Friday, October 29, 2010

Suffixes and Epitaphs

Today's Dynastology will have to be brief due to time constraints. Blame my anthropology teacher. Back to the lesson...
Alexander III the Great, King of Macedon
Throughout history, there has been a strong tradition of giving suffixes and/or epitaphs to rulers. Sometimes it is to show pride or signify an accomplishment. Other times it is because the people want to remember how horrible a tyrant was during his life. In either case, historians and students of history (both willing and unwilling) know many of the most famous rulers in history by their suffixes rather than their regnal names. Here's an example: Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great. His importance is so great to historians that most sources use his suffixed name rather than his regnal name. And so it goes with many famous rulers throughout history.
Xerxes I the Great, Shahanshah of Persia
"Great" is perhaps the most well-established suffix among rulers. It initially was part of the title of the Persian "King of Kings", the Shahanshah, which became "Great King", or Padishah. Eventually, the "Great" became a title attributed to some rulers rather than granted at birth. Despite this, many Persian rulers are known as "the Great" today, including Cyrus II, Darius I, and Xerxes I of Biblical tradition. In fact, the very reason Alexander III is known as Alexander the Great is due to his conquest of Persia, whereupon he took on the title "Great King". It was only later, during Roman Imperial times, that the cult of Alexander permanently affixed the epitaph.

There really is no specific reason that someone becomes known as "the Great". Often the ruler is either the founder of a dynasty or the first important figure of one. In that role, they often conquered many enemies, captured new territories, and/or were considered wise or good. Such is the case with many of the "founders" throughout the world:
  • Charlemagne ("Charles the Great" in French) reestablished the Western Roman Empire and helped push back the Moors in southern France.
  • Akbar the Great expanded the borders of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, making India one of the most powerful nations in the world for a short time.
  • Alfred the Great is considered the first "English" monarch, having conquered most of the rival Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England and establishing a new centralized form of government in England.
  • Chandragupta Maurya the Great successfully conquered the Indian subcontinent in the 4th century BCE, becoming the first true emperor of India.
  • Ivan the Great helped centralize and establish the Russian state in the late 15th century and conquered a ton of land back from the Mongol Golden Horde.
  • Justinian the Great is often thought of as the official founder of the Byzantine Empire, despite ruling in the 6th, rather than 5th, century. He expanded the borders of Rome so much that most of Italy was recaptured and the Ostrogoths were made into subjects of Byzantium.
  • Otto the Great became the first of the Holy Roman Emperors and helped establish the base of the empire in Germany, rather than France or Italy.
These are just some of the "Greats" that earned their titles partially for being first or foremost among monarchs. Other types of "Great" have come and gone, such as Henry IV of France who was known as great for his dashing good looks, but the number one characteristic that makes a non-founder "Great" is having done something important for the country. Important "Greats" include:
  • Pompey the Great, who lived in the time of Julius Caesar but was never inclined to take advantage of the system like Caesar ended up doing.
  • Ramon Berenguer the Great ruled in Barcelona during the early 12th century and helped expand Barcelona across the Pyrenees and expanded its influence as well.
  • Rhodri the Great was a ruler in Gwynedd, Wales, during the 9th century, and during his reign, he expanded the kingdom to include most of modern-day Wales.
  • Naresuan the Great of Thailand fought against Burma for fifteen years during the late 16th century to make Thailand independent again.
  • Pope Leo the Great helped establish the Papacy as the supreme authority in Western Europe.
  • Frederick the Great helped unify Brandenburg and Prussia in the 18th century and was a noted patron of Voltaire and other enlightened philosophers.
And so, as you can tell, there are many different criteria that lead to greatness among monarchs. All-in-all, there have been around 100 monarchs in history that are generally known as "the Great", although some are greater than others.

Many other suffixes have become attached to monarchs through the years, ones having to do with physical size ("the Fat", "the Grand", "the Short", "the Tall", "Longshanks") while others have more to do with their level of courage or capabilities in combat ("the Brave", "the Bold", "the Hammer", "Ironside", "the Lion"). Still, character itself is often the distinguishing mark of a suffix: "the Bad", "the Cruel", "the Devil", "the Drunkard", "the Mad", "the Terrible", "the Merry", or "the Noble". And when all else fails, there is always the monarch's level of piety: "the Monk", "the Chaste", "the Catholic", "the Pious", or "the Holy". Lastly, there is the jab at a monarch's actual physical form, which often come about in a monarch's lifetime: "the Bald", "the Blind", "Crouchback", "the Fair", "the Gouty", or "the Handsome". In the end, there are an infinite number of suffixes that can be affixed to a monarch's name, and some monarchs have been known by more than one name, such as William the Conqueror, who was William the Bastard in Normandy.

