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Carantania 800 AD-en.PNG
Common languages Proto-Slavic
Historical era Early Middle Ages
 Tributary to Franks
 Integration to Franks
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Samova rise.png Samo's Empire
Francia Karl der Grosse 800.jpg
Today part ofFlag of Austria.svg  Austria
Flag of Slovenia.svg  Slovenia
Part of a series on the
History of Slovenia
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Part of a series on the
History of Austria
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Carantania, also known as Carentania (Slovene : Karantanija, German : Karantanien, in Old Slavic *Korǫtanъ), was a Slavic principality that emerged in the second half of the 7th century, in the territory of present-day southern Austria and north-eastern Slovenia. It was the predecessor of the March of Carinthia, created within the Carolingian Empire in 889.

Origin of the name

The name Carantania is of proto-Slavic origin. Paul the Deacon mentions Slavs in Carnuntum, which is erroneously called Carantanum (Carnuntum, quod corrupte vocitant Carantanum). [1]

A possible etymological explanation is that it may have been formed from a toponymic base carant- which ultimately derives from pre-Indo-European root *karra meaning 'rock', or that it is of Celtic origin and derived from *karant- meaning 'friend, ally'. Its Slavic name *korǫtanъ was adopted from the Latin *carantanum. The toponym Carinthia (Slovene: Koroška < Proto-Slavic *korǫt’ьsko) is also claimed to be etymologically related, deriving from pre-Slavic *carantia. [2]

The name, like most toponyms beginning with *Kar(n)- in this area of Europe, are in turn most likely linked to the pre-Roman tribe of the Carni that once populated the eastern Alps.[ citation needed ]


Carantania's capital was most likely Karnburg (Slovene : Krnski grad) in the Zollfeld Field (Slovene : Gosposvetsko polje), north of modern-day town of Klagenfurt (Slovene : Celovec). The principality was centered in the area of modern Carinthia, and included territories of modern Styria, most of today's East Tyrol and of the Puster Valley, the Lungau and Ennspongau regions of Salzburg, and parts of southern Upper Austria and Lower Austria. It most probably also included the territory of the modern Slovenian province of Carinthia. The few existing historical sources distinguish between two separate Slavic principalities in the Eastern Alpine area: Carantania and Carniola. The latter, which appears in historical records dating from the late 8th century, was situated in the central part of modern Slovenia. It was (at least by name) the predecessor of the later Duchy of Carniola.

The borders of the later Carantania state, which was under the feudal overlordship of the Carolingians, and its successor (the March of Carinthia, 826–976), as well as of the later Duchy of Carinthia (from 976), extended beyond historical Carantania.


Carantania within Frankish Empire (AD 788-843) Frankish Empire 481 to 814-en.svg
Carantania within Frankish Empire (AD 788–843)

In the 4th century Chur became the seat of the first Christian bishopric north to the Alps. Despite a legend assigning its foundation to an alleged Briton king, St. Lucius, the first known bishop is one Asinio [3] in AD 451.

In the 6th century, the Alpine Slavs, who are ancestors of present-day Slovenes, settled the eastern areas of the Friulia region. They settled in the easternmost mountainous areas of Friuli, known as the Friulian Slavia, as well as the Karst Plateau and the area north and south from Gorizia.

After the fall of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in 553, the Germanic tribe of the Lombards invaded Italy via Friuli and founded the Lombard Kingdom of Italy, which no longer included all of Tyrol, only its southern part. The northern part of Tyrol came under the influence of the Bavarii, while the west probably was part of Alamannia.

