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World History I
                                HST 218 – 102


                               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  Pepin’s  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  Carloman’s  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, Einhard’s positively biased biography  of  Charlemagne  is  the  best
source for information. As pointed out in Sidney Painter’s 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 Charlemagne’s 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 today’s 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  Charlemagne’s  spectacular  example,
Einhard briefly describes the personality of the official king in  the  time
of Pepin, Charlemagne’s 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  Einhard’s  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
      Einhard undertook  a  considerable  effort  to  discuss  Charlemagne’s
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 Charlemagne’s 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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