CHARLEMAGNE

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CHARLEMAGNE {Carolus Magnus, Charles the Great); one of those characters whose achievements bear the impress of gigantic power, by whom nations have been formed and destroyed, and who have exercised an influence which has been felt for centuries, and compelled succeeding generations to admire their greatness, though unable to justify all their actions. Charlemagne, king of the Franks, and subsequently emperor of the West, was bom in 742, in the castle of Carlsberg, on the lake of Wurmsee, in Upper Bavaria. Others mention the castle of Ingelheim, near Mentz, and others AixlaChapelle, as the place of his nativity. His father was Pepin the Short, king of the Franks, son of Charles Martel. After the decease of his father, in 768, he was crowned king, and, according to the wish which Pepin had expressed, divided France with his younger brother Carloman ; but the conditions of this partition were several times altered, without being ever adjusted to the satisfaction of the parties. Their mutual discontent was fostered principally by the king of the Lombards, Desiderius (the fatherinlaw ofboth princes), because Charlemagne had repudiated his wife. Desiderius sought revenge for the rejection of his daughter, by exciting and encouraging commotions in France, in which he was assisted by the circumstance that the nobles aspired to independence. The people of Aquitania were the first who attempted to be come independent. Charlemagne marched against them with rather a small army; but he relied on the assistance of his brother Carloman, to whom a portion of Aquitania then belonged. Carloman appeared, indeed, in the field, but, in the decisive moment, deserted his brother, who was obliged to sustain, alone, an unequal conflict. His great courage and conduct, after a long and doubtful contest, procured him the victory, in 770, and the insurgents submitted. In this campaign, the youthful hero displayed such distinguished militaiy talents, that the fear of his name curbed his fiercest vassals. This contest convinced Charlemagne of the necessity of repressing the nobles, and employing them thenceforward in important enterprises, in order to divert their attention from the internal affairs of the empire. Had he not, therefore, himself been inclined to wars of conquest, in which his talents could be exhibited in all their splendor, he would have been induced to undertake them by the internal condition of the empire. At Carloman's death, in 771, and after the flight of his wife and her two sons to her father, in Italy, Charlemagne made himself master of the whole empire, the extent of which wTas already very great, as it embraced, besides France, a large part of Germany. He now formed the plan of conquering the Saxons, for which his zeal for Christianity and its diffusion served him as a tolerable pretence. The Saxons, a nation of German heathens, were in possession of Holstein and Westphalia, between the rivers Weser and Elbe, and, like other barbarians, preferred pillaging to peaceful occupations, and a wandering to a settled mode of life. They had several leaders, and constituted various tribes, which were seldom disposed to cooperate. An invasion of the Saxons into the territory of the Franks was the alleged cause of the first war which Charlemagne began against them in 772. The other wars were produced by the rebellions of this warlike nation, which, overpowered, but not entirely vanquished, was never reduced to complete submission till the peace of Seltz, in 803, after it had embraced Christianity. A part of the Saxons Charlemagne removed to Flanders and Switzerland, and their seats were occupied by the Obotrites, a Vandal tribe in Mecklenburg. The famous pillars called Irminsaide were destroyed by Charlemagne, as monuments of pagan worship. Thus for 32 years did the Saxons resist a conqueror, who, at times, indulgent to imprudence, often severe to cruelty, striving, with equal eagerness, to convert and to subdue them, never became master of their country till he had transformed it almost entirely into a desert. The Saxons might have made a more successful defence against the power and genius of Charlemagne, had they not been distracted by internal dissensions. The most celebrated of their leaders was Wittikind, and, next to him, Alboin, who finally embraced Christianity in 783. To explain the protracted resistance of the Saxons, we must'remember that the manner in which the armies of those days were organized produced an armistice eveiy year (the levy of troops being only for one campaign); that Charlemagne was obliged to wage wars at the same time against the Lombards, the Avars, the Saracens and the Danes; and that the magnitude of his states facilitated the rebellions of his vassals, on which account all his attention was often required to preserve internal tranquillity, and maintain his own authority. While he was combating the Saxons on the banks of the Weser, pope Adrian implored his assistance against Desiderius, who had torn from him the exarchate of Ravenna, which Pepin the Short had presented to the holy see, and who was urging the pope to crown the nephews of Charlemagne, that Charlemagne himself might be considered a usurper, and his subjects be induced to renounce their allegiance. The danger was urgent. Charlemagne immediately left Germany, and marched with his army to Italy. Desiderius fled to Pavia, which was bravely defended by the Lombards. The city finally fell, and Desiderius, with the