Alamannia or Alemannia was the territory inhabited by the Alamanni after they broke through the Roman limes in 213. The term Swabia was often used interchangeably with Alamannia in the 10th to 13th centuries and is still so used when speaking of those centuries.

Merovingian duchy[edit | edit source]

Originally a loose confederation of unrelated tribes, the Alamanni underwent coalescence or ethnogenesis during the 3rd century, and were ruled by kings throughout the 4th and 5th centuries until 496, when they were defeated by Clovis I of the Franks at the Battle of Tolbiac. They bucked the Frankish yoke and put themselves under the protection of Theodoric the Great of the Ostrogoths, but after his death they were again subjugated by the Franks (539), under Theuderic I and Theudebert I. Thereafter, Alamannia was a nominal dukedom within Francia.

Though ruled by their own dukes, it is not likely that they were very often united under one duke in the 6th and 7th centuries. The Alamanni most frequently appear as auxiliaries in expeditions to Italy. The Duchy of Alsace was Alamannic, but it was ruled by a line of Frankish dukes and the region around the upper Danube and Neckar rivers was ruled by the Ahalolfing family and not by the ducal house which ruled central Alamannia around Lake Constance. Rhaetia too, though Alamannic, was ruled by the Victorids coterminously with the Diocese of Chur.

Alamannia was Christianised early, but not as thoroughly as either Francia to its west or Bavaria to its east. The Roman dioceses of Strasbourg and Basel covered Alsace and that of Chur, as mentioned, Rhaetia. Alamannia itself only had a diocese in the east, at Augsburg (early 7th century). There were two Roman bishoprics, Windisch and Octodunum, which were moved early to other sites (Avenches and Sitten respectively). Western Alamannia did eventually (7th century) receive a diocese (Constance) through the cooperation of the bishops of Chur and the Merovingian monarchs. The foundation of Constance is obscure, though it was the largest diocese in Germany throughout the Merovingian and early Carolingian era. The dioceses of Alamannia, including Chur, which had been a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Milan, were placed under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Mainz by the Carolingians.

After the death of Dagobert I in 638, Alamannia, like Bavaria, Aquitaine, and Brittany, broke its ties with its Frankish sovereigns and struggled for independence. This was largely successful until the early 8th century, when a series of campaigns waged by the Arnulfing mayors of the palace reduced Alamannia to a province of Francia once again. It was, however, during this period of de facto independence that the Alamanni began to be ruled by one duke, though Alsace and Rhaetia remained outside of the scope of Alamannia. Between 709 and 712, Pepin of Heristal fought against Lantfrid, who appears as dux of the Alamanni, and who committed to writing the first Alamannic law code, the Lex Alamannorum. In 743, Pepin the Short and Carloman waged a campaign to reduce Alamannia and in 746 Carloman began a final thrust to subdue the Alamannic nobility. Several thousand Alamanni noblemen were summarily arrested, tried, and executed them for treason at a Council at Cannstatt. Thereafter, Alamanni was ruled by Franks and the only remaining native Alamannic nobility seems to have hailed from Alsace.

Merovingian dukes[edit | edit source]

Carolingian regnum[edit | edit source]

See also: Duchy of Swabia

During the reign of Louis the Pious, there were tendencies to renewed independence in Alamanni, and the 830s were marked by bloody feuds between the Alamannic and Rhaetian nobility vying for dominion over the area. Following the Treaty of Verdun of 843, Alamannia became a province of East Francia, the kingdom of Louis the German, the precursor of the Kingdom of Germany. It was called a regnum in contemporary sources, though this does not necessarily mean that it was a kingdom or subkingdom. At times, however, it was. It was granted to Charles the Bald in 829, though it is not certain whether he was recognised as duke or king. It was certainly a kingdom, including Alsace and Rhaetia, when it was granted to Charles the Fat in the division of East Francia in 876. Under Charles, the Alammania became the centre of the Empire, but after his deposition, it found itself out of favour. Though ethnically singular, it was still plagued by Rhaetian-Alamannic feuds and fighting over the control of the Alammanic church.

Alamannia in the late 9th century, like Bavaria, Saxony, and Franconia, sought to unite itself under one duke, but it had considerably less success than either Saxony or Bavaria. Alammannia was one of the jüngeres Stammesherzogtum, one of the "younger" stem duchies, or tibal duchies, which formed the basis of the political organisation of East Francia after the collapse of the Carolingian dynasty in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. In the 10th century, no noble house of Alamannia succeeded in fouding a ducal dynasty, as the Ottonians did in Saxony or the Liutpolding in Bavaria, though the Hunfridings came closest.

The duchy encompassed the area surrounding Lake Constance, the Black Forest, and the left and right banks of the Rhine, including Alsace and parts of the Swiss plateau, bordering on Upper Burgundy. The boundary with Burgundy, fixed in 843, ran along the lower Aare, turning towards the south at the Rhine, passing west of Lucerne and across the Alps along the upper Rhône to the Saint Gotthard Pass. In the north, the boundary ran from the Murg (some 30 km south of Karlsruhe) to Heilbronn and the Nördlinger Ries. The eastern boundary was at the Lech River. Argovia was disputed territory between the dukes of Alamannia and Burgundy.

From the tenth century onwards, Alamannia is more typically known as the Duchy of Swabia.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

The names for Germany in modern Arabic (ألمانيا), Catalan (Alemanya), Welsh (Yr Almaen), Cornish (Almayn), French (Allemagne), Portuguese (Alemanha), Spanish (Alemania), and Turkish (Almanya) all derive from Alamannia. A similar correspondence exists for "German", both as the language and the adjectival form of "Germany".

See also[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Reuter, Timothy. Germany in the Early Middle Ages 800–1056. New York: Longman, 1991.
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