Northern March
The Northern March or North March was created out of the division of the vast Marca Geronis
Marca Geronis
The Marca Geronis was a vast super-march in the middle of the tenth century. It was created probably for Thietmar and passed to his two sons consecutively: Siegfried and Gero...

in 965. It initially comprised the northern third of the Marca (roughly corresponding to the modern state of Brandenburg
Brandenburg is one of the sixteen federal-states of Germany. It lies in the east of the country and is one of the new federal states that were re-created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. The capital is Potsdam...

) and was part of the territorial organisation of areas conquered from the Wends
Wends is a historic name for West Slavs living near Germanic settlement areas. It does not refer to a homogeneous people, but to various peoples, tribes or groups depending on where and when it is used...

. A Lutici
The Lutici were a federation of West Slavic Polabian tribes, who between the 10th and 12th centuries lived in what is now northeastern Germany. Four tribes made up the core of the federation: the Redarians , Circipanians , Kessinians and Tollensians...

an rebellion in 983 reversed German control over the region until the establishment of the March of Brandenburg
Margraviate of Brandenburg
The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806. Also known as the March of Brandenburg , it played a pivotal role in the history of Germany and Central Europe....

 by Albert the Bear in the 12th century.

Slavic background

The Northern March was established in territory known in antiquity as Magna Germania, which reached to the Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

 river. During the Migration Period
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

, many Germanic peoples
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 began migrating towards the Roman frontier. In the northeast they were replaced primarily by Slavic peoples
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

The Veleti or Wilzi were a group of medieval Lechites tribes within the territory of modern northeastern Germany; see Polabian Slavs. In common with other Slavic groups between the Elbe and Oder Rivers, they were often described by Germanic sources as Wends. In the late 10th century, they were...

, later Lutici
The Lutici were a federation of West Slavic Polabian tribes, who between the 10th and 12th centuries lived in what is now northeastern Germany. Four tribes made up the core of the federation: the Redarians , Circipanians , Kessinians and Tollensians...

). The first Slavs were certainly in the Brandenburg area by 720, after the arrival of the Avars
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

 in Europe. These Slavs had come via Moravia
Great Moravia
Great Moravia was a Slavic state that existed in Central Europe and lasted for nearly seventy years in the 9th century whose creators were the ancestors of the Czechs and Slovaks. It was a vassal state of the Germanic Frankish kingdom and paid an annual tribute to it. There is some controversy as...

, where they had arrived in the mid-seventh century. The remnants of the Germanic Semnoni
thumb|350px|The Semnones are located near the centre of the map. The orange area shows one view of the extent of the [[Suebi]]an tribes in the first century AD.The Semnones were a Germanic tribe which was settled between the Elbe and the Oder in the 1st century when they were described by Tacitus...

 were absorbed into these Slav groups.

The group of people who settled at the Spree
The Spree is a river that flows through the Saxony, Brandenburg and Berlin states of Germany, and in the Ústí nad Labem region of the Czech Republic...

 river became known as Sprevani. They settled east of the line formed by the Havel and Nuthe
The Nuthe is a river in Brandenburg, Germany, left tributary of the Havel. Its total length is 65 km. The Nuthe originates in the Fläming region, near Niedergörsdorf. It flows north through Jüterbog, Luckenwalde and Trebbin. The Nuthe joins the Havel in central Potsdam.It has been said that...

 rivers, in the current Barnim
Barnim is a district in Brandenburg, Germany. It is bounded by Poland, the district of Märkisch-Oderland, the city state of Berlin and the districts of Oberhavel and Uckermark.- History :...

 and Teltow
Teltow is a town in the Potsdam-Mittelmark district, in Brandenburg, Germany.-Geography:Teltow is part of the agglomeration of Berlin. The distance to the Berlin city centre is , while the distance to Potsdam is ....

 regions. They built their main fortification at the confluence of the Spree and the Dahme rivers at Köpenick
Köpenick is a historic town and locality that is situated at the confluence of the rivers Dahme and Spree in the south-east of the German capital city of Berlin. It was formerly known as Copanic and then Cöpenick, only officially adopting the current spelling in 1931...

. The Hevelli lived west of that line, in the current Havelland
Havelland is a geograhical region and district in Brandenburg, Germany. It is bounded by the districts of Ostprignitz-Ruppin and Oberhavel, the city-state of Berlin, the district of Potsdam-Mittelmark, the city of Brandenburg and the state of Saxony-Anhalt .-History:-Geography:Geographically...

 and Zauche regions. They were named Habelli for the ancient Germanic name of the river "Habula" (Havel
The Havel is a river in north-eastern Germany, flowing through the German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Berlin and Saxony-Anhalt. It is a right tributary of the Elbe river and in length...

