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THE mighty movement of the nations, which led the Germanic peoples from their northern home into the interior of the Roman empire, and finally made them masters of the West, lasted about five hundred years, from its beginning in the Marcomannic War (A.D. 167) until, with the rise of the Franks and the enlargement of their state under the Merovingian kings, there emerged the firm foundations of a new system of government for the West which promised to be of long duration. On these foundations arose a mighty empire. The feeling of antagonism and hostility between Germans and Romans gradually became less intense; and the stimulus which each gave to the other, and the exchange of ideas between them, vastly increased. As this process went on, there arose a new civilization, which bound together both peoples for centuries in intimate association. The political form under which this great process of civilization appears was supplied by the German-Roman Empire of the Carolingians, the gigantic yet simple and natural creation of the most gifted ruler that the Middle Ages produced. By this means Charlemagne brought the youthful strength of his German countrymen under the discipline of the Roman intellectual life, of which the church was the channel. Thus he educated and refined them, and by the organic union which was gradually effected between their own natural qualities and the culture acquired from abroad, prepared them to render the greatest services to mankind. Hence the Germanic and Romance peoples never could forget or deny the fact that the roots of their civilization sprang from the same soil. As opposed to Greeks and Arabs, Slavic and North-German heathen, and the barbarians of Finno-Uralic stock who repeatedly pressed upon them, they were forced to recognize one another as the representatives of the same great interests of a progressive civilization. Both reverenced in the great emperor, about whom the halo of tradition sheds its lustre, at once the creator of their state and the founder of their nationality...
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Copyright © 2015 by Hans Prutz
Published by Perennial Press
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THE CHIEF FEATURES OF THE COURSE OF EUROPEAN HISTORY FROM CHARLEMAGNE TO THE REFORMATION.
THE HISTORICAL SOURCES.
CHARLEMAGNE, KING OF THE FRANKS AND LOMBARDS.
THE RESTORATION OF THE WESTERN EMPIRE BY CHARLEMAGNE.
LOUIS THE PIUS (814-840), THE QUARREL BETWEEN HIS SONS (840-843), AND THE DIVISION OF THE CAROLINGIAN EMPIRE (843-870).
THE FALL OF THE CAROLINGIAN HOUSE, AND THE POLITICAL REORGANIZATION OF THE WEST THROUGH THE DISSOLUTION OF THE GERMAN-ROMAN EMPIRE.
THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE, THE ROMAN AND GREEK CHURCHES AND THE MOHAMMEDAN WORLD IN THE AGE OF THE CAROLINGIANS.
A SURVEY OF THE CAROLINGIAN AGE WITH REFERENCE TO ITS PLACE IN TIIE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION.
THE MIGHTY MOVEMENT OF THE nations, which led the Germanic peoples from their northern home into the interior of the Roman empire, and finally made them masters of the West, lasted about five hundred years, from its beginning in the Marcomannic War (A.D. 167) until, with the rise of the Franks and the enlargement of their state under the Merovingian kings, there emerged the firm foundations of a new system of government for the West which promised to be of long duration.
On these foundations arose a mighty empire. The feeling of antagonism and hostility between Germans and Romans gradually became less intense; and the stimulus which each gave to the other, and the exchange of ideas between them, vastly increased. As this process went on, there arose a new civilization, which bound together both peoples for centuries in intimate association. The political form under which this great process of civilization appears was supplied by the German-Roman Empire of the Carolingians, the gigantic yet simple and natural creation of the most gifted ruler that the Middle Ages produced. By this means Charlemagne brought the youthful strength of his German countrymen under the discipline of the Roman intellectual life, of which the church was the channel. Thus he educated and refined them, and by the organic union which was gradually effected between their own natural qualities and the culture acquired from abroad, prepared them to render the greatest services to mankind. Hence the Germanic and Romance peoples never could forget or deny the fact that the roots of their civilization sprang from the same soil. As opposed to Greeks and Arabs, Slavic and North-German heathen, and the barbarians of Finno-Uralic stock who repeatedly pressed upon them, they were forced to recognize one another as the representatives of the same great interests of a progressive civilization. Both reverenced in the great emperor, about whom the halo of tradition sheds its lustre, at once the creator of their state and the founder of their nationality.
