Germany Prehistory and Early History

By | February 2, 2022


Man makes his appearance in Germany about 500,000 years ago, dating attributed to a lower jaw found near Heidelberg. The Acheulean culture (650.00-200.000 years ago) is present in important deposits (for example, Markkleeberg, near Leipzig, probably of Rssian age). During the Würm, in addition to the Micocchiano (Bockstein), various aspects of the Mousterian develop, the most interesting of which is the ‘foliate-tip’ (Blattspitzen). The Aurignacian (40,000-20,000 years ago approx.) Has left numerous traces, such as for example. in the Vogelherd station, from where also animal figurines come, while the Magdalenian is attested in the Petersfels cave (Lake Constance, 14,000-13,000 years ago).

During the Mesolithic (8th-5th millennium BC), while Maglemosian hunter-gatherers live in the north, in the south-western area there are groups of the Tardenosian type.

In the Neolithic, the northern part of Germany is culturally linked to Scandinavia, while the central-southern area falls within the orbit of the Danubian civilization, characterized by smooth axes and vases with engraved lines decoration (Linearbandkeramik, 5th millennium BC). After the Rössen culture, with burials containing huddled corpses and rich grave goods, the Michelsberg culture (late Neolithic-Eneolithic) developed, characterized by fortified settlements with palisades. Between the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC, the culture of the bell-shaped glass and corded pottery spread.

In the Bronze Age the Aunjetitz facies developed, spreading over a vast central-eastern area (Silesia ; Saxony and Thuringia with the Leubingen group), from which it seems to exert a strong influence towards the west (Straubing groups, Adlerberg and Singen in southern Germany) and towards the north (I Nordic period in northern Germany). The last phase of the Bronze Age appears to be characterized by the culture of the urn fields, with ossuaries aligned and placed vertically in the ground, and by the Lausitz culture.

In the early Iron Age (Hallstatt, 8th-5th century BC.) Belong to the burial mounds ‘princely’, characterized by rich grave goods (Hochmichele) and ‘princes’ residences, which become real citadels (Heuneburg, Baden-Württemberg). The Celtic civilization of La Tène (from the mid-5th century BC to the Roman conquest) presents aspects of continuity with the previous period, even if the differences in the richness of the tombs, more or less standardized in the outfits, are attenuated. It is a tribal ‘high-ranking’ society in which commercial relations with Greek cities (Marseille) and with Rome are frequent.


The ancient and early medieval premises

According to TOPSCHOOLSOFLAW, the Roman conquest provided a first territorial arrangement of the western Germany During the reign of Augustus the region between Reno and Elba was subdued. The rebellion of a league of Germanic peoples, however, provoked the Roman retreat much further to the W, in Germany renana. Under Tiberius or Domitian, the territories subject to the Empire were organized in the two provinces of Germany inferior (capital Cologne) and superior (capital Mainz). The first reached as far as the sea and extended almost entirely to the West of the Rhine, while the second included an area to the East of the river ( agri decumates ); the border was later fortified (limes) connecting the Rhine and the Danube.

Starting from the 2nd century, in fact, the pressure of the Germanic populations became more massive and the border was repeatedly threatened, until during the 4th century. the two provinces were occupied by the Germans, who in 406 swept into Gaul and Spain. The Franks, rulers of Gaul, then intervened in the political life of Germany, establishing with Clovis their political dominion over the Alamanni in present-day Franconia and western Switzerland (496). In 551 also the vast Kingdom of the Thuringians was subdued by the Franks, who in the following century exercised a hegemony over the entire Germanic area with Dagobert. On the death of Dagobert in 639, the Frankish Kingdom, plunged into a long period of unrest, loosened its grip.

During the 7th and 8th centuries. Christianity entered the Germanic area through the work of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon missionaries. Christianization reopened the way to the penetration of the Franks, who in the meantime reorganized themselves under the dynasty of the Pipinids, later called Carolingians. Charlemagne, thanks to a very long series of wars (772-99), he subdued Saxony by converting it by force, and the rest of Germany also fell under Frankish rule. This also meant the introduction of vassal-beneficiary institutions, from which, in the central centuries of the Middle Ages, the future feudal structure of the Germanic Kingdom would develop. Germany thus became part of the Carolingian Empire (800), following its political fortunes until the first signs of its disintegration allowed it to assume an autonomous configuration.

