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 Detailed Timeline of European History
Early Dark Ages (600-755) << Dark Ages (755-840) >> Deeper Into Dark Ages (840-967)

Early Dark Ages III (755 - 840)
Europe During the Height of the Frankish Empire

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Europe 840 AD

Liberation of Rome by the Franks (756): Franks help to liberate Rome from Lombard rule, establishing independent Papal States in Central Italy. Lombards intended to bring Rome & its dependent territories completely under their rule. This would cement the Franks' status as the Protectors of the Church.

Charlemagne Becomes King of Frankish Empire (771): Charlemagne becomes king over all the Frankish empire, going on to become Europe’s greatest Medieval king. The forefather of France and Germany, and the first king to be considered protector of the Roman Catholic Church.

(Timeline Continued Below)

Note: Jews Under Charlemagne. Charlemagne created a peaceful environment for Jews in his kingdom. Charlemagne fostered a system where the Christian majority could procure credit through Jewish constituents. Christians were forbidden to loan money at an interest rate, a restriction not shared by the Jews. As a result, Jews were enabled to dominate the money-lending/banking business, thrusting many into prominence & wealth throughout Medieval Europe. The flip side of this was that they would suffer persecutions throughout their history in Europe in part based on the perception that they exploited the Christian community.

Frankish Conquest of Germania (772-814): Under Charlemagne, the Franks conquer nearly all Germanic lands to the east, even conquering Slav lands even farther east, including modern Slovenia & Croatia.

Note: Germanic Tribes Under Frankish Rule. By the early 9th century (800s), nearly all of the Germanic peoples had been conquered and submitted to Frankish rule. Even though Franks themselves were originally a Germanic tribe, they had intermixed with the Romano-Celtic people that inhabited the Roman province of Gaul before their conquest. Therefore, the Franks had a substantial Celtic lineage. Furthermore, the Frankish language was a sub-branch of Latin (language of the Romans), adopted by its Celtic subjects more than 300 years ago. In which case, by the 9th century, the Franks were a separate nation than the Germanic tribes they were now conquering to the east. The conquered Germanic peoples retained their distinct identity, culture & language (Germanic) even during the years of Frankish rule, creating a natural dividing line when the empire was eventually sub-divided into an Eastern and Western kingdom.

Frankish Conquest of Northern Italy (774): Franks conquer Lombards in Northern Italy, expanding Empire to the south. Provides added protection for the Papal States in Central Italy. The Lombards lose Northern Italy, but expand their territory in Southern Italy at the expense of the Byzantines. However, this marks the decline of the Lombards in Italy.

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Conquests of Frankish Empire

Buffer Region Established Between Frankish Empire and Muslim Hispania (785): Franks push Muslims deeper into Hispania, creating a buffer territory along Pryenees mountain range (SW border of Frankish Empire) to halt expansion of the Muslim Empire.


 Further Understanding:  Reasons Behind the Rise of the Franks

1. Military Excellence. Pioneered the use of advanced stirrups for better control of swords/weapons while riding horses (cavalry). The Franks were in closer contact to the Romans than other Germanic tribes, learning intimately of their military technology. The Franks also created the first permanent, professional army in Europe since the collapse of Rome. In addition, they introduced the concept of heavily-armoured infantry.
2. Geo-Politics. Unlike other Germanic tribes that started new kingdoms, which traveled vast distances to find territories to conquer, the Franks were able to simply expand from their home territory, building upon their existing power base. Therefore, the Franks were more easily accepted by their Roman populations (in their case, Roman-Gauls – a Romanized Celtic people), helped by fact they were quick to convert to Roman Catholicism. In addition, the Franks were well insulated from the largest threats of the time, such as the Muslims and Vikings. Although the Vikings did raid their northern coasts, these areas were located at the outreaches of their territory, and therefore not strategically threatening.
3. Politics. In addition to converting to Roman Catholicism in 493 (which pleased their new constituency), the Franks did not employ the same heavy taxation against their new subjects as the Romans had done. They also allowed a fair amount of local autonomy for their new subjects.
4. Centralization. As with most Germanic tribes, the tradition of the Franks was to split personal possessions (including “tribes”) equally amongst all children. Clovis would murder all of his siblings, and even families of other tribes in the 5th century, to consolidate rule among la arge number of tribes, gaining a substantial following. This resulted in a single, powerful nation. However, this tradition would ultimately prove to be the downfall of the Frankish Empire when the massive empire would be divided among heirs in the early 9th century.
5. Leadership. The Franks were fortunate to have successive, highly charismatic, and capable leaders in Clovis, Martel and Charlemagne.

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Charlemagne is crowned as the first Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope (800).

Khazar KingdomInternal Conflict in Khazar Kingdom (Early 800s): The Khazar Kingdom expands, but by the early 800s, it is beset by civil wars & strife. As a result, they lose control over surrounding tribes, such as the Magyars, who move west to escape the turbulence. Consequently, the Khazars begin their gradual decline toward extinction.

Independent Republic of Venice (803): Venice gains absolute independence from Byzantine, forming a sovereign republic. It would become extremely wealthy as a nation, specializing in maritime commerce, controlling trade between Europe & Asia for much of the Dark Ages.

"Turkic" Avar Kingdom dissolved when conquered by the Franks (810).

