Wednesday 26 July 2017

Kingdom of the Franks

Francia, also called Kingdom of the Franks were the lands that were ruled by Franks, who originated in the lands between the Lower and Middle Rhine in the 3rd century AD during the Late Antiquity and eventually formed a large empire dominating much of western and central Europe during the Middle Ages.

Baptistery Saint-Jean of Poitiers

The Salian Franks lived on Roman-held soil between the Rhine, Scheldt, Meuse, and Somme rivers in what is now Northern France, Belgium and the central and southern part of the Netherlands. The kingdom was acknowledged by the Romans after 357 AD. Following the collapse of Rome in the West, the Frankish tribes were united under the Merovingians, who succeeded in conquering most of Gaul in the 6th century, which greatly increased their power.


Clovis I(c. 466 – November 27, 511) was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs. He is considered to have been the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next two centuries.

Clovis I leading the Franks to victory in the Battle of Tolbiac,
in Ary Scheffer's 19th-century painting

Merovingian art is the art of the Merovingian dynasty of the Franks. The advent of the Merovingian dynasty in Gaul in the 5th century led to important changes in the field of arts. Sculpture regressed to be little more than a simple technique for the ornamentation of sarcophagi, altars and ecclesiastical furniture.

Baptistery of the cathedral Saint-Léonce in Fréjus.

At the death of Clovis, his kingdom was divided territorially by his four adult sons in such a way that each son was granted a comparable portion of fiscal land. Clovis's sons made their capitals near the Frankish heartland in northeastern Gaul. Theuderic I made his capital at Reims, Chlodomer at Orléans, Childebert I at Paris, and Chlothar I at Soissons. During their reigns, the Thuringii (532), Burgundes (534), and Saxons and Frisians (c. 560) were incorporated into the Frankish kingdom.

The partition of the Frankish kingdom among the four sons of Clovis

After Clovis I divided his kingdom between his four sons, Childebert I, after inheriting reigned as King of Paris from 511 to 558 and Orléans from 524 to 558. In the partition of the realm, he received as his share the town of Paris, the country to the north as far as the river Somme, to the west as far as the English Channel, and the Armorican peninsula (modern Brittany).

Statuette of Childebert from his abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés,
 13th century (Musée du Louvre)

Chlodomer (reigned 511 - 524 CE) received the kingdom of Orléans which included most notably, the bishoprics of Tours, Poitiers and Orléans. Chlodomer married Guntheuc, with whom he had three sons: Theodebald, Gunthar, and Clodoald. In 523-524 Chlodomer joined with his brothers in an expedition against the Burgundian. He was killed on his second expedition against the Burgundian, at the Battle of Vézeronce.

Battle of Vezeronce

Theuderic I inherited Metz in 511 at his father's death. Theuderic got involved in the war between the Thuringian King Hermanfrid and his brother Baderic. After making a treaty with his brother Childebert, Theuderic died in 534. Upon his death the throne of Metz, passed (without hindrance, unexpectedly) to his son Theudebert. His other son Theodechild founded the Abbey of St-Pierre le Vif at Sens.

18th century depiction of Theuderic I by Jean Dassier

Clothar I inherited two large territories on the Western coast of Francia, separated by the lands of his brother Charibert I's Kingdom of Paris. Chlothar spent most of his life in an unedifying campaign to expand his territories at the expense of his relatives and neighbouring realms in all directions. By the end of his life, Chlothar had managed to reunite Francia by surviving his brothers and seizing their territories after they died.

Bust of Chlothar

At the end of reign of Chlothar I in 561, the Frankish kingdom was at its peak, covering the whole of Gaul (except Septimania) and part of present-day Germany. He died at the end of 561 of acute pneumonia at the age of 64, leaving his kingdom to his four sons. They went to bury him at Soissons in the Basilica of St. Marie, where he had started to build the tomb of St. Médard.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Soissons

At the death of Chlothar I, his son Charibert received the ancient kingdom of Childebert I, between the Somme and Pyrénées, with Paris as its capital, and including the Paris Basin, Aquitaine and Provence. Guntram received Burgundy with a part of the kingdom of Orléans, where he established his capital. Sigebert received the kingdom of Metz with its capital Reims and Metz. Chilperic received the territories north of the kingdom of Soissons.

