Mark from the Old English "mearc" and march (or various plural forms of these words) derived from the Frankish word "marka" ("boundary") [ Online Etymology Dictionary ] ] , refer to a border region, e.g. the borderland between England and Wales, similar to a frontier. During the Frankish Carolingian Dynasty, the word spread throughout Europe. In contrast to a buffer zone, a march could be dominated by a country, and rather than being demilitarized, it could be fortified for defense against the neighbouring country.

Although a march generally circumscribed the same or similar land area as a county, it held its distinction from a normal county due to its more important position at the border of the state. A march was ruled over by a Marquess (English pronunciation) or a Marquis (French or Scottish pronunciation), or nobles with corresponding titles in the other European states. (The equivalent feminine titles of "marchioness" and "marquise" respectively may be used by the wife of a titleholder or by a woman holding the rank in her own right.) In comparison, regular counties were ruled over by counts.

The name of Denmark preserves the memory of the Old Norse cognates "merki" ("boundary") "mörk" ("wood", "forest"), up to the present.

A sense of the dangerous "otherness" of the marches, where the king's writ did not run, as seen from the secure cultural homeground in feasting hall or palace, is suggested in "Beowulf" by the lakeside marsh of the monstrous Grendel: "the fell and fen his fastness was, the march his haunt".

See also: List of marches


The Frankish word "marka" and the Old English word "mearc" both come from Proto-Germanic "*marko", which itself comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *"mereg-", meaning "edge, boundary". The root *"mereg-" gave Armenian "marz" ("border, land"), Latin "margo" ("margin"), Old Irish "mruig" ("borderland"), Persian "marz" ("border, land") and Norse "merki" ("boundary, sign") [] and "mörk" ("borderland, forest"). It seems in Old English "mark" meant "boundary", or "sign of a boundary", and the meaning later evolved into "sign in general", "impression or trace forming a sign". The word "march" in the sense of borderland was borrowed from French "marche", which had borrowed it from Frankish. The word "mark" in the sense of borderland is a modern borrowingFact|date=April 2008 from German "Mark", though in some cases it is simply short for Markgrafschaft.

By region


The specific subdivisions of Armenia are each called "Marz", possibly a loanword from Persian into Armenian or an Armenian loanword into Persian.


The national anthem of Azerbaijan is "The March of Azerbaijan." The land belonging to today's nation was in the 19th century Russia's march bordering Iran, the nation which remains the ruler of two-thirds of the Azeri population.

The Balkans

See Krajina and Military Frontier.


* See Marca Hispanica also known as the "Hispanic Marches"

Beyond the province of Septimania, after some early setbacks, Charlemagne's son Louis took Barcelona from the Moorish emir in 801. Thus he established a foothold in the borderland between the Franks and the Moors. The Carolingian "Hispanic Marches" ("Marca Hispánica") became a buffer zone ruled by the Count of Barcelona, with its own outlying small separate territories, each ruled by a lesser "miles" with armed retainers, who theoretically owed allegiance through the Count to the Emperor, or with less fealty to his Carolingian and Ottonian successors. Each was the "catlá" ("castellan" or lord of the castle) in an area largely defined by a day's ride, the region dotted with strongholds becoming known by them, like Castile at a later date, as "Catalunya." Counties in the Pyrenees that appeared in the 9th century as appanages of the counts of Barcelona included Cerdanya, Girona and Urgell.

In the early 9th century, Charlemagne issued his new kind of land grant the "aprisio", which redisposed land belonging to the Imperial "fisc" in deserted areas, and included special rights and immunities that resulted in a range of independence of action. Historians interpret the "aprisio" both as the basis of feudalism and in economic and military terms as a mechanism to entice settlers to a depopulated border region. Such self-sufficient landholders would aid the counts in providing armed men in defense of the Frankish frontier. "Aprisio" grants (the first ones were in Septimania) emanated directly from the Carolingian king, and they reinforced central loyalties, to counterbalance the local power exercised by powerful marcher counts.

But communications were arduous, and the power center was far away. Primitive feudal entities developed, self-sufficient and agrarian, each ruled by a small hereditary military elite. The sequence in Catalonia exhibits a pattern that emerges similarly in marches everywhere. The Count is appointed by the king (from 802), the appointment settles on the heirs of a strong count (Sunifred) and the appointment becomes a formality, until the position is declared hereditary (897) and then the County declares itself independent (by Borrell II in 985). At each stage the "de facto" situation precedes the "de jure" assertion, which merely regularizes an existing fact of life. This is feudalism in the larger landscape.

Certain of the Counts aspired to the characteristically Frankish (Germanic) title "Margrave of the Hispanic March, a "margrave" being a "graf" ("count") of the march.

The early History of Andorra provides a fairly typical career of another such buffer state, the only modern survivor in the Pyrenees of the Hispanic Marches. There the
* [ Archibald R. Lewis, "The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society, 718-1050"]


* The march of the Danes.


