At the beginning of this period, Germanic tribes are migrating across the Northern half of Europe. In OTL, these tribes often break into the Roman Empire. After the invasion of the Huns, these migrations intensify and eventually bring the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. Franks, Burgundians, Vandals, Suebians, Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Langobards erect kingdoms in its former territories, where they adopt some elements of the Roman tradition and convert to Christianity, while much knowledge, capital and infrastructure is lost or decays. The Eastern Central European regions left behind by these Germanic tribes are, after another wave of nomadic invasion by the Avars, settled by Slavic tribes, who differentiate into Southern, Eastern and Western Slavs. The Southern Slavs settle in formerly Roman provinces like Moesia, Thracia, Illyria and Pannonia, and even in Greece, while the Western Slavs spread as far North-West as the neck of the Kimbrian Peninsula.
This timeline begins with the major defeat of the Goths at Abrittus, and it continues with a defiant Roman civilization, be it in the Second Roman Republic or in the Imperium Romanum Galliarum. Romanisation of the Germans and Christian influences on the development of their native religions occur, but under the paradigm of political, military and economic hegemony of the Roman sphere - more specifically, of a Roman Republic characterised by a dynamic, slave-free economy, powerful, autonomous and democratic civitates and continuing religious pluralism.
This means that the few common characteristics in the development of the Germanic and Slavic polities, those which, in OTL, represent Rome`s "legacy" and which mean the emergence of Medieval feudal society, Christian clerical power structures and centralising hereditary kingdoms, are absent.
Instead, various Germanic and Slavic tribes develop in significantly different directions. The main cause behind these differences is their respective distances to the democratic Roman Republic and the internally divided Imperium Romanum Galliarum.
The only common features of their developments are economic innovations (better ploughshares, improved crop rotations, labour-saving mechanical devices like watermills and windmills) and increased trade with Southern Europe, as well as the resulting emergence of a growing class of craftsmen and merchants.
Eastern Germanic Groups: Mostly Assimilated
At PoD, Eastern Germanic groups had absorbed influences from Roman Late Antiquity, but also other cultural, social and political influences from the (Sarmatian, Greek, ....) South-East to a greater degree than other Germanic tribes or the Proto-Slavs, who roamed the lands between Dnieper and Vistula during this time. They knew about the Roman Principate and the oligarchic socioeconomic organisation in the Roman provincial countryside and its towns. They had come into contact with monotheistic scriptural religion - in OTL, Western Goths are the only Germanic group who in the 4th century voluntarily converted to Christianity before crossing the Danube. Learning from the people of the steppe, they began to base their military strategies on horses roughly at the same time or even before the weakened Roman Empire did so.
In OTL, Goths and other Eastern Germanic groups are the first to break into the Roman Empire in large numbers, not as temporary plunderers anymore, but as settlers and mercenaries, and soon as the new lords of parts of the Roman realm. Even though they were slightly Romanised, their intrusion and ascension to hegemony emphasised the end of (Western) Roman Antiquity, with its huge market, its unified military force, its relative inner peace, and its classically educated elite.
In this timeline, the Goths and their Eastern Germanic (and Sarmatian and Dacian) allies are the first to experience a different twist of things: They are defeated by Emperor Decius at Abrittus. Large Eastern Germanic groups are allowed to settle on Roman soil, but their tribal groups and affiliations are torn apart. In the steppe, a weaker Gothic Empire than in OTL still emerges, but like in OTL, it is crushed by the Huns. The Hunnic invasion and the subsequent Roman victory over them brings the remaining Eastern Germanic groups into very close relations with the Second Roman Republic. In 750, almost all of these groups have either disappeared as distinct entities or are in the process of disappearing and melting into "romanitas". The only group which remains distinct are the Ostrogoths, mostly due to their new role as sea merchants and to their new, Judaist faith, which helped them preserve a separate identity - albeit none which bears any resemblance to Germanic traditions.
Before 360, the Ostrogoths were an Eastern Germanic kingdom, whose last Greutung king Ermanaric reigned over a vast East European empire, with Gepid, Antes, Alani, Bosporanian, Mansi, Mordwinian, Venetian, several Sarmatian and other subjects, besides the Goths, of course.After the victory of the Huns over the Greutungs, some of these people joined the Huns and were, together with them, defeated by Romans and their Suebic allies, and either killed or led into slavery in the Sassanid Empire, where they later assimilated.
The majority of those who had been Ermanaric's subjects followed their king toward the Danube, though. They sought asylum in the Roman Republic, but were mostly refused. While the masses of ordinary refugees remained camped in conditions of squalour on the unsafe side of the Danube, the king and his court and other noblemen bribed their way into protected Moesia Superior. When the Huns approached the Danube, they used many of these refugees as human shields in their attempts to cross the Danube. In addition to these casualties, starvation and diseases in the refugee camps in the Danube Delta reduced the jumbled-up group of people who were referred to as "Ostrogoths". Their cruel fate left a lasting imprint on Roman public conscience. As the Huns moved further to the West, the refugees moved back East. A fleet of boat people landed in Tauris, whose marvelous cities had been mostly destroyed by the Huns and whose leadership of Greek descent was swept away by the sheer masses of refugees who plundered the meagre harvests, and after a winter of starvation, where only fish was available, joined the previous population in working the fields of the peninsula.
The Ostrogothic history of the 5th and all following centuries refers to these refugees on Tauris and their offspring. From the chaotic circumstances under which they lived, a group of new leaders emerged (the "Tauris Group"). Some of them were Goths, others were Bosporanian Greeks, yet others of Mordwinian, Alani, Gepid or Scythian backgrounds. Greek quickly became the lingua franca of this ethnically diverse society.
The Tauris Group negotiated with the victors after the Second Hun War. They emulated the Greek Judaist culture of the Bosporan Kingdom, which had been a Roman client kingdom for three centuries, and became the Roman Republic`s first "margo". The Tauris Group thus shaped both the conditions under which this new polity formed itself, and the foundations of its future policies for the next centuries.
The Ostrogothic society survived against all odds:
- With all those refugees, the margo's lands were heavily overpopulated.
- The lumped-up group of people, speaking different languages and even coming from nomadic as well as sedentary backgrounds, had little in common;some groups had been enemies of each other in the recent past. The solutions developed by the Tauris Group were often quite creative; in any case they virtually created the Ostrogothic society as we know it:
- They seized on the compassion factor first among Christian,later among Jewish groups in the Roman Empire and organised both public and private donations of grain and almost everything else that was needed for survival and impossible to get by in sufficient amounts on Tauris.
- By converting to Judaism, the Tauris Group opened up profitable work and learning opportunities for Ostrogothic youth, emigrants and migrant workers with the Jewish middle class in the Roman Empire, and kept these expats somehow linked to those who remained on the island.
