Life Of Charlemagne Essay, Research Paper
??And although his body was not pierced by the sword, the trial of many sufferings, the perilous combats in which he engaged, his daily willingness to die for the conversion of the infidel, have made of him a martyr.?
- Frederick Barbarossa
The Medieval Age is thought of as a dark time, where everything tended to be bleak and dismal, however there was light all through this period, and many institutions we have today were created and formed during this time. Out of this great time, we get great leaders, some of who are Alfred, Arthur, and Charlemagne. Charlemagne was the great leader and protector of the Franks, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and conqueror of Lombardy. He was a great man even by today?s standards. He stood up for what he believed in and protected what he had.
Much of what we know of Charlemagne comes from ?The Life of Charlemagne?, written by Einhard, who was a friend of Charlemagne, and was a later advisor to his son. Charlemagne, also known as Charles I, was born in 742. He was the son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada. ?Little is known about his childhood, no one was around at the time of Einard?s writing who would have remembered it? . Charlemagne’s roots can be traced back to Ansegis, Mayor of Austrasia and Begga. His most famous ancestors however, were his father and grandfather, Pepin the Short and Charles Martel, respectively. ?After the death of Pepin the Short, in 768, Charlemagne and his brother Carloman were proclaimed kings by their supporting nobles, and were anointed by their respective bishops, this joint ruling was only allowed if the two brothers could co-operate with each other in the ruling of the country.?
?In 769, Aquitaine and Gascony broke into rebellion, which was a war first started by Pepin the short, but was not finished. Charlemagne was forced to try to crush these rebellions without his brother’s assistance, because Carloman did not send the assistance that Charlemagne needed? . Charlemagne marched his army through Bordeaux and defeated the rebel leader, Hunold. Duke Hunold went to Lupus, Duke of the Gascons, for protection. Duke Lupus feared the Charlemagne would walk through his country and take over, so he agreed to give Hunold to Charlemagne, and also gave himself up.
After the Aquitaine War, there was trouble starting up in Lombardy, to try and seal the peace with Lombardy, he married the daughter of the king of Lombardy, Desiderata. Pope Stephen III did not like this marriage, for the papacy had great influence with the Franks. Pope Stephen would have liked to see the powers of the Lombards weakened, because the Lombard?s territory bordered on those of the Pope?s land. After one year, Charlemagne divorced his wife, Desiderata and married Hildegarde. In 771, there was a fear that Carloman and Desiderata would create an alliance and attack Charlemagne, but in December of that year, Carloman died, leaving Charlemagne in complete control of the Frankish Kingdom who voted unanimously for Charlemagne to lead all of the Franks.
?In 772, Charlemagne led an army into Saxony, in his first attempt to conquer the region. Charlemagne decided to stop for the winter, and instead of going back to attack Saxony, he had changed his mind and turned around and headed for Lombardy in 773. His army marched from Geneva toward Lombardy. Charlemagne’s army was spilt into two groups, one commanded by him and the other by his Uncle Bernard. Although Desiderius had fortified the Italian Alps, a flanking maneuver forced him to retreat toward Lombardy. Desiderius’ army came to rest at the city of Pavia. Charlemagne laid siege to the city for several months.? He then left a smaller force to siege Pavia, and took the bulk of his army to meet other Lombard threats. Being so close to Rome, Charlemagne decided to visit the Pope. In Rome he met other rulers, spiritual and earthly. In meetings with the pope, he reconfirmed the alliance between the Frankish Empire and the papacy. In the summer of 774, Pavia was in a difficult position, they had no food, Desiderius agreed to surrender as long as the life of his men would be spared. Charlemagne, agreed to the terms, and exiled Desiderius. Charlemagne was then declared the King of Italy, and from that time onwards he was to be called King of the Franks and Lombards.
Charlemagne thought the best way to rule the territories that he conquered was to leave the current governors in their place and got them to pay tribute to him. One of the son-in-laws to Desiderius refused to pay respect to Charlemagne, and he tried to restore the exiled prince Adelchis. Charlemagne then set out to crush these dissidents; he went to battle with the Lombards again. ?While Charlemagne was fighting the Lombards, the Saxons again revolted, and Charlemagne again marched his armies to Saxony. He started his invasion by attacking Westphalia. Then he marched into Engria, conquered the Mid-Saxons, and then crossed into Eastphalia. It was the Eastphalians who first converted to Christianity, and then the Engrians followed. Hostages were taken for security for the oaths made. Westphalia was the last to covert, as they were stronger than the other two provinces of Saxony.? As an end result of this campaign, three quarters of Saxony were loyal to Charlemagne, but not for long. In 776, Saxony revolted again. He marched his army from Italy to Saxony with amazing speed, and took the Saxons completely by surprise. The hostages that he had taken earlier were killed, and the Saxons looked for peace. ?To insure his control, Charlemagne called a council at Paderborn, in the center of Engria. Many Saxons were baptized, and swore oaths to remain loyal to Charlemagne. At the council, ambassadors from Spain had come to show homage to Charlemagne, they proposed that their feudal lords become lords of Charlemagne, if he agreed to give protection. Thinking that Saxony was under control, he accepted the offer and took his army into Spain. After conquering lands there, he learned that there was another revolt in Saxony. He then marched back to Saxony, and defeated the Westphalians. As usual, the Eastphalians and the Engrians submitted without a fight.? Charlemagne then divided the Saxons politically and put them under bishops, to keep them controlled. He published a Saxon code of law, and let some Saxon Chieftains keep rule. After 2 years, the northern tribes of Saxony revolted again, and Charlemagne again subdue the revolt. He then rounded up the leaders of the revolt, which was about 4,500 men, and slaughtered them. Only minor Saxony revolts occurred for the time being, which were easily controlled. Charlemagne then turned his attention to other fronts. He then conquered the Slavs, Avars, the Island of Corsica, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands. In 792, the Saxons revolted again. It would take 2 years for Charlemagne to stop the rebellion.