Yet despite all these titles, there is one that even today holds a higher place than all of them. Perhaps it is because it requires a further level of affirmation or because it places the monarch within the realm of religion, but to be made into a Saint and be known by that suffix is perhaps the most noble goal of any monarch. Saintly monarchs have been rare in the past five centuries, but prior to that time it was quite common, especially during the early Medieval period. In fact, a cult of saints developed in Merovingian France and some of those saints are still well-known today.

The Wilton Diptych depicting Edmund the Martyr, Edward the Confessor, and John the Baptist
The reason why royal saints were so common in the first millennium of Christianity was because there was no formalized canonization process as there is today. Indeed, if the people liked someone well enough and felt they were adequately holy, they could become saints through popular proclamation. The only requirement was that the monarch had died. So many royals in the early Middle Ages were sainted, and today some are rarely even acknowledged as saints, such as St. Edward the Confessor of England.

In Anglo-Saxon England, a short-lived cult of saints developed in the House of Wessex:
  • St. Alfred the Great, rarely known as that today, was possibly canonized and is known as a "Hero of the Christian Church" by reviving holy reading and the monastic orders of England.
  • St. Edmund the Martyr was made a saint after being killed by Danish Vikings.
  • St. Edward the Confessor was known as a holy man and was said to have performed miracles.
  • St. Edward the Martyr was killed in what was considered an unjust murder. His relics were considered holy far before Edward became a saint.
  • St. Æthelbert II of East Anglia was put to death by a pagan and later canonized.
  • St. Edwin of Northumbria was canonized after bringing Christianity to the Northumbrians.
St. Stephan I, King of Hungary
Other prominent sainted monarchs include:
  • St. Louis IX was a devout Catholic who built many churches around France. After his death, many miracles were attributed to his relics and he remains one of the best known royal saints.
  • Good King Wenceslaus was a Christian king who was venerated after he died a martyr's death.
  • St. Stephen of Hungary was the first king and Christian ruler of Hungary. He is known as the first of the "confessor" kings for his devotion to the Bible and church.
  • St. Henry II helped establish the temporal domains of the bishops against the claims of monasteries.
  • St. Constantine I made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire and who acted as a model for later monarchs to follow.
St. Margaret of Scotland
There are many more saintly monarchs in history, and even more saintly wives and children. St. Margaret of Scotland is probably the most important saintly wife in regards to dynastology, as it was through her children that the Norman and Angevin kings of England were able to claim descent from the older Anglo-Saxon dynasty. She was sainted for being a righteous person, for charity and for services to the church, a list of attributes common to many saintly royals. She remains the Patron Saint of Scotland to this day.

Suffixes may have gone the way of the dodo bird, but they are still used to describe historical figures. Since monarchs retain little actual power in the 21st century, it is unlikely any of them will get suffixes appended to their names. Unfortunately, that breeds a suffix of its own, which may as well describe the state of royal affairs in the world today as well, "the Do-Nothing"s. Until next week...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pitiful Parthians (Arsacids)

With only a few months left in my dynastology series, I feel it is time to return to antiquity and survey an ancient dynasty that co-existed with the Romans in the west and the Han of China in the east. That dynasty is that of the Arsacids, rulers of Persia (Iran), Iberia (Georgia), Armenia, and Albania (Azerbaijan). The Persian, or Parthian, branch is the most famous.

But before we delve into this intriguing and intrigue-full dynasty, we must first ask ourselves: what does the word Parthia mean? Well, it is a Latin version of the Old Persian "Parthava" which means "of the Parthians" who were an ancient Iranian people. In other words, Parthia means Parthians (a là Greece means Greeks). Pretty self-reflexive there. What is more interesting is that the Parthian Empire is perhaps the only Persian empire to not be called Persian, making it a unique time in the history of the Persian people.

Arsaces I, King of the Parthians
The dynasty has its roots with a man named Arsaces I, the leader of the Parni tribe of Iranians, who conquered the Seleucid province of Parthia and established a base of operations there around the year 250 BCE. He soon was in possession of a large portion of the empire roughly equivalent to eastern Iran. The Arsacids quickly took on the mantle of Padishah or Shahanshah, which means King of Kings, a title once held by the ancient Achaemenid dynasts who ruled before Alexander the Great conquered them in the 4th century BCE. Thus the Parthians claimed succession from Darius III of Persia rather than Seleucus II of the Seleucid Empire.