- With little opportunities for agriculture, fishing become an Ostrogothic staple - and the Ostrogoths soon dominated this business in the Northern half of the Black Sea; they built a large fleet from small boats to large ships, which also served as a backbone for sea trade that would dominate Ostrogothic society later and whose security was organised by the Roman classis.
- Using their connections to the Ugro-Finnic tribes dwelling in the lands North of the depopulated pontic steppe, they managed to secure a mediating role in the exchange of Komi, Mari and Mordwinian fur, horses and wood against Roman and Sassanid iron products, ready-made clothes and alcohol.
Ostrogothic reconstruction along these lines took the rest of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th centuries. From then on, the margo "Tauris te Bosporos Kimmerikos" became an urbanised, wealthy region. Ostrogothic sea merchants knit networks and established branches across the Mediterranean and even the Indian Ocean. The trading places along the Borysthenes turned into towns, and during the 6th century, Ostrogoths invested into systems for irrigated agriculture in the former steppe, becoming owners of large estates on which mostly Slavic peasants worked. The stable and affluent margo was dealt a severe blow when the Chasars arrived, destroyed their irrigation system and extorted tribute. A mass emigration from Tauris began. Although Tauris was stabilised by Roman troops and joined the Republic in the 7th century, the centres of Ostrogothic society and economy had already moved into the Roman Republic. Some Ostrogothic refugees also sailed into the Atlantic and settled the Nesoi Porphyroi (OTL Madeira) and, upon their discovery, also the Nesoi Atlantikoi (OTL Azores). These new independent poleis in the Atlantic Ocean became the foundation of Ostrogothic commercial dominance in Western Africa, which led to the consolidation of the continental Mandinke polity of the "Horon" - or the "Liberiani", as the Romans called them. Long before 750, "Ostrogoth" no longer means a Germanic tribe speaking an Eastern German language. It refers to a large group of peaceful merchants and associated planters and craftsmen; educated and literate people, who speak Greek (and often other languages, too), follow the Karaen branch of Judaism and support each other in world-spanning social networks like mutual insurances, credit clubs and syndicates. Some "Ostrogoths" are citizens of the Roman Republic, others live in polyethnic city republics belonging to the Potamian Koina of the Borysthenes or Tanais, yet others live in independent poleis exclusively run by Ostrogoths (on the Atlantic islands). The "Pangothikon" represents them all. Its political power is not based on a constitution, but on its cultural authority and its role as supreme arbiter between Ostrogothic associations around the world.
After the defeat at Abrittus, the Western branch of the Goths accepted resettlement into Roman Dacia. During the revolution, Visigoths fought on both sides: as auxiliaries for Marcus Veracilius Verus, but also in the armies of the revolution. In the following decades, the Visigoths become good, assimilated citizens of the Roman Republic. Their separate ethnic structures eroded during the 4th century with their complete integration into local and federal Roman economic, social, political, and military structures. The last Visigothic king died around 437. They ceased speaking the Gothic language in a process of gradual Romanisation, which was completed approximately around 450.
Gepids, Carpi, Bastarnae
The Gepids, Carpi and Bastarnae had been allied to Gothic King Cniva and lost either separately against the Romans or were joined in the defeat at Abrittus. Their further development is identical with that of the Visigoths. If anything, assimilation of these tribes proceeded even faster in the absence of established royal dynasties. Like the Visigoths, these tribes inhabited Roman civitates in what had been the provinces of Dacia Superior and Inferior.
The Vandals migrated into Eastern Pannonia at the turn of the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, where they subdued the Iazyges. In OTL, they crossed the Danube and raided Roman Pannonia, later moving across the entire Western Empire and establishing their kingdom in Roman Africa.
In this timeline, federal and local Roman efforts are focused on the fortification and defense of the Danube Limes. The Vandals remain confined to Eastern Pannonia, where they are attacked and forced Westward onto Suebic/Markomannic lands by the Huns in the 360s.
They form a defensive alliance with the Burgundians, Langobards, Quadi and Markomanni and, with Roman help, finally manage to defeat Huns and Alani and push them out of Eastern Pannonia. The alliance remains stable for two and a half centuries as the Alliance of the Five Nations. The Hasdingian Vandals inhabit the Pannonian plains between Danube and Tissus, where they are heavily exposed to Roman influence, while the Silingian Vandals inhabit the woods of the Beskid mountains.
With the outbreak of war between the Danubian Germanic nations and the Slavic confederation under the leadership of the Corvats, who lived North of them, the Alliance of the Five Nations and Vandilia both broke apart.
The Romanised Vandals in the proximity of the Danube joined the Roman Republic and escaped from this conflict. They ceased speaking their indigenous language between the 7th and the 9th centuries CE and spoke Latin instead.
The Vandals living in the Beskids fought under Burgundian leadership against the Slavs and lost. They came under the domination of the Corvatian Confederacy. Castles like Ushhorod and Vynograd are legacy to the Corvatian hegemony in the 7th century. The Vandilian population and Slavic newcomers intermingled. By their Southern Roman neighbours, they were increasingly called "Beskidiani", an exonym which referred to the mountain-dwellers without any ethnic differentiation between Vandals and Slavs. During the crisis of the Corvatian Confederacy at the beginning of the 8th century, Ushhorod and Vynograd obtained a great degree of independence.
South-Western Germanic Groups: A New Religion
At PoD, Suebic and Frankish groups had already been exposed to Roman influence: they often raided Roman border provinces, and while their exchange with the Romans had been mostly peaceful trade in the 2nd century, it had begun to shift toward warfare (for and against some Roman commander-in-chief, later against each other on former Roman soil) in the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries. The militarisation of Suebic and Frankish groups paved the way for their later role as temporary rulers of kingdoms on former Western Roman territory, of which the Frankish Empire would emerge as the most powerful and lasting.
In this timeline, the Danube and the Rhine soon become impermeable for armed warriors, but are bridged by merchants who revive trade relations. At first, the incipient militarisation remains influential in the form of permanent warlord-kingdoms as the political structures of Rome`s Northern and the Celts` Eastern neighbours. In Alemannia, they are even strengthened, as the Imperium Romanum Galliarum relies heavily on their Alemannic foederati.
The last third of the 4th century marks an abrupt transition from migrating warlord kingdoms to stable sacral kingdoms where the generation of wealth, good contacts with Rome and improving public works are emphasised. This transition has two reasons:
- The utter defeat of the old warrior kings at the hands of the Huns.
- The emergence of the new Lausai faith - a syncretism of Germanic and Christian elements. The Suebic (and later Frankish) Lausai followed kings who based their authority on the fertility of their lands, the thriving of their crafts, and the maintenance of a peaceful order.