?Charlemagne was described as a very large person, but with a very squeaky voice. He loved to have people around him. Charlemagne was a humble ruler, he did not try to elevate himself over his subjects, and he talked to each one equally, and frequently appointed former slaves as governors.? Also he did not dress eloquently, he wore the same clothes as everyone else at this time. From the beginning of his day, he had people asking for advice, chatting with him, etc. He did not like to waste time, and often had his daily planning session in his bedroom while he got dressed. He was a deeply religious person, and attended mass regularly. He also loved to eat, and regarded meal times when heart and mind were nourished. Like the Greeks, Charlemagne despised drunkenness in all people, and especially held himself to his standards. After a meal, he would often take a nap in preparation for the day ahead, which was filled with court cases, planning, and other kingly matters. In the evening, he would attend services in the chapel, before he would eat dinner.
Charlemagne loved his family, and when he was at home, would not sit down to eat without his children being present. He especially cared for his children, Charles, Carloman (who is later named Pepin), and Louis. From the beginning of their lives he always stressed education. In addition to the physical training they received, each one of them accompanied their father on the battlefield, and when each was 13, they were all commanding men. He also gave each of his sons a portion of the kingdom to rule, so that they would gain practical experience in being a leader. Even after they were on their own, Charlemagne kept an eye on them. He was even more watchful of his daughters. He would only allow them to marry courtiers that lived in the palace. His daughters joined in on all of his activities, from the morning hunt to the various after-dinner discussions. In 791, he chooses Aix-la-Chapelle (now know as Aachen) to be the site for his new capitol. He chose this site for several reasons. First, it was known for it’s hot springs. Second, Aix-la-Chapelle was in reach of nearly all of Frankland, and was especially close to Saxony. Third, it was a small town, and this would allow him to exert his own influence in its construction. The capitol was centered on the church and his palace, both in his mind equal.
In the late 780’s and throughout the 790’s Charlemagne devoted much of his time trying to improve the lives of his citizens. He proved himself to be a wise ruler. One of the factors in his success was the establishment of ‘missi dominici’ (the lord’s emmissaries). The missi dominici were people who inspected all regions of the empire, taking notes on how Charlemagne’s orders were being carried out, and ensuring they were being carried out. The ‘missi dominici’ were really the eyes and ears of Charlemagne, since he could not view his entire kingdom at one time. Another factor that helped simplify the empire was the use of feudalism. Feudalism was such an important part of European lifestyle, which it wasn?t until the 1800?s when the last of it disappeared. Charlemagne improved the trade within the empire by improving road conditions, and building new roads. He tried to build a canal connected the Danube and the Rhine rivers, but was unsuccessful. He was forced to develop a system of money exchange with in the empire because of the new trade; it was the most efficient way to trade amongst his great empire.
Charlemagne, while being an excellent military tactician, also cared for his intellectual development. Ever since he had been exposed to life in Italy, he started to attack learning as he had attacked the Saxons, with strength and perseverance. He learned how to speak Greek and Latin. Charlemagne started a school at Aix-la-Chapelle, where he invited students from all over the kingdom to learn. Although the school was established for sons of nobles, he believed that all children should have a chance to learn, so he allowed all children to enroll. The reputation of the Palace School spread throughout Europe. Students from all across Europe came to the school. Charlemagne picked Alcuin, a monk from England to revise the educational system. Alcuin wrote new textbooks to replace the older ones, and started to train new teachers. By the time of Alcuin’s retirement, Charlemagne could offer universal free education. Charlemagne often enjoyed the conversation that Alcuin, and others gave. ?The school at Aix-la-Chapelle soon became a college. Lectures, poetry readings, and conversation were prevalent there. Charlemagne’s interest in education stemmed from his interest in religion, he felt that education opened a person to the religious knowledge that made for salvation of the soul.? Charlemagne became interested in religious life of Frankland in other ways. Previously, his sense of religious mission had been restricted to his attempts to conquer new converts on the battlefield. His sense of responsibility began to grow. The king often turned preacher, as he felt that the people, especially the clergy, should live up to the ideals and behaviors that they professed. He started a campaign to clean all the churches in Frankland, he introduced the Gregorian chant to the church services, and he urged priests to get a proper education.? Charlemagne also started to get into the theological controversies of the day. He studied the orthodox position, and tried to understand it, he also began to step in when he felt that Pope Hadrian was slacking off in duties. When Charlemagne heard that the Eastern church defended the practice of using images in their worship, Charlemagne wrote a defense of the Western’s Church’s position. He called a council of Bishops in 794 where he presented his document. They all voted to condemn the eastern practice.
