European Royalty: German States--Swabia

Figure 1.--

Swabia or Suabia (Schwaben) was a medieval duchy in southwest Germany. They are important because they played a major role in both midieval Germany history and the origin of one of the two major German royal families--the Hohenzollerns. Swabia was named after the Suevi which was one of the names for the Alemanni, the Geraman tribes which occupied the area in the 3rd century. The area occupied by the Alemanni included much of what is now Alsace, Baden, western Bavaria, Württemberg, and much of Switzerland. A famous Swabian was Konradin, the last of the (Hohen)Staufer (Swabian dynasty). His grandfather was the noted Emperor Friedrich II (Barbarossa). The Hohenzollern dynasty originated with a family of Swabian counts. The family divided into a Swabian and Franconian branch. The Swabian league of cities was important in the 14th and 15 centuries. The volk Deutch in the Balkans were named Swabians as many came from Swabia. Swabia is now a district of Bavaria.


Swabia or Suabia (Schwaben) was a medieval duchy in southwest Germany. Swabia in German is known as Schwaben and in Latin as Suevia. The capital of the duchy was Augsburg. The duchy covered the area of what is now southwestern Germany. The duchy included modern Baden-Württemberg (the location of the Black Forest) and areas of western Bavaria (as far as the Iller River) and northern Switzerland. It was located strategically in cental Germany in the headwaters of Europe's two most important rivers--the Danube and the Rhine.

The Suevi

Swabia was named after the Suevi which was one of the names for the Alemanni, the German tribes which occupied the area in the 3rd century. The area occupied by the Alemanni included much of what is now Alsace, Baden, western Bavaria, Württemberg, and much of Switzerland. The origins and history of the Germanic tribes is complicated and because there was no written language, not known with any historical accuracy. The Suevi appear to have been a losely organized group composed of several of German tribes (including the Marcomanni and Lombards). They are referred to by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC who indicated that they lived east of the Rhine River. Tacitus, the Roman historian in the 1st century AD wrote that the Suevi populated central Germany.

Historical Eras

Roman Empire

The area that became Swabia was first known as Alamannia by the Romans, principally because the people at the time were the Germanic tribe of Alamans. The area was eventually conquered by the Romans who made it part of the province of Agri Decumates. Another Germanic tribe, the Suevi, migrated into the area and by the 5th century as the Roman Empire was disintigrating had become assimilated with the Alamanni.


the Suevi played a brief role in the history of Spain and Portugal. Theey participated in the Germanic invasions of the Roman Empire during the 5th century AD. Groups of the Suevi along with the Vandals and the Alans moved west and invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 407 AD. Iberia had been a Roman province and higlyRomanized. The Germani invaders quickly conquered the Hispano-Roman population. The Germanic invaders divided Iberia between them. The Suevi by 411 Suevi controlled what is now northern Portugal and and Galicia, establishing a capital at Braga. The Suevi by 452 controlled Castile. Many modern Spanish names evolved from these Germanic invaders: Loivos, Atães, Rendufe, Adaufe and Gondomar. The Suevi like other invaders in history were changed by their more civilized subjects. They adopted Christianity, but only ruled in Iberia until. They were defeated by other wavde of Germanic conquerors, the Visagoths in 469 when they were subjugated by the Visigoths, who had been co-opted by the rulers at Rome.

Frankish Kingdom

After the fall of Rome, the Suevi about 500 AD were one of the many Germanic tribes that were incorporated in to the Frankish Empire. The Franking Empire was at times poweful, but this dependended to a large extent on the capabilities of the ruler. The Empire declined in the late 7th century with the decline of the Merovingian dynasty. As a result, Swabia became almost independent. Charles Martel who founded the Frankish Carolingian Dynasty regained control of Sawbia during the 730s and 740s. He deposed the hereditary dukes of Swabia who he acused of disloyalty and divided Swabia into several duchies ruled by counts that he created who were loyal to him. Swabia remained a part of the Frankish Empire until the Empire was divided among the sons of Pepin (grandsons of Charlemagne) during the 9th century..


Swabia was part of ??? ruled by ???. Some time around 900-11 the central authority declined. The Kingdom was bestset by invaders, Magyars (Hungarians) and Normans. As a result, the Alemannians were able to become an independent duchy, with a population an important historic tribe like Bavarii, Franks, Saxons and Thuringii. The first Swabian leder was dux Raetianorum, defender of the Swiss Alpine passes. As was common in this period of Germa history, dukes were men who could martial military forced capable of protecting their fiefdoms in times of constant warfare with neigboiring dukes as well as invaders. Dukes were often named after their military exploits. Those who survived as dukes were those who proved they could meet the miltary demands of those anarchic times. Alemannia in the 10th century was a powerful dukedom which dominated areas of Switzerland as well as territory west of the Rhine River, including Alsace.