Alliances with the Roman Republic and the Celtic Empire strengthen, and some Suebic groups join the Roman Republic in the 6th century. Two Suebic languages (Common Suebic and Common Alemannic) as well as Common Frankish have survived and scripturalised in the Latin alphabet by 750 CE.
The Burgundians were already united under a single judge king, when they migrated South-Westward into the lands abandoned by Suebic tribes, who moved further South into the Agri Decumates - and in OTL also into the Alps and into OTL Alsacia - in the 3rd and early 4th centuries. But because the Roman Republic and the IRG put up more resistance along the Rhine and the Alps in this timeline, the Alemanni remain concentrated in OTL Southern Germany, halting the Burgundian South-Westward migration, too.
When the Huns invaded Eastern and then Central Europe, the Burgundians under their King Gibicho joined a large defensive alliance, which developed into the Alliance of the Five Nations. After the chaos of an initial defeat, chaotic migration, infights, Roman intervention, and later a successful retaliation against the Huns and their vassals, the Burgundians settled alongside the Langobards in OTL Czech Republic.
Burgundians and Langobards merged during the 5th and 6th centuries into a single nation, headed by a Burgundian King, with a Burgundian-style Thing, but with a Suebic language that showed more Langobardian than Burgundian influences. Politically, militarily and economically, Burgundy established close connections with the other nations of the alliance. With them, the Burgundians also shared the common Lausai faith.
In comparison to the Markomanni, Quadi or Hasdingian Vandals, though, their contacts with Romans were less intense, and social modernisation was slower. The military organisation into counties consolidated Burgundian aristocracy. Over the following centuries, Burgundy became a relatively conservative society. Its comparatively primitive economy was based on agriculture, cattle farming, hunting and fishing.
With the advent of militarised conflict between the Five Nations and the Corvatian Slavic confederacy under Knyaz Muhno, Burgundy stood up for a defiant Germanic response. This led to the secession of Burgundy and North-Eastern Vandilia from the Alliance of the Five Nations. A long war between Burgundy and the Corvatian confederacy followed, in which Burgundy was economically weaikened, but subdued the Sorbs / Serbs and gained control over Lusatia, which was incorporated into the Burgundian Kingdom. Unlike the Langobards, the Lusatian Serbs did not yet start to speak the kingdom`s common language before 750. Occasionally, they put up resistance against their political - and increasingly also economic - marginalisation in Burgundy.
Langobards had migrated South-Eastward from the Elbe to the Middle Danube in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, with Langobardic settlements spread across OTL Czech Republic and OTL Eastern Austria, at times included in confederacies named "Markomanni" (= men of the frontier). In OTL, they only reappear as a distinct tribe toward the end of the 5th century, after a war against the Heruli in the chaos after the downfall of the Hunnic Empire.
In this timeline, the Huns invade Europe a decade earlier due to stronger Sassanid defenses, which force them Westward. In the 360s, a Langobardic leader or king named Albert managed to unite the kings of four other tribes who lived in the vicinity of Langobardic settlements - from the Burgunds in the West over the Markomannic Queen Fritigil to the Quadi and the Vandals in the East - to unite against the Huns. In a battle near the river Tissus, the united Germanic forces are defeated and Albert is slain.
After the Germanic tribes flee Westward, the alliance is restored with a great deal of Roman meddling and military support. The Alliance of Five Nations finally defeats the Huns and pushes them back to the East. The Alliance holds even after the end of the war, but the Langobards` position in it is weak. As the territories of the confederate kingdoms are delineated, the Markomanni receive the entire Western left Danube bank, where Langobardic clans had settled before the arrival of the Huns, while the Langobards had to share OTL Czech Republic with the Burgundians.
The close proximity of both tribes or nations did not cause conflicts, though. Instead, a slow absorption of the Langobards into the Burgundians occurred. In 475, Princess Rumetruda, heiress to the Langobardian throne, marries the Burgundian King Guntaric, merging both dynasties into one. As the nature of Things changes throughout the Germanic world (from annual gatherings where disputes between clans are settled and temporary military leaders are elected to more permanent, legislative councils), influential Langobardians request to be allowed to join the Burgundian Thing in 515 instead of installing their own. The distinction between Burgundians and Langobards is nominally carried on into the 8th century, with more than 30 % of the population of Burgundy considering themselves Langobards, but it no longer has any real political, military, cultural, religious, or linguistic meaning.
The Quadi had already established close ties with the Roman Empire in the 2nd century. Unlike in OTL, where these contacts deteriorated during the Imperial Crisis of the 3rd century, the autonomous Roman civitates of Noricum and Pannonia carefully maintained good relations with their Quadic neighbours, who, unaffected by migratory movements around them, mostly remained in their homeland in OTL Slovakia.
During and after the invasion of the Huns, the Quadi joined the Alliance of the Five Nations, too. Their religious practices shifted toward the Lausai variety of Germanic cult in the late 4th century, and from the 5th century onward, the Quadi participated in the development of the Common Suebic language. Economic and cultural exchange with Roman civitates intensified. The Quadi exported wood, pork, and beer and imported Roman glassware, ploughs and fertilisers. Roman soldiers were stationed in castra in the South-Western parts of the Quadic lands, and Roman public-private trusts built dams and mills on the Marus (OTL Morava).
Towns like Marburg, Neutra and Senica grew during the 5th to 8th centuries, partly due to the influx of refugees from the Gothic East, and guilds, which emulated the structures of Roman collegia, developed. These towns played an increasing role in Quadian politics, acquiring greater power than the counts and the royal court through their economic and also military power, owed to their connections to the Romans. They were the motors of the development of a semi-democratic form of state - and of modern statehood in general. When the conflicts with Muhno`s Corvatian confederation escalated, these towns tipped the balance among the Quadi in favour of joining the Roman Republic instead of joining the Burgundians in their war against the Slavs.
During the negotiations for adherence to the Roman Republic, the remaining Slavic slaves in Quadia enjoyed a general manumission and slavery was outlawed. After the admission, Quadic agriculture faced difficulties, having to adapt to strong competitors on the Roman market. The Quadic counts, who still held much of the land, had lost their functions and often lacked funds to invest. Necessary investments were only able by inviting wealthy Romans from all over the Empire to become co-owners. Along with economic development, inequalities increased and tensions arose in the 8th century. Quadia is one of the comparatively modern and dynamic Germanic societies, if this term still applies to the situation in 750 at all, but it is one of the poorer and more traditional regions of the Roman Republic. Most Quadi identify both as Quadi, or members of their civitas, as members of the greater Suebic culture (represented in the Bundathing) and as Romans now, although in the light of the above-mentioned conflicts, this is not merely a positive identification or imperial pride, but mostly the awareness that their problems are common problems in many underdeveloped areas of the Roman Empire.
