The Central European land that is now Austria was settled in pre-Roman times by various Celtic tribes. The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was later claimed by the Roman Empire and made a province. Present-day Petronell-Carnuntum in eastern Austria was an important army camp turned capital city in what became known as the Upper Pannonia province. Carnuntum was home for 50,000 people for nearly 400 years.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was invaded by Bavarians, Slavs, and Avars. Charlemagne, King of the Franks, conquered the area in AD 788, encouraged colonization, and introduced Christianity. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that now encompass Austria were bequeathed to the house of Babenberg. The area was known as the marchia Orientalis and was given to Leopold of Babenberg in 976.
Venus of Willendorf, 28,000 to 25,000 BC. Museum of Natural History Vienna
The first record showing the name Austria is from 996, where it is written as Ostarrîchi, referring to the territory of the Babenberg March. In 1156, the Privilegium Minus elevated Austria to the status of a duchy. In 1192, the Babenbergs also acquired the Duchy of Styria. With the death of Frederick II in 1246, the line of the Babenbergs was extinguished.
As a result, Ottokar II of Bohemia effectively assumed control of the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carinthia. His reign came to an end with his defeat at Dürnkrut at the hands of Rudolph I of Germany in 1278. Thereafter, until World War I, Austria’s history was largely that of its ruling dynasty, the Habsburgs.
Subjected by the Bavarians in the 8th century, the country became a mark, or frontier territory, of the Frankish Empire. Further German colonization led to Germanization by c. 1300, except in the southern countryside. The area of modern Steiermark belonged to the duchy of Carinthia (Kärnten) after 976, but other northern areas of modern Steiermark were acquired in the 11th and 12th centuries by the counts, or margraves, of Traungau, whose main seat was at Styraburg, or modern Steyr (Oberösterreich).
In 1180 the entire area became the duchy of Steiermark, or Styria, which passed to the Babenberg duke of Austria in 1192 until the extinction of the Babenberg line in 1246.
In 1276 most of the area was ceded to the Habsburgs, and it became a crown land in 1282. Thereafter, its history was merged with that of Austria, although it was ruled only by junior branches of the House of Habsburg from 1379 to 1439 and from 1564 to 1619. After World War I, 2,329 square miles of southern Steiermark, including Marburg (Maribor), Cilli (Celje), and Pettau (Ptuj), were ceded to Yugoslavia. Steiermark has been a Bundesland ever since, except for the years 1938–45 when most of it formed a Reichsgau (party district) under the Anschluss, or incorporation into Germany.
Thermoelectricity is generated, and there are hydroelectric plants on the Mur and other rivers. Heavy industry is concentrated in the Mur Valley below Fohnsdorf and in the Mürz Valley. Metal and machine industries, sawmills, automobile development and production, and paper and cellulose industries are important; chemicals, textiles, leather, and food products are also manufactured. Major industrial sites are in Graz, Leoben, Bruck, and Kapfenberg. Agriculture employs a small percentage of the working population; livestock raising is widespread, and corn (maize) and fruit are cultivated in the southeast.
Most inhabitants are Roman Catholic. Ancient folklore, song, and dance are preserved in the mountainous areas and the gray-green Steiermark suit is almost an Austrian national costume. The principal urban centres are Graz, the capital, Leoben, Kapfenberg, Bruck, Eisenerz, Knittelfeld, Köflach, Mürzzuschlag, and Fohnsdorf.
Steiermark’s economic development has always been determined by its mineral resources. The Erzberg near Eisenerz supplies most of Austria’s iron ore and has been mined since Celtic times. Brown coal (lignite) is mined at Fohnsdorf and Köflach and magnesite in the Shale Alps. The state also produces sizable amounts of graphite, talc, gypsum, and salt.