The early Medieval era or the era of early Christendom was the age of the first kingdoms and empires of Europe when Europe began to form into how it is now. This first part of the article on the Early Medieval Europe basics will focus on the western side and the story of Europe’s kingdoms. First of all, most of Europe was under the Roman Empire (including Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, England, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece) but later on, the empire slowly lost these countries to invading tribes from the north and east of the boundaries. When these tribes invade, separate tribes took a part of the empire making their own kingdom out of it and at the end Rome itself fell to the barbarians and Italy became a separate kingdom. For the next hundreds of years, each kingdom grew though with the invasions and wars, it became the dark ages until the 8th century.
I. The Frankish Kingdom (France)- Gaul (France) was once a major region of the Roman Empire and most of Rome’s resources came from there however, it was one of the last provinces Rome lost to the German tribes that invaded. These Germanic tribes from the east of Gaul were the Franks, Burgundians, Alemanni, and Thuringians. The Franks were the ones who actually occupied most of Gaul though they were from Belgium but established their kingdom in France and became the most powerful kingdom. The Kingdom of the Franks was formed by Clovis who became king and was baptised as a Christian making his kingdom Christian too and was known for forming the Frankish kingdom uniting Burgundy and other tribes into it by fighting wars. The line of the kings of the Franks or the first kings of France were the Merovingians and for the next years, France was divided into 4 kingdoms, Neustria, Austrasia, Burgundy, and Aquitaine, sac of the kingdoms were ruled by the Merovingian relatives. However, the Merovingian kings did not do well as they fought each other bringing the Frankish kingdom to decline, it was only when the Merovingian line ended and the Carolingian began with Charlemagne who expanded the Frankish kingdom, conquered barbarian lands and made peace also building an empire.
II. Italy (Goths and Ostrogoths)- Italy was once the central province of the Roman Empire and where Rome is located, however the empire was divided and Italy was part of the west, Rome just being another city. Italy then became a major target for the tribes of Goths in the north-east. In the early 5th century, Rome was attacked by the Goths and the empire weakened until Rome was fully overrun by the Goths who took over Italy, later by the Ostrogoths, one of the Goth tribes that ended up ruling Italy. The new capital city of Italy for the Ostrogoth kingdom was Ravenna, which was before the capital of the Western Roman empire in its last days. The king who established the new Italian kingdom was Theodoric the Great, the kingdom also included Austria, Croatia, Hungary. The Italian kingdom went successful however the Byzantine Empire fought wars with it and during the reign of Emperor Justinian (Byzantium) Italy was conquered by general Belisarius and fell to Byzantium for the next years.
III. Spain (Visigoths)- Hispania (Spain) was another major Roman province and has been under Rome for a really long time. When the Roman empire was declining, the Germanic barbarian tribes of the Visigoths made their way to Spain and invaded it taking it away from Rome. The Visigoth tribes took most of Spain and parts of France though their lands in France were lost to the Franks leaving them with most of Spain. In addition, the Germanic tribe of the Suevi conquered the northwest part of Spain including Portugal while the Vandal tribes made their way through Spain and instead conquered the lands of North Africa. The Visigoths were left to rule most of Spain for the next hundred years later making an alliance with the Franks as Spain grew more powerful under the Visigoth kings, also became more civilised. The Visigoth period in Spain however did not last since a new set of tribes from North Africa in the 8th century, the Moors went across to Spain battling the Visigoths and took over most of Spain for hundreds of years until the native Spanish from Spain began the Reconquista liberating Spain from the Moorish kingdom and making the new Spanish kingdoms.
IV. Germany (the Germanic tribes)- When Europe was still under the Roman Empire, a part of Germany (Germania) was under Rome, however beyond the Rhine it wan’t as it was home to different Germanic tribes that invaded Roman lands. The tribes from central and western Germany were the Franks, Alamanni, and Thuringians, to at the south were the Lombards and Suevi, at the east were the Ostrogoths and Moravians, and at the north were the Saxons, Angles, and Frisians; tribes located farther to the east and north of Germany were the Goths and Huns (Avars). Some Germanic tribes in Germany succeeded making kingdoms such as the Thuringians who built their kingdom in Germany; the rest built their kingdoms in other lands such as the Lombards and Ostrogoths in Italy and Austria, the Franks in France, and the Saxons in England, the Frisians too in Netherlands. However Germany was united in that time as it was made up several small states ruled by nobles, it was only until Frankish king Charlemagne untied them. Charlemagne fought wars conquering the tribes in Germany and beyond but also made alliances with them and united them forming the Holy Roman Empire, which was Germany’s empire.
V. England (Anglo-Saxon kingdoms)- Britain was once part of the Roman empire falling to the west however the Romans left leaving the Celtic British on their own which made them need to as the Germanic tribes of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from Germany and Denmark to help them. However these tribes did not just come to help, they ended up settling in the land and invaded making their own kingdoms. The Anglo-Saxons made 4 major kingdoms in Britain; Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, and Kent while the native Celts fled to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland; also by then Christianity came to England and monasteries were built making the land more peaceful The Anglo-Saxons then became the official English and ruled England for a few centuries until a point in time when Vikings invaded in the 9th century pillaging villages, however the Saxons were able to rid the Vikings with Alfred the Great as king. King Alfred the Great fought the Vikings and was the greatest ruler of Saxon England, after him his line ruled England until 1066, when the Normans came in making the official kingdom of England.
That’s all for Part 1 of Early Medieval Europe, Part 2 will be on Byzantium and the eastern world.