Erchanger, commander of the Alemannia defeated the forces of the German king Conrad I. Erchanger ws made a duke in 915. When Erchanger was, however, defeated and executed in 917. Burchard II defeated him could have seized the monarchy. He decided to pledge loyalty to Henry I of Saxony who was chosen by King Conrad I who was dying. King Rudolf I of Burgundy attacked Swabia in 919. Burchard II defeated the invading forces. The following peace was consumated by the marriage of Rudolf, an ally of Burchard, and Burchard's daughter. Rudolf and Burchrd joined and assembled a force to invade Italy in 922. Burchard II died in 926. Rudolf claimed Alemannia through marriage. Henry was not willing to see Alemannia lost to Burgandy. He installed Hermann, a cousin of Eberhard from Franconia, as duke. Duke Hermann saved King Henry in 919 during the Saxon Revolt. Duke Herman's installment sent a precedent of excluding Alemanns as dukes. For a century and a half (926 and 1080) all but one of the dukes were Franks or Saxons. Henry placated Rudolf by separating Basel from Swabia and transferred to Burgundy. Rudolf was satisfied and even gave Henry an artifact obtained duriung the invasion oif Italy--the Holy Lance, a symbol of the inheritance from the Emperor Constantine.

German Empire

Alemannia in the 10th century came to be called Swabia. The Swabian dukes were strong enough to have a largely independent foreign policy. Liudolf son of King Otto succeeded Hermann as duke in 949 when he married Hermann's daughter. Liudolf in 951 crossed the Alps to expand his dominions at the cost of weak Italian rulers, but he claimed to be championing Adelaide of Burgundy. German King, Otto I aoso invaded Italy. He not only seized the crown of Lombardy.but married Adelaide. Duke Liudlf attempted to seize his father's throne in 912-913, but was defeated by his father King Otto I. The King then moved south to Rome where the Pope crowned him as the first German Emperor.


Another Burchard became duke in 954. When he died, Emperor Otto II appointed Liudolf's son Otto as duke. Swabian Duke Ernst revolted in 1027 against Conad III. The Emperor sought the support of the Swabian counts and defeated Duke Otto. Swabia was one of four duchies controlled by Conrad.

Investiture Controvery

Europe in the Medieval era faced a power struggle between the Church and state--the Investiture Controversy. This struggle culminated in Germany during 1077-1080. The emerging nayional leaders gradually exerted their authority throughout Europe. One side affect was the opportunities of local lords to expand their territoiry while both the Pope and monarchs were occupied with larger struggles. One of the most important actions was that many monasteries, the source of substantial wealth, were seized. Swabian Duke Rudolf was elected an anti-king, but failed to generate real support.


It was after the Investiture Cointroversy that Europe entered the high point of the fedual System. Increasingly substantial casttles were built by feudal lords throughout Europe, including Swabia. One of the greates dukes of Swabia reigned at this time--Frederick of Staufen, or Hohenstaufen. The Hohenstaufen were a powerful family and furnished the most important Swabian dukes who even rose to the monarchy. King Henry IV faced by powerful opposition and civil allied himself with Swabian Duke Frederick I who was allowed to marry the King's daughter. King Henry's dynastic line ended in 1138. Duke Swabian Frederick III became king. Frederick became Friedrich I Barbarossa sought to strengthen Swabia--his poewerbase. As king he faced powerful dukes of the kingdom such as Henry the Lion. This meant conflict with the Bertolds. The Staufens and the Bertolds were the two most powerful families in Swabia. The Bertolds became powerful from control of monasteries which they founded in uninhabited Black Forest. The tax revenue enabled the family to build castles and control the towns thast grew around them, places such as Freiburg-im-Breisgau. The castele there was founded by Conrad Bertold in 1120. Castle at the time were emensly important and local lords were often named after their castles and thus Conrad became known as Conrad von Zähringen.

The castles helped local lords exeret their independence from the dukes who were their nomimal feudal masters. This affectee the power of the ducal families like the Hohenstaufens. When the Hohenstaufens lost powe, King Conrad III awarded Swabia to his son. After his death, Swabia reverted to the crown and was administered by ministeriales, a non-noble class of civil servants. The Crown felt that men of humble origins would be unlikely to chllenge the royal authirity as the different dukes had done. The crown also restricted the perogaytives of the Zähringen family in 1169, especilly because of their ties to Burgundy.

