10th century

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The 10th century began on January 1, 901 and ended on December 31, 1000. The world population in this century is estimated at 200 to 300 million people. Europe, Africa and Asia were linked by a network of trade relations through which goods and ideas were exchanged. Whereas in the past centuries the trade routes were mainly overland, in the 10th century continental long-distance trade shifted more to the sea. Muslim merchants played a leading role in this trading system.

Regional aristocratic rulers exercised actual power in the Franconian sub-empires that encompassed large parts of Europe. Members of the Saxon aristocratic family of the Liudolfinger first established their royal rule in Eastern Franconia and became the most influential power in continental Europe. In this century, decisive foundations for the Europe of the coming centuries were laid: the indivisibility of the royal rule, the common rule over the Eastern Franconian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy through the imperial dignity conferred by the Pope and the feudal order of the High Middle Ages. In Eastern Europe, the Poles, Bohemians, Hungarians and Russians formed the first rulers who initiated the Christianization of their peoples. The Byzantine Empire reached a peak of power under the Macedonian emperors.

In the Islamic world, two Shiite dynasties, the Fatimids and the Buyids , conquered large territories of the caliphate. The Fatimids proclaimed their own caliphate and thus also challenged the caliph of Baghdad for religious suzerainty. As in previous centuries, several great empires divided the Indian continent. The Rashtrakuta were able to expand their empire from central to southern India over the course of the century. However, it collapsed at the end of the century, making way for the rise of the Chola dynasty.

The process of regionalization of China in the 9th century culminated at the beginning of the 10th century in a period of independent partial empires , also known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Empires . In the year 960 the Song dynasty was able to reunify China, but the empire no longer reached the size of the Tang period and was surrounded by politically and militarily powerful neighboring empires. Even if China was not the only dominant regional power in East Asia, the Song established an empire that was considered to be the most advanced in the world in economic, technological and cultural terms.


Europe in the 10th century

In European historiography, the 10th century is part of the Early Middle Ages (approx. 500–1050). Western and Central Europe as well as a large part of Italy belonged to a community of domains that was linked by the Christian faith of Roman Catholic character. In continental Europe these emerged from the Franconian Empire , which split into partial empires in the 9th century. In Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, larger kingdoms were formed for the first time, and Christianization began. The Bulgarian Empire, which was religiously and culturally based on Christian Byzantium, reached its greatest expansion in south-eastern Europe. Unlike in Central and Western Europe, Islam was the model for the rule and social order of a large part of the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily.

Franconian successor kingdoms

Political development

The partial empires that emerged from the division of the Franconian Empire in the 9th century were still in the Franconian tradition. At the head of these Frankish empires stood a king, who was opposed to powerful local noble families. Through the accumulation of offices and power as well as military successes, a small number of aristocratic families had gained control over large territories in which they ruled almost like kings.

In the eastern part of Central Europe, these territories were the younger duchies . One of the powerful noble families, the Konradines , managed to get Konrad I through the election of the king in 911. Although his election ended the rule of the Carolingian family, which had lasted around 150 years, he was unable to prevail against the nobles. Only his successor in office, Heinrich I , who was elected king in 919, succeeded in founding a new royal dynasty. The Saxon from the Liudolfinger family was the first non-Franconian ruler of Eastern Franconia. At first he was only supported by the Saxons and Franks, but through friendship alliances managed to get the other dukes to recognize him as king. He was the first to rule among equals in agreement with the dukes, who retained much of their power. In the east he made tribute to the Slavs and brought the Duchy of Bohemia under his rule. In the centuries that followed, Bohemia belonged to the Holy Roman Empire that emerged from its empire .

East Franconian territory in Ottonian times

The house rules of 929 published by Heinrich I established the indivisibility of royal rule. Historical research considers this to be the first step towards an understanding of the empire as an independent legal structure that is not exclusively defined by the person of the king. After his father's designation, Otto the Great was elected King as his successor to Heinrich. He thus continued the royal dynasty of the Ottonians named after him and his sons, which ruled Eastern Franconia until 1024.

His position as king, which Otto understood much more authoritarian than his father, he had to enforce in the first years of his rule against numerous uprisings, especially those of his relatives. Only with the victory in the Lechfeld Battle of 955, with which he ended the decades-long robbery of the Hungarians on the Reich, did he manage to assert himself as the undisputed king. However, his successor Otto II again had to assert his rule against the claims of his relatives.

