View Full Version : The Swabian League

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009, 02:52 PM
an association of German cities, principally in the territory which had formed the old duchy of Swabia (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Swabia). The name, though usually given to the great federation of 1488, is applicable also to several earlier leagues (e.g. those of 1331, 1376). The Swabian cities had attained great prosperity under the protection of the Hohenstaufen (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Hohenstaufen) emperors, but the extinction of that house in 1268 was followed by disintegration. Cities and nobles alike, now owing allegiance (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Allegiance) to none but the emperor (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Emperor), who was seldom able to defend them, were exposed to the aggression of ambitious princes.

In 1331, twenty-two Swabian cities, including Ulm (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Ulm), Augsburg (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Augsburg), Reutlingen (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Reutlingen) and Heilbronn (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Heilbronn), formed a league at the instance of the emperor Louis the Bavarian, who in return for their support promised not to mortgage (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Mortgage) any of them to a vassal (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Vassal). The count of Wurttemberg (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Wurttemberg) was induced to join in 1340. Under Charles IV (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Charles_Iv). the lesser Swabian nobles began to combine against the cities, and formed the Schlegelerbund (from Schlegel, a maul). Civil war ensuing in 1367, the emperor, jealous of the growing power of the cities, endeavoured to set up a league under his own control, for the maintenance of public peace (Landfriedensbund, 1370). The defeat of the city league by Eberhard (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Eberhard) II. of WUrttemberg in 1372, the murder (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Murder) of the captain of the league, and the breach (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Breach) of his obligations by Charles IV., led to the formation of a new league of fourteen Swabian cities led by Ulm in 1376. This league triumphed over the count of Wurttemberg at Reutlingen in 1377, and the emperor having removed his ban (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Ban), it assumed a permanent character, set up an arbitration (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Arbitration) court, and was rapidly extended over the Rhineland, Bavaria (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Bavaria) and Franconia (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Franconia). In 1382 an alliance (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Alliance) was made at Ehingen with the archduke (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Archduke) of Austria (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Austria), and through his mediation (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Mediation) with the three chief knightly associations of Swabia. The new king, Wenceslaus (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Wenceslaus), hoped at first, like his father Charles (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Charles_%28disambiguation%29), to check the federal movement by associating all estates of the realm (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Realm) under his own lead (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Lead_%28disambiguation%29) in Landfriedenseinigungen, but such a compact made at Heidelberg (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Heidelberg) in 1384, although renewed at Mergentheim (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Mergentheim) three years later, was a mere makeshift. The struggle between burghers and nobles was precipitated by the inclusion of the urban members of the Swiss confederation (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Confederation) in the league in 138; and the overthrow of Archduke Leopold of Austria by the latter at Sempach (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Sempach) in the following year. A quarrel between the duke of Bavaria and the archbishop (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Archbishop) of Salzburg (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Salzburg) gave the signal (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Signal) for a general war in Swabia, in which the cities, weakened by their isolation, mutual jealousies and internal conflicts, were defeated by Count Eberhard II. at Doffingen (Aug. 24, 1388), and were severally taken and devastated. Most of them quietly acquiesced when Wenceslaus proclaimed a Landfriede at Eger (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Eger) in 1389 and prohibited all leagues between cities. The professed aims of the cities which had formed this league of 1376 were the maintenance of their imperial status (Reichsunmittelbarkeit), security (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Security) against sale or mortgage (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Swabian_League#) and against excessive taxation (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Taxation), the protection of property, trade and traffic, and the power to suppress disturbances of the peace. There is no trace of co-operation (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Co-operation) with the Hanseatic (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Hanseatic_League) towns. The league necessarily opposed the pretensions of the emperors and the electoral princes, especially as set forth in the Golden Bull (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Golden_Bull), and in accordance with the growing spirit of civil freedom demanded a share in the government (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Swabian_League#), but that there was any widespread conscious desire for a fundamental change in the constitution, for the abolition of aristocratic privilege or for a republic, as certain historians maintain, is improbable (K. Klupfel, Der schweibische Bund). For nearly a century there was no great effort at federation among the Swabian cities, attention being diverted to the ecclesiastical controversies of the time, but there were partial and short-lived associations, e.g. the league of twelve Swabian cities in defence of their liberties in 1392, the Marbach league in 1405 against the German king, Rupert (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Rupert_%28disambiguation%29), and in 1441 the union of twenty-two cities (in 1446 thirty-one) headed by Ulm and Nuremberg (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Nuremberg), for the suppression of highway (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Highway) robbery (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Robbery). This latter union in 1449 formed a standing army and waged war on a confederation of princes led by Albert (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Albert_%28Archbishop%29) Achilles (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Achilles), afterwards elector of Brandenburg (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Brandenburg_%28disambiguation%29).

