name of Hesse, now used principally for the grand duchy formerly known
as Hesse-Darmstadt, refers to a country which has had different boundaries
and areas through history.
name is derived from Hessi, which was a Frankish tribe. The earliest
known inhabitants of the country were the Chatti, who lived here during
the 1st century A.D., and whose capital, was burned by the Romans about
A.D. 15. The Chatti and the Hessi were identical in race and language.
During the period of the Volberwanderung many of these people moved
westward. In the 8th century, the country came to be named Hesse, after
the early inhabitants.
Hesse was part of the Frankish kingdom both during Merovingian and during
Carolingian times. Hessegau district was the headquarters of Charlemagne
during his campaigns against the Saxons. By the treaty of Verdun in
843 it fell to Louis the German. At a later time it was partly in the
duchy of Saxony and partly in that of Franconia.
Hessians were converted to Christianity through the efforts of St Boniface.
Their land converted to the archbishopric of Mainz. Religion and culture
were kept alive among them largely due to the foundation of the Benedictine
abbeys of Fulda and Hersfeld.
the 8th century, Germany did not have a strong central power. Before
the time of the emperor Otto the Great, several counts, among whom were
Giso and Werner, had made themselves practically independent; but after
the accession of Otto in 936, Hesse quietly accepted the yoke of the
1120 another Giso, count of Gudensberg, secured possession of the lands
of the Werners, and on his death in 1137 his daughter and heiress, Hedwig,
married Louis, Landgrave of Thuringia. From this date until 1247, when
the Thuringian ruling family became extinct, Hesse formed part of Thuringia.
death of Henry Raspe, the last Landgrave of Thuringia, in 1247, caused
a long war over the disposal of his lands, and this dispute was not
settled until 1264 when Hesse, separated again from Thuringia, was secured
by his niece Sophia (d. 1284), widow of Henry II, duke of Brabant. In
the following year Sophia handed over Hesse to her son Henry (1244-1308),
who, remembering the connection of Hesse and Thuringia, took the title
of Landgrave. He is the ancestor of all the subsequent rulers of the
country and in 1292 Henry was made a prince of the Empire, and with
him the history of Hesse properly began.
nearly 300 years the history of Hesse is comparatively uneventful. The
land, which fell into two main portions, upper Hesse at Marburg, and
lower Hesse at Cassel, was twice divided between two members of the
ruling family, but no permanent partition took place before the Reformation.
A Landial was first called together in 1387, and the Landgraves were
constantly at variance with the electors of Mainz, who had large temporal
possessions in the country. Hesse was enlarged by adding Giessen, part
of Schmalkalden, Ziegenhain, Nidda and, after a long struggle, Katzenelnbog~n.
In 1432 the abbey of Hersfeld placed itself under the protection of
most noteworthy of the Landgraves were Louis I. (d. 1458), a candidate
for the German throne in 1440, and William II (d. 1509), a comrade of
the German king, Maximilian I. In 1509 William's son, Philip (q.v.),
became Landgrave, and brought his country into prominence during the
religious troubles of the 16th century. Following the example of his
ancestors, Philip focused on education and the general welfare of his
land. He founded the Protestant University of Marburg, in 1527.
the time of Philip's death in 1567, Hesse was divided between his four
sons into Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Marburg and Hesse-Rheinfels.
The lines ruling in HesseRheinfels and Hesse-Marburg, or upper Hesse,
became extinct in 1583 and 1604 respectively, and these lands passed
to the two remaining branches of the family. The small landgraviate
of Hesse-Homburg was formed in 1622 from Hesse-Darmstadt. There were
3 provinces in Hesse-Darmstadt. Rheinhessen was the smallest. Situated
on the left side of the Rhine River, it was under French rule between
1797 - 1814 and was ceded to Hesse-Darmstadt in1816. This
is the area from where the Rothenbach family originated.
annexation of Hesse-Cassel and Hesse-Homburg by Prussia in 1866 Hesse-Darmstadt
remained the only independent part of Hesse.
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