As the Carolingian Empire gradually disintegrated in the late ninth and early tenth centuries, four duchies— Franconia, Saxony (of which Thuringia was a part), Swabia, and Bavaria—arose in the eastern Frankish lands of Germany. They were military units organized by the local Carolingians, who took the title of Duke (army commander).
When the Carolingian dynasty became extinct, they chose one of their own number—Conrad, duke of Franconia—as their king in 911, to protect their lands against Magyar invaders. But Conrad was a failure, so the dukes asserted themselves as rivals to the Crown. They built their duchies into petty kingdoms, made themselves hereditary rulers, and took control over the church in their own duchies.