The growing anarchy in Swabia, where the cities were violently agitated by the constant infringement of their liberties (e.g. the annexation (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Annexation) of Regensburg (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Regensburg) by Bavaria in 1486), induced Frederick III (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Frederick_Iii)., who required men and money (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Swabian_League#) for the Hungarian War, to conciliate the cities by propounding a scheme of pacification and reform. His commissioner, Count Hugo of Werdenberg, met the Swabian estates at Esslingen (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Esslingen) and laid before them a plan probably drawn up by Bertold (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Bertold), elector of Mainz (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Mainz), and on the 14th of February 1488 the Great Swabian League was constituted. There were four constituent parties, the archduke Sigismund (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Sigismund) of Austria, Count Eberhard V. (afterwards duke) of Wurttemberg, who became the first captain of the league, the knightly league of St George (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/George), and lastly twenty-two Swabian imperial cities (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Imperial_Cities_Or_Towns). The league received a formal constitution with a federal council consisting of three colleges (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Swabian_League#) of nine councillors each, a captain and a federal court with judicial and executive powers. The armed force which was to police (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Police) Swabia consisted of 12,000 foot and 1200 horse (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Horse), each party contributing one-fourth. The league gained strength by the speedy accession of Augsburg and other Swabian cities, the margraves of Brandenburg-Ansbach (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Ansbach), Baireuth and Baden (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Baden), the four Rhenish electors (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Electors), &c., and in 1490 of Maximilian (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Maximilian), king of the Romans (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Romans), whom the league had helped to rescue (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Rescue) from the hands of the Netherlanders in 1488. It did not render him' the support he expected in his foreign policy, but it performed its primary work of restoring and maintaining order with energy and efficiency. In 1492 it compelled Duke Albert of Bavaria to renounce Regensburg; in 1519 it expelled the turbulent duke, Ulrich (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Ulrich) of Wurttemberg, who had seized Reutlingen, and it sold his duchy to Charles V (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Charles_V).; and in 1523 it defeated the Franconian knights who had taken up arms with Franz von Sickingen (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Franz_von_Sickingen). In 1525, Truchsess, the league captain, aided by the forces of Trier (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Trier) and the palatinate (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Palatinate), overthrew the rebel peasants of Kiinigshofen on the Tauber and at Ingolstadt (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Ingolstadt).
The league, which had been several times renewed, expired on the 2nd of February 1534, its dissolution (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Dissolution) being due to internal dissensions regarding the reformation (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/The_Reformation). Futile attempts were made to renew it, in 1535 by the Bavarian chancellor, Eck, and in 1547 by Charles V.
See E. Osann, Zur Geschichte des schwabischen Bundes (Giessen, 1861); K. Klupfel, "Der schwabische Bund" (in Hist. Taschenbuch, 1883-1884), Urkunden zur Geschichte des schwabischen Bundes (Stuttgart, 1846-1853). (A. B. Go.)

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Coat of Arms of the Swabian League (St Georg).

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009, 06:12 AM
Short History of Suevia (Swabia)

after Dieter Etzel's (http://art1.candor.com/barbarian/suevi.htm) or R. Heli's (http://www.genealogy.net/gene/reg/HIST/swabia.html) version. Introduction

Swabia (German Schwaben, Latin Suevia), with its (former) capital at Augsburg, was a medieval duchy in the lands now forming southwestern Germany. Its territories covered the area now occupied by Baden-Württemberg (including the Black Forest) and parts of western Bavaria (to the Lech River) and northern Switzerland. It owes its importance to its strategic position between the upper reaches of two of Europe's most important rivers, the Danube and the Rhine. The region was first known to the Romans as Alemannia because at the time its settlers were the Germanic tribe of Alamans (or Alemanni). When the Romans began to conquer the area, it was incorporated as part of the Agri Decumates. It later received its present name from later German migrants, the Suevi, who became amalgamated with the Alemanni in the 5th century AD. For a detailed description of the Roman occupation of southwestern Germany and its ending see B. Hummel's (http://home.t-online.de/home/Bernd.Hummel/histeng.htm) page.

These Suevi are probably actually best thought of as a collective group of a number of German tribes (including the Marcomanni and Lombards), which are mentioned in the 1st century BC by Gaius Julius Caesar as dwelling east of the Rhine River. The Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (1st century AD) described them as inhabiting all of central Germany. One group of Suevi, allied with the Vandals and the Alans, swept down on the Iberian Peninsula in AD 407, conquered it from the Hispano-Romans living there, and apportioned out the territory. As a result, by 411 the Suevi were established in present-day northern Portugal and Galicia, and by 452, in Castile. They adopted Catholic Christianity and ruled until 469 when they were subjugated by the Visigoths, who had been co-opted by the rulers at Rome. The Suevi, and Alemanni, who remained in Germany are the ancestors of the medieval Swabians. The name is also spelled Suebi.