The province of France called Marche (Occitan: "la Marcha"), sometimes "Marche Limousine", was originally a small border district partly of Limousin and partly of Poitou.

Its area was increased during the 13th century and remained the same until the French Revolution. Marche was bounded on the north by Berry, on the east by Bourbonnais and Auvergne; on the south by Limousin itself and on the west by Poitou. It embraced the greater part of the modern "département" of Creuse, a considerable part of the northern Haute-Vienne, and a fragment of Indre, up to Saint-Benoît-du-Sault. Its area was about 1900 m².; its capital was Charroux and later Guéret, and among its other principal towns were Dorat, Bellac and Confolens.

Marche first appeared as a separate fief about the middle of the 10th century when William III, duke of Aquitaine, gave it to one of his vassals named Boso, who took the title of count. In the 12th century it passed to the family of Lusignan, sometime also counts of Angouleme counts of Limousin, until the death of the childless Count Hugh in 1303, when it was seized by King Philip IV. In 1316 it was made an appanage for his youngest son the Prince, afterwards King Charles IV and a few years later (1327) it passed into the hands of the family of Bourbon. The family of Armagnac held it from 1435 to 1477, when it reverted to the Bourbons, and in 1527 it was seized by King Francis I and became part of the domains of the French crown. It was divided into Haute-Marche (i.e. "Upper Marche") and Basse-Marche (i.e. "Lower Marche"), the estates of the former being in existence until the 17th century. From 1470 until the Revolution the province was under the jurisdiction of the "parlement" of Paris.

See County of Marche.

Several communes of France are named similarly:
* Marches, Drôme in the Drôme "département"
* La Marche in the Nièvre "département"

Germany and Austria

The Germanic tribes that Romans called Marcomanni, who battled the Romans in the 1st and 2nd centuries were simply the "men of the borderlands."

Marches were territorial organisations created as borderlands in the Carolingian Empire and had a long career as purely conventional designations under the Holy Roman Empire. In modern German, "Mark" denotes a piece of land that historically was a borderland, as in the following names:

*Mark, a medieval territory that is recalled in the Märkischer Kreis district (formed in 1975) of today's North Rhine-Westphalia. The northern portion (north of the Lippe River) is still called Hohe Mark ("Higher Mark"). The former "Lower Mark" (between Ruhr and Lippe rivers) is the present Ruhr area and is no longer called "Mark". The title, in the form "Count of the Mark", survived the territory as a subsidiary title of the Dukes of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
*"Ostmark" a modern rendition of the term "marchia orientalis" used in Carolingian documents referring to the area of Lower Austria that was later a "markgraftum" (margraviate or "county of the mark"): see the main article Ostmark.
*Altmark, between Hamburg and Magdeburg
*Nordmark, the "Northern March", the Ottonian empire's territorial organisation on the conquered areas of the Wends. In 1134, in the wake of a German crusade against the Wends, the German magnate Albert the Bear was granted the Northern March by the Holy Roman Emperor Lothar II.
*Mark Brandenburg, an area north of Berlin. Today it is used to refer to the state of Brandenburg
*Neumark, a region created by Brandenburg on the border between Pomerania and Great Poland.
*Steiermark (Styria), the margraviate ("border county") of Styria was established under Charlemagne from a part of Carantania (Carinthia), erected as a border territory against the Avars and Slavs.


In medieval Hungary the system of "gyepű" and "gyepűelve", effective until the mid-13th century, can be considered as marches even though in its organisation it shows major differences from Western European feudal marches. For one thing, the "gyepű" was not controlled by a Marquess.

The "Gyepű" was a strip of land that was specially fortified or made impassable, while "gyepűelve" was the mostly uninhabited or sparsely inhabited land beyond it. The "gyepűelve" is much more comparable to modern buffer zones than traditional European marches.

The portions of the "gyepű" was usually guarded by tribes who joined the Hungarian nation and were granted special rights for their services at the borders, such as the Szeklers, Pechenegs and Cumans. These ethnic groups merged into the Hungarian ethnicity and identity also taking up the Hungarian language at different times ranging from as before the tenth century (the Szeklers) to as late as the seventeenth century (some Cumans).


:"For the modern Italian region, see Marche." From the Carolingian period onwards the name "marca" begins to appear in Italy, first the Marca Fermana for the mountainous part of Picenum, the Marca Camerinese for the district farther north, including a part of Umbria, and the Marca Anconitana for the former Pentapolis (Ancona). In 1080, the "marca Anconitana" was given in investiture to Robert Guiscard by pope Gregory VII, to whom the Countess Matilda ceded the marches of Camerino and Fermo. In 1105, the Emperor Henry IV invested Werner with the whole territory of the three marches, under the name of the March of Ancona. It was afterwards once more recovered by the Church and governed by papal legates as part of the Papal States. The Marche became part of the kingdom of Italy in 1860.