In 568, the Langobards receded into northern Italy. Subsequently, in the last decades of the 6th century, Slavs settled in the depopulated territory with the help of their Avar overlords. In 588 they reached the area of the Upper Sava River and in 591 they arrived in the Upper Drava region, where they soon fought the Bavarians under Duke Tassilo I. In 592 the Bavarians won, but three years later in 595 the Slavic-Avar army gained victory and thus consolidated the boundary between the Frankish and the Avar territories. [4] By that time, today's East Tyrol and Carinthia came to be referred to in historical sources as Provincia Sclaborum (the Country of Slavs). [5] [6]

In the 6th century, the Alpine Slavs, who are reckoned to be among the ancestors of present-day Slovenes, settled the eastern areas of the Friuli region. They settled in the easternmost mountainous areas of Friuli, known as the Friulian Slavia, as well as the Kras Plateau and the area north and south from Gorizia. In the 6th century Chur was also conquered by the Franks. [7]

Slavic settlement in the Eastern Alps region is assumed to be connected to the collapse of local dioceses in the late 6th century, a change in population and material culture, and most importantly, in the establishment of a Slavic language group in the area. The territory settled by Slavs, however, was also inhabited by the remains of the indigenous Romanized population, which preserved Christianity.

Slavs in both the Eastern Alps and the Pannonian region are assumed to be originally subject to Avar rulers (kagans). After Avar rule weakened around 610, a relatively independent March of the Slavs (marca Vinedorum), governed by a duke, emerged in southern Carinthia in the early 7th century. Historical sources mention Valuk as the duke of Slavs (Wallux dux Winedorum).

In 623 Slavs of the Eastern Alps probably joined Samo's Tribal Union, a Slavic tribal alliance governed by the Frankish merchant Samo. The year 626 brought an end to Avar dominance over Slavs, as the Avars were defeated at Constantinople. [8] In 658 Samo died and his Tribal Union disintegrated. A smaller part of the original March of the Slavs, centred north of modern Klagenfurt, preserved independence and came to be known as Carantania. The name Carantania itself begins to appear in historical sources soon after 660. The first clear indication of a specific ethnic identity and political organisation may be recognised in the geographical term Carantanum which Paul the Deacon used in reference to the year 664, and in connection to which he also mentioned a specific Slavic people (gens Sclavorum) living there. [5]

When about 740 Prince Boruth asked the Bavarian duke Odilo for help against the pressing danger posed by Avar tribes from the east, Carantania lost its independence. Boruth's successors had to accept the overlordship of Bavaria and the semifeudal Frankish kingdom, ruled by Charlemagne from 771 to 814. Charlemagne also put an end to the invasions undertaken by the Avars, who had regained eastern parts of Carantania between 745 and 795.

In 828, Carantania finally became a margraviate of the Carolingian Empire. The local princes were deposed for following the anti-Frankish rebellion of Ljudevit Posavski, the prince of Slavs of Lower Pannonia, and replaced by a Germanic (primarily Bavarian) ascendancy. By the 843 Treaty of Verdun, it passed into the hands of Louis the German (804–876) who, according to the Annales Fuldenses (863), gave the title of a "prefect of the Carantanians" (praelatus Carantanis) to his eldest son Carloman. [9] In 887 Arnulf of Carinthia (850–899), a grandson of Louis the German, assumed his title of King of the East Franks and became the first Duke of Carinthia.

The city of Chur suffered several invasions by the Magyars in 925-926, when the cathedral was destroyed. In the area of Carantania 954–979 exist Slavic parish "pagus Crouuati"(Croats) which is mentioned in royal charters, ruled by count Hartwig in the name of the German king. [10]

The Ducal Inauguration

Church of Maria Saal (Gospa Sveta) Maria Saal Dom Suedansicht.jpg
Church of Maria Saal (Gospa Sveta)

The principality of Carantania is particularly notable for the ancient ritual of installing Carantanian dukes (or princes, both an approximate translation of Knez/Knyaz/Fürst), a practice that continued after Carantania was incorporated into the later Duchy of Carinthia. It was last performed in 1414, when the Habsburg Ernest the Iron was enthroned as Duke of Carinthia. The ritual took place on the Prince's Stone (Slovene Knežji kamen, German Fürstenstein), an ancient Roman column capital near Krnski grad (now Karnburg) and was performed in Slovene by a free peasant who, selected by his peers, in the name of the people of the land questioned the new Prince about his integrity and reminded him of his duties. Later, when the Duchy of Carinthia had fallen to the Habsburgs, the idea that it was actually the people from whom the Duke of Carinthia received his legitimation was the basis of the Habsburgs' claim to the unique title of Archduke.

