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AUSTRASIA. The word Austria signifies the realm of the east (Ger. Ost Reich). In Gregory of Tours this word is still used vaguely, but the sense of it is gradually defined, and finally the name of Austria or Austrasia was given to the easternmost part of the Frankish kingdom. It usually had Metz for its capital, and the inhabitants of the kingdom were known as the Austrasii. Retrospectively, later historians have given this name to the kingdom of Theuderich I. (511-534), of his son Theudebert (534-548), and of his grandson Theudebald (548-555); then, after the death of Clotaire I., to the kingdom of Sigebert (561-575), and of his son Childebert (575-597). They have even tried to interpret the long struggle between Fredegond and Brunhilda as a rivalry between the two kings of Neustria and Austrasia. When these two words are at last found in the texts in their precise signification, Austrasia is applied to that part of the Frankish kingdom which Clotaire II. entrusted to his son Dagobert, subject to the guardianship of Pippin and Arnulf (623-629), and which Dagobert in his turn handed on to his son Sigebert (634-639), under the guardianship of Cunibert, bishop of Cologne, and Ansegisel, mayor of the palace. After the death of Dagobert, Austrasia and Neustria almost always had separate kings, with their own mayors of the palace, and then there arose a real rivalry between these two provinces, which ended in the triumph of Austrasia. The Austrasian mayors of the palace succeeded in enforcing their authority in the western as well as in the eastern part, and in re-establishing to their own advantage the unity of the Frankish kingdom. The mayor Pippin the Short was even powerful enough to take the title of king over the whole.

At the time of Charlemagne, the word Austrasia underwent a change of meaning and became synonymous with Francia orientalis, and was applied to the Frankish dominions beyond the Rhine (Franconia). This Franconia was in 843 included in the kingdom of Louis the German, and was then increased by the addition of the territories of Mainz, Spires and Worms, on the right bank of the river.

See A. Huguenin, Histoire du royaume mérovingien d'Austrasie (Paris, 1857); Aug. Digot, Histoire du royaume d'Austrasie, 4 vols. (Nancy, 1863); L. Drapeyron, Essai sur l'origine, le développement et les résultats de la lutte entre la Neustrie et l'Austrasie (Paris, 1867); Auguste Longnon, Atlas historique, 1st and 2nd parts.

(C. Pf.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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