By 750, almost half the Quadic population is bilingual, speaking Common Suebic and at least to some degree Latin. Literacy begins to increase in the towns, mostly in Latin, while in the countryside, it is limited to wealthy newcomers from other parts of the Republic and very few Quadi. The writing of Suebic - using the Latin alphabet - has only begun in the 5th century and is mostly owed to Lausai contexts. The process of Suebic scripturalisation and standardisation is impeded by the process of Latinisation of the Quadi.
The Markomanni had formed the most powerful and advanced Germanic federations in the 1st century CE, but after the devastating Markomannic Wars 166-180, they had lost their dominant role. Nevertheless, they were a relatively Romanised tribe at the time of the PoD in 251. In OTL, they were swept away by stronger and less Romanised Germanic tribes and alliances and disappeared from history at the turn of the 4th/5th centuries, their population perhaps merging with provincial Romans in Noricum and Pannonia.
In this timeline, good connections to the reviving Romans pay off in the 4th century. Strong Roman civitates like Lauriacum, Vindobona and Brigetio help and protect their Markomannic allies, who are important to them as a buffer against more aggressive Germanic forces and also as trading partners, against Alemannic expansion from the West as well as against the Huns.
The Markomanni were the main tool of Roman intervention into the affairs of the Alliance of the Five Nations, which the Romans sought to stabilise. Throughout its existence from the 360s to 604, the Markomanni preserved their role as the middlemen between the Alliance and the Romans. Urbanisation and detribalisation went fastest here, and so did technological adaptation to Roman innovations. When the alliance fell apart, the Markomanni led the faction which sought immediate adherence to the Roman Republic as the safest way of protecting themselves.
Markomanni have come to speak Common Suebic, but from the 7th century on, more and more educated Markomanni also speak Latin. Literacy is comparatively high for a Germanic tribe (at roughly 30 %). The Markomanni and their Queen Fritigil were also the "inventors" of the Lausai faith and have remained its staunchest adepts.
In OTL, a mixture of provincial Romans, remnants of the Celtic Boii, and different Suebic Germans formed the new Baiuvarian tribe.
In this timeline, no such thing happened. The Suebes in the West join the Alemanni, those in the East join the Markomanni.
Three civitates in Boica (Scuttarensis, Alcmonensis and Boica), which had been cooperating with Boiodunum and Castra Regina in order to ensure their protection, join the Roman Republic in 542. By 750, its population is completely Romanised and Latinised.
As in OTL, Alemanni are Germans of different tribes migrating into the Agri Decumates around the middle of the 3rd century CE. In OTL, they slowly expand into the Alps and across the Rhine, but do not unite and are finally subdued by the Franks.
In this timeline, the different fate of the Gallo-Roman breakaway empire influences Alemannic history. Its relative stability prevents the Alemanni from crossing the Rhine.
In the chaos of Roman revolution, Gallo-Roman secession and civil war, the Alemannic petty king Huno of the Neckar Suebi knits an alliance with Gallo-Roman Caesar Postumus. He unites the Bucobantes, Suebi Nicrenses, Brisgavi and Lentienses and defeats the Juthungi, then redistributes Roman latifundia among the tribes, delineating their territories and defining their Ting districts ("Gaue"). He leaves the remaining provincial Roman population of the towns relatively untouched and allows them to keep a bit of land in their perimeters.
Huno`s reign stops the migrations of the Alemanni and lays the foundation of considerable population growth over the next century. His kingdom falls apart after his death, though. As the petty Gau kings begin to quarrel among themselves, and Burgundians also push into Alemannian territories from the North-East, the Latinised population of the towns seeks external support. In a period of relative stability and strength of the Gallo-Roman Empire, its Caesar Sapientius restores imperial Gallo-Roman control over the towns in the Rhine valley, re-establishing castra there as well as along old roads, and adding more bridgeheads to the fortification of the Rhine. In Eastern Alemannia, Aquileia (OTL Heidenheim) associates itself with the Roman civitas of Augusta Vindelicorum and slips under its military protective shield.
While the Burgundians are led Eastwards by their King Gundaric after defeats against Alemannic Gau kings, Southward-migrating Hermundurians along the Moenus peacefully Alemannise themselves, copying the model of territorially delineated "gaue" with their own kings and tings.
Both Alemannic gaue and provincial Roman towns are overwhelmed by the tide of refugees from the East, who flee from the Huns in the 360s. A decade of chaos ensues, in which neither the Gallo-Roman Empire, which is destabilised by Bagaudae revolts, Pictish invasions, Priscillian Christian sectarianism and the secession of its wealthy Baetican South, nor the Roman Republic, which is plagued by an earthquake on Crete and focuses its military efforts on eradicating the Hun danger in the Pontic Campaign, intervene and help restore order in Alemannia.
Alemannia`s restoration is linked to the name of Serapio, a leader of the Bucobantes who had spent his youth in Narbo. Amidst the chaos, he manages to has himself elected Gau King of the Bucobantes and assumes the Alemannic name Agenarich. Then, he knits a very large alliance of loyal followers from each gau (not necessarily the present kings) AND from among the provincial Roman elite from the towns. He and his followers proclaim the conversion to the Lausai faith, frequently "invented" by Fritigil, Queen of the Markomanni. Agenarich Serapio and his supporters gather a large force which puts an end to the violence and looting, defeating dozens of warlords and bringing the New Order to all corners of Alemannia.
The new Alemannia is a confederacy of Roman towns and Alemannic gaue. Its leaders are elected by a Concilium Municipiale or a Gauting - for life, if they are not recalled, but not as hereditary monarchs. All these leaders regularly convene in a high council named Senatus Foederationis in Latin and Bundsting in Alemannic, which in turn elects the High King (later: the Kaisar), also for lifetime, but recallable and non-hereditary. All members of the confederacy swear an oath of eternal peace. Should the Ting peace be in danger or Alemannic lands be under attack by foreign forces, then a common intervention force would be commanded by the High King / Kaisar.
Agenarich Serapio also signs contracts concerning the borders and eternal peace with the Alliance of Five Nations and the Roman Republic. After helping the Gallo-Roman Caesar Marcus Vasco out against the Franks, he obtains the recognition of Alemannia`s independence, with the Rhine as their border.
Throughout the 5th century, this new Alemannic Confederacy or Empire becomes a unique story of success in the Germanic world. Each gau and town has its own law, and these laws are codified now. The gau kings are endowed with the rents / taxes from large public estates which allow them to maintain armed forces and magistrates, while the towns finance their own public administration and their own soldiers through taxation. Slowly but constantly, roads are renovated and expanded and canals are built to facilitate transportation across all of Alemannia.
