Ancient habitation of Slovakia has been verified by radiocarbon dating that puts the oldest surviving archaeological artifacts found in the area at some 250,000 years old.
From that Paleolithic Age on through the Bronze Age, tribes of people lived here, many in caves. Eventually, forts were built and trade routes were formed.
Then, in an attempt to extend their empire to the north, the Romans arrived; their armies lived along the Danube and by the early 2nd century their reach spread deeper into the land.
In the early 6th century, Slovaks settled what is now called Slovakia. All were eventually united into a Slavic state known as Great Moravia that lasted nearly 400 years.
In the early 10th century, with the Great Moravian Empire falling apart, the Hungarians annexed the territory and the whole area of Slovakia became part of the Kingdom of Hungary.
In 1237 the Mongols began their invasion of Europe, during which the Mongols attacked medieval powers including East Slavic principalities and the Kingdom of Hungary.
The result was a significant decline in population and a widespread famine. However, in Medieval times, Slovakia would grow again, as small hamlets sprung up, trade routes improved and stone castles dotted the landscape.
The Ottoman (Turkish) Empire - at the height of its power - expanded into the Kingdom of Hungary in the 16th century; regional raids and wars soon followed and destruction in the Slovakia territory was not a stranger.
As the Turks withdrew from Hungary in the late 17th century, the importance of Slovakia decreased, although Bratislava retained its status as the capital of Hungary until 1848.
In 1848, as political upheavals throughout Europe, the Slovaks supported the Hapsburg-ruled empire as they hoped for independence from the Kingdom of Hungary, but they failed to achieve their objective.
In 1914, World War I raised its ugly head. This major war (centered in Europe) lasted until November of 1918. In the end more than 9 million combatants were killed.
As for the Austria-Hungary alliance the war was a complete military disaster as that alliance, along with Germany and Russia had lost vast tracts of land, and were militarily and politically defeated by the allies.
During World War I the Czechs, Slovaks, and other national groups of the Austria-Hungary alliance were joined by Czechs and Slovaks living abroad in campaigning for an independent state.
Following World War I, the Slovaks joined the Czech lands of Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia (an historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland) and formed the new joint state of Czechoslovakia.
For the next few decades the Czechoslovak government attempted to control and industrialize Slovakia. That movement failed in part due to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
This marked the beginning of Slovak resentment over what was perceived to be domination by the Czechs, and it led to increasing dissatisfaction that called for equality between Czechs and Slovaks, and greater autonomy for Slovakia.
On March 14, 1939, the first independent Slovak Republic was established, with Monsignor Josef Tiso as prime minister. With independence, Slovakia now came under heavy German influence and Tiso allowed German troops to occupy Slovakia in August 1939, and the country entered World War II as Germany's ally.