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STORY OF THE CENTRAL POWERS
Twenty Centuries of German Ambition — Wars with Rome - The Germanic Invasion of Gaul — Charlemagne's Conquest and Empire — The First German Emperor Nearly a Thousand Years Ago — The Teutonic Order - The Rise of Prussia — The Napoleonic Wars — Prussian Militarism - The Creation of the Present German Empire – The Hohenzollern Dynasty - A Fortunate Marriage
- William I and W am II — Twenty Sovereigns — The Polyglot Realm of Austria-Hungary - The German Hapsburgs and Their Slavic Subjects - Fortunes and Misfortunes of the House of Austria.
THE STORY of the Central Powers, the two Teutonic empires, dates back two thousand years and more. It was in the year 113 B. C. that Teutonic tribes first clashed with imperial Rome. They met in battle at Noreia, in Illyria, now the southern part of the Austrian Empire, and the Teutons and their Cymric allies were victorious over the Roman legions. It is interesting to recall the alliance of the Teutons and Cymri, because the latter were of the same stock as the ancient Britons. Eleven years later Marius avenged this defeat of the Roman arms by vanquishing the Teutons, after which there was peace for many years.
Julius Caesar came into comparatively slight contact with the Teutonic or German tribes, with whom, however, he reported that the Belgians, who were the bravest of all the Gauls, were in almost incessant conflict.
Drusus Germanicus, in 12 B. C., was the first to engage in a general war between the Latin and Teutonic worlds. He invaded Germany in force and conquered the tribes between the Elbe and the Rhine, built a fort near the
present site of Liege, and was the first Roman to reach the shore of the North Sea, or German Ocean. His brilliant conquests, however, were not lasting, and they were followed a few years later by a campaign of disaster.
THE LOST LEGIONS OF VARUS It was in 9 A. D. that the next great Roman expedition invaded Germany, under the lead of Varus. trated as far as the Teutoberger Wald, the German Mountain Forest, near Osnabrueck, where it was met by a German army under Hermann, whom the Romans called Arminius. The result was that the three legions of Varus, the very flower of the Roman army, were annihilated; and Caesar Augustus groveled in pain upon the floor of his Roman palace, crying in anguish, “Varus! Give me back my legions!”
It was too late. The legions were gone, and what was still more ominous, the German fighting spirit was aroused. A little more than two centuries later, in 238, various Frankish tribes invaded Gaul, scorning the waning power of the empire whose borders the Goths and Vandals were ravaging, and in 450 the Germanic tribes began their wholesale irruption into Gaul. More than three centuries later Charlemagne subdued the Saxons and other German peoples, and on Christmas day in the year 800 was crowned by the Pope as Emperor of the West, that is, of Germany and Gaul. That potent monarch then, in 802, designed the two-headed eagle as his emblem, in token of his sovereignty over the dual empire of Rome and of Germany. That was the origin of the two-headed eagle which is now displayed in the imperial escutcheon of Austria, whose sovereigns were the last titular successors of Charlemagne; while the German coat-of-arms bears the single-headed black eagle of Prussia.
THE FRANCO-GERMAN FEUD We may date the feud between Germany and France away back to the year 840. At that time Louis I, surnamed the Debonnair, separated those two countries and made them antagonistic to each other. France became independent, while for some years Germany remained subject to Rome. But in 896 the Germans under Arnulph marched upon Rome and captured that city, and then, on November 8, 911, declared their independence, with Conrad I of Franconia as their king A few days later the dukes and counts of the various states declared their local sovereignty, and their right to choose their own national sovereign, and thus constituted themselves Electors. So at the death of Conrad they selected Henry the Fowler as his successor, and thereafter for many centuries the kingly or imperial dignity remained elective.
OTTO THE FIRST EMPEROR Otto I, in 962, was the first such Emperor to be formally recognized and crowned by the Pope at Rome. After him came a series of conquering emperors, who added Bohemia, Lorraine and other lands to the empire. Under Henry IV, surnamed Hildebrand, there came in 1075 a memorable conflict with Pope Gregory VII. This first led to the crushing defeat of Henry, who, in 1077, went to Canossa and did penance by standing in the snow, bareheaded, under the Pope's window, until that prelate was willing to receive him as a suppliant for mercy. But in 1084 Henry avenged himself by capturing the papal city and sending Gregory to die in exile the next year at Salerno. Then came on the Guelph and Ghibelline feuds, the wars which ravaged Italy, the establishment of the
famous Teutonic Order of Knighthood in 1190, and the election of Rudolph, the first Hapsburg Emperor, in 1273. Finally, in 1439, the Pragmatic Sanction settled the imperial dignity in perpetuity upon the Hapsburgs, who held it until August 11, 1804, when Francis II formally resigned it, and the Holy Roman Empire—which, as Lord Bryce once wrote, was neither holy nor Roman, nor yet an empire-came to an end.
THE BEGINNING OF PRUSSIA
Meanwhile, Prussia arose, her rising in a subtle but potent manner stimulated by the Hapsburg monopoly of the imperial crown. It was in 1415 that Prussia had its origin. At that time a petty nobleman, Frederick IV of Nuremberg, founder of the Hohenzollern family, became Margrave of Brandenburg. He obtained that dignity by purchase, for so much cash, from the then Emperor, Sigismund of Bohemia, and that Mark of Brandenburg became the nucleus of what was to become the kingdom of Prussia. Presently the conquest of Porussia, as East Prussia was known, because of its proximity to Russia, was undertaken by the Teutonic Knights, while Casimir of Poland assisted the Porussians in their resistance. Albert of Brandenburg, the grand master of the Teutonic Knights, in 1575 so far succeeded in the conquest as to get himself recognized as Duke of Porussia, or East Prussia, though he was compelled to acknowledge the suzerainty of Poland. That was another striking incident, the beginning of Prussia as a fief of Poland! So it remained for more than a century and a quarter, until in 1657 Poland recognized the complete independence of Prussia, the latter state then being under the able reign of Frederick William, the Great Elector.
PRUSSIA A KINGDOM After that events proceeded more swiftly. On January 18, 1701, Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, crowned and proclaimed himself King of Prussia, and instituted the now famous Order of the Black Eagle. He was Frederick I of Prussia, and he considerably added to the extent of his domain by purchase and by seizure. Then came Frederick II the Great, whose reign marked an epoch in European history, and who at his death in 1786 left Prussia securely established among the great powers of the continent. It was Frederick the Great who not only threw off the last traces of Polish suzerainty over Prussia but also conceived and incited the first Partition of Poland. This he did in order to increase the area of his kingdom, in order to connect and consolidate East Prussia with Brandenburg instead of having them separated by Polish provinces, and in order to secure for himself the important Baltic seaport of Dantzig and the adjacent littoral. Twenty years after his death the kingdom was almost extinguished by Napoleon, in and after the battles of Jena and Auerstadt. But it was there that Von Stein's Tugendbund was organized, and that Scharnhorst secretly transformed the people into a nation of soldiers. On March 17, 1813, the Prussian nation rose, to lead all Germany in a war of liberation, which culminated at Waterloo.
PRUSSIAN RIVALRY WITH AUSTRIA From Waterloo down to the revolutionary era of 1848 Prussia pursued a quiet and uneventful career. In 1848, however, a new Constitution was promulgated, and the next year a National Assembly of the German States elected the King of Prussia “hereditary Emperor of the