Austrasia

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Austrasia
511–751
Frankish Empire 481 to 814-en.svg
Austrasia, homeland of the Franks (darkest green), and subsequent conquests (other shades of green)
Capital Reims, Metz
Common languages Old Frankish, Vulgar Latin (Gallo-Roman), Latin
Religion
Christianity
GovernmentMonarchy
King  
Historical era Early Middle Ages
 Established
511
 Disestablished
751
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Roman Gaul
Blank.png Germania inferior
Carolingian Empire Blank.png

Austrasia was a territory which formed the north-eastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks during the 6th to 8th centuries. It was centred on the Meuse, Middle Rhine and the Moselle rivers, and was the original territory of the Franks, including both the so-called Salians and Rhineland Franks, which Clovis I conquered after first taking control of the bordering part of Roman Gaul, now northern France, which is sometimes described in this period as Neustria.

Contents

In 561, Austrasia became a separate kingdom within the Frankish kingdom and was ruled by Sigebert I. In the 7th and 8th centuries it was the powerbase from which the Carolingians, originally mayors of the palace of Austrasia, took over the rule of all Franks, all of Gaul, most of Germany, and northern Italy. After this period of unification, the now larger Frankish empire was once again divided between eastern and western sub-kingdoms, with the new version of the eastern kingdom eventually becoming the foundation of the Kingdom of Germany.

Etymology

The name Austrasia is not well attested in the Merovingian period. It is recorded first by Gregory of Tours in c. 580 and then by Aimoin of Fleury in c. 1000. It is presumably the latinisation of an Old Frankish name, reconstructed as *Oster-rike ("Eastern Kingdom"). [1] As with the name Austria, it contains the word for "east", i.e. meaning "eastern land" to designate the original territory of the Franks in contrast to Neustria, the "(new) western land" in northern Gaul conquered by Clovis I in the wake of the Battle of Soissons of 486.

Geography

Austrasia was centered on the Middle Rhine, including the basins of the Moselle, Main, and Meuse rivers. It bordered on Frisia and Saxony to the north, Thuringia to the east, Swabia and Burgundy to the south and to Neustria to the southwest. The exact boundary between Merovingian Neustria and Austrasia is unclear with respect to areas such as the medieval counties of Flanders, Brabant and Hainaut, and areas immediately to the south of these.

Metz served as the Austrasian capital, although some Austrasian kings ruled from Reims, Trier and Cologne. Other important cities included Verdun, Worms and Speyer. Fulda monastery was founded in eastern Austrasia in the final decade of the Merovingian period.

In the High Middle Ages, its territory became divided among the duchies of Lotharingia and Franconia in Germany, with some western portions including Reims and Rethel passing to France.

Its exact boundaries were somewhat fluid over the history of the Frankish sub-kingdoms, but Austrasia can be taken to correspond roughly to the territory of present-day Luxembourg, parts of eastern Belgium, north-eastern France (Lorraine and Champagne-Ardenne), west-central Germany (the Rhineland, Hesse and Franconia) and the southern Netherlands (Limburg, North Brabant, with a salient north of the Rhine including Utrecht and parts of Gelderland).

History

Ancient basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains from the 4th century in Metz, capital of the kingdom of Austrasia Metz st pierre nonnains.jpg
Ancient basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains from the 4th century in Metz, capital of the kingdom of Austrasia

After the death of the Frankish king Clovis I in 511, his four sons partitioned his kingdom amongst themselves, with Theuderic I receiving the lands that were to become Austrasia. Descended from Theuderic, a line of kings ruled Austrasia until 555, when it was united with the other Frankish kingdoms of Chlothar I, who inherited all the Frankish realms by 558. He redivided the Frankish territory amongst his four sons, but the four kingdoms coalesced into three on the death of Charibert I in 567: Austrasia under Sigebert I, Neustria under Chilperic I, and Burgundy under Guntram. These three kingdoms defined the political division of Francia until the rise of the Carolingians and even thereafter.