Especially the towns and gaue in the Rhine and Neckar valleys, where wine and tobacco are grown, develop superbly, engage in trade with Romans and Gallo-Romans and amass wealth. Alemannic and vulgar Latin begin to blend into a new language during this period.
Alemannia expands further towards the North, incorporating the Chatti, who sought Serapio`s help against Saxon slave-hunters, and later the last Hermundurians in OTL Southern Thuringia and South-Western Saxony, whose lands had been invaded by Anglic, Saxon, Warnian and Jutian refugees after the Gallo-Romans` Anglo-Saxon Campaign.
From the beginning of the 6th century, the Alemannic Tings witness increasing conflicts between guilds of craftsmen, who demand the secession and self-government of their towns, and the gau kings, who want to hold on to these towns and to the tax income generated by the guilds` mining works etc.
After Saxon raids and invasions have been repelled in the North, the conflicts between guilds and gau kings escalates once again in the 7th century, with the town councils increasingly taking the side of the guilds. They erupt in several local military confrontations, which do not turn into a full-blown civil war like in Saxony, though. As a consequence of these events, several gau kings discontinue the Tings and suppress the guilds, while the towns ally themselves, increase and professionalise their armed forces and form a bloc of their own - the "Inter-Mayorate".
The gau kings manage to impose Kaisars who pursue policies favourable to them until the late 8th century. In 780, Kaisar Karl ascends the throne and reforms his empire:
- restoring the Gau tings
- abolishing servitude and slavery
- granting the guilds monopolies and imperial recognition
- abolishing the gau kings and bereaving all other nobles of their power and lands
- and centralising the armed forces and turning them into a mass army of yeomen conscripts.
By 750, Alemannia is by far the most powerful Germanic state. Its various urban and rural dialects begin to converge into a new language, whose mixture between Suebic and Vulgar Latin resembles that of OTL Old French. It is written in the Latin alphabet. Slowly increasing literacy strengthens the process of standardisation. Alemannia is the only Germanic country with a lively newspaper market by 750 CE.
At least eleven tribes on the Eastern shore of the Rhine have merged to some extent and formed the "gens Francorum" in the 3rd and 4th century. Those tribes close to the North Sea / British Channel (the Salian Franks) play an important role in inner-Gallo Roman conflicts and are allowed to settle in Gallo-Roman Batavia. The rest (Ripuarian Franks) come under indirect Alemannic control. During the chaotic migrations following the invasion of the Huns, Franks under High King Lothar invade the Gallo-Roman Empire, but they are defeated and pushed back across the Rhine. From the 370s on, Gallo-Roman military presence East of the Rhine is increased in order to pacify the Franks. Frankish kings and high kings are effectively dependent on the Gallo-Roman Empire.
Frankish society and economy are influenced by their Gallo-Roman neighbours. When the empire, which now calls itself "Celtic Empire", undergoes a severe fiscal, political and military crisis during the 550s, social unrest broods in Franconia, too. In 564, a peasant rebellion under the Lausai Mark the Just sweeps the kings and aristocrats out of their offices and castles and installs the first peasant republic on Germanic soil.
While the republican institutions are still in place and running and the Lausai faith has become the majority creed in Franconia, the egalitarian nature of the Frankish Republic has evaporated by 750 with increased economic interaction with the developing Celtic economy, which has come to depend on cheap Frankish coal and ore.
Toward the beginning of the 7th century, Franconia interferes in the Saxon Civil War, together with the Alemannic Empire and several Norse groups, on Hamburg`s side. Although Hamburg is defeated, Franconia ends up annexing more parts in the South-West of Saxony.
The Frankish language (in its standard and several dialect varieties) is spoken throughout Franconia. It is written in the Latin alphabet. Literacy levels have risen since 564 from under 5% to almost 40%. The administrative and commercial elite usually also speaks Latin.
Northern Germanic Groups: The Egðir Age and the Hanseatic Age
In Northern Europe (Northern Germany and Scandinavia) lived Germanic groups who, at PoD, had remained largely unaffected by the Roman Empire. While the Ingvaeonic tribes (Angles, Jutes, Saxons) moved to some degree into Late and Post-Roman Britannia in OTL (first as marauders, then as mercenaries, at last as settlers and new rulers), perhaps the least Romanised part of the Empire, in the 5th century, Scandinavian groups spread far and wide from the 8th century onward as "Vikings" or "Varangians". The Ingvaeons who had remained on the continent came under Frankish rule. The Middle Ages and its specific Roman legacy began to affect Scandinavia only from the 10th century onward, with slowly changing concepts of kingship and statehood and the introduction of Roman Christianity.
In this timeline, Roman influence - or more precisely: Gallo-Roman influence - makes itself felt much more directly: as a powerful opponent, a superior trading partner, and an (ambivalent) political model. Instead of the Roman Church, monarchy and feudalism, the imports which slowly reshape Northern Germanic polities are collegia (guilds), revolutions in productivity, and elected civil servants.
The Frisians have always been ruled by foreign powers. They had paid tribute to the Romans, and when Roman rule began to collapse during the 3rd century, Saxons and Franks began to assert overlordship over the Frisian coast and islands.
Ever since the Gallo-Roman victory in the Anglo-Saxon Campaign of 437-8, Frisia has become an integral part of the Gallo-Roman (later named Celtic) Empire as the imperial province of "Frisia". Latin - and to a lesser extent Common Celtic - have become Frisia's official languages, but simple fishermen and peasants continue to speak Frisian, a West Germanic language akin to Saxon and Frankish, too.
While politically calm, Frisia`s towns developed self-confident elites and economically powerful trade syndicates, the most famous among them the Frisian Hanse, which has dominated Baltic trade in the 7th and 8th centuries with its cog boats, which were fitted by Celtic officers with Greek fire and equally well adapted to landing in the shallow tidelands of Frisia, Veletia, Pomerania and Courland and to sailing on the high sea. Frisia provides the Empire with products like wool, mutton, fish and salt. Starting in the 8th century, Frisian ships import cereals from all across Venedia; its modern windmills turn them into flour, which is both consumed domestically and sold in innovative sealed paperbags to Celtic wholesalers. Frisian fishermen control and exploit vast areas of the North Sea.
After Frisia recovered from the bubonic plague in the 7th century, it modernised its production to compete against cheap cotton etc. on the European market (inventing new manufacturing techniques for wool and building new and modern shipyards, selling ships to other nations like Franconia as well). Now, Frisians overtook the Ostrogoths in trade volume in the North and Baltic Seas.
Just like soldiers and merchants from other parts of the Celtic Empire have come to live among the Frisians, Frisian citizens have helped the Empire to settle Glaciana.
Frisian religion has remained fixed on Nerthus. Imperial soldiers as well as foreign merchants are practicing their various cults in the Frisian towns, too, though.