Unlike most modern dynasties, the actual relationships and succession of the Arsacids are rather unclear. Many took on the names of their predecessors with nothing special to distinguish them from each other. Furthermore, few documents of the empire survive from before the 1st century CE, leaving facts regarding the early dynasty in the hands of Parthian and Greek historians whose histories are often dubious at best. What is certain is that the empire was a mixture of Greek, Roman, Persian, and other local traditions, and that the primary enemies of the Parthians were the Seleucid Empire and then the Roman Empire. Over time, the Arsacids set up cadet and, at times, rival dynasties in the Caucasian region north of Persia. The Armenian branch of the family would manage to outlive all the other branches.
The Parthian Empire, showing the Kingdoms of Armenia, Iberia & Albania in the north-west

The House of Arsaces in Persia
Arsaces I was followed by his brother, Tiridates I and/or his son Arsaces II. Not much is known about either of them, including how they succeeded to the throne, but during the reign of Arsaces II, the Seleucid Empire managed to become overlords of Parthia before being completely overwhelmed and eventually dissolved by the Roman Republic. By the reign of Phriapatius beginning in 191 BCE, Parthia was a free and independent nation with much Seleucid land to claim. For the majority of the 2nd century BCE, the Arsacids worked on growing in size and influence, using the Silk Road from China to enlarge their pocketbooks while using the failing Greek empires to the west to enlarge their lands. Mithridates I was the man responsible for much of this expansion and growth, using the instability of his neighbors to enlarge Parthia to practically the size of the original Persian Empire, reaching all the way to Syria in the west and the Indus River in the east. 

The 1st century BCE prompted a new problem for the Arsacid dynasty. Expansion had led to rivalry between siblings and fractured relationships with the new power in the region: Rome. With Armenia, a Roman client state after the Third Mithridatic War in the 60s BCE, Parthia became direct neighbors with the Roman Republic. Different dynasts in the family had different opinions in how to deal with Rome. The official border between the two empires was set at the Euphrates, but that border disappeared in the mountains of southern Anatolia. It also didn't take into account the Caucasus Mountains to the north. Two brothers, Orodes II and Mithridates III, tried to secure favor in Rome but ended up chasing each other around the Middle East, with Mithridates eventually capturing and ruling in Babylon until being killed by Orodes' men. Soon after, Rome invaded Parthia but Orodes used the confusion to conquer Armenia and set up his son as a potential heir. Unfortunately, that heir died prematurely leaving another son, Phraates IV, to inherit the throne. He killed and exiled all of his siblings to remove any threats to his power.

The majority of Parthian history after this point falls under the sphere of Roman influence. The padishahs increasingly became Romanized, adopting Roman brides and using Roman forms including art, governmental organization, and military tactics. Whenever there was a dispute between rival dynasts, one could be certain that one of those dynasts had the backing of Rome. Much of the warfare between Rome and Parthia occurred through provinces that separated them—namely Armenia and Iberia. For a time, even, Rome and Parthia alternated monarchs in these states, although it was always through assassination and/or exile. Roman invasions into Parthia became a regular occurrence in the 2nd century CE. The historic capitals of Ctesiphon and Seleucia were burned to the ground multiple times, and Parthia slowly but inevitably moved back from the Fertile Crescent into its homeland of Persia. Weakened by centuries of warfare within and without, the Arsacid Empire in Persia fell to one of its own natives: the Iranian ruler of Persis named Ardashir, who founded the Sassanid Empire which ruled Persia until the 600s. The last Parthian Padishah was Artabanus IV who was killed by Ardashir in battle on 28 April 224 CE, although his brother Vologases VI continued to rule in Babylon until around 228.

The House of Arsaces in Iberia & Albania
The Arsacids, after gaining a base in the Persian Empire, moved to neighboring lands and established cadet dynasties that at times rivaled with the primary line. In Iberia, an ancient predecessor state of modern-day Georgia in the Caucasus Mountains, the Arsacids established a short-lived state cadet dynasty that ruled from 189 until 284 CE. The Iberian Arsacids were themselves a cadet branch of the Armenian Arsacids, and began with a son of the Armenian king Vologases II named Rev I. Vologases had married the sister of the king of Iberia, and when the Iberian nobles rebelled against his brother-in-law, Vologases stepped in and deposed the king, installing his son as a replacement. When the Parthian Empire fell to the Sassanids in 224, Iberia became a prime new target. The Sassanids began to elect rival kings to the Arsacid heirs and, in 284, were finally able to topple the dynasty entirely, replacing it with Mirian III of the Chosroid Dynasty. The last king, Aspacures I, fled to Roman lands but his daughter was married to Mirian III and birthed his heir, marking a continuity of rule after the Sassanid conquest.

The Arsacid rulers of Caucasian Albania, located in present-day Azerbaijan, are less known. Only ten monarchs of the dynasty are mentioned anywhere in history and further details concerning them are scarce. What is interesting to note is that the kingdom survived the Sassanid conquest in the 200s to become a vassal state of them. The known Arsacid monarchs ruled in the 3rd through 5th centuries, which makes them the longest surviving branch of the family, even though they were rulers of a conquered nation. It is unclear how they relate to the senior Parthian and Armenian Arsacid lines, but it can be assumed that they were a cadet branch of one of them.
The Antique Kingdom of Armenia

The House of Arsaces in Armenia
Armenia became the strongest refuge of Arsacid support after the fall of the Parthian Empire, but the Arsacids were there for many centuries before that time. Beginning in the early 1st century CE, Rome and Parthia used the kingdom of Armenia (which was about three times its modern-day size) as a staging ground for conflicts between the two states. Nominally, it was a Roman vassal state until 54 CE when the Arsacids claimed it completely. Before that time, Rome and Parthia would alternate electing kings, often deposing their rival's candidate and installing their own. Somewhat ironically, Rome's candidates generally heralded from the kingdom of Iberia, which was eventually conquered by the Armenian Arsacids in the 2nd century. Revenge is sweet.