Breakup of the Frankish Kingdoms upon Chlothar's death in 561

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Silla Kingdom of Korea

Silla was one of the three ancient kingdoms of Korea which is believed to have been founded in 57 BC and remained in power until 935 CE becoming one of the longest sustaining dynasties. It began as a chiefdom in the Samhan confederacies, once allied with China, but Silla eventually conquered the other two kingdoms, Baekje in 660 and Goguryeo in 668.

The Silla rule in Korea is divided into three periods called Early (57 BC–654 AD), Middle (654–780), and Late (780–935). Silla was founded by King Park Hyeokgeose in 57 BC, around present-day Gyeongju. He ruled from 57 BC to 4 CE. In 37 BC Hyeokgeose built Geumseong in the capital city (present-day Gyeongju), and in 32 BC he built a royal palace inside. He died at age 73 and was succeeded by his eldest son Namhae.


Namhae of Silla was the second King of Silla who ruled from 4 CE to 24 CE. By the 2nd century, Silla existed as a distinct state in the southeastern area of the Korean peninsula. It expanded its influence over neighboring Jinhan chiefdoms, but through the 3rd century was probably no more than the strongest city-state in a loose federation. Namhae was succeeded by Yuri of Silla who ruled from 24 to 57 CE.

Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju

Yuri of Silla was succeeded by Talhae of Silla who ruled from 57 CE to 80 CE. In 64, the rival Korean kingdom Baekje attacked several times. Silla battled the Gaya confederacy in 77. A tomb believed to be Talhae's is located in northern Gyeongju City. The Gyeongju National Museum is constructed on the site where Talhae had a palace built. He was succeeded by Pasa of Silla who ruled from 80 to 112 CE. In 87, he built Silla's first recorded castles outside of the Gyeongju region.

Gyeongju National Museum

Talhae of Silla was succeeded by Jima who ruled from 112 CE to 134 CE. Relations with neighboring Gaya confederacy were peaceful, after Jima's unsuccessful invasion attempts across the Nakdong River in 115 and 116. In 123, he established relations with the Japanese kingdom of Wa. He was succeeded by Ilseong of Silla who ruled from 134 CE to 154 CE.  He is primarily remembered for his 144 edict banning the use of jewelry and other luxury goods by the populace. The tomb of King Ilseong is located in Tap-dong, central Gyeongju City.

Bridge over Nakdong River

Ilseong of Silla was succeeded by Adalla who ruled from 154 CE to 184 CE. He opened the road over Haneuljae (in present-day Mungyeong) in 157, and also the pass of Jungnyeong (in present-day Yeongju) in 159, extending Silla north of the Sobaek mountains. He was succeeded by Beolhyu of Silla whose reign extended from 184 CE to 196 CE. In 185, he conquered a small chiefdom called Somun-guk (in today's Uiseong).

Sobaek Mountains

Beolhyu of Silla was succeeded by Naehae who was the tenth king of Silla and ruled from 196 to 230 CE. Kingdom of Baekje invaded  Silla in 199 and 214; Silla responded by conquering Baekje's Sahyeon-seong. Naehae personally led the successful defense to Baekje's next attack in 218. He was succeeded by Jobun of Silla (r. 230 – 247 CE).

Jobun of Silla was succeeded by Cheomhae who ruled for 14 years from 247 CE to 261 CE. He was succeeded by Michu. He was the son of Gudo, a leading Silla general. In 264, he visited the peasant people to encourage them during a severe famine. In 268, subjects were dispatched by Michu to hear concerns of people. His tomb is preserved in central Gyeongju today. He was succeeded by Yurye of Silla who reigned from 284 to 298 CE.

Royal tomb of Michu of Silla, South Korea

Yurye of Silla was succeeded by Girim(r. 298-310, died 310) who became to be the 15th emperor of Silla. In 308, he gave the country the name "Silla." It had previously been known as Saro-guk or Seorabeol. He was succeeded by Heulhae of Silla who ruled for 46 years from 310 CE to 356 CE. There was an alliance by marriage with Wa(Japan), which was concluded in 313 but broke down in 346. In 347 there was a major invasion and the Japanese forces laid siege to Gyeongju.