The coronation of Carinthian Dukes consisted of three parts: first, a ritual in Slovene was performed at the Prince's Stone; then a mass was held at the cathedral of Maria Saal (Gospa Sveta); and subsequently, a ceremony took place at the Duke's Chair (Vojvodski stol, German: Herzogsstuhl), where the new Duke swore an oath in German and where he also received the homage of the estates. The Duke's Chair is located at Zollfeld valley, north of Klagenfurt in modern Carinthia, Austria.

The ceremony was first described by the chronicler John of Viktring on the occasion of the coronation of Meinhard II of Tyrol in 1286. It is also mentioned in Jean Bodin's book Six livres de la République in 1576.

Mentions in late medieval literature

Chronicle of Fredegar mentions Carantania as Sclauvinia, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) mentions Carantania as Chiarentana. The same name was also used by Florentines, such as the poet Fazio degli Uberti (circa 1309–1367), the famous chronicler Giovanni Villani (c. 1275–1348), and Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375), who wrote that the Brenta River rises from the mountains of Carantania, a land in the Alps dividing Italy from Germany.

Ethnic and social structure

The population of ancient Carantania had a polyethnic structure. The core stratum was represented by two groups of Slavs who had settled in the Eastern Alps region in 6th century and are the ancestors of the present-day Slovenes and partially also Austrians. Other ethnic strong element included the descendants of the Romanised aboriginal peoples (Noricans), which is attestable on the basis of a recent DNA analysis and a number of place names. It is also possible that traces of Dulebes, Avars, Bulgars, Croats and the Germanic peoples were present among Carantanians. [4] [8]

The people of Carantania are considered to have been among the precursors and ancestors of modern Slovenes and Austrians (mainly southern).


The installation of the Dukes of Carinthia according to a Medieval chronicle Kaernten herzogeinsetzung.jpg
The installation of the Dukes of Carinthia according to a Medieval chronicle

In its early stages, the language of Carantanian Slavs was essentially Proto-Slavic. In Slovenian linguistic literature and reference books it is sometimes provisionally termed Alpine Slavic (alpska slovanščina). Its Proto-Slavic character can be deduced from language contacts of Alpine Slavs with the remainders of the Romanised aboriginal population, later also with Bavarians. The adopted Pre-Slavic placenames and rivernames and their subsequent phonetic development in Alpine Slavic, as well as Bavarian records of Alpine Slavic names, shed light on the characteristics of the Alpine Slavic language. [11]

From the 9th century onwards, Alpine Slavic underwent a series of gradual changes and innovations which were characteristic of South Slavic languages. By roughly the 13th century, these developments gave rise to the Slovene language. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

The history of Slovenia chronicles the period of the Slovenian territory from the 5th century BC to the present. In the Early Bronze Age, Proto-Illyrian tribes settled an area stretching from present-day Albania to the city of Trieste. Slovenian territory was part of the Roman Empire, and it was devastated by Barbarian incursions in late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages, since the main route from the Pannonian plain to Italy ran through present-day Slovenia. Alpine Slavs, ancestors of modern-day Slovenians, settled the area in the late 6th Century A.D. The Holy Roman Empire controlled the land for nearly 1,000 years, and between the mid 14th century and 1918 most of Slovenia was under Habsburg rule. In 1918, Slovenes formed Yugoslavia along with Serbs and Croats, while a minority came under Italy. The state of Slovenia was created in 1945 as part of federal Yugoslavia. Slovenia gained its independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991, and is today a member of the European Union and NATO.

