Einhard and The Life of Charlemagne Charlemagne, the greatest of the Frankish leaders, dreamed of uniting Europe, something which has come to pass in our own age, at least economically. (An aside: The name Europe comes from the myth of Europa, who was carried off by Zeus, who appeared to her in the form of a beautiful bull. We met her two sons, Minos and Rhadamanthus, when we read the piece from The Aeneid, for they were both cited as denizens of and judges in the underworld.) Back to Charlemagne: The selection in the textbook is about his private life. Some things to note about the piece: It shows a blend of classical models (e.g., Suetonius’s Lives of the Caesars) with Christian values. Charlemagne loved his family so much that he wanted to keep them with him wherever he went. (Note especially the portion under section 19 about his daughters, whom he would not allow to marry. See also Vicki Leon’s "Uppity Women of Medieval Times," p. 66 re his daughter Bertha, who bore him grandchildren with her lover, whom she carried on her back through the snow to her room and then back to his own quarters because Charlemagne didn’t want her having relationships that were not under his roof!) Under section 20, the son called Pepin, who was born of a concubine, and according to Einhard a hunchback, was the subject of a modern musical, "Pippin." After the conspiracy he led against Charlemagne, he went into a monastery. The cruelty of Queen Fastrada, cited as the cause of this and another conspiracy, is contrasted to Charlemagne’s good nature. Also attesting to his good nature is section 21, wherein it is said he loved foreigners and visitors so much they actually became a burden not just to the palace but to the whole realm. As indicated in section 22, Charlemagne was physically strong and robust, though toward the end of his life he apparently suffered from gout. And under section 24 we find he was said to be moderate in his eating and drinking habits, but complained that fasting made him ill, so he probably suffered from low blood sugar. He particularly enjoyed roasted meat, which is very high in purines and would have contributed to his gout! He loved bathing and swimming, especially at steam baths and thermal springs; there are many thermal springs in the part of Germany where he held court. He was moderate in his dress except on feast days when he would put on a suit of cloth of gold, jeweled shoes, a golden brooch for his cloak, and a crown of gold on his head. He was particularly fond of the writings of St. Augustine, especially the City of God. What does this suggest about his belief system? He was not literate himself, but he was determined to give his children literacy. Furthermore, he spoke the Frankish tongue, which would have been a parent of Old French, and he spoke Latin, (which meant he could communicate with the Pope, since Latin was the language of the church), and a little Greek. He brought Alcuin, the best scholar of Britain, to be his teacher, and he studied rhetoric, dialectic, and astrology. And like other rulers we’ve read about, he recognized the necessity for a unified legal system. Finally, he directed that the old narrative poems that celebrated the ancient heroes should be written out and preserved. And he began a grammar of his native tongue. So in a way, he was in the line of thinking that was responsible for providing the next piece we’ll examine. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily