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Ottonian Emperors

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Ottonian Emperors

The Ottonian dynasty was a dynasty of German Kings (919–1024), named after its first Emperor but also known as the Saxon dynasty after the family's origin. The family itself is also sometimes known as the Liudolfings, after its earliest known member Liudolf and one of its primary leading-names. The Ottonian rulers are also regarded as successors of the Frankish Carolingian dynasty.

Ruling in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire

Although never Emperor, Henry I the Fowler, Duke of Saxony, was arguably the founder of this imperial dynasty, since his election as German king in 919 made it possible for his son, Otto the Great to take on the imperium. Under the reign of the Ottonian rulers, the kingdom of the Eastern Franks included of the duchies of Lorraine, Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, Thuringia, and Bavaria.

Otto I inherited the Duchy of Saxony upon the death of his father in 936. He continued his father's work of unifying all of the German tribes into a single kingdom, greatly expanding the powers of the king at the expense of the aristocracy. Through strategic marriages and personal appointments, Otto installed members of his own family to the Kingdom's most important duchies. This reduced the various Dukes, who had previously been co-equals with the king, into royal subjects under the king's authority. Otto also transformed the Church in Germany into a major royal power base which he donated charity to and his family were responsible for creation of. After putting down a brief civil war, Otto defeated the Magyars in 955, ending the Hungarian invasions of Europe and as well as securing his hold over his kingdom. The victory against the pagan Magyars earned Otto the reputation as the savior of Christendom. By 961, Otto had conquered the Kingdom of Italy, which was a troublesome inheritance that none wanted, and extended the his Kingdom's borders to the north, east, and south. In control of much of central and southern Europe, the patronage of Otto and his immediate successors caused a limited cultural renaissance of the arts and architecture.

By excluding the Bavarian line of Ottonians from the line of succession, Otto's son and successor Otto II strengthened Imperial authority and secured his own son's succession to the Imperial throne. During his reign, Otto II attempted to annex the whole of Italy into the Empire, bringing him into conflict with the Byzantine Empire and with the Saracens of the Fatimid Caliphate. Otto II's campaign against the Saracens ended in 982 following a disastrous defeat. In 983 Otto II experienced a major uprising of the Slavs against his rule. Otto II died suddenly in 983 at the age of 28 after a ten-year reign. Succeeded by his three-year old son Otto III as King, his sudden death plunged the Italy into crisis. During the regency rule of his widow, the Byzantine princess Theophanu, the Italy abandoned her husband's imperialistic policy and devoted herself entirely to furthering its own agenda in Italy.

The childless Otto III was succeeded by Henry II in 1002, a son of duke Henry II, Duke of Bavaria who was a member of the Bavarian line of the Ottonians. Henry II spent the next several years consolidating his political power on his borders. He waged a campaign against Boleslaw I of Poland and then moved successfully into the Kingdom of Italy. After the extinction of the Ottonian dynasty with the death of Henry II in 1024 the crown passed to the Salian dynasty. Liutgarde, a daughter of Otto I had married the Salian Duke Conrad the Red of Lorraine. His great-grandson was Conrad II. When Rudolph III, King of Burgundy died on 2 February 1032, Conrad II successfully claimed also this Kingship on the basis of an inheritance Emperor Henry II had extorted from the former in 1006, after having invaded Burgundy to enforce his claim after Rudolph attempted to renounce it in 1016.

Ottonian Kings and Emperors

Template:Ottonian dynasty

Some other famous members of the Liudolfing or Ottonian House:

See also


  • Karl Leyser, "Ottonian Government" The English Historical Review 96.381 (October 1981), pp 721–753.
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