The Vikings, the Muslims, and the Magyars 

Charlemagne's empire fell apart when it was split by his grandsons because they weren't united against the attackers. These invaders were the Vikings, Muslims and Magyars.

The Muslims invaded from the South. They even attacked Rome in 846. They stole riches and destroyed part of the city. From the east, Magyar invaders attacked Germany and parts of northern Italy. From the north came the most terrible warriors of all -- the Vikings.

Interactive Question Why were invaders so successful with their attacks on Charlemagne's former empire? 

The Vikings

Vikings were from the modern countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. They sailed in fast boats called long ships. These ships could hold over 300 men who took turns rowing the 72 oars.  Their long boat could sail on the ocean and up rivers to attack villages and towns.

The Vikings worshipped warlike gods.  They attacked Christian churches and monasteries. They would land their ships, steal what they could carry, and leave before anyone could stop them. France was the wealthiest area of Europe and so the Vikings concentrated their attacks on this rich land.

The Vikings had to sell the gold and silver that they had stolen so they became traders. They were also excellent explorers.  A Viking explorer named Leif Erickson discovered North America almost 500 years before Columbus did.

Interactive Question Which area suffered the most at the hands of the Vikings? 

 In 911, King Charles III of France came up with a way to make peace with one group of Vikings. He gave French lands to them. In return, the Vikings would

  • become Christians
  • support the king
  • keep other Vikings from attacking France

The French called these people Normans, or men from the north. The part of France they lived in is called Normandy. 

Interactive Question Why did King Charles III of the French lands decide to give part of his land to the Vikings? 

Muslims and Magyars

In the late 800s, Europe also became a target for a group called the Magyars. They were nomadic or wandering people from east of Europe. They were excellent horsemen.  The Magyars didn't want to settle down and become farmers. They just wanted to steal goods and sell their captives as slaves. 

Magyar Warriors

The Muslims attacked Europe from the south. Their ships controlled the Mediterranean Sea, which caused a disruption in trade routes.  Because they had control of the Mediterranean Sea, they were were able to attack settlements on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.

Interactive Question What was different about the patterns of these two invaders and the Vikings?

These different invaders caused widespread disorder and suffering.  People in western Europe were living in fear and danger.  There wasn't a central government with an army to protect the people.  Because there was no central government or army, people started to turn to local rulers with their own armies.

This is another reason for the beginnings of feudalism. It was a system of mutual obligations, meaning "I'll help you and you help me."

Map of Charlemagne's Empire