The last of the (Hohen)Staufer (Swabian dynasty) was Konradin. His grandfather was the noted Emperor Friedrich II (Barbarossa). The account of Konradin is a sad story. He was born on March 25, 1252 at the castle of Wolfenstein near Landshut (now Bavaria). His grandfather Kaiser Friedrich II (Barbarossa) had died 15 months before at Fiorentino (Appulia). His father Konrad IV died in 1254 in Lavello near Mefi by Malaria. His mother Elisabeth daughter of a Bavarian Herzog, married Meinhard of Tyrol. He was raised by her brother, Herzog Ludwig der Strenge of Bavaria. The island of Sicily, that should once belong to him was guarded by Mafred the illegitimate son of Friedrich II in 1258. The Pope Klemens IV however, didn’t want to have him on the throne. He announced that Karl of Anjou-Dreoux was the rightful king of Scilly. Manfred fought against him, but was defeated and killed on February 26, 1266 at Benevento. He married Sophia von Landberg (1258/59-1318). Staufer Ghibellinen (named after the town of Waiblingen near Stuttgart) in September 1266 asked Konradin for help. In 1267 he accompanied a force of 3,000 knights traveling via Ravensburg, Verona, Pisa, Siena, and finally arrived in Rome in 1268. (They did make good progress success, as these were all towns of the Ghibellines.) They departed Rome on August 18, 1268. Konradin because he believed he had already won the fight, they made plans about concerning to whom the country should belong. An engagement occurred on August 23 at Tagliaccozo. He was defeated and first fled back to Rome, although he had also been excommunicated by the Pope. He went on to Astura where he hoped to sail to Scilly. He was betrayed and arrested by Giovanni Frangipani who sold him to Karl of Anjou. He was brought to Naples, imprisoned in the Castel del Ovo. He was condemned to death for treason to the Church and to the king. Twelve faithfull followers, Italians and Germans alike, were beheaded with him in the public market place of Naples on October 29, 1268. One of them was his 3 year elder Markgraf Friedrich of Baden (nephew of Hermann V of Baden, founder of Stuttgart). They were buried at the beach of Naples, but some years later, his mother built a church Santa Maria del Carmine and brought his bones there. In 1847 a sculpture of his memory was erected over it by Thorwaldsen. That’s the end of “Chunradus. Dei Gratia Ierusalem Et Sicillie Rex . Dux Swevie” Konrad king of Jerusalem and Scilly by gods mercy, Duke of Swabia.

The failure of the Hohenstaufen line in 1268 meant the end of Swabia as an important political entity. Swabia was partioned among powerful families around which German's future would unfold: Zähringen(Bavaria), Habsburg (Austria), and Hohenzollern (Prussia). The Hohenzollern dynasty originated with a family of Swabian counts. The family divided into a Swabian and Franconian branch.

Idea of Swabia

Much of Swabia was taken by the margraves of Baden and Württemberg. Swabia did not totally disappear. While Swabia ceased to exist in a political sence, the idea of Swabia did not disaapear in the German mind.

The Swabian league of cities was important in the 14th and 15th centuries. German cities in 1376 organized a protective league called the Swabian League of Cities. At first 14 cities were involved, but eventually the League consisted of 32 cities, extending from Basle in the west to Regensburg in the east, from Constance in the south to Nuremburg in the North. A new league was formed in 1488, called simplly the "Swabian League". The new League included cities, principalities, and even some individual knights. The League sought to maintain internal stability.

The German Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century formd around the Kreis or circle. These states referrd to themselves as the Swabian Kreis. The Kreis or Reichskreis (Imperial Circle) was an administrative unit with a country. (The term Kreis was originally used for the designated location for a combat--often a rung or circle. Within the ring specific rules might be adopted. The Imperial Kreis in the area of the Swabian principalities and cities was called the Swabian Kreis.

Volk Deutsch

The volk Deutch in the Balkans were named Swabians as many came from Swabia. Beginning in the 17th century, the Christian Russian and Austrian monarchies began to conquer Eastern European territory ruled by the Ottomon Empire. Through to the early 19th centurry, Swabian settlers migrated into these territories. Some Russian and Austrian emperors encouraged this migration. The Russianscapreciate the skills of the Swabians. The Austrians saw benfits in strengthening bGerman populaions throughout thir empire. The Danube River (Donau) was the major artery for this migraton. As a result, thesevpeople were known as the Donauschwaben. By the 19th century they began to becalled the Volk Deutsch.

Modern concept

Germans even today refer to the areas which once made up the medieval duchy as Swabia. Germans now see Stuttgart as the modern center of Swabia. The German spoken in Stuttgart is referred to as Schwäbisch (Schwobisch). Swabia is now a district of Bavaria.


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Created: May 25, 2003
Last updated: May 25, 2003