). The name for themselves was the Stodoranie. They built their main fortification at "Brenna" (modern Brandenburg
Brandenburg (town)
Brandenburg an der Havel is a town in the state of Brandenburg, Germany, with a population of 71,778 . It is located on the banks of the River Havel. The town of Brandenburg, which is almost as widely known as the state of Brandenburg, provided the name for the medieval Bishopric of Brandenburg,...

). The Hevelli also built a large outpost at the current site of Spandau Citadel
Spandau Citadel
The Spandau Citadel is a fortress in Berlin, Germany, one of the best-preserved Renaissance military structures of Europe. Built from 1559–94 atop a medieval fort on an island created by the meeting of the Havel and the Spree, it was designed to protect the town of Spandau, which is now...

 in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

. The Sprevani and Hevelli not only waged war against their German, but also their Slav, neighbours.

Establishment and loss, 965–983

After the Saxon War
Saxon Wars
The Saxon Wars were the campaigns and insurrections of the more than thirty years from 772, when Charlemagne first entered Saxony with the intent to conquer, to 804, when the last rebellion of disaffected tribesmen was crushed. In all, eighteen battles were fought in what is now northwestern Germany...

 of 808, the victorious Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 bestowed on the Slavic tribes allied with him (such as the Obotrites
The Obotrites , also commonly known as the Obodrites, Abotrites, or Abodrites, were a confederation of medieval West Slavic tribes within the territory of modern Mecklenburg and Holstein in northern Germany . For decades they were allies of Charlemagne in his wars against Germanic Saxons and Slavic...

) part of the Saxon lands between the Elbe
The Elbe is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northwestern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia , then Germany and flowing into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, 110 km northwest of Hamburg...

 and the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

. A period of quiet followed in the region. The Bishopics of Brandenburg and Havelberg
Bishopric of Havelberg
The Bishopric of Havelberg was a Roman Catholic diocese founded by King Otto I, King of the Germans, in 946. The diocese was suffragan to the Archbishopric of Magdeburg. Its most famous bishop was Anselm of Havelberg. Its seat was in Havelberg in the Northern March and it roughly covered the...

 were established around 940 and the Christianisation of the pagan Slavs began.

Henry I of Germany
Henry I of Germany
Henry I the Fowler was the Duke of Saxony from 912 and German king from 919 until his death. First of the Ottonian Dynasty of German kings and emperors, he is generally considered to be the founder and first king of the medieval German state, known until then as East Francia...

 conquered Brandenburg in 928–929 and imposed tribute upon the tribes up to the Oder
The Oder is a river in Central Europe. It rises in the Czech Republic and flows through western Poland, later forming of the border between Poland and Germany, part of the Oder-Neisse line...

. By 948 his son Otto I
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto I the Great , son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan...

 had established German control over the many remaining pagans, who were collectively referred to as Slavs or Wends
Wends is a historic name for West Slavs living near Germanic settlement areas. It does not refer to a homogeneous people, but to various peoples, tribes or groups depending on where and when it is used...

 by contemporaries. Slavic settlements such as Brenna, Budišin (Bautzen
Bautzen is a hill-top town in eastern Saxony, Germany, and administrative centre of the eponymous district. It is located on the Spree River. As of 2008, its population is 41,161...

), and Chotebuž (Cottbus
Cottbus is a city in Brandenburg, Germany, situated around southeast of Berlin, on the River Spree. As of , its population was .- History :...

) came under German control through the installation of margrave
A margrave or margravine was a medieval hereditary nobleman with military responsibilities in a border province of a kingdom. Border provinces usually had more exposure to military incursions from the outside, compared to interior provinces, and thus a margrave usually had larger and more active...

s. The main function of the margravial office was to defend and protect the marches
A march or mark refers to a border region similar to a frontier, such as the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. During the Frankish Carolingian Dynasty, the word spread throughout Europe....

 (frontier districts) of the Kingdom of Germany
Kingdom of Germany
The Kingdom of Germany developed out of the eastern half of the former Carolingian Empire....

. After the death of the margrave Gero the Great in 965, the vast collection of marches (a "super-march") was divided by Otto into five smaller commands. The Northern March was one of these. The others were the Eastern March
Saxon Eastern March
The Saxon Eastern March or Ostmark was a march of the Holy Roman Empire from the 10th until the 12th century. The term "eastern march" or "ostmark" comes from the Latin term marchia Orientalis and originally could refer to either a march created on the eastern frontier of the Duchy of Saxony or...

, the March of Merseburg, the March of Meissen, and the March of Zeitz
March of Zeitz
The March of Zeitz was a frontier county of the Holy Roman Empire, created through the division of the marca Geronis in 965, when the Emperor Otto I, on the death of Gero the Great. Its capital was Zeitz. Its first and only margrave was Wigger...


The rebellion of 983, initiated by the Lutici
The Lutici were a federation of West Slavic Polabian tribes, who between the 10th and 12th centuries lived in what is now northeastern Germany. Four tribes made up the core of the federation: the Redarians , Circipanians , Kessinians and Tollensians...