Japanese invasion of Korea 

Heulhae of Silla was succeeded by Naemul who ruled from 356 CE until his death in 402 CE. He was the first king to appear by name in Chinese records. He sent a tribute mission to the king of Early Jin in 381. Naemul's later reign was troubled by recurrent invasions by Wa(Japan) and the northern Malgal tribes. He was succeeded by Silseong (r. 402 – 417 CE). After being crowned in 402, Silseong established an alliance with Wa and sent Naemul's son Kim Misaheun there as a hostage. In 412, he sent another son of Naemul, Kim Bokho, to Goguryeo as a hostage.

Royal Tomb of King Naemul

Silseong of Silla was succeeded by Nulji (reigned 417–458) who became the 19th ruler of Silla Dynasty. In the later part of the 4th century, Silla allied with kingdom of Goguryeo. However, when Goguryeo began to expand its territory southward, moving its capital to Pyongyang in 427, Nulji was forced to ally with kingdom of Baekje in 433 CE. Nulji was succeeded by Jabi of Silla who ruled from 458 CE to 479 CE. In 474, Goguryeo launched a massive assault on Baekje, Silla's neighbor to the west. Jabi sent troops to aid Baekje, forming a historic alliance between the two kingdoms which lasted into the 6th century.

Jabi of Silla was succeeded by Soji (r. 479–500) who became the 21st ruler of Silla Dynasty. Soji was succeeded by Jijeung of Silla who reigned from 500 CE to 514 CE.  He is remembered for strengthening royal authority and building Silla into a centralized kingdom. Jijeung began his program of legal reform in 502, when he outlawed the custom of burying servants with their masters.  He established a market in eastern Gyeongju in 509. In 512, he sent Kim Isabu to conquer the island nation of Usan-guk.

Jijeung of Silla was succeeded by Beopheung(r. 514–540 AD). By his time (514–540), Silla was a full-fledged kingdom, with Buddhism as state religion, and its own era name systems. Silla absorbed the Gaya confederacy during the Gaya–Silla Wars, annexing Geumgwan Gaya in 532.

Beopheung was succeeded by King Jinheung(526 - 576, reign 540 - 576) who was the 24th ruler of Silla. He established a strong military force. Silla helped Baekje drive Goguryeo out of the Han River (Seoul) territory, and then wrested control of the entire strategic region from Baekje in 553, breaching the 120-year Baekje-Silla alliance. Also, King Jinheung established the Hwarang. He was succeeded by Jinji of Silla who ruled from 576 CE to 579 CE.

Olympic Bridge on Han River, Seoul

Jinji of Silla was succeeded by Jinpyeong who ruled from 579 CE as the 26th ruler of Silla Dynasty. He died in January 632, in the 54th year of his reign. He is buried in Bomun-dong, Gyeongju. His tomb was designated a historical landmark by the Korean government in 1969.

Tomb of Jinpyeong of Silla

Jinpyeong was succeeded by Queen Seondeok of Silla who became Silla's first female ruler in 632 CE and ruled until 647 CE. She was the second female sovereign in recorded East Asian history and encouraged a renaissance in thought, literature, and the arts in SillaSeondeok's reign began in the midst of a violent rebellion and fighting in the neighboring kingdom of Baekje were often what preoccupied her. Like Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang and her own father, she was drawn to Buddhism and presided over the completion of Buddhist temples.

Queen Seondeok of Silla

Queen Seondeok of Silla was succeeded by Queen Jindeok who was 28th ruler and second queen of Silla reigning from 647 CE to 654 CE.  During her seven-year reign Queen Jindeok's primary concern was foreign policy. With the help of general Kim Yushin she was able to strengthen Silla's defenses and greatly improve her kingdom's relations with Tang China. Her tomb is located on the hill in Gyeongju city.

Tomb of Queen Jindeok's tomb, Gyeongu City

Queen Jindeok of Silla was succeeded by King Taejong Muyeol who reigned from 654 CE to 661 CE.  He is credited for leading the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. He constantly pleaded with the Tang for reinforcements to destroy Baekje, to which the Tang finally acquiesced in 660, sending 130,000 troops under General Su Dingfang. Meanwhile, Kim Yusin ,a Silla army general set out from Silla with 50,000 soldiers and fought the bloody Battle of Hwangsanbeol leaving Baekje devastated and unprotected. King Uija of Baekje finally surrendered, leaving only Goguryeo to face Silla as an adversary on the Korean peninsula.

