Area settled by the Alemanni, and sites of Roman-Alemannic battles, 3rd to 6th centuries

The Alemanni (also Alamanni;[1] Suebi "Swabians"[2]) were a confederation of Germanic tribes on the Upper Rhine River. First mentioned by Cassius Dio in the context of the campaign of Caracalla of 213, the Alemanni captured the Agri Decumates in 260, and later expanded into present-day Alsace, and northern Switzerland, leading to the establishment of the Old High German language in those regions, by the eighth century named Alamannia.[3]

In 496, the Alemanni were conquered by Frankish leader Clovis and incorporated into his dominions. Mentioned as still pagan allies of the Christian Franks, the Alemanni were gradually Christianized during the seventh century. The Lex Alamannorum is a record of their customary law during this period. Until the eighth century, Frankish suzerainty over Alemannia was mostly nominal. After an uprising by Theudebald, Duke of Alamannia, though, Carloman executed the Alamannic nobility and installed Frankish dukes. During the later and weaker years of the Carolingian Empire, the Alemannic counts became almost independent, and a struggle for supremacy took place between them and the Bishopric of Constance. The chief family in Alamannia was that of the counts of Raetia Curiensis, who were sometimes called margraves, and one of whom, Burchard II, established the Duchy of Swabia, which was recognized by Henry the Fowler in 919 and became a stem duchy of the Holy Roman Empire.

The area settled by the Alemanni corresponds roughly to the area where Alemannic German dialects remain spoken, including German Swabia and Baden, French Alsace, German-speaking Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austrian Vorarlberg.

The French language name of Germany, Allemagne, is derived from their name, from Old French aleman(t),[4] from French loaned into a number of other languages. Likewise, the Spanish name for Germany is Alemania, and Welsh is Yr Almaen.


According to Gaius Asinius Quadratus (quoted in the mid-sixth century by Byzantine historian Agathias), the name Alamanni (Ἀλαμανοι) means "all men". It indicates that they were a conglomeration drawn from various Germanic tribes.[5] The Romans and the Greeks called them as such mentioned. This derivation was accepted by Edward Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire[6] and by the anonymous contributor of notes assembled from the papers of Nicolas Fréret, published in 1753.[7] This etymology has remained the standard derivation of the name.[8] An alternative suggestion proposes derivation from *alah "sanctuary".[9]

Walafrid Strabo in the 9th century remarked, in discussing the people of Switzerland and the surrounding regions, that only foreigners called them the Alemanni, but that they gave themselves the name of Suebi.[10] The Suebi are given the alternative name of Ziuwari (as Cyuuari) in an Old High German gloss, interpreted by Jacob Grimm as Martem colentes ("worshippers of Mars").[11]