The concept of Germany as a distinct region in Central Europe can be traced to Julius Caesar, who referred to the unconquered area east of the Rhine as Germania, thus distinguishing it from Gaul. The victory of the Germanic tribes in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (AD 9) prevented annexation by the Roman Empire, although the Roman provinces of Germania Superior and Germania Inferior were established along the Rhine. Following the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Franks conquered the other West Germanic tribes. When the Frankish Empire was divided among Charles the Great's heirs in 843, the eastern part became East Francia. In 962, Otto I became the first Holy Roman Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the medieval German state.
During the High Middle Ages, the Hanseatic League dominated by German port cities established itself along the Baltic and North Seas. The growth of a crusading element within German Christendom led to the State of the Teutonic Order along the Baltic coas