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Old November 2nd, 2017, 12:07 AM   #1
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Charlemagne


Hello Historum.. first time poster sometime lurker but lifelong fan of history...

Lately I've been thinking a lot for whatever reason about a kind of late Roman dark/middle ages era... in fact I'm not sure if Charlemagne would be better off in Ancient History or here...

Anyway! My remembrance of Charlemagne is based on blurbs in one of those old kind of Middle School history textbooks.. and basically he kinda stuck with me more than most figures.

If I had to say why it was something like "Warlord vanquishes and defeats so and so and such and such" but that was with a lot of figures, but specifically the part about him wanting to learn how to write, and the tablet under the pillow story but being too old at that point.

These days of course with so much more information available, I guess it would be, what else is there to say about this person?

So now I've learned that in addition to the above he was prone to eating meat when it was against doctor's orders.. that he was also known as "Charles" or "Charles the great" and various related things, and promoted learning (is he partly responsible for Europe becoming a center of learning?)

I guess I'm just starting a thread to talk about him generically.. and wondered if anyone else wants to share tidbits or thoughts or points of view related to his existence.
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Old November 2nd, 2017, 12:35 AM   #2

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He was a great king and created great empire for sure. However it didn't survive very long , but from it was basically created French kingdom and HRE. Because of his conquests we also have Song of Roland.
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Old November 2nd, 2017, 06:07 AM   #3
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Seem to recall he was known as "Charles the Swimmer" before he acquired the "Great" label.

There was a four part miniseries about him in 1993. It's available online these days. Unfortunately not in English. French, German and Italian seem doable though.
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Old November 2nd, 2017, 06:42 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarsBar View Post
Hello Historum.. first time poster sometime lurker but lifelong fan of history...

Lately I've been thinking a lot for whatever reason about a kind of late Roman dark/middle ages era... in fact I'm not sure if Charlemagne would be better off in Ancient History or here...

Anyway! My remembrance of Charlemagne is based on blurbs in one of those old kind of Middle School history textbooks.. and basically he kinda stuck with me more than most figures.

If I had to say why it was something like "Warlord vanquishes and defeats so and so and such and such" but that was with a lot of figures, but specifically the part about him wanting to learn how to write, and the tablet under the pillow story but being too old at that point.

These days of course with so much more information available, I guess it would be, what else is there to say about this person?

So now I've learned that in addition to the above he was prone to eating meat when it was against doctor's orders.. that he was also known as "Charles" or "Charles the great" and various related things, and promoted learning (is he partly responsible for Europe becoming a center of learning?)

I guess I'm just starting a thread to talk about him generically.. and wondered if anyone else wants to share tidbits or thoughts or points of view related to his existence.
Why don't you read a book?

And it's medieval by the way.

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Originally Posted by Gvelion View Post
. Because of his conquests we also have Song of Roland.
Because of an almighty cock-up we have the much-fictitious Song of Roland!
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Old November 2nd, 2017, 11:33 AM   #5

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"Charles the Great" is, literally "Charlemagne" in English . Also Carlomagno in Spanish.

And Johnincornwall is right that the Song of Roland is largely made up, but it's a great poem and one of the foundation myths of Christian Europe.

But not nearly as made up and not nearly as fun as Orlando Furioso
(Roland" in Italian is "Orlando"). It's a hoot: female knights who think nothing of killing 100 or so Muslims before breakfast and then taking off their armor and looking and smelling beautiful--and that in a day before deodorant; a character who hears (from St. John) that the moon is where lost things go so he goes to the moon to recover Orlando's lost wits, huge Muslim armies besieging Paris.etc.

One hundred years or so ago just about every educated European would have been familiar with this epic poem. Today most of us have never heard of it.
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Old November 2nd, 2017, 12:00 PM   #6

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Other than indirectly leading to the creation of France and Germany, Charlemagne is also important because he established medieval western european culture as an entity worthy of existence and perpetuation. Before his reign, the Romans (in the east) were, at least nominally, recognized as being culturally, politically, and sometimes religiously superior to the "Barbarian" kingdoms currently controlling the west; a Frankish king could still think of a Roman emperor, the leader of the civilized world, and feel an inherent sense of inferiority, drilled into them by centuries of contact with Rome. Through the adoption of the imperial Roman title via the Pope, Charlemagne gave that claim to civilization to himself and his countrymen, relegating the Romans, henceforth referred to as "Greeks" by Carolingian writers/propagandists, to a group of pretenders fooling only themselves. From an educated western perspective, they were now the inheritors of the Roman legacy, confident in their own culture, and didn't need to be validated by the emperor in Constantinople.

In my opinion this, more than anything, is what marks Charlemagne out as the founder of modern Europe. It's hard to overstate the effects this had on european culture and mentality, many of which can still be strongly felt today, though we take them for granted. The conception of Rome and Roman culture as inherently ancient entities which stopped evolving in the 5th century, for example, and the idea that Germanic and Romance peoples are both part of a larger european cultural sphere. This seems obvious to us now, but a Latin Roman aristocrat of the 7th century would consider their culture, which had changed no small amount since the fall of the west, just as Roman as Caesar's, and would define both that culture and themselves in stark opposition to the barbarian Germans, namely the Lombards, threatening their empire and fellow Romans. Though a change in perception may have occurred regardless, Charlemagne accelerated and legitimized this change, hugely influencing European self perception right up to today.
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Old November 2nd, 2017, 12:56 PM   #7

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Charlemagne wasn't "Great" during his life, he was just Karl. The adjective "Great" had added by a biographer after his death [making him "Carolus Magnus" in Latin].

See "Vita et gesta Caroli Magni" by Eginhard.

This said, the Frank society presented a quite suitable structure to impose a supreme leader [unfortunately not a suitable rule about succession to preserve the supreme leadership!].
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Old November 2nd, 2017, 07:26 PM   #8

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An interesting figure.

Maybe someday I might read more about the Frankish kingdom.
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Old November 3rd, 2017, 12:24 AM   #9

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If anyone of European extraction was to trace their family tree back far enough, they may find Charlemagne is one of their ancestors. As for "The Song Of Roland", I have a paperback book titled "Medieval Literature in Translation" that I read some of years ago. The small print discourages my old eyes. I notice that I have a bookmark at that place where it was the next story I was going to read. Now I think I'll go ahead and read it!
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Old November 3rd, 2017, 12:57 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Speculatin' View Post
If anyone of European extraction was to trace their family tree back far enough, they may find Charlemagne is one of their ancestors. As for "The Song Of Roland", I have a paperback book titled "Medieval Literature in Translation" that I read some of years ago. The small print discourages my old eyes. I notice that I have a bookmark at that place where it was the next story I was going to read. Now I think I'll go ahead and read it!
I can't remember the exact details, but this appeared about 350 years after Charlemagne's ignomious rertreat from Spain.

JK Rowling of the day!

But David V is right of course in that it is a 'foundation myth' for all European things like chivalry etc etc.
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