Battle of Hwangsanbeol

Saturday 8 July 2017

Nara Period of Japan

Nara period was a brief period in history of Japan extending from 710 AD to 794 AD. Major cultural development of the era include the permanent establishment of Buddhism along with the first authentically Japanese gardens built in the city Nara at the end of the eighth century. The period was preceded by the Asuka Period of Japan.

Yumedono, a hall in Horyuji temple

The start of Nara period was marked by Empress Genmei moving the capital to Heijō-kyō (present-day Nara). She was the 43rd monarch of Japan according to the traditional order of succession. In the history of Japan, Genmei was the fourth of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant. Empress Genmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter.

Empress Genmei

Economic and administrative activity increased during the Nara period. Roads linked Nara to provincial capitals, and taxes were collected more efficiently and routinely. Coins were minted, if not widely used.  Factional fighting at the imperial court continued throughout the Nara period. Imperial family members, leading court families, such as the Fujiwara, and Buddhist priests all contended for influence. 

East Pagoda of Yakushiji Temple

Empress Genshō became the 44th monarch of Japan after the death of her mother Empress Genmei and reigned from 715 AD until 724 AD. Under Genshō's reign, the Nihon Shoki was finished in 720 which is the second oldest book of Japanese classical history. In 724, Genshō abdicated in favor of her nephew, who would be known as Emperor Shōmu. Genshō lived for 25 years after she stepped down from the throne. She never married and had no children. She died at age 65. 

Page from a copy of the Nihon Shoki

The Nara court aggressively imported Chinese civilization by sending diplomatic envoys known as kentōshi to the Tang court every twenty years. Many Japanese students, both lay and Buddhist priests, studied in Chang'an and Luoyang. Tang China never sent official envoys to Japan. Relations with the Korean kingdom of Silla were initially peaceful, with regular diplomatic exchanges.

The Great Buddha at Nara, 752 CE.

Emperor Shōmu became the 45th emperor of Japan in 724 AD and reigned till 749 AD and had four Empresses and six Imperial sons and daughters. Shōmu, a devout Buddhist, commissioned in 743, the sixteen-meter high statue of the Vairocana Buddha (above) in Tōdai-ji of Nara. Emperor Shōmu died at age 56. He is traditionally venerated at a memorial Shinto shrine at Nara.

Memorial Shinto shrine at Nara.

During Shōmu's reign, the Tōdai-ji (literally Eastern Great Temple) was built. Shōmu declared himself the "Servant of the Three Treasures" of Buddhism: the Buddha, the law or teachings of Buddhism, and the Buddhist community.

Todai-ji Temple

Empress Kōken was the 46th and 48th monarch of Japan first from 749 to 758 AD and then from 764 until her death in 770.  In the history of Japan, Kōken was the sixth of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant. Koken's reign was turbulent, and she survived several coup attempts. She is also known for sponsoring the Hyakumantō Darani, one of the largest productions of printed works in early Japan.

Empress Koken of Japan

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, a Buddhist temple in the Arashiyama neighborhood of Kyoto, was founded by Empress Kōken(the 48th monarch of Japan) in the middle of the eighth century.

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji temple

Emperor Kōnin became the 49th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession and reigned from 770 AD to 781 AD. Kōnin attempted to reconstruct the state finance and administrative organizations, which had been corrupted under the reign of Empress Kōken. He was succeeded by Emperor Kanmu who reigned as the 50th emperor of Japan from 781 to 806 AD. Kanmu had 16 empresses and consorts, and 32 imperial sons and daughters.

Emperor Kanmu, 50th period of Japan

During the reign of Emperor Kanmu, the capital of Japan was moved from Nara to Nagaoka-kyō in 784. Shortly thereafter, the capital was moved again in 794 to Heian-kyō. The emperor traveled by carriage from Nara to the new capital of Heian-kyō in a grand procession. This marks the beginning of the Heian period of Japan.

Saturday 1 July 2017

Badami Chalukya Dynasty of India

The Chalukya dynasty was an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries. The rule of the Chalukyas marks an important milestone in the history of South India and a golden age in the history of Indian State Karnataka. The political atmosphere in South India shifted from smaller kingdoms to large empires with the ascendancy of Chalukyas.

