Animation: How the European Map Has Changed Over 2,400 Years

How the European Map Has Changed Over 2,400 Years

The history of Europe is incredibly complex, with countless changes occurring over centuries in various parts of the continent’s landmass. While Portugal and Andorra are rare exceptions with remarkably static borders for hundreds of years.

Today’s video comes to us from the YouTube channel Cottereau, and it shows the evolution of European borders starting from 400 BC. The video begins to shape slowly as modern countries take their form and invasions sweep across the continent, causing empires to rise and fall. With the added bonus of an extremely dramatic instrumental, the video is quite impressive.

Below are nine key points and catalysts that changed the boundaries of the European map:

146 BC – A Year of Conquest

The decisive victories in the region paved the way for the eventual domination of the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. These victories also kickstarted an era of Roman influence, as well as the destruction and ransacking of the Greek city-state of Corinth and the fall of Carthage, which left the Romans in control of territory in North Africa. The year BC 146 marked a period of expansion and conquest for the Roman Republic.

117 AD – Peak Roman Empire

The Roman Empire, at its peak under Trajan, was an enormous empire that covered a colossal area of 1.7 million square miles. It was split irreparably into the Western and Eastern regions in 395, but mostly remained intact. This was a remarkable feat in an era without modern communication tools and motorized vehicles.

Extent of the Roman Empire on European Map

370 AD – The Arrival of the Huns

The Roman Empire, weakened by economic instability and currency debasement, found itself bordering rivals and facing increasing incursions and overspending. These challenges were further exacerbated by severe drought conditions in Central Asia, which prompted the Huns to expand into Europe.

When the Huns and Goths were quarreling, they attacked the bouncing Central Europe in order to get revenge on the Romans. Under the leadership of Attila the Hun, they pushed deeper into Europe, razing and sacking cities along the way. It was not until half a century later, in 395, that the Huns first waged their attack on the Eastern Roman Empire.

1241 – The Mongol Invasion of Europe

From the fringes of Europe until the 16th century, the Mongols slowly pushed eastward, though they loomed large. Temporarily putting aside their regional conflicts to defend their territory, European princes faced formidable Mongol forces along the way, as they were led into Eastern Europe and Russia by the grandsons of Genghis Khan, known as the “Golden Horde”.

1362 – Lithuania

Lithuania exerted its dominance over present-day Ukraine and halted the growth of the Golden Horde following a crucial victory at the Battle of Blue Waters, a significant turning point for Lithuania. During the medieval era, it reached its zenith as one of the most expansive states in Europe. However, in the present day, Lithuania stands as one of the smallest countries in Europe.

1648 – Kleinstaaterei

The end of the Holy Roman Empire highlights the extreme territorial fragmentation in the neighboring regions of Germany, known as Kleinstaaterei.

European map with Holy Roman fragments

Germany emerged as a major power and the largest economy in Europe by 1900, aided by its position in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Germany wouldn’t have been able to come together and form a coherent nation-state without the remnants of the Holy Roman Empire and the surrounding states coalescing around it.

1919 – The Ottoman Empire

At the farthest edge of Continental Europe, the newly formed nation of Turkey began clearing the dust off its borders and ceding territory to Balkan states and Italy after engaging in two costly wars. This happened at the beginning of the 20th century, during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, which had been a fixture in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years.

1942 – Expanding and Contracting Germany

The map below shows Germany’s territorial expansion and the areas and land it occupied, demonstrating its height of influence. In World War II, Germany and Italy controlled a vast portion of continental Europe, with Germany reaching the furthest extent of Axis territory.

Europe at the height of German military expansion

After the war, Germany became fragmented into occupation zones overseen by the United States, Great Britain, France, and the weakened Soviet Union, but East Germany would not be reunited with the rest of Germany until 1990.

1991 – Soviet Dissolution

After the dust settled in Europe, there were fifteen breakaway republics, six of which were independent nations. The political boundaries of the European map remained relatively stable until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, when the entire western border of the country splintered into independent nations.