In the course of the 3rd and 4th century, a distinct and homogeneous Saxon culture develops in Northern Germany, which was never occupied by the Roman Empire. The invasion of the Huns does not affect Saxony directly, either.
Like other Northern Germanic societies, early Saxon society was highly hierarchical, yet not centralised. Military and religious leadership was held by "ethelinga"; their power was mythically cloaked, but actually rested on how many followers they had among the free peasantry ("frilinga") and half-free craftsmen and service providers ("lide"). Jurisdiction was carried out in assemblies of ethelinga, frilinga and lide ("things"), who also selected a military leader in case of need. Indentured servants and slaves (e.g. war captives) existed; they were excluded from participation in the aforementioned political structures. Saxon religious cult at this time highlighted the Æsir and their rule over the Vanir (comparable to the warrior nobility ruling over the peasantry). Local ethelinga acted together across Saxony, but never chose a king in these first centuries. Like their Scandinavian and Frisian neighbours, groups of Saxons participated in raiding parties aimed at the Gallo-Roman coasts of Britannia and Batavia.
In 436/7, the Gallo-Roman Empire retaliates with the Anglo-Saxon Campaign. Saxons become vassals of the Gallo-Roman Empire: their ethelinga now officially receive their titles from the Caesar in Lugdunum and his censorial magistrates, who also collect tribute "in exchange". Naval bases and castra are erected along the coastline and the Saxon rivers.
A very charismatic friling named Widukind knits an alliance with peasants from many parts of Saxony in the 540s, initially perhaps aimed at organising a peasant revolt like those of the Celtic Bagaudae. As the Celtic Empire enters a severe political crisis, a few courageous and insubordinate ethelinga join his side. Widukind, although not of noble descent, is chosen as the first King of Saxony in a secret Thing.
Widukind forges an alliance with the Danish petty King Ragnar of Gudme. Their alliance catches a Celtic force aiming at conquering Denmark by surprise and defeats it. In the ensuing war, Widukind`s forces manage to eradicate both Celtic military presence on the Saxon mainland and about two thirds of the Celtic-loyal ethelinga.
Widukind installs a centralised royal government around his court in Hamburg, concludes a peace treaty with the newly established Celtic Republic, and invites Norse syndicates to Hamburg and Bremen, formerly Celtic castra, which he manages to develop into Saxony`s first modern towns, and Danish groups who control a part of the Kattegat trade and related piracy to Traveborg, which he transforms from a fishing village to Saxony's main port town and naval base on the Baltic Sea. The connections to the North bring technological innovations, commercial relations and improved military equipment to Saxony.
But at Widukind`s death in 582, this new order falls apart. His son, Witelrik, claims the throne, but a majority of ethelinga and their clients refuse. They want to restore the old, pre-Celtic order. Witelrik considers to renounce, but is encouraged by the crews of the Saxon royal navy's ships and by his magistrates, who would all lose their jobs or at least their power, to take up the fight.
Years of civil war devastate Saxony. The cities of Hamburg and Bremen are loyal to Witelrik; they are supported by Alemannic, Frankish and Sørstad troops. The majority of the ethelinga have their powerbase in the rural South and South-East and in the Eastern border lands. They obtain support from other Norse groups, especially from the Svear and Sjonar.
The Saxon Civil War ends with a relative victory of the anti-royalist faction. The monarchy is discontinued and the court and government in Hamburg are dissolved. The ethelinga resume military and fiscal control, the Thing's powers are fully restored. Hamburg, Bremen and Traveborg may only send a fixed number of representatives.
The war and its outcomes slow down Saxony's development and weaken its position over the next centuries. Without central administration, Saxony does not develop a viable infrastructure and relies almost exclusively on its rivers as transport corridors. Militarily, Saxony relies on its ethelinga-led cavalry, who attempt to relieve the population pressure by conquering lands in the South and East. Both attempts fail in the 7th century: in the South, the Alemannic Empire defends hitherto unaligned tribes in Central Germany and swallows them into their Empire. In the East, Vineta and its Veletian allies manage to hold off Saxony's Eastward expansion.
Although politically and legally weakened, the Saxon towns continue to grow slowly, but they are more and more dominated by Celtic-Frisian and Norse commercial networks. This - together with the rejection of the Lausai faith by the Saxon elites - leads to an integration of Saxony into the Norse cultural and political space, while in OTL, Saxony becomes assimilated by the Franks from the South and later becomes part of the Holy Roman Empire and its Northern German member and successor states.
WIthin this Norse sphere, Saxony maintains especially close connections to the Danes on Fyn, to some Eastern Gautar yarldoms like Möre and Handbörd and to Sviþjod.
By 750, Saxony`s economy is still mostly dominated by agriculture, farming and fishing. Its crafts remain simple. Its sea trade increases, but is mostly controlled by foreign powers. Literacy is very low (below 5%), with Swedish Runes and the Latin alphabet still competing for supremacy.
The Angles have disappeared from history after their colossal defeat at the hands of the Celts in 436/7. Their home land on the Kimbrian Peninsula has become the Celtic province of Anglia and settled by Celtic citizens mostly from the British Isles. While the Anglic elites were slain, the peasantry was either enslaved on the new villae rusticae, or they fled toward the South, where they came under Alemannic or Burgundian rule and merged into these nations.
When slavery was abolished in the Celtic Empire in 565, the Angles had already given up their language for Latin or Common Celtic, which both offered better chances at becoming a freed person (libertus) and perhaps climbing the social ladder in the Celtic Empire. Anglic cultural practices had been mostly replaced by those brought by the Brythonic, Pictish and Scotian settlers, although some researchers argue that Anglic influences were important in forging a common, unitary "Celtic" culture on the Kimbrian Peninsula.
The Jutes suffered the exact same fate as the Anglians.
At PoD, Germanic groups in Scandinavia were almost unaffected by what happened in the Roman Empire. Occasional trade took place, but mostly, Northern Germanic people lived in bands or tribes, served their Norse Gods, pursued primitive agriculture and traded among themselves, using longboats without nailed planks and without sails. The large family was the basic unit of society, which lived together in longhouses. Different families of a tribe shared close connections in the absence of a clear patrilinearity or matrilinearity. Families with large and fertile land ownership exerted greater authority in the community, their household leaders often assumed leading religious and military roles for other families, too. There was not a trace of what we call modern statehood; settlements and decisions taken by general assemblies (Things) concerned judgments of infractions, settlements of land disputes, and organisation of defensive or offensive actions against other tribes. Armed conflicts aimed at enriching oneself take the forms of either moving from one region to another and driving the initial inhabitants away, or raiding and plundering. No larger kingdoms have formed yet, and the culture and religion of the North have remained untouched by Southern influences in this first period yet.