Power disputes in Italy took Otto the Great as an opportunity to acquire the Lombard royal dignity of the Kingdom of Italy in 951 . From this power base, he was crowned Roman emperor by the Pope in 962. He established the tradition that in the following centuries only East Franconian and German kings achieved the Roman imperial dignity. He also laid the foundation for the unification of northern Italian and German territories in the Holy Roman Empire . In the Privilegium Ottonianum Otto guaranteed the existence of the Papal State. In return, it secured Otto and his successors a strong influence on the occupation of the papal office, which existed until the middle of the 11th century. In the course of the 9th century, the papacy had become an object of contention among Roman noble families. Due to the political intrigues surrounding the office and the exercise of office by some incumbents, the papacy had also lost a great deal of moral authority and influence in the 10th century. It was not until Otto III. used his influence on the occupation of the papal chair towards the end of the century to install incumbents who began reforming the papacy.

The rulers of Central Europe and Italy were also measured by their defensive performance against the robbery of the Hungarians, who raided these areas with regular raids since the end of the 9th century . In addition to the use of their powerful bows, these riders were characterized by high mobility and speed. Before Henry I, only a few margraves could achieve isolated successes. Heinrich used a negotiated multi-year armistice with the Hungarians to build and improve castles in the empire and to increase the clout of the Frankish (cavalry) army. If he was able to flee the Hungarians afterwards on the Unstrut , it was only his son Otto the Great who managed to lead the East Franconian army to an all-important victory over the Hungarians in the battle on the Lechfeld , which prevented them from further raids perform in the empire.

Otto the Great was followed in 973 by his son Otto II, whose son Otto III. followed. Both rulers, who died at a young age, pursued an expansion of rule in Italy, which both failed. The Duke Henry the Quarrel unsuccessfully opposed both rulers . Because Otto III. was not yet of legal age after Otto II's death in 983, his mother Theophanu and his grandmother Adelheid ruled the empire as empresses until 994 . Their active political action is an example of the active political role played by noble women of the 10th and 11th centuries.

Since the end of the 9th century, the Carolingian and Robertine families have competed for the royal throne of Western France . The Robertinians only managed temporarily to oust the Carolingians from the royal throne. It was not until Hugo Capet was elected king in 987 that the Carolingian rule in western France was finally over. Hugo from a sideline of the Robertines founded the royal dynasty of the Capetians , which provided the French kings in the following centuries. However, the west Franconian kingdom of the 10th century was largely limited to its core area in the Île-de-France . This crown domain was about a tenth of that of western France. The remaining parts were ruled by around a dozen large crown vassals, over which the king had only nominal suzerainty. In the north, the Viking Rollo obtained an area as a fiefdom from the King of West Franconia by treaty in 911. One consequence of the granting of the fief was the end of the Viking raids on Western Franconia, which had put a heavy burden on it, especially in the 9th century. The Vikings, whose area was called Normandy , adopted the West Franconian culture and language in a few generations. In the centuries that followed, Normandy and the Romanized Normans played a crucial role in the history of England and France.

Society, economy, law and culture

The societies of Europe were predominantly rural. Cities with significantly fewer inhabitants than those in other regions of the world and in antiquity were found mainly in western and southern Europe and on the Rhine. Favored by a relatively mild climate and the spread of technical innovations in agriculture, the population rose sharply from the middle of the century. The increased mining in the Harz contributed to the wealth of the ruling Ottonians. It was important as a technical innovation, but also caused the first environmental damage through smelting with charcoal.

The dominant model of the economic and social order was the manorial rule. Landlords were mostly aristocrats, churches or monasteries. In the popular model of villication , their land was divided into a central courtyard and numerous farms. The central manor was mostly managed with the help of unfree people and increasingly through the forced labor of dependent farmers. Apart from the taxes, the farmers cultivated the land allotted to them on their own. Landlords usually owned several of these farms and often had sovereign rights, such as jurisdiction, over all residents of the country. The farms were farmed by unfree and free farmers. Over the course of the century, the differences between free and unfree peasants leveled out. While the unfree were granted more personal rights, the free lost a large part of their independence. The landlords often appointed unfree administrators in the estates. However, the property of the kings, nobles, dioceses and monasteries was not a closed territory, rather it was often a matter of free float. This was especially true for the household and imperial property of the Ottonians. In addition, the right to rule and land ownership did not always match. Churches and monasteries gave the Ottonians ban immunities , which protect them from interference by secular rulers and even gave them rights to rule over secular property. In many cases, they had these rights enforced through aristocratic lay people, the bailiffs , who, unlike the clergy, were fully armed.