From 567 to the death of Sigebert II in 613, Neustria and Austrasia fought each other almost constantly, with Burgundy playing the peacemaker between them. These struggles reached their climax in the wars between Brunhilda and Fredegund, queens respectively of Austrasia and Neustria. Finally, in 613, a rebellion by the nobility against Brunhilda saw her betrayed and handed over to her nephew and foe in Neustria, Chlothar II. Chlothar then took control of the other two kingdoms and set up a united Frankish kingdom with its capital in Paris. During this period the first majores domus or mayors of the palace appeared. These officials acted as mediators between king and people in each realm. The first Austrasian mayors came from the Pippinid family, which experienced a slow but steady ascent until it eventually displaced the Merovingians on the throne.

Map of Francia in 714 (Austrasia shown in green) Francia 714.png
Map of Francia in 714 (Austrasia shown in green)

In 623, the Austrasians asked Chlothar II for a king of their own and he appointed his son Dagobert I to rule over them with Pepin of Landen as regent. Dagobert's government in Austrasia was widely admired. In 629, he inherited Neustria and Burgundy. Austrasia was again neglected until, in 633, the people demanded the king's son as their own king again. Dagobert complied and sent his elder son Sigebert III to Austrasia. Historians often categorise Sigebert as the first roi fainéant , or do-nothing king, of the Merovingian dynasty. His court was dominated by the mayors. In 657, the mayor Grimoald the Elder succeeded in putting his son Childebert the Adopted on the throne, where he remained until 662. Thereafter, Austrasia was predominantly the kingdom of the Arnulfing mayors of the palace and their base of power. With the Battle of Tertry in 687, Pepin of Heristal defeated the Neustrian king Theuderic III and established his mayoralty over all the Frankish kingdoms. This was even regarded by contemporaries as the beginning of his "reign". It also signalled the dominance of Austrasia over Neustria, which would last until the end of the Merovingian era.

In 718, Charles Martel had Austrasian support in his war against Neustria for control of all the Francian realms. He was not king himself, but appointed Chlothar IV to rule in Austrasia. In 719, Francia was united by Martel's family, the Carolingian dynasty, under Austrasian hegemony. While the Frankish kings continued to divide up the Frankish realm in different ways over subsequent generations, the term Austrasia was only used occasionally after the Carolingian dynasty.

Rulers

Merovingian kings

Mayors of the palace

See also

Related Research Articles

Pepin of Landen Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia under King Dagobert III (623-629)

Pepin Iof Landen, also called the Elder or the Old, was the Mayor of the palace of Austrasia under the Merovingian King Dagobert I from 623 to 629. He was also the Mayor for Sigebert III from 639 until his death.

Dagobert I King of Austrasia (623-34), King of the Franks (629-34), King of Neustria and Burgundy (629-39)

Dagobert I was the king of Austrasia (623–634), king of all the Franks (629–634), and king of Neustria and Burgundy (629–639). He has been described as the last king of the Merovingian dynasty to wield any real royal power. Dagobert was the first of the Frankish kings to be buried in the royal tombs at Saint Denis Basilica.

Chlothar II King of Neustria (584-613); King of the Franks (613-629)

Chlothar II, called the Great or the Younger , was king of Neustria and king of the Franks, and the son of Chilperic I and his third wife, Fredegund. He started his reign as an infant under the regency of his mother, who was in an uneasy alliance with Chlothar's uncle King Guntram of Burgundy, who died in 592. Chlothar took power upon the death of his mother in 597; though rich, Neustria was one of the smallest portions of Francia. He continued his mother's feud with Queen Brunhilda with equal viciousness and bloodshed, finally achieving her execution in an especially brutal manner in 613, after winning the battle that enabled Chlothar to unite Francia under his rule. Like his father, he built up his territories by seizing lands after the deaths of other kings.

Neustria Western part of the kingdom of the Franks

Neustria was the western part of the Kingdom of the Franks.

Carolingian dynasty Frankish noble family founded by Charles Martel

The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family named after Charlemagne, grandson of mayor Charles Martel and descendant of the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The dynasty consolidated its power in the 8th century, eventually making the offices of mayor of the palace and dux et princeps Francorum hereditary, and becoming the de facto rulers of the Franks as the real powers behind the Merovingian throne. In 751 the Merovingian dynasty which had ruled the Germanic Franks was overthrown with the consent of the Papacy and the aristocracy, and Pepin the Short, son of Martel, was crowned King of the Franks. The Carolingian dynasty reached its peak in 800 with the crowning of Charlemagne as the first Emperor of the Romans in the West in over three centuries. His death in 814 began an extended period of fragmentation of the Carolingian Empire and decline that would eventually lead to the evolution of the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire.

