The empire of Austria, as the official designation of the The title "Emperor of Austria." territories ruled by the Habsburg monarchy, dates back only to 1804, when Francis II., the last of the Holy Roman emperors, proclaimed himself emperor of Austria as Francis I. His motive in doing so was to guard against the great house of Habsburg being relegated to a position inferior to the parvenus Bonapartes, in the event of the final collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, or of the possible election of Napoleon as his own successor on the throne of Charlemagne. The title emperor of Austria, then, replaced that of "Imperator Romanorum semper Augustus" when the Holy Empire came to an end in 1806. From the first, however, it was no more than a title, which represented but ill the actual relation of the Habsburg sovereigns to their several states. Magyars and Slavs never willingly recognized a style which ignored their national rights and implied the superiority of the German elements of the monarchy; to the Germans it was a poor substitute for a title which had represented the political unity of the German race under the Holy Empire. For long after the Vienna Congress of 1814-1815 the "Kaiser" as such exercised a powerful influence over the imaginations of the German people outside the Habsburg dominions; but this was because the title was still surrounded with its ancient halo and the essential change was not at once recognized.
The outcome of the long struggle with Prussia, which in 1866 finally broke the spell, and the proclamation of the German empire in 1871 left the title of emperor of Austria stripped of everything but a purely territorial significance. It had, moreover, by the compact with Hungary of 1867, ceased even fully to represent the relation of the emperor to all his dominions; and the title which had been devised to cover the whole of the Habsburg monarchy sank into the official style of the sovereign of but a half; while even within the Austrian empire proper it is resented by those peoples which, like the Bohemians, wish to obtain the same recognition of their national independence as was conceded to Hungary. In placing the account of the origin and development of the Habsburg monarchy under this heading, it is merely for the sake of convenience.
The first nucleus round which the present dominions of the Origin of the name Austria. house of Austria gradually accumulated was the mark which lay along the south bank of the Danube, east of the river Enns, founded about A.D. 800 as a defence for the Frankish kingdom against the Slavs. Although its total length from east to west was only about 60 m., it was associated in the popular mind with a large and almost unbroken tract of land in the east of Europe. This fact, together with the position of the mark with regard to Germany in general and to Bavaria in particular, accounts for the name österreich (Austria), i.e. east empire or realm, a word first used in a charter of 996, where the phrase in regione vulgari nomine Ostarrichi occurs. The development of this small mark into the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was a slow and gradual process, and falls into two main divisions, which almost coincide with the periods during which the dynasties of Babenberg and Habsburg have respectively ruled the land. The energies of the house of Babenberg were chiefly spent in enlarging the area and strengthening the position of the mark itself, and when this was done the house of Habsburg set itself with remarkable perseverance and marvellous success to extend its rule over neighbouring territories.
The many vicissitudes which have attended this development have not, however, altered the European position of Austria, which has remained the same for over a thousand years. Standing sentinel over the valley of the middle Danube, and barring the advance of the Slavs on Germany, Austria, whether mark, duchy or empire, has always been the meeting-place of the Teuton and the Slav. It is this fact which gives it a unique interest and importance in the history of Europe, and which unites the ideas of the Germans to-day with those of Charlemagne and Otto the Great.
The southern part of the country now called Austria was Early inhabitants. inhabited before the opening of the Christian era by the Taurisci, a Celtic tribe, who were subsequently called the Norici, and who were conquered by the Romans about 14 B.C. Their land was afterwards included in the provinces of Pannonia and Noricum, and under Roman rule, Vindobona, the modern Vienna, became a place of some importance. The part of the country north of the Danube was peopled by the Marcomanni and the Quadi, and both of these tribes were frequently at war with the Romans, especially during the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died at Vindobona in A.D. 180 when campaigning against them. Christianity and civilization obtained entrance into the land, but the increasing weakness of the Roman empire opened the country to the inroads of the barbarians, and during the period of the great migrations it was ravaged in quick succession by a number of these tribes, prominent among whom were the Huns. The lands on both banks of the river shared the same fate, due probably to the fact to which Gibbon has drawn attention, that at this period the Danube was frequently frozen over.
About 590 the district was settled by the Slovenes, or Corutanes, a Slavonic people, who formed part of the kingdom of Samo, and were afterwards included in the extensive kingdom of the Avars. The Franks claimed some authority over this people, and probably some of the princes of the Slovenes had recognized this claim, but it could not be regarded as serious while the Avars were in possession of the land. In 791 Charlemagne, after he had established his authority over the Bajuvarii or Bavarians, crossed the river Enns, and moved against the Avars. This attack was followed by campaigns on the part of his lieutenants, and in 805 the Avars were finally subdued, and their land incorporated with the Frankish empire. Establishment of the East Mark. This step brought the later Austria definitely under the rule of the Franks, and during the struggle Charlemagne erected a mark, called the East Mark, to defend the eastern border of his empire. A series of margraves ruled this small district from 799 to 907, but as the Frankish empire grew weaker, the mark suffered more and more from the ravages of its eastern neighbours.