"Marche" were repeated on a miniature level, fringing many of the small territorial states of pre-Risorgimento Italy with a ring of smaller dependencies on their borders, which represent territorial "marche" on a small scale. A map of the Duchy of Mantua in 1702 (Braudel 1984, fig 26) reveals the independent, though socially and economically dependent arc of small territories from the principality of Castiglione in the northwest across the south to the duchy of Mirandola southeast of Mantua: the lords of Bozolo, Sabioneta, Dosolo, Guastalla, the count of Novellare.


The European concept of "marches" applies just as well to the fief of Matsumae on the southern tip of Hokkaidō which was at Japan's northern border with the Ainu people of Hokkaidō, known as Ezo at the time. In 1590, this land was granted to the Kakizaki clan, who took the name Matsumae from then on. The Lords of Matsumae, as they are sometimes called, were exempt from owing rice to the shogun in tribute, and from the "sankin kotai" system established by Tokugawa Ieyasu, under which most lords ("daimyo") had to spend half the year at court (in the capital of Edo).

By guarding the border, rather than conquering/colonizing Ezo, the Matsumae, in essence, made the majority of the island an Ainu reservation. This also meant that Ezo, and the Kurile Islands beyond, were left essentially open to Russian colonization. However, the Russians never did colonize Hokkaidō/Ezo, and the marches were officially eliminated during the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century, when the Ainu came under Japanese control, and Ezo was renamed Hokkaidō, and annexed to Japan.


"See Great Wall of China and Willow Palisade"


In Norse, "mark" meant "borderlands" and "forest", while it in present-day Norwegian has adapted the meaning "wilderness" or "forest".

The Norwegian county Finnmark, "the borderlands (or, the forests) of the Sami" (known to the Norse as "Finns"). Also, Hedmark ("the borderlands of heath") and Telemark ("the borderlands of the Þela tribe" [ [] Navnet Telemark og Grenland (The name Telemark and Grenland) by Alexander Bugge, 1918] ).

The forests surrounding Norwegian cities are called "Marka" - the marches, e.g. the forests surrounding Oslo are called Nordmarka, Østmarka and Vestmarka - i.e. the northern, eastern and western marches.

Markland was the Norse name of an area in North America discovered by Norwegian Vikings.

Persia (Sassanid Empire)

See also مرزبان Marzban.

Roman Empire

"See Limes Romanus"


"See Wild Fields and Cossacks"

United Kingdom

:"See Welsh Marches and Scottish Marches."

The name of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the midlands of England was Mercia. The name "Mercia" comes from the Old English for "boundary folk", and the traditional interpretation was that the kingdom originated along the frontier between the Welsh and the Anglo-Saxon invaders, although P. Hunter Blair has argued an alternative interpretation that they emerged along the frontier between the Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria and the inhabitants of the River Trent valley.

Latinizing the Anglo-Saxon term "mearc", the border areas between England and Wales were collectively known as the Welsh Marches ("marchia Wallia"), while the native Welsh lands to the west were considered Wales Proper ("pura Wallia"). The Norman lords in the Welsh Marches were to become the new Marcher Lords.

The title Earl of March is at least two distinct feudal titles: one, created 1328, held by the powerful border families of Mortimer (in the Peerage of England), in the west Welsh Marches and one, Dunbar, in the northern marches (in the Peerage of Scotland).

The Scottish Marches is a term for the border regions on both sides of the border between England and Scotland. From the Norman conquest of England until the reign of King James VI of Scotland, who also became King James I of England, border clashes were common and the monarchs of both countries relied on Marcher Lords to defend the frontier areas known as the Marches. They were hand-picked for their suitability for the challenges the responsibilities presented.

Patrick Dunbar, 8th Earl of Dunbar, a descendant of the Earls of Northumbria was recognized in the end of 13th century to use the name March as his earldom in Scotland, otherwise known as Dunbar, Lothian, and Northumbrian border.

Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, Regent of England during the minority of Edward III and usurper who had supplanted Edward II, was created an earl 1328. He was married to Joan of Joinville, whose mother was one of the heiresses of French Counts of La Marche and Lusignan. His family, Mortimer Lords of Wigmore, had been border lords and leaders of defenders of Welsh marches for centuries. He selected "March" as the name of his earldom for several reasons: Welsh marches referred to several counties, whereby the title signified superiority compared to usual single county-based earldoms. Mercia was an ancient kingdom. His wife's ancestors had been Counts of March in France.


* Marquis, Marchese and Margrave ("markgraf") all had their origins in feudal lords who held trusted positions in the borderlands. The English title was a foreign importation from France, tested out tentatively in 1385 by Richard II, but not naturalized until the mid 15th century, and now more often spelled "marquess." [The styling "marquis" or "marquess" is a peculiarity of each title.]

ee also

* List of marches
* Separation barrier
* Royal and noble ranks
* Nobility
*No man's land


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