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The military conquests of Charlemagne

There was relatively little commerce in Western Europe. Roads, bridges, and the infrastructure generally were non-existent. Furthermore, the countryside was unsafe for travel due to a lack of organized law enforcement. Small villages had to take care of themselves; therefore, manufacturing was carried on only to the extent that was needed to supply local needs. In the little kingdoms or principalities, the lands over which a King ruled were regarded as no different from other property. Among the Franks, all sons were entitled to a share. Therefore, when a King died, each son became a King over his own little kingdom.

Thus, many political units became small so there were no uniform laws or policies. This lack of unity made them vulnerable to enemies as well as conflict from within. Bullough points out that the loyalty of a warrior or subject to his chosen leader was not a light matter. The author does not contrast that concept of loyalty however, with our present ideas of loyalty to the homeland or institution. The apprenticeship of a King describes how Charlemagne gained power through conquest and diplomacy. In 768, King Pippin died and his kingdom was divided between his two sons. Charles, the elder, and the younger was Carloman.

The author says that little is known of Charles boyhood. When he was of the right age, it is recorded that he worked eagerly at riding and hunting. It was the custom of the Franks to ride and be practiced in the use of arms and ways of hunting. We may reasonably infer that acquiring these skills formed a major part of his early education. Charles was not a man of letters and the author makes no attempt at explaining this other than to point out that literacy was considered unimportant at that time for anyone other than the clergy and Charles didnt become interested in letters until later in life.

Bullough explains a number of experiences in public duties and responsibilities, which were assigned to Charles by his father, thus, giving him an apprenticeship to rule the kingdom. For some reason tension between Charles and his brother began shortly after their accession. The author explains a number of conflicts. The younger brother died however, at the end of 771 and a number of prominent people in his kingdom offered allegiance to Charles. Bullough names and explains those subjects. The result was the re-uniting of those territories, which helped to establish the kingdom of the Franks.

The author describes in detail the military conquests of Charlemagne. The text includes maps of the territories and battlefields. It is stated that to some areas, Charles may have come as a liberator from the infidel yoke, but to many other peoples who bordered his dominions, Christian and Non-Christian alike, he was an oppressive enemy, like so many others before and after. In 880, Pope Leo III called on Charles for assistance when he faced charges of simony, perjury, and adultery. Charles acted with careful deliberation when dealing with this matter.

Charles was asked to preside over the Popes hearing. He did so, and Leo was cleared of all charges. Two days later, Leo placed a crown on Charles head and proclaimed him Holy Roman Emperor. This gave Charles the Devine Right to Rule according to the Roman Church. The author does not infer from any of this information. Personally, it seems that Charlemagne united an empire by conquest and ruled by the authority of the Pope. Bullough does not suggest that during this time the government and the church became so intervened that there were really one and the same.

Having conquered an empire and established the Devine Right to Rule, Charles then, according to Bullough, began to establish some uniformity within the empire. The ancient concept of public order had not been entirely destroyed by the invasion of barbarians within the empire. But, as law and order became weaker, its place was partly taken by the Churchmens Nations of peace and right order. The author explains how Charles established a system of courts to see that justice was done to all free disputants and to protect widows and orphans.

The author does not state any conclusions as to the results of the establishment of a uniform legal system. Although Charles was not literate, he seems to have placed value in education. Bullough credits him with a revival of learning or a Carolingian Renaissance. Charlemagne saw that education was in serious decline. So he gathered together at his court some of the finest minds of his day. He also sponsored monasteries where ancient books were preserved and copied. He reformed the palace school and saw that monastic schools were set up throughout the realm.

The idea of learning was given a time and a place to flourish. The Carolingian Renaissance was an isolated phenomenon. Learning did not catch fire throughout Europe. Only in the royal court and monasteries was there any real focus on education. Yet because of Charles interest in preserving and reviving knowledge, a wealth of ancient manuscripts was copied for future generations. Just as important, a tradition of learning was established in European monastic communities. These monasteries helped to overcome the threat of the extinction of Latin culture.

The Carolingian handwriting that evolved during Charlemagnes reign was developed to increase the legibility of the numerous manuscripts the monks turned out at this time. These small letters, known as Carolingian Miniscule became the basis of the lower case letters we use today. Ninety percent of the works of ancient Rome now in existence are preserved in the form of manuscripts copied in a Carolingian Monastery. Bullough devotes much time to the areas on art and architecture during the Carolingian period. Included are photographs of buildings, which are standing, and in use today.