widow and sons of Carloman, were earned prisoners to France. Desiderius ended his life in a monastery. Respecting the fate of the others, history is silent. In 774, Charlemagne was crowned king of Italy with the iron crown. Although the kingdom of Lombardy was now extinct, the provinces of which it consisted were allowed to retain their former laws and constitutions, it being a general maxim of the great monarch not to deprive the conquered nations of their usages and laws, nor to govern them all under one form. In this he followed the dictates of sound policy, which, in so turbulent times, led him to beware of consolidating all his vassals into a political body with ec^al rights, which might render a general combination against their ruler practicable. In 778, he repaired to Spain, to assist a Moorish prince. He conquered Pampe luna, made himself master of the county of Barcelona, and spread the terror of his name every where. But, on his return, his troops were surprised in the valley of Roncesvalles by the Saracens, in connexion with the mountaineers (the Gascons), and suffered a severe defeat; remarkable from the circumstance, that Roland, one of the most famous warriors of those times, fell in the battle. (See Chivalry.) The disaffection of the tribes of Aouitania induced Charlemagne to give tlftm a separate ruler: for this purpose he selected the youngest of his sons, Louis (called le Debonnai?*e). The Lombards were no less turbulent, and the Greeks made incessant efforts to reconquer Italy ; and the nobles, to whom he had intrusted a part of the sovereignty of this country, evinced little fidelity. He therefore gave them his second son, Pepin, for a monarch; his eldest son, Charles, remaining constantly with him, and assisting him in his manifold undertakings. In 780, he caused these two sons to be crowned by the pope in Rome, hoping, by this means, to render the royal dignity inviolable in the sight of the people. Charlemagne had another son, also called Pepin, who was the oldest of all his children, being the son of his divorced wife. This circumstance probably inspired the monarch with an aversion to Pepin, and prevented him from admitting him to participate in the government. Pepin, therefore, became the instigator of a conspiracy against his father, and finally died in a monastery. After returning from Spain, Charlemagne was again obliged to take the field against the Saxons. Exasperated by the defeat of his generals in 782, he caused 4500 Saxons to be massacred at Verdena measure which urged to fury the hatred of the people. The year 790, the 22d of his reign, was the only one which he passed without taking up arms. As his power increased, he meditated more seriously the accomplishment of the plan of his ancestor, Charles Martel, to restore the Wrestern empire. To prevent the partition of the empire, the empress Irene, who then reigned at Constantinople, proposed to Charlemagne to marry their children, by which means the world would again have been united under one dominion. Her proposition was accepted ; but Irene's ambition earned her so far, that she dethroned her own son, to render herself supreme, and offered her own hand to Charlemagne, who did not seem averse to this singular union, which would have afforded the world an unparalleled spec tacle, had not Irene herself been deposed. In the year 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the West by pope Leo III; and, although his journey to Rome had, in all probability, no other object, he professed himself much surprised at this ceremony. On Christmasday, he was proclaimed Caesar and Augustus ; he was invested with the ornaments of the ancient Roman emperors, and the only thing forgotten was, that the empire could not subsHt long in a family where the authority was, by law, divided among the children of the deceased monarch. After Charlemagne had made a monk of one of his sons, Pepin, king of Italy, died in 810, whose death was followed, the next year, by that of Charles, the oldest. Thus, of his legitimate sons, one only remained, Louis, king of Aquitania, whom he adopted as his colleague in 813, as his age and increasing weakness gave him warning that the end of his life could not be far distant. He died Jan. 28, 814, in the 71st year of his age and the 47th of his reign, with anticipations and fears that his empire would not long withstand the attacks of foreign enemies ; apprehensions which the event confirmed. He felt, too late, that the same Saxons, part of whom he had driven from their seats, would one day take revenge on his empire, and in their train bring with them other barbarians. Charlemagne was buried at AixlaChapelle, his favorite and usual place of residence. He was deposited in a vault, where he was placed on a throne of gold, in full imperial costume. On his head he wore the crown; in his hand he held a chalice ; at his side was the sword; on his knees lay the book of the evangelists; at his feet his scenire and shield. The sepulchre was sealed, and over it was erected a kind of triumphal arch, on which were the words " Here lies the body of Charles, the great and orthodox emperor, who gloriously enlarged, and for 47 years happily governed, the empire of the Franks." Charlemagne was a friend of learning; he deserves the name of restorer of the sciences and teacher of his people. He attracted, by his liberality, the most distinguished scholars to his court; among others, Alcuin, from England, whom he chose for his own instructer; Peter of Pisa, who received