In Verdun (843) the sons of Ludovico il Pio divided the Empire: the Kingdom of the eastern Franks (G.) belonged to Ludovico il Germanico. In 870, in Meersen, the political individuality of Germany was confirmed, even if nominally she was still part of the Empire, whose crown in 881 belonged to the king of the eastern Franks, Charles III the Fat. Unable to cope with Viking incursions, Charles was deposed in 887; Arnolfo of Carinthia succeeded him as king of Germany, related to the Carolingians. In fact, the Carolingian Empire was finished, even if Arnolfo himself took the imperial crown for a short time.

The age of the Brass and the Salts

The foundation of the territorial organization of Germany were the 5 great ethnic-based duchies, Saxony, Bavaria, Thuringia, Swabia and Franconia, ruled by hereditary ducal lineages. The monarchy, on the other hand, having extinguished the eastern branch of the Carolingians, was once again elected and was in the hands of the dukes. On Arnolfo’s death, first Conrad of Franconia (911), then Henry of Saxony were elected king(919). Henry I achieved great external successes, in O by incorporating Lotharingia, torn from France, to the Kingdom, and winning at E i Sell. The borders of the Kingdom thus came to include Brandenburg. The need to defend himself from the attacks of the Slavs and the Hungarians prompted Henry to promote the construction of a defensive line of castles. Inside, he subjected the dukes to royal power, forcing them to accept the succession to the throne of his son Otto I (936-973). The policy of the latter was directed to contain the threat of the Hungarians and to increase the colonization of the Slavic lands in the current eastern Germany His expansionist policy then led him to take possession of the Italic Kingdom, whose crown he assumed in 951; he consolidated his power against the ethnic duchies by crushing numerous revolts and assigning the duchies themselves to family members and to create a counterweight to the power of the aristocracy, he conferred secular powers on the bishops. In 962, Otto was crowned emperor; his Empire was founded on an Italian-German axis, which will represent the core of imperial power throughout the Middle Ages.

His successors inherited a new power politics. Otto II (973-983) also suffered setbacks both in southern Italy and by the Slavs, whose rebellion caused the Germans to lose control of the territory between Elba and Oder (983). His son Otto III(983-1002) conceived the project of a renovatio imperi Romanorum built on close collaboration with the papacy, but his projects were wrecked by the internal German opposition and by that of the Romans themselves, who drove him out. The emperor died shortly after, and the election of his cousin Henry II (1002-24) represented a moment of retreat on German problems.

On Henry’s death, with the passing of the throne to Conrad II of Franconia (1024-39), there was a shift of the German political axis towards the Rhenish regions, reinforced by the annexation – by inheritance – of the Kingdom of Burgundy ( 1033). Concerning the Kingdom of Italy, however, Corrado stood out for his attempts to intervene in the Po valley, where the growth of the citizen phenomenon was beginning to displace royal and imperial power.

The political action of Henry III (1039-56) had greater breadth, who with the synod of Sutri (1046) deposed the three popes, expression of the Roman nobility, imposing his candidate, Clement II, who crowned him emperor in 1047. Poland, Bohemia and Hungary were in various ways submitted to the German imperial authority. Despite his prestige, Henry found himself facing a vast revolt led by the German feudal nobility in the western territories of the Empire in the years 1047-49.

Henry IV (1056-1106), who came out of minority in 1066, had to face the renewed power of the great feudalism which was flanked by the new reality represented by the city forces which, first of all in the Rhenish region, were organizing themselves in common, contesting the authority of bishops and lay feudal lords. Victorious, between the 11th and 12th centuries, in a strictly urban setting, the Municipalities did not manage to impose themselves on the surrounding territory, controlled by the great feudalism. Henry’s action, which relied precisely on cities and small feudalism, found open opposition in Saxony. The victory of 1075 against the Saxon rebels, in Homburg, came in the same year in which the conflict with Pope Gregory VII broke outon the problem of ecclesiastical investiture (➔ investiture). The precarious reconciliation of Canossa (1077) was cracked by the German princes, who opposed the sovereign with an antire, the Duke Rudolph of Swabia, defeated and killed by Henry in Hohenmölsen (1080). The crisis with the Church continued and in his last years Enrico had to face the rebellions of his sons, Corrado and Enrico; in 1106 he was forced to abdicate and died. He was succeeded by Henry V (1106-25) who, elected emperor with the support of Pope Pasquale II, resumed his father’s policy regarding ecclesiastical investitures and twice went to Italy to bend the pope to his will; in 1122 the Concordat of Worms he put an end to the conflict by distinguishing, in the elections of bishops, the temporal investiture (prerogative of the emperor) from the spiritual one (which belonged to the pope). In Germany the temporal investiture preceded the spiritual one, therefore the sovereign’s control over the German Church remained quite firm. The problem remained of submitting the aristocracy to central authority.

Germany Prehistory