Brief History of Austria
In 1991, the discovery of a mummified Stone Age man frozen in an Alpine glacier, whom the Austrians lovingly call “Ötzi”, made it very clear that Austria’s history truly is ancient. From the 7th century B.C., the territory of today’s Austria was regularly raided and populated by belligerent Celts and Germanic tribes.
Later, Romans settled in the area, and many of today’s cities stand on Roman civil or military settlements.After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Germanic tribes, Slavs, and Avars settled in the region.
Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, established a provincial outpost in the territory to protect his empire from eastern Magyar invaders. Over the years, the region gained in importance and not only as a defensive bulwark.
Two dynasties, first the Babenbergs and later the Habsburgs, added territories to their main lands through strategic marriages, heritage contracts, and political cunning. Under Habsburg rule, the Austrian lands eventually spanned half the globe, including Spain and its territories in the New World. Consequently, the country adopted many new customs and ideas, many of which thrive today in Austrian culture.
The rule of the Habsburg ended only with World War I, and it took the country a while to form a new identity after centuries of belonging to an ethnically diverse empire. After the dark years of World War II, when Austria was part of the Third Reich, the Second Republic was formed in 1955 and in the 50 years that followed, Austria established itself as a stable and peaceful country rich in culture and history.