In the 10th century a social order solidified that was also formative for the following centuries. At the top of the society stood a small class of aristocrats, and membership in this group was now determined exclusively by birth. This class of nobility not only exercised secular rule, but also held almost all church leadership positions. Furthermore, towards the end of the century, the functional three-way division of society into a group of warriors and rulers, a group of praying and a group of workers emerged, which shaped the rest of the Middle Ages.

Golden Madonna , the oldest extant three-dimensional figure of the Virgin Mary in Western art

Christianity was the dominant belief in western and central Europe as well as Italy. This was not only true in relation to the personal religious convictions of the people, but also the system of rule and society was interpreted with reference to Christianity. The establishment of bishops and abbots or the strong influence on their election by secular rulers was the predominant practice. In particular, the Ottonian kings, who saw themselves more and more clearly as representatives of Christ on earth, succeeded in determining or significantly influencing the occupation of a large part of the church's leadership positions, the investiture . Dioceses and monasteries played an increasingly important role in their rulership. Bishops and abbots support the king to a considerable extent in his campaigns. In addition to the royal palaces, it was very often monasteries that had to supply the king and his entourage on his constant travels through his dominion . In return, the king provided dioceses and monasteries with extensive land, resources and sovereign rights. The church, which is integrated into the ruling system, is referred to by historians as the imperial church .

This political appropriation of the church was opposed by an important reform movement, the center of which was the Burgundian Abbey of Cluny . The main concern of the movement was the political independence of monasteries and the church as well as strict adherence to church rules such as the Regula Benedicti by clerics and monks. In the 10th century this movement was able to create a base in Western Europe, but not in the Empire of the Ottonians.

In relation to Western and Central Europe, the 10th century is also known as the "dark century" due to the lack of written sources. The culture was almost exclusively an oral culture, in which gestures, rituals and symbols played an essential role. With the exception of Italy, almost exclusively clerics could read and write, with the number of knowledge carriers decreasing over the course of the century. Although this also increased the power of the clergy at the royal court, in contrast to the Carolingian era, the royal court was no longer the primary creator of culture. The culture developed decentrally. Illumination, like the works of the Reichenau painting school , or the sculptures mostly had religious content. The early Romanesque art style developed in these areas as well as in church buildings .

In terms of teaching knowledge at school, the monastery schools lost their importance in favor of the newly emerging cathedral schools at the bishopric. An important scholar was Gerbert von Aurillac, patronized by the Ottonians, who eventually became Pope Silvester II . He learned in Muslim Spain and expanded his occidental knowledge in the field of mathematics and astronomy.

There was no uniform law in the empires of Christian Europe. The law, which was mostly passed down orally, was based on traditional customs and oral agreements. Since there was no central authority to enforce the law, vigilante justice with the help of armed force was widespread among aristocrats. Wherever there was no strong balancing royal power, the peasants and clergy suffered from the feuds of the nobles , as in western France . On the other hand, on the part of the church, the movement of the Peace of God was directed , which tried to limit the feuds in time and place.

England and Scandinavia

The British isle was divided into four areas at the beginning of the century, southern England, Wales, the Danelag in the center and Scotland in the north. Until the middle of the century, the English gradually conquered Danelag , which was ruled by Vikings . This was followed by a cultural and religious bloom in England, with the English also cultivating contacts with continental Europe. This development was disrupted by another major raid by the Scandinavian Vikings from the 980s. The English were able to persuade the Vikings to retreat by paying tribute. Much of Scotland was ruled by the kings of Alba . They also fought against Viking raids.

In Scandinavia, larger domains were formed for the first time in this century. After a Swedish rule in the first half of the century, Denmark was united by the Jelling dynasty . At the end of the century, it gained supremacy over Norway. The Danish kings converted to Christianity and promoted the Christian mission that came from Hamburg and Saxony .

Iberian Peninsula

Most of the Iberian Peninsula was dominated by Muslims, while several Christian empires shared the north. The Muslim south was formally ruled by the Emir of Córdoba , but numerous groups fought for power in a civil war (fitna). In 912 his successor, Emir Abd ar-Rahman III came. from the Umayyad dynasty, who succeeded in subordinating the warring parties to his rule. After consolidating his power, he began an expansive foreign policy, which was directed both against the Christian empires of the north and against the rule of the Muslim Fatimids in the western Maghreb . Apart from the conquest of the Maghreb port cities of Ceuta and Melilla and some areas in the north of the Iberian Peninsula, the expansive foreign policy showed no sustainable territorial success. To emphasize his independence from the two other Muslim caliphs, he converted the emirate to the Caliphate of Cordoba . The caliphs of Cordoba promoted art and culture in the 10th century. Their extensive construction activities included the establishment of the palace city Madīnat az-zahrāʾ and the expansion of the Mosque of Cordoba .

Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe east of the Elbe, mainly Slavic small tribes settled at the beginning of the century. While the Liudolfinger made the tribes west of the Oder directly dependent on themselves, larger rulers formed in the other west Slavic areas, the later Kingdom of Poland and the Duchy of Bohemia . The latter also included areas of the Moravian Empire , which perished in 907 after a military defeat against the Hungarians. The Liudolfingers succeeded in bringing Bohemia under their suzerainty, which established that Bohemia belonged to the Holy Roman Empire for the entire Middle Ages. After their clear defeat in the Lechfeld Battle, the non-Slavic Hungarians also established an empire under a unified leadership.

Like the Bohemians in the 9th century, the Poles and Hungarians were also converted to the Christian faith in the 10th century. Through Ottonian intervention, the peoples joined the Catholic-Papal camp, but remained independent from Eastern Franconia.

Vladimir I , the ruler of the Kievan Rus empire further to the east , chose the Byzantine Church when he professed his Christian faith. Christianization was part of a diplomatic trade with Byzantium and, together with military support against the Bulgarians, the price that the Byzantine Emperor Vladimir I married a member of the imperial family who was born in purple . This privilege, which was granted to a foreign ruler for the first time, meant for Vladimir an extraordinary gain in prestige throughout the Christian world. His father had previously significantly expanded the territory of the Kievan Rus, where he destroyed the Khazar empire .

Byzantium and Bulgaria

Byzantium around 975

At the beginning of the century, the empire was mainly threatened by the Bulgarians. Their tsar Simeon I wanted to unite Bulgaria and Byzantium under his rule and therefore tried to conquer the Byzantine capital Constantinople on the Bosporus, but failed. After the death of Simeon I in 927, the Bulgarian attacks weakened, so that the Byzantines for their part were able to conquer large parts of Bulgaria from 971 onwards in the further course of the century. In the second half of the century in particular, strong emperors and generals were able to (back) conquer numerous areas that Byzantium had lost in the previous centuries. So the southern Balkans, Crete, Cyprus and parts of Syria became Byzantine again.

As a result of this gain in power, the northern neighboring states were also Christianized, which after the establishment of the Bulgarian in 864 led to the establishment of Russian Orthodoxy in 988. Because the Bulgarian and Russian Churches recognized her as head, the Patriarchs of Constantinople achieved a position beyond the Byzantine Empire, which also improved their position of power vis-à-vis the emperors.

Although members of the Macedonian dynasty held the imperial office throughout the century, numerous regents took turns at the head, with Basileos II in particular standing out . Co-emperors ruled several times for the weak or underage emperors of the dynasty. There were several civil wars in the struggle for power. Later the position of the landed gentry gained in importance, which weakened the thematic system that had decisively promoted the previous consolidation of the empire. As a result, the standing army was partly replaced by unreliable mercenary units, a process whose fatality for the empire became particularly evident in the battle of Mantzikert in the following century.

Muslim world

The Fatimid Empire in its greatest extent

At the beginning of the 10th century, the Muslim territory from the Iberian Peninsula to Central Asia was largely only formally under the sovereignty of the Abbasid caliphs. Real power is wielded by numerous Muslim dynasties over their respective sub-kingdoms. Based on their local power bases, two local Shiite dynasties, the Fatimids and the Buyids , rose to become the most important regional powers in the Muslim world for the first time in the first half of the century .

The Fatimids overthrew the Aghlabids at the beginning of the century and took control of the province of Ifrīqiya east of the Maghreb from them . As leaders of the Ismailis , a branch of the Shiite orientation of Islam, they legitimized their rule by attributing their vote to the daughter of the Islamic prophet Mohammad, Fatima. Thus they stood not only in political but also in religious opposition to the Abbasid caliphs who resided in Baghdad. They therefore declared themselves caliphs who sought to overthrow their rivals from Baghdad. They came closer to this endeavor by supporting the Ichschidids and gaining control of Egypt in 969 . They moved there in 973. To do this, they founded a new palace city, Cairo. The Fatimids were able to extend their rule to Palestine and southern Syria, but never got beyond them. Ifriqiya entrusted them to the Zirid family , who ruled there as viceroys on their behalf.