Tiridates I, King of Armenia
The real start of Arsacid history in Armenia was in 54 CE when Tiridates I took the throne and kept it, despite heavy Roman opposition. His cadet branch is generally called the Arshakuni dynasty, which is the Armenian version of Arsacid dynasty. His reign was tough since he was technically still a Roman vassal state. The Parthians got angry with him on numerous occasions and he died without issue, with Armenia returning to a Parthian candidate. A brief period of chaos ensued which saw the complete elimination of the Armenian state under Emperor Trajan of Rome before it returned to its former vassal status with an Arsacid ruler at its head. Ultimately, the 2nd century was not kind to Armenia. The land was fought over and even historians seem to have been confused as to who was the official leader. By the end of the century, Armenia was securely a Parthian vassal state with an Arsacid on the throne, but that ruler was usually a son or grandson of a Parthian Padishah rather than a ruler born in Armenia.
Tiridates the Great, King of Armenia
Tiridates III the Great is the true founder of the Armenian Arsacid dynasty. With the Parthian Empire conquered by the Sassanids, Tiridates marched onward to secure and create an independent kingdom, separate from Rome or Persia. He fled Armenia when he was young and was brought up in Rome, learned Roman law, and also learned military tactics. When Emperor Aurelian invaded Sassanid lands in 270 CE, Tiridates went with him, rallied the Armenians, and kicked the Sassanids out. Even Diocletian respected Armenia, allowing Tiridates to rule without interference from 299 onward. In 301, legend has it that a Christian man named Gregory the Illuminator saved Tiridates from a fatal illness. Recovered, Tiridates proclaimed Christianity as the official state religion of Armenia, the first such state to do so, and named Gregory as the first Catholicos (patriarch) of what became the Armenian Apostolic Church. Tiridates spent the next thirty years enforcing the Christian faith, sometimes violently, by destroying pagan artifacts including the majority of ancient Armenian historic sources.

Unfortunately, Armenia's regional power was short-lived. Soon after Tiridates's death, the Sassanids invaded again and began to put significant pressure on Armenia's borders. By the 340s, kings were being captured and blinded by Sassanid invaders, and in the 360s Armenia was completely occupied. King Pap was the first native king of Armenia in a decade and he had to fight off Sassanid incursions and Roman interference throughout his reign. He tried to curry favor with the Persians by murdering prominent Christians (Persians were Zoroastrians at the time) including the Catholicos, but the populous turned against him and he was murdered.

Armenia fell into shambles by the end of the century, with the Arsacid kings clients of Rome and the true rulers of Armenia the Mamikonian family, which would remain prominent in Armenian politics for many more generations. Meanwhile, the Arsacids fell into obscurity, with rival branches of the Armenian family attempting to claim a remaining slice of the quickly shrinking Armenian state. The last Arsacid ruler, Artaxes IV, is hardly known and it is perhaps telling that his name derived from the preceding dynasty rather than the Arsacids. Indeed, the Artaxiads of the 1st and 2nd century BCE certainly were more capable rulers. In 428, the Armenian kingdom dissolved completely and became a Marzpanate, or marcher state of the Persian Empire. It would not arise again until the 9th century, when the Bagratuni Dynasty restored the monarchy at last.

And so ends the long and sorrowful story of the Arsacid Dynasty, one of the best known ancient dynasties outside of Rome. For most of their existence, they fought against Rome and its neighbors for a slice of the pie, but they never were able to hold on to that power for long. Their last legacy, fortunately, is their marriages into so many families, from Rome to Armenia to Sassanid Persia, and more. Those marriages provide genealogists with the most likely descent from antiquity in the western world. Through the Arsacids, genealogists may someday be able to trace medieval royalty into classical antiquity. Too bad the dynasts never understood how important they would one day be.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Names to Call Turkey Before 1922 (Ottoman Empire)