There are also ground plan drawings of buildings and samples of other works of art. Being closely aligned with the church, it is not surprising that the major examples of Carolingian architecture are churches and Biblical illustrations make up much of the art. These are not the only works. There are also many secular works, such as Charles and his Warriors. Bullough tries to separate legend from reality. It seems that while Charles attempted to rekindle an interest in learning and unite various groups into one nation, he never addressed the economic difficulties that Europe faced now that Rome no longer furnished order.

Although Charlemagne did devise the system of pounds, shillings and pence used throughout Europe during the middle ages and in Britain until recently, other segments of the infrastructure continued to decline. Roads and bridges fell into decay, trade was fractured, and manufacturing was by necessity a localized craft instead of a widespread and profitable industry. But these are only failures if Charlemagnes goal was to rebuild the Roman Empire. It is doubtful, however, that that was his motive. Charles was a Frankish Warrior King with the background and traditions of Germanic peoples. He probably succeeded in his goals.

Charlemagne treated his empire as his personal property and divided his realm among his sons. Either he failed to realize that only with unity could the empire become a true power, or he placed his own wished, and those of his sons, above the decisions that would best serve the empire. Political authority played a significant role in the rise of the Frankish Empire. Charlemagnes role as the political leader of the empire is one of the key factors of the success of the. The basis for Charlemagnes power was in essence his double royal authority; not only was he the king of the Frankish Empire, but he was also crowned, Emperor of Rome.

Before Charlemagne and his father, Pepins, reigns, basis of political authority did not lie with the king. Einhard writes, “It had really lost all power years before and it no longer possessed anything at all of importance beyond the empty title of king. The wealth and the power of the kingdom were held tight in the hands of certain leading officials of the court, who were called the mayors of the palace. The king possesses nothing at all of his own, except a single estate with an extremely small revenue”. It was Pepin, Charlemagnes father who set the precedent for the shift in political authority.

Starting out as a Mayor of the Palace, which was a title granted by the people to someone who outshone all others by the extent of their wealth and family distinction, Pepin inherited the title of King which he later passed on to his children, Charlemagne and Carloman. The Frankish people had a lot to do with the of political authority. When the question of succession of Kingship between Charlemagne and Carloman arises, a general assembly is called. Similarly, when Carloman dies, Charlemagne cannot take control of Carlomans empire without first having the consent of all Franks.

In this way, the role of councils and general assemblies were vital to the political authority of Charlemagne. Often times, however, disagreements between the King and his councils caused rifts. The King was able to without the support of the council. Einhard writes, but in the most difficult circumstances, for certain of the Frankish leaders, whom Pepin the Short was accustomed to consult, were so supposed to his wishes that they openly announced their determination to desert their King and return home. Despite this Pepin declared war on King Haistulf and brought this war to a rapid completion”.

Regardless of disagreements, the councils played an important role in the of political authority; the people were always consulted about matters of importance. The papacy was another essential element of political authority in Frankish society. The relationships between rulers of the Frankish Empire and the popes have been forged. Pepin forged a relationship with the papacy by coming to the aid of the Pope of Rome. In return, Pepin is made King. Charlemagnes relationship with the papacy is an extension of his fathers relationship.

He continues Pepins efforts to protect the papacy. In return, Pope Leo III crowns Charlemagne emperor. As emperor of Rome, Charlemagnes realm of political authority doubles. Charlemagnes political authority not only lies in the secular world, but in the ecclesiastical world. He takes on the role of the “protector of the church. ” His new position allows him to do many things, including reforms in the church and the legal system of Frankish society. Einhard writes, “He made careful reforms in the way in which the psalms were chanted and the lessons read.

Now that he was Emperor, he discovered that there were many defects in the legal system of his own people, for the Franks have two separate codes of law which differ from each other in many points he committed to writing the laws of all the nations under his jurisdiction which still remained unrecorded. Though there were many outside factors, which attributed to the basis of political authority, transfer of power was still hereditary. Family and relationships were decisive in the position, which a person gained.

It was very rare that a person who was not of noble class achieved greatness, although Charlemagne did support meritocracy in his court. In the case of Charlemagne, family was of great importance, since it was his father, Pepin who as King was able to pave the way for Charlemagne to come to power. Charlemagne and his brother, Carloman became kings because of Divine right. Though family position did have its benefits. Many family relationships did create friction as well. For example, Carloman and Charlemagne jointly ruled the Frankish Empire. Einhard writes, ” each received half of the kingdom.