AD 500 - 1000

Around AD 500, Alemannia came under the control of the waxing Frankish Empire. But its ruling house, the Merovingians, were not strong and by 689 Swabia was virtually independent. It was brought back under control in the 730's and 740's by Charles Martel, founder of the Carolingian Dynasty, who deposed the hereditary dukes of Swabia and subdivided it to be ruled by counts reporting directly to him. This situation continued until the 9th century and the dissolution of the Empire under the grandsons of Charles the Great (Karl der Große, Charlemagne). Between 900-11, largely because the central royal authority failed to stem the tide of invading Magyars (Hungarians) and Normans, the Alemannians were able to become an independent "stem-duchy", organized around the people of an historic tribe like those of the Bavarians, Franks, Saxons and Thuringians.
As in all the duchies, the dukes were those who proved they could meet the military demands of those anarchic times. The first duke's family were known by the sobriquet dux Raetianorum, i.e. defenders of the Alpine passes of Switzerland, reflecting their role as military leaders and organizers. During this period, Swabia controlled not only parts of Switzerland, but lands west of the Rhine River, i.e. including the Alsace (where the Alemannic-based Alsatian dialect is still alive).

Alemannia's forces raised its commander, Erchanger, to the dukedom in 915, after his forces defeated the German king Conrad I. When Erchanger was defeated and executed in 917, he was replaced by Burchard II, who had strong enough backing to actually have made a play for the monarchy. Instead, he decided to accept the choice of Henry I of Saxony made by the dying King Conrad I. In 919, Burchard was faced with the challenge of invasion by Rudolf I, king of Burgundy. Alemannia successfully repulsed the invaders and the peace that followed was sealed by the marriage of Rudolf and Burchard's daughter. The two formed an alliance and began expeditions to conquest in Italy about 922. When four years later Burchard died during one of them, his ally Rudolf pressed his claim to Alemannia through marriage. However, Henry was unwilling to see Alemannia alienated from the kingdom and instead appointed as duke, Hermann, cousin of Eberhard who hailed from Franconia. Hermann showed his gratitude in 919 by saving the fortunes of the king during the Saxon Revolt. But his installation had inaugurated a regular trend between 926 and 1080, only one duke was Alemannic, all the rest were either Franks or Saxons.

Meanwhile, to assuage Rudolf's ambitions, the town of Basel (Basle, Bâle) was severed from Swabia and given to Burgundy. In gratitude, Rudolf presented Henry with an artifact recovered from Italy - the Holy Lance, an important symbol of the inheritance of Constantine. But Swabia, as it now began to be called, still managed to be sovereign enough to pursue its own foreign policy. Liudolf became duke in 949, succeeding Hermann by marrying his daughter. In 951, Liudolf crossed the Alps, ostensibly to champion Adelaide of Burgundy, but in reality to take advantage of Italian weakness to expand his realm. He was pre-empted in this when the king, Otto I, himself invaded the region, secured the crown of Lombardy and married Adelaide. The duke, who was Otto's son, transformed his disappointment into first a conspiracy in 952 and in 953 an open revolt which could not be quashed until 955. Only following this did Otto feel strong and secure enough to go to Rome and become the first German king to be crowned by the pope as a nominal emperor. Another of the Burchards took over in 954. After Burchard died, Otto II appointed Liudolf's son Otto to succeed him.

AD 1000 - 1500

Swabia showed its strength yet again in 1027 when Duke Ernst of Swabia revolted against Conrad III. The king countered by allying with the counts in Swabia and thus quickly ended the episode. By 1039, Swabia was one of four duchies in the king's hands. From 1077-1080, Germany was roiled by the Investiture Contest, a competition between king and pope, which left local lords unchecked and free to engage in a massive land and property grab, especially regarding monasteries. The duke of Swabia, Rudolf, was even elected the anti-king during this time, but never gained widespread acceptance.