I've often struggled with what to call the region of Turkey before 1922, when it was finally dissolved and the modern state emerged. Calling it "Turkey" just seems strange, but it really is the best term for what ancient historians called Asia Minor or Anatolia. It makes sense because the people who inhabit Turkey are Turks, people from the steppe who originated in modern-day Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and the like. And the long-time rulers of Turkey were also Turks who went by the name of the Ottomans.
The Family Crest of the Imperial House of Osman
Now, the Ottomans, or House of Osman,  were a dangerous and tricky bunch who followed succession tactics other empires wished they had the guts to try. The Ottomans rose out of the ashes of the Sultanate of Rûm, which itself was a sorry successor state to the Byzantines (Rome) in central Anatolia. Rûm was fairly easily consumed by the Mongol Ilkhanate in the 1200s and the Ottomans carved out a niche from the Ilkhanate as it fell to pieces in the early 1300s. Osman I was the first traditional ruler of the Ottoman state, but Murad I was the first one to actually declare himself sultan in 1361. He claimed the title Sultan of Rûm, directly challenging the declining power of the Byzantine Empire in western Anatolia. Furthermore, Murad I was the first sultan to be (possibly) born of a Byzantine princess, thereby raising the prestige of the family within Europe. But family troubles began even in these early times. Murad had three sons of age old enough to inherit the throne. The youngest of the three was killed at Murad's insistence when he was found fraternizing with the son of the Byzantine Emperor. His eldest son, however, got the worse end of the deal as he was killed upon his younger brother, Bayezid's, command, immediately following the death of Murad at the Battle of Kosovo. Thus Bayezid because the next sultan of the Ottoman Empire and began the long tradition of killing male siblings to ensure a single succession to the throne.

Bayezid began the long process of taking over the Byzantine Empire. He laid siege to Constantinople in 1494 and continued for seven years, even defeating a short-lived crusade sent against him by the King of Hungary. But Bayezid's fate was sealed when Tamerlane rose up in the east and defeated Bayezid, taking him away in captivity. Bayezid left many children behind and no clear successor and so a short civil war developed that has become known as the Ottoman Interregnum. Each son pieced off a little portion of the empire for himself. Mehmed was the favored choice of Tamerlane, but his brothers fought hard to keep their portions. Eventually, Musa allied with Mehmed against Suleyman and Suleyman was defeated and executed. However, Musa was now much more powerful. The two brothers clashed and Mehmed arose triumphant, single sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
Mehmed II entering Constantinople
Mehmed I led Turkey into a new wave of conquest, slowly surrounding the remnants of the Byzantine Empire. Though his reign was short, Mehmed I is often seen as the true founder of the Ottoman Empire. His son, Murad II, became sultan next and resumed the siege against Constantinople and slowly conquered the remaining principalities in Asia Minor. The Byzantine Emperor managed to raise up Murad's brother as a pretender to the throne, but Murad had his brother executed. By the end of his reign, Murad had control of almost all of the Balkans except Greece, completely surrounding the Byzantine Empire. His son completed the job. In 1453, Mehmed II completed the siege of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire fell. Mehmed moved the capital of the empire there and renamed the city Istanbul. He also took on the title Caesar & Augustus of Rome and vowed to protect the Eastern Orthodox Church by installing the Patriarch of Constantinople as the supreme patriarch of the church. Following this victory, Mehmed reunited the Anatolian Peninsula, defeated the Greek Empire of Trebizond and defeated the White Sheep Turks. In Europe, Mehmed conquered the remainder of Serbia and pushed into Romania, defeating Vlad IV Tepes "Dracula" multiple times. His final move was to take over Italy itself, but despite a good start, Mehmed's death in 1481 ended hopes to reunify the entire classical Roman Empire.

His son, Bayezid II, continued the Ottoman desire for conquest. He pushed against Venetian holdings in the hopes of becoming a strong seafaring power. He also fought against the Persians who were trying to push for a Shi'a empire. One of his best contributions was transporting many of the Jews, who were being removed from Spain, to the Ottoman Empire, where they could contribute to the wealth and grandeur of the Ottoman state. Bayezid's reign ended with infighting between his two sons, ending in one of their deaths. He decided to abdicate in 1512, in favour of the surviving son, rather than risk murder by that son.

During Selim I's reign, the Ottomans conquered the majority of the Middle East, Persia excepted. With the capture of Egypt from the Mamluks in 1517, the Ottomans passed the succession of the caliphate, up until then held by the Abbasid caliphs, to themselves, imprisoning the last of the Abbasid line. That same year, Selim captured the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, thereby establishing Ottoman control of the Sunni Islam religion.
The Ottoman Empire at its maximum extent (1683)

Suleiman I, known as the Magnificent, was the next of the many sultans. He reformed the state and brought its military to the very borders of the Habsburg Empire. But his army was checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529, and the Ottoman military never ventured that far into foreign lands again. The Ottoman Empire reached its largest expanse during his reign, covering over 1 billion acres. Most of northern Africa was conquered, as well as the remaining parts of the Middle East and southern Persia. The Ottoman fleet was unbeatable and it ruled the Mediterranean, Red and Black Seas, and the Persian Gulf. His reign was the longest in the dynasty and when he died in 1566, his throne passed to his son Selim II.
The Battle of Lepanto