In the first half of the century, the Shiite family of the Buyids conquered an area from the southern Persian Fars that encompassed large parts of today's Iran and Iraq. The family, descended from military leaders, involved several family members under alternating leadership with relatively equal rights in the rule. With the conquest of Baghdad in 946, they put the Sunni Abbasid caliphs under their control, but left the caliphate in place even though they were Shiites. When filling state offices, however, they preferred groups other than the Abbasids. In the military, the northern Iranian Dailamites pushed the Turks into the background, and non-Sunni Persian officials were employed in civil administration.

Samanid mausoleum in Bukhara

The eastern part of the Muslim world, which comprised large parts of Central Asia, was ruled by the Samanid dynasty. This Sunni dynasty had Persian roots. The economic basis of their rule was agriculture. Economically, however, they also benefited from the long-distance trading centers of the Silk Road , which were within their sphere of influence. Efficient administration was one of the Samanid's strengths. After the height of Samanid power at the beginning of the century, these were increasingly challenged by internal rivals, and power increasingly regionalized in the second half of the century. The Turkic tribes ruled by the Ghaznavid and Karakhanid dynasties benefited from this at the end of the century . The first were descended from military slaves of Turkish descent who accepted Islam as slaves. The latter converted to Islam as tribal leaders and were at the beginning of a wave in the course of which many Turkic tribes converted to Islam. At the end of the century, the two dynasties divided the Samanid Empire, the last dynasty of Iranian descent in Central Asia. Their fall is seen as a milestone on the way to the Turkicization of Central Asia.

The increasing regionalization led to a multiplication of the forms of cultural expression in the Muslim world. In the empire of the Buyrids and Samanids, Islamic culture was strongly influenced by Persian elements. The (re) Persian sat down first by the seal and then also in secular prose. Shāhnāme , the Persian national epic , was written during this time. The caliphs, emirs, viziers and other elites promoted science, art and culture. These flourished in the urban centers such as Bukhara, Samarkand, Isfahan, Baghdad, Cairo and Qairawān . Scientific research in the fields of mathematics, astronomy and medicine achieved new results. But also historical and philosophical works were created.

The Fatimid al-Hākim mosque in Cairo

Although large groups converted to Islam in the 10th century, numerous followers of other religions still lived in the Muslim world, although their proportion of the population differed greatly from region to region. In Egypt in particular, the majority of the population was Christian. Thanks to the religious tolerance of the Buyrids and Samanids, the Shiites were able to openly attract supporters in their areas of power, which met with a great response. Thus the proportion of Shiites among the Muslims increased. In contrast to this dynasty of emirs, the Fatimid caliphs pursued an active promotion of the Shiite confession of Ismaili character in their sphere of influence. They actively promoted Shiite institutions, organized courses on Ismaili Islam and tried to convince with their splendor. They practiced tolerance towards other beliefs and religions. The establishment of a teaching institute in the vicinity of the Azhar mosque they built also served to promote their interpretation of Islam . Even if they were able to convince larger groups of Ismaili-Shiite Islam through their efforts in Egypt, the large number of Muslims in North Africa remained Sunni.

Despite the regionalization, there were intensive trade relations between the Muslim regions, which also promoted cultural exchange. Under the Fatimids, Egypt rose to become an important economic and trading center. They promoted the infrastructure and fought corruption. For the economic benefit of Egypt, maritime trade shifted from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea in this century.


Indian subcontinent

Approximate extent of the Rashtrakuta Empire

As in previous centuries, the Indian subcontinent was divided into several large regional empires. The temporarily most powerful empire was that of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. From the central Indian Deccan Plateau they conquered southern India in the middle of the century. The Chola dynasty had taken over the great empire of the Pallava dynasty there. The defeat by their rivals from the north threw them back on their core territory for half a century. The great empire of the Rashtrakuta, whose power at times extended to Sri-Lanka and northern India, reached its peak in the 960s. Thereafter, the cost of military enforcement of rule weakened the Rashtrakuta heartland so much that a governor overthrew the dynasty in the 970s. However, this was only able to establish the Chalukya dynasty as successor in central India . In the south, the Chola took advantage of the fall of the Rashtrakuta and began to establish a great empire in southern India, which in the following centuries developed its influence far beyond the Indian subcontinent.