the title of his grammarian ; and Paul Warnefried, more known under the name of Paul Diaconus, who gave the emperor instruction in Greek and Latin literature. By Alcuin's advice, Charlemagne established an academy in his palace at AixlaChapelle, the sittingsof which he attended, with all the scientific ana literary men of his courtLeidrades, Theodulphus, the archbishops of Treves and Mentz, and the abbot of Corvey. All the members of this academy assumed names characteristic of their talents or inclinations. One was called Dam<ztas, another Homer, another Candidas; Charlemagne himself took the name of David. From Italy he invited teachers of the languages and mathematics, and established them in the principal cities of his empire. In the cathedrals and monasteries he founded schools of theology and the liberal sciences. He strove assiduously to cultivate his mind by intercourse with scholars; and, to the time of his death, this intercourse remained his favorite recreation. He spoke several languages readily, especially the Latin. He was less successful in writing, because he had not applied himself to it till he was further advanced in years. In the winter he read much, and even caused a person to read to him while he took his meals. He endeavored to improve the liturgy and church music. He was desirous of introducing the Roman liturgy into his states; but the clergy, who clung to the ancient usages, offered some resistance. Several churches, however, complied with the wish of the monarch, and others mingled the Roman and Gallican liturgy. He attempted to introduce uniformity of measures and weights, but was unable to accomplish his design. Another great plan of his was to unite the Rhine with the Danube, and, consequently, the Atlantic with the Black sea, by means of a canal. The whole army was employed on the work ; but its accomplishment was prevented by the want of that knowledge of hydraulic architecture which has been since acquired. The arts, however, under his patronage, produced other monuments of his fame. The city of AixlaChapelle received its name from a splendid chapel, which he caused to be built of the most beautiful Italian marble. The doors of this temple were of bronze, and its dome bore a globe of massive gold. The imperial palace was built in the highest style of splendor. Charlemagne also erected baths, in which more than 100 persons could swim in warm water. He was himself very fond of swimming, and frequently used these baths, with all the nobles of his court, and even with his soldiers. At Seltz, in Alsace, he had ^ no less splendid palace. To Charlemagne France is indebted for its first advances in navigation. He built the lighthouse at Boulogne, and constructed several ports. He encouraged agriculture, antl made himself immortal by the wisdom of his laws. Thus his law de villis is esteemed a monument of his views on rural economy ; and Menzel, in his history of the Germans, says of him, " His greatest praise is, that he prevented the total decline of the sciences in the West, and supplied new aliment to their expiring light; that he considered the improvement of nations as important as their union and subjugation. This love of intellectual improvement is the more laudable in a prince whose youth was spent in military exercises and the chase, and his whole after life in the whirlpool of war; at a time, too, before the charm of beautiful models had made intellectual occupation an enjoyment, but when literature and science, appearing in heavy forms, destitute of grace, deterred rather than invited. His fame filled even the East. He received ambassadors from the patriarch of Jerusalem, from the emperors Nicephorus and Michael, and was twice complimented with embassies from Haroun al Raschid, the famous caliph of Bagdad, all of which he received with a splendor unexampled even in the East. He convened councils and parliaments, published capitularies, wrote many letters (some of which are still extant), a grammar, and several Latin poems. His empire comprehended France, most of Catalonia, Navarre and Arragon; the Netherlands, Germany as far as the Elbe, Saale and Eyder, Upper and Middle Italy, Istria, and a part of Sclavonia. In private life, Charlemagne was exceedingly amiable; a good father, and generous friend. His domestic economy afforded a model of frugality; his person, a rare example of simplicity and greatness. He despised extravagance of dress in men, though, on solemn occasions, he appeared in all the splendor of majesty. His table was very frugal. His only excess was his love of the other sex. He was large and strong; his height, according to Eginhard, equalled seven times the length of his foot. His head was round; his eye large and lively; his nose of more than common size; his countenance had an agreeable expression of serenity. His gait was firm; his bearing manly. He enjoyed constant health, till the last four years of his life, when he was attacked by fevers, and began to limp. In summer, he was accustomed to repose for two hours after dinner, for which purpose he used to undress; but at night he slept uneasily. He wore the dress of his country; on his body, a linen shirt, over which was a coat with a silk border, and long breeches. For his outer dress, he wore a cloak, and always his sword, the hilt and belt of which were of gold and silver. He possessed a natural, impressive eloquence, and, in his expression of countenance, there was something to excite respect, united with gentleness and kindness. (See Eginlutrd.)