Selim II prompted the decline of the Ottoman dynasty and power in the region. He didn't care much for warfare and he met a great defeat against the Russians in 1570. His loss at the Battle of Lepanto the next year signaled the end of Ottoman dominance in the Mediterranean, although the fleet was rebuilt soon after its defeat. The successive sultans quickly passed power on to their wives, mothers, or Grand Viziers. Sure, they still killed their brothers (and sometimes sisters) to secure their power base, but then they were happy just letting someone else rule in their name. Many problems were also attributed to the fact that the sultans stopped killing their siblings...at least all of them. That meant that there were rivals for power around constantly, and this helped make quick ends to numerous sultans. Murad IV temporarily revived the authority of the throne, but nearly ended the dynasty as well when he ordered the death of the last Ottoman upon his deathbed.
Mahmud II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Ibrahim was not killed and assumed the throne but the reign of himself and his successors didn't improve, especially when Mehmed IV gave up supreme power to the Grand Vizier. Things only got worse for the dynasty as they fell into obscurity. Many became poets or historians or just lazed around the harem. Oddly, few produced children which was an important reason why they stopped killing their brothers. By the time aspiring modernists did arise in the dynasty, the established order was against them and they had little power to change the declining course of events. Slowly but surely the outer territories of the empire fell away through rebellions and conquests. Russia and Persia pressured the northeastern borders while Austria and rebels in Greece pushed the Ottomans out of the western provinces. Egypt rebelled but, for a while, pretended to remain a part of the empire while tribes in Saudi Arabia vied for power over the cities of Mecca and Medina. The empire was in flux and things were rapidly getting worse. The Ottoman Empire didn't begin to modernize until 1839, many years behind its European brethren.

The final straw was World War I. Through the reign of Abdülmecid I, the empire had shifted irreversibly into a constitutional monarchy with the sultan having little real power. However, as figurehead of the empire it was Mehmed V that made the last call to Jihad by a Caliph against the Allied Powers in 1914, signaling Turkey's entry into the Great War. Throughout the war, Mehmed hosted dignitaries from the other Central Powers but had little to do with the war effort. He died just months before Turkey's defeat. In the ensuing Treaty of Sevres in 1920, Turkey lost the majority of its claims, passing them off as protectorates to France and the United Kingdom, or losing them outright to independence. Turkey was now confined to the Anatolian Peninsula with borders matching today's. The dynasty was officially removed from power in 1922, although a member of the family remained the titular Caliph of Islam for another two years until he too was removed.
Mehmed VI leaving for exile, 1922

The story of the Ottomans is long and hard with much tragedy, infighting, and death. It was once one of the greatest, most advanced, and most intellectual dynasties in the world, but that fell away with pride, arrogance, and contentment. Now, the Middle East is a piecework of various states all created by the aftereffects of the Ottoman Empire. Each state traces its history back to when the Ottomans were removed from the region. But Turkey isn't likely to return the sultan any time soon. The dynasty's pretenders still live on in Paris today, fondly remembering a time when their siblings would have been dead meat.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

When Dynasties Grow on Trees (Dynastic Trees)

I have been working on a project off and on for quite a while now regarding Dynastology. Since I don't have my usual amount of time today to talk about a specific dynasty anyway, it seems appropriate to discuss my new concept. It's called a Dynastic Tree. In many ways, it is the same as a family tree, except that it charts all the branches of a family (the entire family) rather than specific people. Last week in my final Oldenburg post, I showed my first such tree. It was a rather poor example, though, because the Oldenburg family was a quite expansive (wide) family, with many branches over its generations. I guess it was actually a fairly good example, but it didn't really fit on the page. A little later, I will provide a link to view the larger tree.

Now, the purpose of a Dynastic Tree is to document the development, expanse, and Salic inheritance of a specific dynasty. It could easily be adapted to other systems as well, but my examples thus far have been focused on Germanic Salic Law (male-line) dynasties. The most important function of the chart, and the easiest visual aspect of it, is to determine seniority between family branches. The senior line is always to the extreme left, while lines of decreasing importance are to the right.

Enough conceptual talking, let's look at a tree:
The House of Habsburg Family Tree

Above we see the Illustrious House of Habsburg. Now, the House of Habsburg is an extinct house, and I will explain shortly how that is noted on this tree. Extant houses appear differently and that will be explained later. On this tree, it begins with an upward arrow indicating that the family's origins go back into the distant past. All Dynastic Trees begin this way since no family is spontaneous but has some distant origin. The lines then proceed downward at measured rates equal to the individual generations in the family. In other words, even though no people appear on the chart, the lines still represent generations. When a branch forms (usually going right), that represents a single generation with the two lines descending from brothers. Minor cadet branches, such as those that die out after only two generations, are not shown on Dynastic Trees unless the line was especially important historically or dynastically.