Byzantine Suffers Territorial Losses to Bulgarian Empire (813-37): Byzantine Empire continues to weaken, especially on its western borders, as the growing Bulgarian Empire expands at the expense of the Byzantines.

Death of Charlemagne, leads to weakening and fragmentation of the Frankish Empire (814).

Note: Slav Cohesion Under the Bulgars. Bulgars (who are of mostly Slav bloodlines) are the most cohesive Slav nation, conquering other Slav peoples to expand the Bulgarian Empire. Bulgaria was positioned just south of the gateway to Europe for Turkic nomadic invaders, such as the Khazars and Magyars, insulating them from this threat. Plus, there was the constant threat of the Byzantine Empire next door to the east, which had the objective of absorbing Bulgaria. This threat compelled Slavs in region to band together under consolidated rule to resist Byzantine domination, which was viewed as a worse alternative than subordination to another Slav nation.

Byzantine Loss of Crete (824): Byzantine loses Crete to Muslim invaders from North Africa.

Byzantine Losses

Byzantine Loss of Mediterranean Islands (827-36): Muslims from North Africa conquer Sardinia, Corsica & Sicily.

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Note: Slowed Muslim Expansion. As the Abbasid Dynasty takes the reins of the Islamic Caliphate (Empire), Muslim territorial expansion slows down substantially, as Europeans bolster their defenses against further advances. They still make gains in the Mediterranean, primarily through their clients in North Africa (semi-autonomous nations that pay allegiance to the Islamic Caliphate). The Umayyad Dynasty lives on in Hispania, successfully defending itself against the Abbasids bid to return it to the consolidated Muslim Empire.

Magyars Migrate Farther West (830): Magyars (ancestors to modern Hungarians) migrate west again due to civil wars in Khazar kingdom. They land in modern Ukraine, where they launch raids against eastern borders of the Frankish empire. They eventually migrate to modern Hungary.

Slovak Kingdom of Great Moravia Formed (833): Slavs in modern Slovakia form Great Moravia, & successfully defend their kingdom against the expanding Franks, halting their eastward advance into Slav territories.

Muslim Saracen Invasions of Southern Italy (836): Lombard kings invite Muslim Saracens (from North Africa) to intervene on their behalf in battles with other Lombard kingdoms. Saracens then invade & gain territory in Southern Italy at the expense of Lombards & Byzantine.

Saracens Expelled from Southern Italy (915): Lombards & Byzantines finally unite to drive Saracens out of Italy.

Note: Mediterranean Liability. The Mediterranean Sea had always been an advantage to the Roman Empire, including the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine) after the collapse of the West. It was a commercial advantage, bringing tremendous wealth, which fed the military machine. It also enabled Rome/Byzantine to deploy troops quickly throughout the empire, while blockading rivals from essential supply. By the 9th century, Mediterranean access had become a vulnerability, as coastal Muslim peoples had developed into a formidable naval threat. This meant that Byzantine's coastal territories were exposed to the invasions and piracy, further fuel the decline of the Byzantine Empire.

Viking RaidsNote: Continued Viking Raids. Viking raids continue to sorely afflict the British Isles & the northern coasts of the European mainland (Frankish Empire). They will persist until the Scandinavian people (i.e. the Vikings) convert to Christianity in the 11th century, causing them to engage in legitimate trade rather than plundering.

Note: Christian Hispania. Christians continue to protect their ground against the Muslims, slowly recapturing lost lands. Basque people maintain their cohesiveness as a distinct "nation", straddling Christian lands, Muslim lands and Frankish lands as a group.

(Timeline Continued Below)

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Note: Muslim Advance in Hispania Stagnates. The continuation of the Umayyad Dyansty in Hispania becomes known as the Emirate (Muslim Kingdom) of Cordoba. The capital city of Cordoba became the largest, most advanced & progressive city in all of Europe, remaining so until the early 11th century. While most of Europe was mired in the Dark Ages, the Arab world was in the midst of their glory days, enjoying advances in all areas, including literature, art, culture, science & technology, etc. However, their push to rule all of Hispania had stagnated, as the Christians in the north managed to resist their rule, and the Franks proved militarily superior to the NE.

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Note: East Slavs (Rus Khaganate). Although still largely under Swedish rule, as part of the Rus Khaganate, the Slavs are by far the most numerous people of modern Russia, Belarus & Ukraine. They gradually assimilate the Swedish ruling class, along with any remaining Finnic people amongst them. Their East Slav language (sub-branch of Proto-Slav) is the dominant language in the kingdom.

Note: Roman Catholic Church. As the church increases in power and influence, the Roman Bishops (Popes) becomes king makers. Their support provides a major boost to any monarch/ruler, and in their bid to expand into new territories, submitting new peoples. In such endeavors, Papal advocacy greatly strengthens the motivation of soldiers, while also garnering critical public support. During this time, Papal support was especially an important part of Frankish Emperor Charlemagne’s expansion. As other “barbarics” convert in later centuries, they will also enjoy Papal support in their bids to consolidate rule in their respective regions.

Next: Deeper Into the Dark Ages (840 - 967)

Previous: Early Dark Ages III (755 - 840)

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Comments (2)

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#1 - Alex - 04/25/2013 - 12:58
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#2 - billy - 10/04/2013 - 11:07
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