Settled in prehistoric times, the central European land that is
now Austria was overrun in pre-Roman times by various tribes, including
the Celts. Thousands of years ago the Celts were the original settlers,
mining the area for iron. Romans followed, and then other tribes
such as, Huns, Ostrogoths, Lombards, Turks and Bavarians.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, of which Austria was part,
the area was invaded by Bavarians and Slavic Avars. Charlemagne
conquered the area in C.E. 788 and encouraged colonization and Christianity.
In 1252, Ottokar, King of Bohemia, gained possession, only to lose
the territories to Rudolf of Hapsburg in 1278. Thereafter, until
World War I, Austria's history was largely that of its ruling house,
the Hapsburgs. Austria was home of the Habsburgs, the continent's
most influential and long-lasting dynasty.
During World War I, Austria-Hungary was one of the Central powers
with Germany, Bulgaria, and Turkey, and the conflict left the country
in political chaos and economic ruin. Austria, shorn of Hungary,
was proclaimed a republic in 1918, and the monarchy was dissolved
At the end of World War I, the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian empire
was broken up, creating Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania, while
other territories became parts of Poland, Italy and Yugoslavia.
Austria became the small German-speaking country we know today (population:
almost 8 million). The country slowly emerged from its imperial
past, via an uneasy and unsatisfactory alliance with Germany, to
become one of the most highly developed European countries.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Vienna was a world center
of culture, particularly in music and literature. Austrian fine
art usually is considered with the art of southern Germany. A distinctive
Austrian style, however, is manifested in the refined baroque architecture
and sculpture of the 17th and 18th centuries, notably in Vienna,
Salzburg, and Melk.