Where possible, all lines are named. Sometimes lines retain the name of their predecessor branch, at which point it may not be written again upon the chart. For the Habsburgs, the senior line has always been the Austrian line. It is the heart of the dynasty. However, as the senior Austrian line descends, various other branches break off—the Swabian and Styrian branches. Styria, at this time, was an independent duchy attached to Austria, while Swabia was a separate entity entirely.

Now note the fates of these three branches:
  • The Austrian branch ends with an inverted "F". The means that the line continued but only through females (Salic Law bars them from inheritance).
  • The Swabian lines end with a definitive "L", which implies that the line is extinct (no male or female branches).
  • The first Styrian line ends with a downward half arrow. That means that the line continued, but was illegitimate and never legitimized (a legitimized line would have an arrow but continue past it).
  • The second Styrian line continues as a separate branch that passes the end of the senior branch, implying that it became the new senior line.
The lower section of the chart shows the dynasty from 1500 until the 1770s. As the chart shows, the family split into two large sections, overemphasized by the moving of the senior branch back to the far left. The Spanish line didn't have any branches and ends with only female descendants. Meanwhile, the Austrian line, broken into three branches—Tyrol, Sytrian & Imperial—continues for a few generations past the Spanish, implying that it became senior eventually. The Tyrol line ended with an illegitimate branch and so the titles passed immediately to a branch of the Styrian line, which was now named the Tyrol line. The Imperial line was short and, historically, a rather odd occurrence with the titles returning to the Austrian senior line when it died out. That ends the House of Habsburg dynastic tree. It is a fairly straight-forward tree with few problems. Since no male lines survived, it can be inferred from the tree that one of the female lines probably inherited the titles.

Now let's look briefly at the tree from last week. A larger version of it can be found here:
The House of Oldenburg Dynasty Tree
Now the Oldenburg tree, despite its massive width, goes back about as far as the Habsburg's. It just had many more branches and inheritances over the generations. To consolidate width, short-lived branches are placed above other branches, since they never were in serious competition for seniority. Many of the branch names are made-up, based on locations ruled rather than actual names the family would have given their branch (they all would have just named themselves Oldenburg, or the name of the larger branch).

This tree follows the same rough general rules of the Habsburg tree but does have an extra notation. The inverted "P" shown on the Glücksburg, Danish, Norwegian, Hellene, Mountbatten, Romanov, and (Grand Ducal) Oldenburg lines implies that the families are still extant (here in the "P"resent). Unlike in the Habsburg chart, there are numerous small branches in this tree that don't have names beside them. The Romanov and (Grand Ducal) Oldenburg lines especially demonstrate this. The names are missing because the families have no other designating factors separating them from their parent branches. The Romanovs all call themselves Romanovs, despite the fact that there are rival lines. The (Grand Ducal) Oldenburgs all just consider themselves princes of the ducal house. In some cases, the omission was done because it just made sense, such as the slight stair-step for the Beck branch, which almost immediately succeeded its predecessor.

Regardless, the same rules apply. If a female line continues a dynasty (such as Habsburg-Lorraine), it can be included on the tree by continuing the line past the inverted "F". Likewise, legitimized lines can continue past the half arrow. Extant ("P") lines always go to the youngest member of the generation, not necessarily the ruling person, to show the full extent of the dynasty. Thus, even though the Glücksburg branch is the most senior Oldenburg branch extant, the Norwegian and Hellene branches are the youngest generations of the family.

Also interesting to note, as families decrease in seniority, it takes fewer generations to reach the present. Thus, the (Grand Ducal) Oldenburg branch is many generations older than the Norwegian branch, despite the fact that they both survive today. This is partially because younger children reproduce after older children (because younger children get married later in life), and also because minor lines of families aren't prone to as much inbreeding (which stifles reproduction) and intrigue (which often kills off monarchs prematurely).

So here I have my proposal for Dynastic Trees. They take quite a while to make but look fairly nice when done. I hope someday soon to make a book and website about dynasties using this system, but I need to find a quicker way to make the trees—Photoshop takes too long!

Friday, October 1, 2010

From Oldenburg with Love (Oldenburgs, Part 3)