In OTL, things changed very slowly over the next five centuries, in which the collapse of the Roman Empire under the force of Germanic invaders and the subsequent establishment of the Merowingian Empire provided role models for the less developed Norse societies. More and more warlords emerged and brought larger territories and hirds under their command. Apart from these external influences, improvements in ship-building and a growing population also changed Scandinavian society. Combined, this prepared the ground for the following Viking Age.
In this timeline, developments begin to accelerate and take a different direction in the 5th century CE. The Imperium Romanum Galliarum conquers the Kimbrian Peninsula and becomes a close neighbour of the Scandinavians.
Although Anglia, as the IRG calls the Kimbrian Peninsula, is not exactly the empire's wealthiest province, and Gallo-Roman ships sailing the North Sea and the Kattegat do not carry the bulk of Gallo-Roman trade, both are attractive aims for Scandinavian marauders and pirates. The Gallo-Romans try to hunt them down, and in doing so, they find out more about Scandinavia`s landscape and population and their dwellings.
Gallo-Roman (later terminology: Celtic) attempts to conquer the Danish archipelago, where the Gallo-Romans have localised the majority of those who plague them, fail spectacularly due to their navy`s ineptitude in the difficult waters of the archipelago and the virtual impossibility of controlling the entire region against an enemy who adopts evasive guerrilla tactics. In the 5th and 6th century, two Danish polities emerge from the successful defense against the Celts: the Western islands are (sometimes more, sometimes less) united in an assembly named "Danething" and led by a king who resides in Gudme. In the East, Sjaelland has its Sjaellandsthing and a king in Lejre.
The only Scandinavian region with which the Gallo-Romans establish good trading relations is OTL Norway, or more specifically its Southern and South-Western coast, especially the region which is called Agder today. In the 5th-8th centuries, it was called Agðir, and its inhabitants Egðir. Their contacts with the Gallo-Romans lead to a double cross-fertilisation:
- Gallo-Romans and Norse learn from each other`s ship-building techniques. Half-free craftsmen in a village in Agðir learn to endow longboats with sails. The Classis Celtica orders hundreds of these small and fast, improved langobats to diversify its stock, which had up to that point consisted only of the large, bulky types of ships that the Romans used, too. Almost over night (i.e. over the course of a few years), half-free Egðir become rich.
- Gallo-Roman and Norse domestic animal breeds are exchanged, and improved varieties for the cold climate are bred, allowing a more productive agropastoralism in the Northern regions of both spheres.
Norsemen from Vestfold and Hordaland focus on intensifying agricultural and cattle production. Among the Egðir, secret societies form, where the ship-building knowledge is protected and proliferated only among their members. The secret societies of the Egðir soon begin to sail across the seas, raiding towns and villages - but sparing their Gallo-Roman partners, whose power they know too well -, and later also establishing their own trading outposts. The secret societies of the Egðir transform into a combination of trading syndicates and seaborne military hirds, who do not follow a sea king, instead they are led collectively by the afore-mentioned secret societies of which the hirdmen form a part which was subordinate to the "secret-bearers", but provided good career options for young boys from families of the half-free or from yeomen with small farms and many children.
The Egðir`s network of trading ports expanded quickly in the 6th century and included colonies at the Baltic Sea Coast of OTL East Germany, Poland and Latvia and the North Sea Coast of OTL Norway well into the Arctic Sea. In the Baltic Sea, they came into bloody conflict with existing Norse trading groups based on Gotland island and the Mälaren. This century, often called the Egðir Age, thus also caused increased coordination and defensive strategies across Eastern Denmark (Sjælland) and OTL Southern Sweden.
In the 7th century, the Celtic Republic (successor to the Imperium Romanum Galliarum after the republican victory in the 550s) took its commercial interests increasingly into its own hands. The Celtic Navy had finally mastered the technology of fire syphons for ships (Greek fire), and the Celtic Republic`s Frisian citizens had revolutionised ship-building once again by inventing the cog, which was equally fit for transporting great quantities of goods economically across the high seas and for landing in shallow waters, which abounded not only in Frisia, but also along the Southern and South-Eastern Baltic coastlines. Frisian traders formed an association akin to the Egðir`s secret societies, but protected by Celtic law (and might): the Hansa. The Frisian Hansa`s cogs were fitted with Greek fire and were thus not only able to carry greater quantities than the longboats of the Egðir, but also more capable to fend off pirates, who abounded especially in the Kattegat. Thus, the 7th and the beginning 8th century are often called the Hanseatic Age. It saw the formation and consolidation of the Gautar Confederacy, the unification of Skånen and the establishment of relatively powerful kingdoms on Sjælland and along the Mälaren (Sviþjod). To further ensure the safety of its trading missions, the Celtic Republic founded the emporia of Arcona (OTL Kap Arkona), Callamare (OTL Kalmar) and Sarema (Saaremaa). These Celtic emporia were self-governed towns with their own Things (something the Celts understood well, since their own towns also mostly had comitia), where the local population held its own laws, while Celtic citizens were judged by Celtic Law. Often, monasteries of the Celtic Church were erected here, and of course they were naval bases. They were mostly exempt from imperial taxation and developed very quickly. This model became influential, too: Egðir towns like Sørstad, petty kingdoms like Viken and Karmøy and other polities like Trøndelag and Hålogaland invited Celtic monks, too, both to attract educated people with important skills, to foster positive relations with the Celtic Republic and to enjoy additional protection against regional rivals. By 750, the following independent (i.e. non-Celtic) Norse polities existed:
|Name||location in OTL terminology (present)||popular assembly||government||tribes / ethnic groups|
|Hålogaland||Northwestern Norway||Yarl of Vestvågøya|
|Trøndelag||Western Norway||Frostaþing: þinghaugen||Yarl of Lade||Norse (Trønder)|
|Ryga- och Hordaland||Southwestern Norway||Gulaþing: Eivindvik||King of Avaldsnes||Norse (Ryger, Horder)|
|Agðir||Southern Norway||Egðirþing: Sørstad||Magistrater of Sørstad||Norse (Egðir)|
|Viken||Southeastern Norway||Haugaþing: Tønsberg (Vestføold); Borgarþing: Sarpsborg (Ostføold)||King of Borre||Norse (Teler, Grener)|
|Hadeland||Southeastern Norway||Eidsivaþing: Åker gård||Yarls of Romerike and Ringerike||Norse (Heiþar)|
