The Franks

The Franks were a Germanic people who lived on the east bank on the lower Rhine River in the Western Roman Empire.

Many individual tribes formed the Franks, related by language and custom, however they still remained individual tribes politically.

As the Western Roman Empire collapsed the Frank tribes united under the Merovingians who themselves were descendants of the Salian tribe.

The Merovingians were to conquer most of Gaul (modern day France) In the 6th Century, greatly increasing their power. In 751, the last Merovingian ruler was deposed and Pippin the Short ascended to power developing the Frankish state into the Carolingian Empire, controlling the majority of Western Europe.

The Carolingian Empire would evolve into France and the Holy Roman Empire.

Pippin the Short died in 768, rule was now equally split between his two sons Charlemagne (Charles the Great) and Carloman. In 771, Charlemagne became sole ruler.

From 772 Charlemagne waged a thirty-year war to extend his rule. He conquered the Saxons, northern Italy, northern Spain, most of Germany, almost all of France, excluding Brittany and all of Austria, converting them to Christianity.

On Christmas Day in 800, Pope Leo II crowned Charlemagne, Emperor of the Romans.

Charlemagne supported the arts and education, creating a school at Aachen in Germany. He also created the Carolingian miniscule, a new standardised writing system, and undertook many economic and religious reforms.

Charlemagne died on 28 January 814 in Aachen, Germany, and is buried there, the capital of his Frankish Empire.

His only surviving son, Louis the Pious became ruler of a united Empire, however following his death in 840 there would be civil war for control between his three sons.

In 843 the Treaty of Verdun was signed, dividing the Empire into three.

Lothair I, the eldest son became ruler of the Central Franks.
Louis the German, second son, became ruler of the East Franks.
Charles the Bald, third son, became ruler of the West Franks.

This was to become the beginning of the end of the Frankish Empire and over time it became the individual European countries that we know today.

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