Beginning with the death of Pope Hadrian in 795, Charlemagne started down the path to becoming Emperor of the Romans. Hadrian’s successor, Pope Leo, was very unpopular. Roman nobles accused him of adultery. In 799 the Pope was attacked by a group of conspirators who were determined to dispose him. Loyal attendants, who took him to safety, eventually saved him. He sought a more permanent refuge with Frankish ambassadors. Although Charlemagne did not especially like the new pope, he would not stand for this kind of behavior. ?He sent for Leo to be brought to him. Pope Leo stayed with Charlemagne for a couple months before he was sent back with 2 archbishops and Frankish bodyguards, who were to clear the Pope’s name. While in Rome, he finally cleared Pope Leo’s name.? On the day he had planned to crown his son King of Franks, he was crowned Emperor of the Romans. Charlemagne accepted the position with humility. Einhard, his biographer, and one of his closest friends remarked the king saying that he would enter St. Peter’s that Day if he had known what the Pope was going to do.
Charlemagne showed most of his true qualities as Emperor. This was to start his career as a diplomat. He turned his attention to the Holy Land. Reports of Moslem attacks on Christian monasteries had been reaching Europe. Charlemagne began efforts to befriend the Muslims. He sent a team of ambassadors to Baghdad, where he befriended the Caliph of Baghdad. It worked and the Caliph showered the Emperor with gifts of silk, and even an elephant. In 804, Saxony rebelled, and in an act of great cruelty, Charlemagne ordered that many Saxons to be sent to distant parts of the Frankish kingdom. In his new position came new enemies.
His main enemy was the Byzantines. The Byzantine emperors were not happy with Charlemagne being crowned Emperor of the Romans. In the year 805, Charlemagne had a confrontation with the Byzantines over the possession of Venice. But instead of fighting over Venice, Charlemagne gave it to the Byzantine emperor in favor of better relations. The Normans in the North were becoming more of a problem also. They would use their navy to raid the coastal villages of Frankland. Although the Franks were powerful on land, they were inferior to the Normans at sea. Charlemagne organized his people to start building a new navy. The conflict in the north was finally ended, but not by superior naval strength, but because the Norman king had died. In 810 the Franks started a campaign against the Normans, and Charles took the elephant he had received from the Caliph of Baghdad with him. While on the campaign, the elephant died. This was only the start of Charlemagne’s troubles. Later in 810, the Frankish Empire was struck by a cattle plague, causing famine. Charlemagne’s son, Pepin, and daughter, Hrodrud, both died that year, and Charlemagne’s health began to fail. Charlemagne started plan how his empire would be split up after his death. He did not want to split his land between his remaining sons, for fear of fighting between them. But, as was Frankish tradition, ?he did plan to break up his empire, but under the condition that the 3 kingdoms work with each other. Also in his will, he made clear that eleven twelfths was to go to the church? . In 811, Charlemagne?s oldest son, Charles, died. This left only Louis to govern the empire after his death. Many felt that the crown should not be passed to Louis, but rather to one of Charlemagne’s grandsons. But Charlemagne was determined to follow tradition. In 813, he summoned Louis to Aix-la-Chapelle to try and teach him how to govern and empire. In September of that year, Charlemagne crowned his son, Louis the Pious, King of the Franks and Emperor of the Romans. Just a few months afterwards, Charlemagne was killed by a fever after a hunting trip. He was 71 years old.
Charlemagne, had the longest rule to date of any one ruler in Europe, the reign was 47 years. He had come to the throne in 768 at the age of 26, along with his brother. Throughout the 47 years of his rule, he had changed the course of Europe. He reimplemented the Holy Roman Empire, and brought religion to many places all over northern Europe. He had expanded the minds of people, by offering them free education. His great wars showed that he was a militarily superior man, but his personal life showed he was a good father, and a very devoted man. The main source of data we get on Charlemagne is from Einhard, his tales of Charlemagne still are reprinted today, but how much faith can we put on this one-sided piece o evidence. Charlemagne was remembered for centuries after his death, some stories true and some fabricated, but in the eyes of most people, Charlemagne was one of the greatest rules in history.
Richard Winston, Charlemagne (London, 1956), 326.
Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne (Toronto, 1960), 27.
H.R. Loyn and J. Percival, The Reign of Charlemagne (London, 1975), 1.
Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne, 27-28.
E.M. Almedingen, Charlemagne (Toronto, 1968), 96-103.
Winston, Charlemagne, 67-78.
Winston, Charlemagne, 67-78.
Donald Bullough, The Age Of Charlemagne (London, 1965), 203-207.
Winston, Charlemagne, 39.
Winston, Charlemagne, 40.
Winston, Charlemagne, 255-258.
Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne, 63-69.