Babenberg bäˈbənbĕrk [key], ruling house of Austria (976–1246). It possibly descended from, or succeeded, a powerful Franconian family of the 9th cent. from whose castle the city of Bamberg probably took its name. Holy Roman Emperor Otto II created Count Leopold of Babenberg margrave of the Eastern March (i.e., Austria). Among Leopold's successors were Leopold III; Leopold IV and Henry II, also dukes of Bavaria (1139–56); and Henry II, called Jasomirgott (“if God will”) for his favorite phrase. Henry II became (1156) the first duke of Austria. In 1192 the Babenbergs inherited Styria. Duke Leopold V took part in the Third Crusade and later made Richard I of England a prisoner. Leopold VI, called the Glorious, brought the house to its greatest power. His son, Frederick II, called the Quarrelsome, died childless in 1246, and Austria passed (1251) to Ottocar II of Bohemia, who married Frederick's sister. Under Babenberg rule Austria was extended through eastward colonization, and relative peace was maintained through intermarriage with the ruling families of Bohemia and Poland. As a result the Babenbergs were in part responsible for the multinational character of the later Hapsburg empire.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Austria and Hungary, History: Biographies