles the Great (Charlemagne) inherited the Frankish crown in 768. During his reign (768-814), he subdued Bavaria, conquered Lombardy and Saxony, and established his authority in central Italy. By the end of the eighth century, his kingdom, later to become known in German historiography as the First Reich, included the territories of present-day France, a part of Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, and the greater part of Italy. Charlemagne, the founder of an empire that was Roman, Christian, and Germanic, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the pope in the year 800.

The Carolingian Empire was based on an alliance between the emperor, a temporal ruler supported by his military retinue, and the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, who granted spiritual sanction for the imperial mission. Charlemagne and his son, Louis I (Louis the Pious, 814-40), established centralized authority, appointed imperial counts as administrators, and developed a hierarchical feudal structure headed by the emperor. However, the empire of Charlemagne, which, in contrast with the legalistic and abstract Roman concept of government, relied on personal leadership, lasted less than a century.

A period of internecine warfare followed the death of Louis. The Treaty of Verdun (843) restored peace and divided the empire among his three sons, geographically and politically delineating the future territories of Germany, France, and the area between them, known as the Middle Kingdom (see fig. 2). The eastern Carolingian kings ruled in present-day Germany and Austria, the western Carolingian kings in the area of France. The imperial title, however, came to depend increasingly on rule over the Middle Kingdom (primarily Italy). By this time, in addition to a geographical and political delineation, a cultural and linguistic split had occurred. The east Frankish tribes still spoke Germanic dialects; the language of the west Frankish tribes, under the influence of Gallo-Latin, had developed into Old French. Meanwhile, the eastern Carolingian kingship was being weakened by the rise of regional duchies, which acquired the trappings of petty kingdoms. This marked the beginning of particularism, in which territorial rulers promoted their own interests and autonomy without regard to the kingdom. These duchies were strengthened when the Carolingian line died out in 911, leaving kings who had no direct line to the throne to assert their power against the territorial dukes.

Data as of July 1987