Germany Early History

Prehistory of Germany

People lived in what is now Germany as early as 600,000 years ago. They were hunters and gatherers of the Paleolithic. They belonged to the genus Homo erectus or their successors Homo heidelbergensis. The oldest find is a lower jaw. After all, the Schöningen spears are 400,000 years old and prove that humans went hunting back then.

130,000 years ago, the Neanderthals emerged from Homo heidelbergensis. At the same time, Homo sapiens, modern man, to whose genus we belong today, developed. Both lived at the same time in what is now Germany, a country located in Europe detailed by extrareference.

Around 5500 BC The hunters and gatherers became sedentary farmers: The Neolithic began. The people grew crops and kept pets. Different cultures developed: the band ceramic culture, the cord ceramic culture and the bell beaker culture belonged to them.

From 2200 BC BC humans discovered metals. First they started to make objects out of bronze, which is why it is called the Bronze Age. There was now trade and the first villages emerged. From 800 BC In BC iron replaced bronze as the most important material. That was the beginning of the Iron Age. From the 5th century BC A ethnic group from southern and central Europe spread out into Europe: the Celts.


Around 500 BC Celts lived in the south of what is now Germany, while Germanic tribes lived in the north. At the same time, the Roman Empire developed from Rome and gained more and more spheres of power. It extended into what is now Germany.

The Romans invaded the south and west from the year 15 BC. BC before. Cities like Trier, Cologne and Augsburg were founded by the Romans. Areas west of the Rhine and south of the Danube as well as large areas of Baden-Württemberg belonged to the Roman Empire.

Another advance of the Romans into the region to the right of the Rhine was ended with the victory of the Teutons in the Varus Battle in 9 AD. With the decline of the Roman Empire, the time of Roman rule ended in the regions occupied by the Romans.

Great Migration

When the Huns invaded Western Europe in 375, the tribes began to move. The migration of peoples reached its peak in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Germanic peoples spread further west and south. There they now took possession of the Roman occupied territories. In the east, however, the Slavs advanced and in turn ousted the Germanic tribes. In 476 the Western Roman Empire finally fell.

The empire of the Franks

The Franks were a Germanic tribe. King Clovis I, from the Merovingian family, founded the Frankish Empire at the end of the 5th century. It existed until 911. However, power changed to the Carolingian family in the 8th century. Charlemagne comes from this dynasty. He was even crowned emperor in 800.

After the death of Charlemagne in 814, his empire was divided among his three grandchildren. Western France became the origin of what would later become France. The “Middle Kingdom” later became the Duchy of Lorraine and is now also part of France. Eastern Franconia became the nucleus of the Holy Roman Empire (German nation).

The rest of the Middle Ages

Under the Carolingians, Eastern Franconia could not tie in with the old power. The old tribal duchies regained power. This is what the duchies of a particular tribe were called. There were tribal duchies in Bavaria, Saxony, Franconia and later Swabia.

In 900, a seven-year-old came to the throne with Ludwig IV. He died in 911. With that the East Franconian Carolingians died out. The dukes now chose a Franconian as their king: Conrad I.

But only his successor managed to build a dynasty. Heinrich I came from Saxony and became king in Eastern France in 918. He consolidated the unity of the empire. Heinrich and his successors came from the Liudolfinger family and are also called the Ottonians. The three next rulers were all called Otto. Otto I had himself crowned Roman-German Emperor by the Pope in 962. Thus one wanted to tie in with the tradition of the ancient Roman Empire. One can therefore see this date as the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire. The last Saxon ruler was Heinrich II.

He died childless and so the royal dignity passed to the Salians. They ruled from 1024 to 1125, then Lothar of Saxony became king, but could not build a dynasty. From 1138 until 1273 the Hohenstaufen ruled the kings. You came from Swabia. One of the most famous Staufer kings is Friedrich I. Barbarossa.

The beginning of the late Middle Ages is set around 1250. The Habsburgs, the Luxembourgers and the Wittelsbachers took turns in power in the empire. There was famine and the plague claimed many lives, but the cities also grew and trade flourished.

Between the 11th and 14th centuries, the country was divided into many small domains (territories). You can see that if you compare the cards on the left. The king, however, lost power during this time. The rulers of these smaller areas came to the throne by election, not by inheriting the title. From the 13th century it was the electors who had the right to elect a king. There were three ecclesiastical archbishops and four secular princes (two more were added from the 17th century).

Reformation and the Thirty Years War

In 1517, Martin Luther triggered the Reformation by posting his theses. Luther criticized the conditions in the (Catholic) Church. Christianity split into evangelical “Protestants” and Catholics. The Protestant Church, on the other hand, was not uniform, but rather several directions emerged from it. Wars for faith were waged across Europe.

In 1618 the Thirty Years War began. It was about the supremacy in the Roman-German Empire and in Europe, but also about faith. Countless people died in the fighting. The population suffered from famine and epidemics. Whole areas were depopulated and devastated. The long war ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia.

Prussia and Austria become powerful

In the 18th century Austria and Prussia gained more and more power within the empire. They could both enlarge their area. But this also began a rivalry between these two countries. It was mainly fought between Maria Theresa of Austria and Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia.

Germany Early History

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