Childeric II

Childeric II was the king of Austrasia from 662 and of Neustria and Burgundy from 673 until his death, making him sole King of the Franks for the final two years of his life.

Under the Merovingian dynasty, the mayor of the palace was the manager of the household of the Frankish king.

Clovis II

Clovis II was King of Neustria and Burgundy, having succeeded his father Dagobert I in 639. His brother Sigebert III had been King of Austrasia since 634. He was initially under the regency of his mother Nanthild until her death in her early thirties in 642. Nanthild's death allowed Clovis to fall under the influence of the secular magnates, who reduced the royal power in their own favour; first Aega and then Erchinoald. The Burgundian mayor of the palace Flaochad used him to lure his rival, Willebad, to a battle in Autun, where Willebad was killed.

Francia Frankish Kingdom from 481 to 843

Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks, Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire, was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It was ruled by the Franks during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. After the Treaty of Verdun in 843, West Francia became the predecessor of France, and East Francia became that of Germany. Francia was among the last surviving Germanic kingdoms from the Migration Period era before its partition in 843.

Dagobert II King of Austrasia

Dagobert II was a Merovingian king of the Franks, ruling in Austrasia from 675 or 676 until his death. He is one of the more obscure Merovingians. He has been considered a martyr since at least the ninth century.

Theuderic III

Theuderic III was the king of Neustria on two occasions and king of Austrasia from 679 to his death in 691. Thus, he was the king of all the Franks from 679. The son of Clovis II and Balthild, he has been described as a puppet – a roi fainéant – of Ebroin, the Mayor of the Palace, who may have even appointed him without the support of the nobles.

Sigebert III King of Austrasia from 633 to 656

Sigebert III was the Merovingian king of Austrasia from 633 to his death around 656. He was described as the first Merovingian roi fainéant —do-nothing king—, in effect the mayor of the palace ruling the kingdom throughout his reign. However he lived a pious Christian life and was later sanctified, being remembered as Saint Sigebert of Austrasia in the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church.

Childebert the Adopted Frankish king

Childebert III the Adopted was a Frankish king.

Brunhilda of Austrasia Queen of Austrasia

Brunhilda was queen consort of Austrasia, part of Francia, by marriage to the Merovingian king Sigebert I of Austrasia, and regent for her son, grandson and great-grandson.

Liber Historiae Francorum is a chronicle written anonymously during the 8th century. The first sections served as a secondary source for early Franks in the time of Marcomer, giving a short breviarum of events until the time of the late Merovingians. The subsequent sections of the chronicle are important primary sources for the contemporaneous history. They provide an account of the Pippinid family in Austrasia before they became the most famous Carolingians.

Clovis III

Clovis III was the Frankish king of Austrasia in 675 and possibly into 676. A member of the Merovingian dynasty, he was a child and his reign so brief and contested that he may be considered only a pretender. He is sometimes even left unnumbered and Clovis IV is instead called Clovis III. The only source for his reign is the contemporary Suffering of Leudegar.

Gundoin was the first Duke of Alsace in the middle of the seventh century. He was a Frankish nobleman from the Meuse-Moselle basin. He was, according to the author of the Vita Sadalbergae, an "illustrious man, opulent in wealth and fame according to the highest secular dignity and skilled in courtly affairs."

The Duchy of Alsace was a large political subdivision of the Frankish Empire during the last century and a half of Merovingian rule. It corresponded to the territory of Alsace and was carved out of southern Austrasia in the last decade of the reign of Dagobert I, probably to stabilise the southern reaches of Austrasia against Alemannia and Burgundy. By the late Middle Ages, the region was considered part of Swabia.

Battle of Lucofao

The Battle of Lucofao was the decisive engagement of the civil war that afflicted the Frankish kingdoms during and after the reign of Dagobert II (676–79). In the battle, the Neustrian forces of Theuderic III and his majordomo Ebroin defeated the forces of Austrasia under the dukes Pippin and Martin.

References

  1. Taylor, William Cooke (1848). A Manual of Ancient and Modern History. New York Public Library: D. Appleton. p.  342. Oster-rike.

Bibliography