After the military expansion of the Rashtrakuta Empire, its kings did not establish central administrative structures in the subject areas. Rather, they allowed the subjugated princes, who were given offices and posts at the court of the great empire, to rule their core area and only demanded tributes from them. The reputation of the king increased due to the high number of tribute princes. As the position of the tributary princes improved, the governors of the heartland demanded and were given autonomy over the provinces they administered. The kings tried to counter the centrifugal tendencies of this system of rule by establishing their position religiously with the help of the Brahmins , the clergy of the prevailing Hinduism . They also gave land to these loyal clergymen in the provinces of the tributary princes.

At the beginning of the century, northwestern India was ruled by the Gurajara Pratihara dynasty. To counter the threats posed by the Sind Arabs in the west and the Rashtrakuta dynasty in the south, they maintained extensive armies, which required large economic resources. Furthermore, the sack of their capital by the Rashtrakuta weighed on their power, which steadily declined as the century went on. In the past century the Pratiharas could still rely on the Rajput tribes living in their area , a feudal warrior caste. Many Rajput princes used the declining power of the Pratiharas in the 10th century to establish their own small rulers in northern India.


The empire of the five dynasties (yellow) and the other ten empires around 923 AD.

Political developments

In fact, the political decentralization of China was already completed in the 9th century. With the deposition of the last emperor of the Tang dynasty in 907, the formal structures also reflected the political balance of power. Warlords, who previously ruled autonomous regions within the Tang Empire, founded ten officially independent empires at the beginning of the century, nine of which were in southern China. An eleventh area in the north saw itself as the successor to Tang China and brought about the Song Dynasty in 960 . Since this area was ruled by five dynasties in succession up to the year 960, Chinese historiography refers to the period from 907 to 960 as the period of the five dynasties and ten empires . In the empire of the five dynasties, the rulers, who in the case of the three middle dynasties belonged to the Shatuo-Turk people, succeeded each other in rapid succession, with many rulers coming to power through violence. The Kitan , who had established an empire north of the Five Dynasties, interfered in the domestic politics of the Five Dynasties in the 930s and 940s. In the course of a dispute with the Chinese Jin dynasty , they were able to assert that they were given control of the 16 prefectures along the eastern section of the Great Wall of China . From this strategically important position, they could not finally oust the following dynasties. The internal political disputes of the Five Dynasties and the disputes with the Kitan were at times fought militarily and left considerable destruction and devastation in the north.

After General Zhao Kuangyin overthrew the last of the five dynasties and founded the Song Dynasty in 960 , he conquered the remaining kingdoms by 979. The China of the Song Dynasty, which ruled it until 1279, was much smaller than the China of the Tang period at around 2.7 million km². In the course of the unification process, Song China came into conflict with its northern neighbor, the Kitan Empire. Up to 1005 the Song waged war with the Kitan for the areas on the common border. The Kitan, the most important of several regional powers that surrounded the Song Empire, managed through decisive military victories and tactical skill to keep the 16 prefectures they had acquired at the beginning of the century. The Tanguts had founded a state northeast of the empire and got into a dispute with the Song over the border region. In the southwest was the kingdom of Dali , founded in 937 , the successor to the Nanzhao empire. In the south, the Dai Co Viet Empire established itself in what is now Vietnam.

Shortly after taking office, the first Song emperor dissolved the previous division of administration into military administration and civil administration and placed the military under civil administration. He thus deprived the military governors, the Jiedushi , who were able to establish regional positions of power during the fall of the Tang Dynasty, the basis of power. The top military leaders were retired or transferred to the civil administration, where their frequent transfers were intended to prevent the establishment of power bases. The character of the armies had also changed in the 10th century compared to the Tang period. At the wedding of the Tang, the armies were led by old family nobility and consisted to a large extent of recruited farmers. In contrast, the armies of the 10th century were armies of mercenaries and elite troops devoted to the emperors.

The Song emperors built their rule on a hierarchical bureaucratic apparatus headed by the emperor. The regional breakdown was based on provinces and prefectures. In order to strengthen the position of the head office, its managers were regularly exchanged and monitored by auditors. The Song developed the access system to the official posts based on that of the previous dynasties. The official examinations, which had already been used in the past centuries, became an entry requirement for more and more official positions. The examination system has been reformed and opened to more shifts than before. Nevertheless, the majority of candidates passed the civil servant examination who received the necessary financial support from their own families or from wealthy donors.

