History of Germany between 487 AD - 843 AD
Numerous small Frankish kingdoms existed during the 5th century around Cologne, Tournai, Le Mans, Cambrai and elsewhere. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Franks created an empire under the Merovingian kings and subjugated the other Germanic tribes. The Merovingian kings of the Germanic Franks conquered northern Gaul in 486 AD. Swabia became a duchy under the Frankish Empire in 496, following the Battle of Tolbiac; in 530 Saxons and Franks destroyed the Kingdom of Thuringia. In the 5th and 6th centuries the Merovingian kings conquered several other Germanic tribes and kingdoms. King Chlothar I (558–561) ruled the greater part of what is now Germany and made expeditions into Saxony, while the Southeast of modern Germany was still under influence of the Ostrogoths. Saxons inhabited the area down to the Unstrut River.
Regions of the Frankish Empire were placed under the control of autonomous dukes of mixed Frankish and native blood. Frankish Colonists were encouraged to move to the newly conquered territories. While the local Germanic tribes were allowed to preserve their laws, they were pressured into becoming Christians.
The German territories became part of Austrasia (meaning "eastern land"), the northeastern portion of the Kingdom of the Merovingian Franks. As a whole, Austrasia comprised parts of present-day France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. After the death of the Frankish king Clovis I in 511, his four sons partitioned his kingdom including Austrasia. Authority over Austrasia passed back and forth from autonomy to kingly subjugation, as Frankish lands were alternately united and subdivided by the Merovingian kings.
In 718, Charles Martel, the Franconian Mayor of the Palace, made war against Saxony because of its help for the Neustrians. His son Carloman started a new war against Saxony in 743, because the Saxons gave aid to Duke Odilo of Bavaria.
In 751, Pippin III, Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian king, himself assumed the title of king and was anointed by the Church. Now the Frankish kings were set up as protectors of the pope, and Charles the Great launched a decades-long military campaign against their heathen rivals, the Saxons and the Avars. The campaigns and insurrections of the Saxon Wars lasted from 772 to 804. The Saxons and Avars were eventually overwhelmed, the people were forcibly converted to Christianity, and the lands were annexed by the Carolingian Empire.
After the death of Frankish king Pepin the Short in 768 AD, his son Charles consolidated his control over his kingdom and became known as "Charles the Great" or "Charlemagne." From 771 until his death in 814, Charlemagne extended the Carolingian empire into northern Italy and the territories of all west Germanic peoples, including the Saxons and the Baiuvarii (Bavarians). In 800, Charlemagne's authority was confirmed by his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor by the pope on Christmas Day in Rome. Imperial strongholds (Kaiserpfalzen) became economic and cultural centres, of which Aachen was the most famous.
Fighting among Charlemagne's grandchildren caused the Carolingian empire to be partitioned into several parts by the Treaty of Verdun (843), the Treaty of Meerssen (870), and the Treaty of Ribemont. The German region developed out of the East Frankish kingdom, East Francia.
Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.
The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.
In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.
Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.
Eketorp lies a few kilometers west of Route 136. There is an ample unpaved parking area situated approximately two kilometers west of the paved Öland perimeter highway. There is also a gift shop on site. During peak summer visitation, there are guided tours available. Visitors are assessed an admission charge.