Carniola Historical region in Slovenia

Carniola is a historical region that comprised parts of present-day Slovenia. Although as a whole it does not exist anymore, Slovenes living within the former borders of the region still tend to identify with its traditional parts Upper Carniola, Lower Carniola, and to a lesser degree with Inner Carniola. In 1991, 47% of the population of Slovenia lived within the borders of the former Duchy of Carniola.

History of Styria

The history of Styria concerns the region roughly corresponding to the modern Austrian state of Styria and the Slovene region of Styria (Štajerska) from its settlement by Germans and Slavs in the Dark Ages until the present. This mountainous and scenic region, which became a centre for mountaineering in the 19th century, is often called the "Green March", because half of the area is covered with forests and one quarter with meadows, grasslands, vineyards and orchards. Styria is also rich in minerals, soft coal and iron, which has been mined at Erzberg since the time of the Romans. The Slovene Hills is a famous wine-producing district, stretching between Slovenia and Austria. Styria was for long the most densely populated and productive mountain region in Europe.

Duchy of Carinthia

The Duchy of Carinthia was a duchy located in southern Austria and parts of northern Slovenia. It was separated from the Duchy of Bavaria in 976, and was the first newly created Imperial State after the original German stem duchies.

Carinthia State of Austria

Carinthia is the southernmost Austrian state or Land. Situated within the Eastern Alps, it is noted for its mountains and lakes. The main language is German. Its regional dialects belong to the Southern Bavarian group. Carinthian Slovene dialects, forms of a South Slavic language that predominated in the southeastern part of the region up to the first half of the 20th century, are now spoken by a small minority in the area.


The Karawanks or Karavankas or Karavanks are a mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps on the border between Slovenia to the south and Austria to the north. With a total length of 120 kilometres (75 mi) in an east-west direction, the Karawanks chain is one of the longest ranges in Europe. It is traversed by important trade routes and has a great tourist significance. Geographically and geologically, it is divided into the higher Western Karawanks and the lower-lying Eastern Karawanks. It is traversed by the Periadriatic Seam, separating the Apulian tectonic plate from the Eurasian Plate.

Carantanians were a Slavic people of the Early Middle Ages, living in the principality of Carantania, later known as Carinthia, which covered present-day southern Austria and parts of Slovenia. They are considered ancestors of modern Slovenes, particularly Carinthian Slovenes.

Carinthian Slovenes or Carinthian Slovenians are the indigenous minority of Slovene ethnicity, living within borders of the Austrian state of Carinthia, neighboring Slovenia. Their status of the minority group is guaranteed in principle by the Constitution of Austria and under international law, and have seats in the National Ethnic Groups Advisory Council.

Maria Saal Place in Carinthia, Austria

Maria Saal is a market town in the district of Klagenfurt-Land in the Austrian state of Carinthia. It is located in the east of the historic Zollfeld plain, the wide valley of the Glan river. The municipality includes the cadastral communes of Kading, Karnburg, Möderndorf, Possau and St. Michael am Zollfeld.

March of Carinthia

The March of Carinthia was a frontier district (march) of the Carolingian Empire created in 889. Before it was a march, it had been a principality or duchy ruled by native-born Slavic princes at first independently and then under Bavarian and subsequently Frankish suzerainty. The realm was divided into counties which, after the succession of the Carinthian duke to the East Frankish throne, were united in the hands of a single authority. When the march of Carinthia was raised into a Duchy in 976, a new Carinthian march was created. It became the later March of Styria.

March of Styria

The March of Styria, originally known as Carantanian march, was a southeastern frontier march of the Holy Roman Empire. It was broken off the larger March of Carinthia, itself a march of the Duchy of Bavaria, around 970 as a buffer zone against the Hungarian invasions. Under the overlordship of the Carinthian dukes from 976 onwards, the territory evolved to be called Styria, so named for the town of Steyr, then the residence of the Otakar margraves. It became an Imperial State in its own right, when the Otakars were elevated to Dukes of Styria in 1180.