Economy, society and culture

Picture by painter Jing Hao, Mount Kuanglu

The 10th century is part of a period in which China was experiencing economic and social upheaval. The beginnings of this process go back to the 8th century and the Song period marks the end of this process. This process was characterized by an increase in production and diversification of agriculture, which was favored by the mild climate of the time. Other hallmarks were a surge in population, the promotion of trade, and the emergence and growth of cities.

The focus of agricultural development was the south, and here in particular the delta of the Yangtze River and the coastal regions. The rice cultivation practiced here could feed four times as many people as the grain cultivation in the north. Better food supply, but also greater security from violent attacks by neighboring empires, were the reasons for a strong migration of the population from the north to the south.

In addition to the larger reservoir of labor, the use of new techniques, such as the perfecting of wet farming, the use of new types of rice and the application of fertilizers, was the driving force behind agricultural development. In addition, there was the use of pumps and the use of mills and threshing machines. These funds made it possible not only to increase the yield of existing areas, but also to use areas that previously could not be used for agriculture. Like the last of the five dynasties and some of the ten kingdoms, the Song Dynasty promoted the economy by designating additional agricultural land, redistributing the tax burden and building infrastructure such as canals and dams. In addition, the use of mercenary armies meant that the farmers were no longer prevented from working in the fields through recruitment. The increase in production allowed the economy to change from a self-sufficiency to a market-oriented one. As a result of agricultural specialization, trade expanded. The goods and money economy gained in importance, which was particularly evident in the last few years of the century in the greater expansion of the state's coinage.

Export was an important source of income for the state, both through foreign trade monopolies and through tariffs paid by free traders. Exports increasingly took place by sea, so that export industries developed in the coastal towns as early as the first half of the century. In addition to silk and metals, the production of ceramics for export gained increasing importance.

A small group of large landowners, most of whom were members of the ruling clan and high officials, were able to expand their property through acquisitions. The cause was a tax system that was linked to land ownership and which was disproportionately burdened in its practical implementation. In order to escape the tax burden, many small farmers sold their land to large landowners. The large estates were built on by tenants, often the former owners of the land. On the one hand, this created great social inequality, which caused tensions, and on the other hand, the fact that the smallholders became fewer, reduced tax revenues.

In the 10th century, the number of books printed in China rose sharply. In addition to numerous books with ideological content, titles with secular content were also increasingly emerging. The aim of these books was to spread knowledge, such as the construction of technical systems. A significant collection of existing knowledge was the Taiping yulan encyclopedia , which emerged at the end of the century. The library of the Imperial Palace, which was founded in 978 and later became one of the most important libraries, served the same purpose.

In the Empire of the Five Dynasties, the painter Jing Hao played a major role in the development of a new style of landscape painting. In his pictures the landscape is in the foreground and the people step back as small picture elements. The central motif of the landscape painters of the 10th century were the mountains, which were often painted in blue and green mineral colors. The more frequent depiction of everyday scenes was also typical of the Song era. The pictures show the people and events based on precise observation in great detail. Gu Hongzhong, a court painter to one of the ten kingdoms, was a first important representative of this direction.

East and Southeast Asia

The kingdom of the Kitan

The Kitan were originally a confederation based in Inner Mongolia. In 907 Abaoji sat at its head as sole ruler and founded a dynasty. Even though he already called himself emperor, it was his son who gave the dynasty its name Liao . After Abaoji had brought Mongolia under his control, he conquered the Balhae Empire north of the Korean peninsula and territories in northern China. The Liao dynasty ruled an empire of different peoples, from the Han Chinese of the 16 prefectures to the Mongolian Kitan. The Liao emperors took this into account by adapting the rule and administrative system as well as the economic policy of the respective region. So they established Youzhou, today's Beijing, as the second southern capital. From there, the predominantly Han-Chinese parts of the country were ruled with the help of administrative systems and laws that were based on those of the Tang Dynasty. In the part of the country where the Kitan were in the majority, on the other hand, the traditional laws and customs of the tribes applied. Nevertheless, the Kitan adapt some aspects of Chinese rule and culture here as well. So they developed a script for their language that was based on the Chinese. The court of the Liao emperors gradually adopted Chinese procedures and rituals.

Korean peninsula

The kingdom of Balhae , which comprised the far north of the Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria, was conquered by the Kitan in 926 . The largest part was divided between the Silla empire and the Goryeo empire that had split off from it and the late Baekje empire. In 936, Goryeo subjugated the other empires and ruled much of the Korean peninsula. An empire established itself based on civil servants organized along the lines of the Chinese model. Nonetheless, class, which was hereditary, played a major role.