This harmony continued between them, but with great difficulty, for many of the partisans of Carloman did their best to break up the alliance, to the point that certain of them even plotted to engage the two in warfare. Before the Frankish empire had to deal with the rivalry, Carloman dies, and through election by the people, Charlemagne becomes the sole ruler of the Frankish empire. With a monarchy, the empire was stronger, more united. Even when it came to his own heirs, dividing the empire amongst all of his children, would weaken the empire. In fact, some of his children were indeed threats to the empire.

Einhard writes, ” Pepin who was born to Charlemagne by a concubine conspired with certain of the Frankish leaders who had won him over to their cause by pretending to offer him the kingship. The plot was discovered and the conspirators were duly punished. Pepin was tortured. To prevent this from happening, Charlemagne kept his children very close to him. He devoted as much time to the upbringing of his daughters as he did to his sons. Marriage was another way by which family relations were formed. Often times, marriages were arranged to benefit families politically.

In the case of Charlemagnes first wife, he married the daughter of Desiderius, the King of the Longobards, a rival, at the bidding of his mother. Marriage was a way to forge many political as well as diplomatic connections. Women were valuable political pawns, which is perhaps why none of Charlemagnes daughters got married; their husband posed a threat to the throne. Fighting was endemic; those who monopolized the wars also controlled society. Frankish was plagued with war after war. The warrior spirit was considered to be one of the most esteemed attributes of a Frank.

Charlemagne was profusely generous to the Church; at the same time he made himself her master, and used her doctrines and personnel as instruments of education and government. Much of his correspondence was about religion; he hurled scriptural quotations at corrupt officials or worldly clerics; and the intensity of his utterance forbids suspicion that his piety was a political pose. He sent money to distressed Christians in foreign lands, and in his negotiations with Moslem rulers he insisted on fair treatment of their Christian population.

Bishops played a leading part in his councils, assemblies, and administration; but he looked upon them, however reverently, as his agents under God; and he did not hesitate to command them, even in matters of doctrine or morals. He denounced image worship while the popes were defending it; required from every priest a written description of how baptism was administered in his parish, sent the popes directives as numerous as his gifts, suppressed insubordination in monasteries, and ordered a strict watch on convents to prevent whoring, drunkenness, and covetousnessamong the nuns.

There were great difficulties in the way: the Greek monarch already had the title of Roman emperor, and full historic right to that title; the Church had no recognized authority to convey or transfer the title; to give it to a rival of Byzantium might precipitate a gigantic war of Christian East against Christian West, leaving a ruined Europe to a conquering Islam. It was of some help that Irene had seized the Greek throne now, some said, there was no Greek emperor, and the field was open to any claimant.

If the bold scheme could be carried through there would again be a Roman emperor in the West, Latin Christianity would stand strong and unified against schismatic Byzantium and threatening Saracens, and, by the awe and magic of the imperial name, barbarized Europe might reach back across centuries of darkness, and inherit and Christianize the civilization and culture of the ancient world. On December 26, 795, Leo III was chosen Pope. The Roman populace did not like him; it accused him of various misdeeds; and on April 25, 799, it attacked him, maltreated him, and imprisoned him in a monastery.

He escaped, and fled for protection to Charlemagne at Paderborn. The King received him kindly, and sent him back to Rome under armed escort, and ordered the Pope and his accusers to appear before him there in the following year. On November 24, 800, Charlemagne entered the ancient capital in state on December 1 an assembly of Franks and Romans agreed to drop the charges against Leo if he would deny them on solemn oath he did and the way was cleared for a magnificent celebration of the Nativity.

On Christmas Day, as Charlemagne, in the chlamys and sandals of a patricius Romanus, knelt before St. Peters altar in prayer, Leo suddenly produced a jeweled crown, and set it upon the Kings head. The political and cultural life of Europe collapsed with the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century. Three hundred years later, Charlemagne, who became sole king of the Franks in 771, led a cultural revival that lifted Western Europe from darkness. Charlemagne’s reign also was marked by brutal military campaigns designed to expand his empire.

For more than 30 years, Charlemagne waged a bitter war against the Saxons, finally forcing their conversion to Christianity; this campaign included the mass execution of 4,500 Saxons on a single day. Although Charlemagne ultimately controlled practically all Christian lands of Western Europe, his empire quickly crumbled following his death in 814. The cultural revival sparked by Charlemagne nonetheless had a permanent influence on Europe and overshadowed his ruthless military measures.

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