The House of Oldenburg has mostly certainly proved to be a grand and expansive house, ruling Denmark and Norway even today, and Russia in not yet a century ago. But Oldenburg was a very wide house, as demonstrated in my dynastic tree below (see notes below). In a relatively short time—700 years or so—it went from ruling a small county in northern Germany to the largest single country ever created. Yet in that time, the House of Oldenburg also managed to pick up some smaller entities, that are no less important.
The House of Oldenburg Dynasty Tree
Perhaps the most important and oft-overlooked of the Oldenburg possessions is the County of Oldenburg itself. The county was created in 1180 and eventually became a duchy and then grand duchy. At first they were a vassal state of the Duchy of Saxony, the largest German power in the area. However, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa dismembered the duchy and Oldenburg branched off on its own. A second portion of the county, Delmenhorst, was generally held by a member of a cadet branch, although it often found its way back to the main line. Oldenburg finally fell under the control of a cadet line when Christian I became king of Denmark in 1440. With titles in Norway, Sweden and Schleswig-Holstein following soon after, Christian simply didn't have time for the relatively simple Oldenburg. Over the years, Oldenburg chipped away at portions of Frisia and other neighbors, enlarging its territory bit by bit. During the disastrous Thirty Years War, Oldenburg was one of the lucky few states to remain neutral, and thereby not desolated, in the war.
The Grand Duchy of Oldenburg
In 1776, the county broke off on its own, completely removing itself from Danish politics. It was elevated to a duchy the next year and gained a number of nearby lands through the mediation of the French. The country was soon after occupied by Napoleon's empire from 1810 to 1814 but avoided most of the fighting. Its occupation angered the Oldenburgs in Russia, the Romanov, so much that the neutrality between France and Russia ended, leading to the eventual defeat of Napoleon's army. Meanwhile, Oldenburg gained new lands in the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and was elevated to a grand duchy in 1829. It mostly voluntarily joined the German Empire in 1871, and thus was able to retain its monarch, only to be dissolved at the end of World War I during the German Revolutions. The territories of Oldenburg became a part of the province of Lower Saxony following World War II. Today, the line of the grand dukes of Oldenburg continues with the current claimant, Anton Günther.
Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden
Sweden was mentioned before but it did fall back into the periphery of Oldenburg control for a brief time, albeit through a cadet branch of the family. In fact, the Swedish branch of the family begat the final Oldenburg branch (above). Now the thing to remember with Sweden is that it never actually likes its monarchs. Adolf Frederick was elected to the throne in 1751 by the parliament and was treated as a parliamentary pawn all his life. The only reason he was even elected to the throne was because he was related to the Russian Oldenburgs whom Sweden wanted to be on better terms with. Adolf ate too much and died, leaving little of a legacy behind.  His son, Gustav III, got uppity at parliament, declared himself absolute leader of Sweden, and was assassinated. Gustav IV, his son, was very dissatisfied with a lot of political and financial things, which allowed his uncle, Charles, to force Gustav to abdicate. Charles XIII succeeded him and was first seen as a more liberal king, but failed to do anything worthwhile. He died childless, leaving the country in the hands of the Napoleon-supported Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, whose family rules Sweden to this day.
The Kingdom of Greece, showcasing the expansion of the state during the late 1800s and early 1900s


George I, King of the Hellenes (Greece)
Another rather forgotten kingdom in many peoples' minds was the Kingdom of the Hellenes, better known as Greece, which the House of Oldenburg ruled from 1862 until 1973. The dynasty took over after the previous dynasty, the Wittelsbach, disappointing the easily angered peoples of Greece. The family was a scion of the Danish Oldenburg house and helped bring Greece into the European sphere of politics after centuries under Turkish occupation. The first king, George I, ruled for 50 years and helped expand the meager borders of Greece outward in all directions. His son, Constantine, took Greece into the Balkan Wars of the early 1910s, but indecision during World War I led to his abdication in favor of his son, George II. George, though, wasn't in any better position to rule. A troubled government in 1923 asked the king to leave and the following year they formally deposed him. A decade later, in 1935, George II was reinstated but forced to acknowledge the fascist dictatorship of General Georgios Kondylis. Further indecision in the lead-in to World War II (George was pro-British, Kondylis was pro-Axis) caused the subsequent conquest of Greece by Italy and Germany in 1941. When George returned in 1946, his country was in ruin, corpses buried in shallow graves outside the raided royal palace. He died the next year and was succeeded by his brother, Paul. Paul ruled Greece during the decades of post-war rebuilding but the dynasty came under increasing threat by republicans. By the reign of his son, Constantine II, Greece was downright anti-royal. A coup against the monarchy forced Constantine to flee in 1967 and, although it took until 1973 to do so formally, the Greek monarchy came to an end at last. Constantine still is alive today and lives in numerous countries, including his former country of Greece.

 As an interesting aside, the House of Mountbatten, which will begin ruling the United Kingdom upon the death of Elizabeth II, is a cadet branch of the Greek Oldenburgs. Andrew married Princess Alice of Battenberg but the two became estranged after years of Andrew serving in the Greek army during World War I. Their only son, Philip, took the name Mountbatten due to anti-German sentiment in World War II and later married Princess Elizabeth prior to her elevation as Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

As you can see, the Oldenburg family is quite vast. This and the previous two weeks have established the breadth of the family, and I in no way covered everything. The family ruled over many different lands throughout their rather short existence, and the future seems quite bright for them. Denmark and Norway still retain Oldenburg monarchs while Britain will soon have one of its own. Meanwhile, Russia and Greece both have rather large pro-royal movements that have gained momentum in recent years. The future for the Oldenburgs seems bright indeed.

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