Black panther (symbol)

The black panther, also known as the Carantanian panther after the Medieval principality of Carantania, is a Carinthian historical symbol, which represents a stylized heraldic panther. As a heraldic symbol, it appeared on the coat of arms of the Carinthian Duke Herman II as well as of the Styrian Margrave Ottokar III. In this region it was most frequently imaged on various monuments and tombstones. The symbol can still be found in the coat of arms of the Austrian state of Styria, although the colours have changed. The symbol is also widely used within structures of the Slovenian security forces; namely by the Slovenian Armed Forces and the Slovenian Police. Since 1991, there have been several proposals to replace the Slovenian coat of arms with the black panther.

Slovene Lands

The Slovene lands or Slovenian lands is the historical denomination for the territories in Central and Southern Europe where people primarily spoke Slovene. The Slovene lands were part of the Illyrian provinces, the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary. They encompassed Carniola, southern part of Carinthia, southern part of Styria, Istria, Gorizia and Gradisca, Trieste, and Prekmurje. Their territory more or less corresponds to modern Slovenia and the adjacent territories in Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia, where autochthonous Slovene minorities live. In the areas where present-day Slovenia borders to neighboring countries, they were never homogeneously ethnically Slovene.

The settlement of the Eastern Alps region by early Slavs took place during the 6th to 8th centuries. It is part of the southward expansion of the early Slavs which would result in the characterization of the South Slavic group, and would ultimately result in the ethnogenesis of the modern Slovene people. The Eastern Alpine territories concerned comprise modern-day Slovenia, Eastern Friul and large parts of modern Austria.

Peter Štih

Peter Štih is a Slovenian historian, specialising in medieval history.


Zollfeld is a slightly ascending plain in Carinthia, Austria. It is one of the oldest cultural landscapes in the East Alpine region.

Modestus (Apostle of Carantania)

Modestus, called the Apostle of Carinthia or Apostle of Carantania, was most probably an Irish monk and the evangeliser of the Carantanians, an Alpine Slavic people settling in the south of present-day Austria and north-eastern Slovenia, who were among the ancestors of present-day Slovenes.

Valuk was the slavic duke in the independent land of the Alpine Slavs or Carantania. The date of his reign is around 631. His name is more or less identical to the name of the Prince Valtunka, which can both be interpreted as government or ruler.

Boruth, also Borut or Borouth, was the first documented Slavic prince (Knyaz) of Carantania, ruling from about 740 until his death. He was one of the few pagan leaders of the Carantanians to convert to Christianity.

Domitian of Carantania

Domitian of Carantania or Domitian of Carinthia, also known as Domislav and Tuitianus, was a Slavic nobleman in the principality of Carantania during the reign of Charlemagne. He is regarded as the legendary founder of the Millstatt Abbey church and was venerated as a Catholic Saint.


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  10. Mate Božić; (2019) "Hrvat" i "Hrvati" – od toponima do etnonima ("Croat" and "Croats" - from toponyms to ethnonyms) p. 143-143; Pleter: Časopis udruge studenata povijesti, Vol. 3. No. 3
  11. Snoj, Marko; Greenberg, Marc (2012). "O jeziku slovanskih prebivalcev med Donavo in Jadranom v srednjem veku (pogled jezikoslovcev)" [On the Language of the Medieval Slavic Population in the Area between the Danube and the Adriatic (from a Linguistic Perspective)](PDF). Zgodovinski časopis [Historical Review] (in Slovenian). 66 (3–4).
  12. Tine Logar, "Pregled zgodovine slovenskega jezika" (An Outline of the History of Slovene Language). In: Slovenski jezik, literatura in kultura. Ed.: Matjaž Kmecl et al. Ljubljana: Seminar slovenskega jezika, literature in kulture pri Oddelku za slovanske jezike in književnosti Filozofske fakultete Univerze, 1974, p. [103]-113.

Further sources