The Khmer Empire

In mainland Southeast Asia, the Khmer empire , which was grouped around the capital Angkor, was a major regional power. Angkor, founded in the 9th century, was embedded in a large, elaborately built system of canals, reservoirs and watercourses. It was also connected to the coast by waterways, which enabled it to be integrated into the Southeast Asian maritime trade. The agricultural surplus of Angkor enabled the rulers to expand the city with new Hindu temples of large dimensions. With this they could legitimize their rule and became part of the god through the construction of extraordinary temples.


In Central America there was the Toltec empire .



Africa, Asia and America


  • Henry I is the first king of Eastern Franconia who does not belong to the Franconian people.
  • Otto I established the empire of the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Theophanu , Empress of the Holy Roman Empire
  • Hugo Capet founds the French royal dynasty of the Capetians .
  • Basil II , Byzantine Emperor
  • Krishna III conquered an empire that spanned large parts of the Indian subcontinent.
  • Song Taizu unites China as the first emperor of the Song Dynasty.
  • Hrotsvit von Gandersheim, author of the first dramas since antiquity.


Web links

Commons : 10th century  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Schottenhammer: The world from 1000 to 1250 . 2011, Continental and Maritime Networking in the Medieval World, p. 15-25 .
  2. a b Schottenhammer: The world from 1000 to 1250 . 2011, The Song Dynasty - a revolutionary turning point. China, S. 62 f .
  3. Hilsch: The Middle Ages - the epoch . 2012, p. 85-87 .
  4. Hilsch: The Middle Ages - the epoch . 2012, p. 112 .
  5. Johannes Fried : The Middle Ages . Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-423-34650-4 , p. 117 .
  6. Hilsch: The Middle Ages - the epoch . 2012, p. 104 .
  7. ^ Lubich: The Middle Ages . 2010, p. 84 .
  8. ^ Lubich: The Middle Ages . 2010, p. 95 .
  9. Hans-Werner Goetz : Europe in the early Middle Ages 500-1050 (=  manual of the history of Europe . Volume 2 ). Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 978-3-8252-2427-1 , p. 258 .
  10. Halm: The Arabs . 2010, p. 65 .
  11. a b c Krämer: History of Islam . 2005, p. 122-124 .
  12. Krämer: History of Islam . 2005, p. 128 f .
  13. Website of the museum The David Collection, section The Samanids (English)
  14. a b c Jürgen Paul : Zentralasien (=  New Fisher World History . Volume 10 ). S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-10-010840-1 , p. 141-143 .
  15. Halm: The Arabs . 2010, p. 49 .
  16. Halm: The Arabs . 2010, p. 54 .
  17. Kulke, Rothermund: History of India - From the Indus culture to today . 2010, p. 156 f .
  18. Kulke, Rothermund: History of India - From the Indus culture to today . 2010, p. 176 f .
  19. ^ Schmidt-Glintzer: The old China - From the beginnings to the 19th century . 2008, p. 95 .
  20. Michael Weiers : History of China . Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-17-018872-3 , p. 94 .
  21. a b c Michael Weiers: History of China . Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-17-018872-3 , p. 107-108 .
  22. ^ Vogelsang: History of China . 2013, p. 311 .
  23. ^ Schmidt-Glintzer: The old China - From the beginnings to the 19th century . 2008, p. 73 .
  24. ^ Vogelsang: History of China . 2013, p. 294 f .
  25. ^ Schmidt-Glintzer: The old China - From the beginnings to the 19th century . 2008, p. 78 .
  26. ^ Schmidt-Glintzer: The old China - From the beginnings to the 19th century . 2008, p. 98 .
  27. Michael Weiers: History of China . Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-17-018872-3 , p. 111-113 .
  28. a b Schottenhammer: The world from 1000 to 1250 . 2011, The Song Dynasty - a revolutionary turning point. China, S. 41-43 .
  29. ^ Vogelsang: History of China . 2013, p. 296 .
  30. Patricia Buckley Ebrey; A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization - Painting Section Pages
  31. a b c Vogelsang: History of China . 2013, p. 306 f .
  32. ^ Marion Eggert , Jörg Plassen: Small history of Korea . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52841-4 , p. 46-49 .
  33. Frasch: The world from 1000 to 1250 . 2011, The time of the classical empires - Southeast Asia, p. 72-76 .