SWABIA, SUABIA or SUEVIA (Ger. Sclnvaben), one of the stem-duchies of medieval Germany, taking its name from the Suevi, a tribe who inhabited the district in the first century of the Christian era. Dwelling in the angle formed by the Rhine and the Danube, they were joined by other tribes, and were called Alamanni, whilst the district was called Alamannia, until about the 11th century, when the form Swabia began to prevail. In 496 the Alamanni were defeated by Clovis, king of the Franks, brought under Frankish rule, and governed by dukes who were dependent on the Frankish kings. In the yth century the people were converted to Christianity, bishoprics were founded at Augsburg and Constance, and in the 8th century abbeys at Reichenau and St Gall. The Alamanni had gradually thrown off the Frankish yoke, but in 730 Charles Martel again reduced them to dependence, and his son Pippin the Short abolished the tribal duke and ruled the duchy by two counts palatine, or Kammerboten, The duchy, which was divided into gaus or counties, took about this time the extent which it retained throughout the middle ages, and was bounded by the Rhine, the lake of Constance, the Lech and Franconia. The Lech, separating Alamannia from Bavaria, did not form, either ethnologically or geographically, a very strong boundary, and there was a good deal of intercommunion between the two races. During the later and weaker years of the Carolingian rule the counts became almost independent, and a struggle for supremacy took place between them and the bishops of Constance. The chief family in Alamannia was that of the counts of Raetia, who were sometimes called margraves, and one of whom,. Burkhard, was called duke of the Alaminnia. Burkhard was killed in 911, and two counts palatine, Bertold and Erchanger, were accused of treason, and put to death by order of the German king Conrad I. In 917, Burkhard, count in Raetia, took the title of duke, and was recognized as such by King Henry I., the Fowler, in 919. His position was virtually independent, and when he died in 926 he was succeeded by Hermann, a Franconian noble, who married his widow. When Hermann died in 948 Otto the Great gave the duchy to his own son Ludolf, who had married Hermann's daughter Ida; but he reduced the ducal privileges and appointed counts palatine to watch the royal interests. Ludolf revolted, and was deposed, and other dukes followed in quick succession. Burkhard II., son of Burkhard I., ruled from 954 to 973, Ludolf's son, Otto, afterwards duke of Bavaria, to 982, and Conrad I., a relative of Duke Hermann I., until 997. Hermann II., possibly a son of Conrad, succeeded, and, dying in 1003, was followed by his son Hermann III. During these years the Swabians were loyal to the kings of the Saxon house, probably owing to the influence of the bishops. Hermann III. had no children, and the succession passed to Ernest, son of his eldest sister Gisela and Ernest I., margrave of Austria. Ernest held the duchy for his son until his own death in 1015, when Gisela undertook the government, and was married a second time, to Conrad, duke of Franconia, who was afterwards the German king Conrad II. When Ernest came of age he quarrelled with his step-father, who deposed him, and, in 1030, gave the duchy to Gisela's second son, Hermann IV. and, on his death in 1038, to Henry, his own son by Gisela. In 1045 Henry, who had become German king as Henry III., granted Alamannia to Otto, grandson of the emperor Otto II. and count palatine of the Rhine, and, in 1048, to Otto, count of Schweinfurt. Rudolph, count of Rheinfelden, was the next duke, and in 1077 h was chosen German king in opposition to the emperor Henry IV., but found little support in Swabia, which was given by Henry to his faithful adherent, Frederick I., count of Hohenstaufen. Frederick had to fight for his position with Bertold, son of Duke Rudolph, and the duke's son-in-law, Bertold II., duke of Zahringen, to whom he ceded the Breisgau in 1096. Frederick II. succeeded his father in 1105, and was followed by Frederick III., afterwards the emperor Frederick I. The earlier Hohenstaufen increased the imperial domain in Swabia, where they received steady support, although ecclesiastical influences were very strong. In 1152 Frederick I. gave the duchy to his kinsman, Frederick, count of Rothenburg and duke of Franconia, after whose death in 1167 it was held successively by three sons of the emperor, the youngest of whom, Philip, was chosen German king in 1198. During his struggle for the throne Philip purchased support by large cessions of Swabian lands, and the duchy remained in the royal hands during the reign of Otto IV., and came to Frederick II. in 1214. Frederick granted Swabia to his son Henry, and, after his rebellion in 1235, to his son Conrad, whose son Conradin, setting out in 1266 to take possession of Sicily, pledged his Swabian inheritance to Ulrich II. count of Wiirttemberg. The duchy was ripe for dissolution and, after Conradin's death, in 1268, the chief authority in Swabia fell to the counts of Wurttemberg, the margraves of Baden, the counts palatine of Tubingen, the counts of Hohenzollern and others.
When the emperor Maximilian I. divided Germany into circles in 1512, one, which was practically coterminous with the duchy, was called the Swabian circle. The area, which was formerly Swabia, is now covered by the kingdom of Wurttemberg, the grand-duchy of Hesse and the western part of the kingdom of Bavaria. Although the name Swabia is occasionally used in a general way to denote the district formerly occupied by the duchy, the exact use of the name is now confined to a Bavarian province, with its capital at Augsburg.
See J. Leichtlen, Schwaben unter den Romern (Freiburg, 1825); J. C. v. Pfister, Pragmatische Geschichte von Schwaben (Heilbronn, first part, 1803, continuation to 1496, 1827).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)