, led to a factual disestablishment of the Northern and Billung march
Billung March
The Billung March or March of the Billungs was a frontier region of the far northeastern Duchy of Saxony in the 10th century...

es as well as the corresponding bishoprics, though titular margraves and bishops were still appointed. Until the collapse of the Liutizi alliance in the middle of the 11th century, the German expansion in the direction of the Northern March remained at a standstill and the Wends east of the Elbe remained independent for approximately 150 years.

March of Brandenburg

In the beginning of the 12th century, the German kings re-established control over the mixed Slav-inhabited lands on the eastern borders of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

. In 1134, in the wake of the Wendish Crusade
Northern Crusades
The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were crusades undertaken by the Christian kings of Denmark and Sweden, the German Livonian and Teutonic military orders, and their allies against the pagan peoples of Northern Europe around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea...

 of 1147, the German magnate Albert the Bear was granted the Northern March by the Emperor Lothair III
Lothair III, Holy Roman Emperor
Lothair III of Supplinburg , was Duke of Saxony , King of Germany , and Holy Roman Emperor from 1133 to 1137. The son of Count Gebhard of Supplinburg, his reign was troubled by the constant intriguing of Frederick I, Duke of Swabia and Duke Conrad of Franconia...

. The Slavs were subsequently assimilated by German settlers during the Ostsiedlung
Ostsiedlung , also called German eastward expansion, was the medieval eastward migration and settlement of Germans from modern day western and central Germany into less-populated regions and countries of eastern Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The affected area roughly stretched from Slovenia...

. The church under Albert established dioceses, which with their walled towns protected the townspeople from attack. With the arrival of monks and bishops begins anew the recorded history of the town of Brandenburg, from which would develop the eponymous margraviate.

Albert's control of the region was nominal for several decades, but he engaged in a variety of military and diplomatic actions against the Wends, and saw his control become more real by the middle of the century. In 1150, Albert formally inherited Brandenburg from its last Hevelli ruler, the Christian Pribislav. Albert and his Ascanian
The House of Ascania was a dynasty of German rulers. It was also known as the House of Anhalt, after Anhalt, its longest-held possession.The Ascanians are named after Ascania Castle, which is located near and named after Aschersleben...

 descendants made considerable progress in Christianising and cultivating the newly-German lands.

List of margraves

  • Dietrich
    Dietrich of Haldensleben
    Dietrich of Haldensleben was the first margrave of the Northern March from 965 until his deposition in 983...

    , 965–983
  • Lothair
    Lothair, Margrave of the Nordmark
    Lothair was a Saxon count and Margrave of the Northern March from about 983 until his death.Born the eldest son of Count Lothair II of Walbeck and Matilda von Arneburg, he succeeded his father as Count Lothair III of Walbeck in 964...

    , 983–1003
  • Werner
    Werner, Margrave of the Nordmark
    Werner was the Margrave of the Nordmark from 1003 until 1009. He was a cousin of the contemporary bishop and historian Thietmar of Merseburg....

    , 1003–1009
  • Bernard
    Bernard, Margrave of the Nordmark
    Bernard was the Margrave of the Nordmark from 1009 until his death. He was the son of Dietrich of Haldensleben and a rival of the counts of Walbeck, one of whom, Werner, he succeeded in the march following his deposition....

    , 1009–1051
  • William
    William, Margrave of the Nordmark
    William was the Margrave of the Nordmark from 1051 until his death. He was the eldest son and successor of the Margrave Bernard and a daughter of Vladimir I of Kiev. He died fighting the Slavs near Prizlawa.-Sources:...

    , 1051–1056
  • Otto
    Otto, Margrave of the Nordmark
    Otto was illegitimate son of Bernard, Margrave of the Nordmark, and a Slav mistress. He took the title marchio claimed the Northern March following the death in battle of his legitimate brother William on 10 September 1056...

    , 1056–1057
  • Lothair Udo I, 1056–1057
  • Udo II, 1057–1082
  • Henry I, 1082–1087
  • Lothair Udo III, 1087–1106
  • Rudolf I, 1106–1114
  • Henry II, 1114–1128
  • Udo IV, 1128–1130
  • Rudolf II, 1130–1144


  • Reuter, Timothy
    Timothy Reuter
    Timothy Alan Reuter , grandson of the former mayor of Berlin Ernst Reuter, was a German-British historian who specialized in the study of medieval Germany, particularly the social, military and ecclesiastical institutions of the Ottonian and Salian periods .Reuter received his D.phil from Oxford in...

    . Germany in the Early Middle Ages 800–1056. New York: Longman, 1991.
  • Thompson, James Westfall
    James Westfall Thompson
    James Westfall Thompson was an American historian specializing in the history of medieval and early modern Europe, particularly of the Holy Roman Empire and France...

    . Feudal Germany, Volume II. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1928.
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