|Western Gautaland||Southern Sweden||Thing of all Gautar: Skara||confederacy: yarls of Gautaborg, Brännö, Finnveden, Tveta, Vista, Vedbo||Norse (Gautar)|
|Eastern Gautaland||Southern Sweden||Liongathing: Linköping||confederacy: yarls of Värend, Möre, Handbörd, Njudung, Aspeland, Sevede, Kinda, Tjust, Öland||Norse (Gautar; Auwar)|
|Gutland||Gotland||Landsting:||confederacy of twenty "judges"||Norse (Gutar)|
|Järmtland||Western Sweden||Jämtanot||yarl of Järmtland||Norse (Järmer)|
|Sviþjod||Central Sweden||Disthing: Uppsala||King of Uppsala||Norse (Svear)|
|Skåne||Southernmost Sweden: Skåne||King of Malmhaug||Norse (Sjonar)|
|Sjælland||Eastern Denmark (Sjælland, Falster, Saltholm, Borre, Fejø etc.)||Sjællandsthing: Lejre||King of Lejre||Norse (Danes)|
|Fyn||Central Denmark (Fyn, AErø, Langeland etc.)||Danething: Tingstede||King of Gudme||Norse (Danes)|
|Vineta||Northeastern Germany (Vorpommern), Northwestern Poland (Zachodniopomorskie)||Norse Thing: Vineta; Veletian Veche: Rethra||confederacy: mayor of Vineta; various Veletian knyazes||Norse; Ranians; Veletian Slavs|
|Courland||Latvian and Northern Lithuanian Coast||Town council: Grobiņa||Mayor of Grobiņa||Norse; Curonians|
|Österland||Southwestern Finland||regional Thing: Åbo||part of the Kingdom Sviþjod; Finn yarl||Norse (Svear); Suomalaiset|
|Aldejokia||Northwestern Russia, Lake Ladoga||Thing: Aldejokia||Yarl of Aldejokia||Norse; Ves|
|Holmsgarðr||Northwestern Russia, Veliki Nowgorod||Veche / Thing: Holmsgarðr||Yarl of Holmsgarðr||Norse; Galinds|
The towns import not only Mediterranean products, but also their knowledge and skills. Schools modelled both after Celtic/Mediterranean and Southern Germanic ones first teach the sons of the merchant and guild elites. In the 7th and 8th centuries, the sons of petty craftsmen and the sons and daughters of landowners are schooled either there or by Celtic monks, too
The crisis of the Germanic cult on the continent does not extend to Scandinavia, where Svear priests from the "Helgö school" and Suion priests from the "Uppåkra school" become widely influential and attempt to push back Celtic Christian influences.
Generally, Celtic Chiristanity begins to gain followers in OTL Norway, where Norse is increasingly written in Latin, while the Germanic cult remains strong in OTL Sweden and insular Denmark, where Norse is written in the runic alphabet.
Western Slavs: Under Nordic Influence
In OTL, the lands between Elbe and Vistula are largely depopulated during the Migration Period. Western Slavic tribes slowly settle here during the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries. The clans and tribes do not yet form any confederations and do not unite under a single leadership before 750. A part of the largest tribe, the Serbs/Sorbs, moves into the Balkans, only a small part remains behind in Lusatia.
In this timeline, the Germanic South-Eastward, then Westward migration away from the lands between Elbe and Vistula has already occurred, too. But the area does not remain depopulated for long. Eastern Germanic and Suebic groups remain North of the impenetrable Roman Danube limes. Ergo, Slavic bands and tribes cannot expand much toward the South from their core settlement areas in the Pripyat-Dnieper region. Ergo, their expansion proceeds mostly South-Eastward into the pontic steppe and Westward into OTL Poland and Germany.
Thus, Western Slavs arrive in the region between Elbe and Vistula much earlier, and state-building occurs earlier, too.
The latter is influenced by cross-Baltic contacts to the Norse polities. Norse traders, warriors and marauders frequent the Southern shore of the Baltic Sea earlier, too, having developed longboats with sails already by the end of the 5th century. They build colonies, forts and emporia. Their interaction with the Western Slavic hinterland increases over time, since both sides profit from trade.
The largest of these Norse colonies in Western Slavic lands is Vineta, situated at the mouth of the Oder. In 579, Eric Blackaxe, a leader of the Vineta branch of one of the Norse secret societies based in Sørstad, marries Merislava, the daughter of a Ranian knyaz (petty king). This laid the foundation of a dynasty, whose members held important functions both among the Ranians and the town of Vineta.
Caused by wars between Burgundy and Corvatia, greater numbers of Slavic settlers poured into the region at the beginning of the 7th century. At the same time, Saxons attempted to gain control over more and more lands East of the Elbe, too. In their fights against the Saxons, the Slavic tribes of the Linones, Bytenci, Sorbs, Hevellians, Circipanians and Kessines formed the Veletian Confederacy. Initial defeats against Saxons pushed the Veletian tribes closer to Vineta.
In the decisive Battle of Spandow in 679, the Veletians had to appeal to the Ranians and to Vineta in order to resist the Saxon warriors.
The victorious alliance was mediated by the Ranian priests of Rethra, whose authority grew immensely. They were the common religious bond which held together the Veletian Confederacy, Ranians and increasingly also Vineta, where more and more Slavs lived and intermarried with the Norse, who, in turn, added a few deities and myths to the common culture and otherwise slowly adapted to the (not so very alien) Slavic cult. In the central sanctuary of Rethra, priests from all member tribes celebrate rituals together; each knyaz of each Veletian tribe is crowned here, and all Slavic commercial enterprises in the region - increasingly also Vineta`s own - receive their blessings from here.
By 750, the Veletian Confederacy, Rethra and Vineta have become symbiotic. The multi-faceted confederacy has brought forth quite a number of overarching political institutions for settling legal disputes, building roads and harbours, regulating mills and canals, controlling silviculture, prohibiting the sale of alcohol except for ritual purposes etc. The land, which will later come to be called "Venedia" - a Latin synthesis of "Veletia" and "Vineta", which quotes the Germanic exonym for the Western Slavs ("Wenden") -, is still in the process of state-formation, but its collective leaders prove very adept at Baltic diplomacy and alliance-building, keeping their land, which stretches from the Warne in the West to Kolberg in the East and reaches Southward into Lusatia, safe from Swedish, Danish or Saxon hegemony.
At a local level, the various smaller and larger tribes have retained a great degree of independence and follow their own rules and customs. Their fortified villages and towns govern themselves with Veches as general assemblies (akin to Germanic Things) and Knyazes as chieftains who lead the defenses in times of war.
Vineta`s merchants and Rethra`s priests both play important roles in the scripturalisation and standardisation of the Lechitic dialects of the various Veleti tribes in a modified version of Swedish runes (the Venedian Runic alphabet). Nevertheless, the various smaller and larger tribes have retained a great degree of independence and follow their own rules and customs. In the 8th century, the tradition of holding popular assemblies becomes popular with more and more Veletian tribes (named "Veche" after similar assemblies among the Eastern Slavs in the Potamian Koina of the Borysthenes and the Tanais).