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Charlemagne. I (, )

Charlemagne. I (, )

World History I

HST 218 102

Charlemagne.

By: Vlad Exxxx

Instructor: Mr. James Krokar

DePaul University

November 18, 2002

The happiness and prosperity of the citizens

is the only legitimate object of government.

- Thomas Jefferson

Sometimes one great man is all it takes to change the course of

history around for a nation, a civilization, or even the entire world.

Luckily for the proponents of its proponents, it is hard to disagree with

the theory of persona magna. The world has seen the historical

repercussions of the distinguished exploits of such men as Julius Caesar,

Alexander the Great, and Abraham Lincoln. The remarkable accomplishments of

Charlemagne undeniably earn him a place among the most triumphant

individuals in history.

Charlemagne was born into the family of the Mayor of the Palace in the

court of King Childeric. Despite the lack of royal ancestry, Charles

father, Pepin was the true ruler of the Franks until the eventual

deposition of impotent Childeric, at which time Pepin was named the

official monarch. Upon Pepins demise, the state, which Pepin had

gloriously expanded, was passed on to Charles and his brother Carloman who

ruled jointly for some three years, and after Carlomans death, Charles

became the King of the Franks (Einhard 27).

The reign of Charlemagne was a most glorious one. During his forty-

five years in power, Charles distinguished himself as a successful

conqueror, an imposing sovereign, an able diplomat, and an active advocate

of learning. His conquests doubled the empire he inherited, his masterful

diplomacy helped him establish strategic alliances with neighbors, and his

appreciation for knowledge and scholarship sparked a Carolingian

Renaissance (Painter 5), a period of revival of learning, while popular

education was waning in Europe during the early Middle Ages.

For the purpose of determining the medieval Franks view of an ideal

ruler, Einhards positively biased biography of Charlemagne is the best

source for information. As pointed out in Sidney Painters foreword to the

book, Einhard slants the focus toward the positive aspects, while passing

over delicately details he considered embarrassing (Painter 11). As a

result of such omission of most of the unfavorable biographical facts, the

somewhat idealized view of Charlemagne becomes a model of a perfect King

as envisioned by the people of his time.

Perhaps the skill most highly valued by Einhard as well as by the

people of the turbulent Middle Ages was the ability to conduct victorious

warfare. After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, the nations that came to

inherit the land were engaged in frequent wars, trying to conquer lands in

order to collect tribute. Clearly, in times like those it was necessary for

a king to be an apt military commander because the welfare of a nation

almost directly depended upon the territory, and therefore the amount of

arable land and natural resources. Einhard dedicates a large portion of the

biography to the history of Charlemagnes conquests. He mentions Charles

charisma and outstanding leadership skills. If one were to closely examine

the record of the most famous or most notorious kings in the history of

mankind, the top of the list would be dominated by the warrior kings:

Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Sundiata, Ivan the Terrible, and

others. In todays world, the violation of other nations borders seems if

not outrageous, then at least unethical. But in the Middle Ages, when all

government was done by the sword, the winner was the one who was most adept

with that sword. What difference does it make that Charlemagne could not

read or write if his fifty-three successful conquests brought all of

Christian Western Europe except for Britain, Italy, and Sicily (Painter 5)

to the Franks feet? In contrast to Charlemagnes spectacular example,

Einhard briefly describes the personality of the official king in the time

of Pepin, Charlemagnes father:

There was nothing left the King to do but to be content with his

name of King, his flowing hair, and long beard, to sit on the throne

and play the ruler, to give ear to the ambassadors that came from all

quarters, and to dismiss them, as if on his own responsibility, in

words that were, in fact, suggested to him, or even imposed upon him

(Einhard 23-24).

If anything had caused Einhard to give mention to such a petty figure

as King Childeric, it must have been the need for an antithesis to contrast

with the marvelous personality of Charlemagne. Fulfilling the duty of a

historian would not explain such a motion because in Einhards own

foreword, he indirectly confesses of creating a somewhat biased picture of

his master and benefactor, thereby renouncing the duty and the title of a

historian.

Einhard undertook a considerable effort to discuss Charlemagnes

positive personal traits: determination and steadfastness to go through

with all his endeavors; strict adherence to justice and readiness to

counteract any faithless behavior with righteous vengeance (Einhard 31).

Through Charlemagnes example, Einhard specifies more valuable character

traits of a worthy ruler: perseverance to withstand whatever comes, without

yielding in the face of adversity or difficulty (Einhard 33).

 
 

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