Keshava Temple, Somanathapura, Karnataka

The Chalukya dynasty was established by Pulakeshin I in 543. He earned the distinction of being the first independent King and the real founder of the Chalukya dynasty. He successfully defied the waning power of the Kadamba Empire and proclaimed the Chalukyan independence. He chose Badami (Vatapi) as his capital and constructed a strong hill fortress there. The new fortress stood on the indefensible location surrounded by rivers and steep mountains.

Bhutanatha temple complex, Badami

Kirtivarma I (566–597 CE) succeeded Pulakeshin I as the ruler of the Chalukya Dynasty. Kirtivarma I consolidated the newly founded Chalukya Kingdom. He completed the subjugation of the Kadambas, and he secured the extension of the Chalukya Kingdom by subduing the Nalas of Nalavadi, the Alupas of South Kanara and the Maurya chiefs of Konkan. He also annexed the port of Goa, then known as Revatidvipa.

Vijayadurg Fort, Konkan Region

Mangalesha (C. 596 – 610 CE) succeeded Kirtivarman I to the Chalukya throne. He ruled as regent as the heir to the throne Pulakeshin II was considered too young to rule. When he sought to prolong his reign with the view of handing the throne to his own son Sundaravarma, Pulakeshin II rebelled against his uncle and was made king in 610 CE. During his reign, the Chalukyas of Badami saw their kingdom extend over most of the Deccan.

Artistic depiction of Pulakeshin II

Pulakeshin II extended the Chalukya Empire up to the northern extents of the Pallava kingdom and halted the southward march of Harsha by defeating him on the banks of the river Narmada.The Badami Chalukya dynasty went into a brief decline following the death of Pulakeshin II due to internal feuds when Badami was occupied by the Pallavas for a period of thirteen years.

Defeat of Pulakeshin II

Vikramaditya I (655–680 CE) was the third son of Pulakeshin II. He restored order in the fractured kingdom and made the Pallavas retreat from the capital Vatapi. Vikramaditya continued his enmity with Pallava Narasimhavarman's son and successor Mahendravarman II, and later with his son Paramesvaravarman I. Early in the reign of Paramesvaravarman, Vikramaditya advanced to the neighbourhood of the Pallava capital Kanchipuram. Vikramaditya died in 680 and his son Vinayaditya succeeded him on the Chalukya throne.

Kailasanathar Temple, Kanchipuram

Vinayaditya (680–696 CE) followed his father, Vikramaditya I on to the Chalukya throne. His reign was marked by general peace and harmony. Vinayaditya sent an ambassador to the Chinese court in 692. He was succeeded by Vijayaditya(696–733 CE). The thirty-seven year rule of Vijayaditya was a prosperous one and is known for prolific temple building activity.

Sangameshwara Temple built by Vijayaditya

The empire was its peak again during the rule of the Vikramaditya II (733–744) who is known not only for his repeated invasions of the territory of Tondaimandalam and his subsequent victories over Pallava Nandivarman II, but also for his benevolence towards the people and the monuments of Kanchipuram, the Pallava capital. During his reign Arab intruders of the Umayyad Caliphate invaded southern Gujarat in 739 CE, which was under Chalukya rule but the Arabs were defeated and driven out by Pulakeshin, a Chalukya governor.

Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal built by Lokhamahadevi, the queen of Vikramaditya II

Kirtivarman II (746 – 753 CE) was the last ruler in the Badami Chalukya dynasty.  He succeeded his father Vikramaditya II. He was the last king of the Badami dynasty. There was a period of 220 years in which the western branch of the Chalukyas were in eclipse. Tailapa II revived the dynasty in 973. At their peak, the Chalukyas ruled a vast empire stretching from the Kaveri in the south to the Narmada in the north.

Extent of Badami Chalukya Empire, 636 CE - 740 CE

Under Badami Chalukya kindom, the army was well organised. It consisted of an infantry, a cavalry, an elephant corps and a powerful navy. The Chinese traveller Hiuen-Tsiang wrote that the Chalukyan army had hundreds of elephants which were intoxicated with liquor prior to battle. It was with their navy that they conquered Revatidvipa (Goa), and Puri on east coast of India.

A portrait of Hiuen-Tsiang
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