Following the Contest, true feudalism sprang up in the form of castle building all over Swabia and the rest of Germany. One of the most prominent was its duke, Frederick of Staufen, or Hohenstaufen. The Hohenstaufen family were very powerful and provided Swabia with its most illustrious dukes. Thus when King Henry IV was seeking supporters during the civil wars, Frederick was a natural choice to marry his daughter. When Henry's dynastic line failed in 1138, Frederick actually vaulted to the kingship, which the family held until 1250 (see Frederick II (http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/usr/el28/Hohenstaufen)). Meanwhile, Frederick, now called Friedrich I Barbarossa, continued to build up Swabia to strengthen his position against the still-powerful dukes such as Henry the Lion, a practice which brought him into some conflict with the Bertolds.
After the Staufens, the Bertolds were the most prominent family of castle builders in Swabia. This family drew their early power and tax base from their control of monasteries, which they founded in the hitherto-uninhabited Black Forest. Once developed by monks, it began to be colonized and towns laid out, including Freiburg-im-Breisgau, founded by Conrad Bertold in 1120. By then, the castle had become so important that their owners began to name themselves after them, so it is as Conrad von Zähringen that Conrad appears in the records.

But as the castles went up, the duchies went down under this wave of particularism. After the Hohenstaufens fell out of power, Swabia was given to King Conrad III's son. After his death, it returned to the crown and was put in control of ministerials, a non-noble class of civil servants. The idea was that such men would be more tractable and less likely to alienate the fief from the crown out of their own greed. It is perhaps a recognition of the lesser power of the ministeriales that at the same time, the Zähringen family was also restricted in 1169 in terms of their activities in Burgundy. When the Hohenstaufen line entirely failed in 1268, it signaled the breakup of Swabia as a political unit as various portions were snapped up by families which were to play important roles in Germany's future: Zähringen, Habsburg and Hohenzollern.

Eventually, the margraves of Baden, located along the Rhine River and those of Württemberg, centered at Stuttgart (also Stuegart, Stuggart, a Swabian word meaning "Stuten garten" or Mare's Corral) became dominant. The idea of Swabia was not lost, however, and in 1376, 14 cities, for their own protection, organized themselves into the Swabian League of Cities. The League grew to eventually include over 32 cities from Basle in the west to Regensburg in the east, from Constance in the south to Nürnberg (Nuremberg) in the North. In 1488, a new grouping, now simply styled "Swabian League" was formed by these cities, the larger principalities and even individual knights, for the purpose of maintaining internal stability. When in the 16th century, the Holy Roman Empire began to organize around the Kreis, literally, "circle", these states called themselves the Swabian Kreis. The Kreis, more properly the Reichskreis or Imperial Circle, was an area similar to an English county within the larger whole. (The term originally originally referred to a a lined-off place were a battle was to take place. Within such a ring, different rules applied as compared with the outside of the ring.) The Kreis designated the Swabian Kreis comprised all of the inheritor Swabian states.


In the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as areas of eastern Europe were re-conquered from the Ottoman Turks, many from Swabia (and other parts of Germany) migrated to areas in the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. The Danube River, or Donau, was the most frequently used means of transportation (http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/RWWeiss/backgrou.htm) for the trek and this group came to be known as the Donauschwaben. In the aftermath of World War II many of them fled to Germany and Austria or emigrated to North-America (http://www.donauschwaben.com/cincy/links.htm) and elsewhere. With the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 a steady flux of repatriating Donauschwaben can be observed bringing the century-long history (http://www.science.uwaterloo.ca/%7Emlmilne/history.htm) of Donauschwaben slowly to an end.


The term Swabia nowadays is used in a more restricted way and does not refer to the whole area once encompassed by the medieval duchy. It is related to the custom of speaking the Swabian dialect, which is prevailing on the territory of Württemberg (old map (http://www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/%7Epleiner/pictures/wue1789g.gif)), in the area south of the Danube (till the Lake Constance, or Bodensee, and the Rhine) called Oberschwaben, and the region between Iller and Lech, called Bavarian Swabia. Thus the more recent Swabian history is closely related to that of Württemberg (http://www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/%7Epleiner/bwhist.html), except for Bavarian Swabia, which belongs to Bavaria since 1815. The modern center of Swabia is thought to lie at Stuttgart and there one can often hear spoken the Swabian dialect, Schwäbisch, with its customary friendly greeting of "Grüss Gott" (sounds like 'Gree's Godd'). Those parts of the medieval Swabian duchy that are now located in Switzerland, Baden or Alsace are nowadays commonly refered to as 'alemannic' according to the kinds of dialects that are spoken there. Of course, the borders between Swabian and Alemanic (in the south-west) and Franconian (in the north-east) are not very sharp.

see also Swabian recipes (http://www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/%7Epleiner/recipe.html), Württemberg history (http://www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/%7Epleiner/bwhist.html), how to yell in Swabian (http://www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/%7Epleiner/schempf.html), my home page in Swabian (http://www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/%7Epleiner/indexsch.html) HARALD PLEINER (pleiner@mpip-mainz.mpg.de)
Last modified: January 18th, 2000 Swabian History compiled by Harald Pleiner (http://www.mpip-mainz.mpg.de/%7Epleiner/schwabhist.html)