But the national differences were irreconcilable, and their influence was felt more and more. Besides, the elasticity of the political organization, which held the individual parts only loosely together, was too great. Finally, the descendants of Charlemagne speedily degenerated. These causes brought about the early decay of his empire, and led to a dissolution of it which threatened at last to make it the defenseless prey of barbarian invaders. Then in a struggle for existence the German peoples preserved themselves and the beginnings of their national civilization. Thus they became fully aware of their closer connection and of the strength derived from it. At the same time they became the protectors and champions of the Romans, who were much divided and less able to defend themselves, and to whom they still felt themselves closely bound by their common faith. For more than three hundred years the Germans retained their position at the head of the Christian West. Their common people and their princes devoted their warlike strength and unworn enthusiasm to the defence and propagation of the western civilization, which had its centre in the Roman church. As they performed the duty of devout sons of that church with greater self-sacrifice than all others, they were entitled to claim also those rights which, according to the belief of all times and all peoples, are due to those whose mission it is to defend the sanctuary. They became the apostles of the idea of a Universal State elevated far above all separate nationalities. This idea followed as a logical conclusion from that of the Universal Church; but it sprang quite as much from recollections of heathen Rome. But to the realization of this Universal State the alliance, or (since in the nature of things such an alliance as could be fully depended upon was not to be attained) the subjection of the Universal Church was indispensable. From this fact arose the antagonism which dominates the entire development of the Middle Ages, and which finally gave it its decisive turn.
During the tenth century and the first half of the eleventh the German kings, who as the protectors of the church were consecrated to be emperors of Rome, strove to realize, partly in league with the church and partly by forcing it to serve them, the ideal of universal sovereignty which presented itself to the imagination of their age. After frequent delays and occasional reverses, and after their very existence had more than once been endangered, they had at last approached so near to their goal that its complete attainment seemed certain, when a two-fold revolution overwhelmed them. One of the two movements was within the church, beginning with its head and extending downward, and aimed to secure the utmost centralization of authority in the hands of one person. The other was in the German state, beginning in the lower ranks of society and extending upward; and its purpose was the destruction of the kingly power, which had so strengthened itself as to become hereditary. In the period of the strife about the right of investiture, the church not only freed itself from the dominion of the German state, but engaged in religious, political, and social conflicts with the latter. Thus the foundations of the state’s authority were overthrown and its lasting recovery made impossible. Henceforth the hierarchical papacy stood beside the empire, competing with it for the sovereignty of the world.
But a church and a state which both alike laid claims to universal dominion necessarily became irreconcilable enemies, especially since for them it was no longer a question of establishing certain ideal prerogatives, but of gaining and exercising real temporal authority. In the Carolingian period they had worked together harmoniously in the service of Christian civilization; under the Saxon and the first two Salic emperors, in spite of many serious conflicts, they remained, as it were, the double sun about which the western political system gravitated; but after the middle of the twelfth century the empire and the papacy confront one another as implacable foes. The struggle between them grew ever fiercer, and was intensified into a decisive conflict, which could not end except with the ruin of one party. The empire succumbed: for its opponent was not only able to summon to its aid the intellectual and moral forces, but at the decisive moment also excited and unchained the passions and aspirations which it had been its mission to combat. The church found a mighty ally in the striving of the other Germanic peoples and the Romance nations after independence. These had hitherto bowed to the German supremacy because, as they believed, they found thereby the greatest outward security, and the most effectual guaranty that their internal development would be undisturbed. But now they had become conscious of their national individuality, and had secured the recognition of their consequent right to political independence. Thus the idea of a universal Christian state, which had previously found expression in the empire, was decisively overthrown; and, after being for centuries the focus of the entire development of the West, it became in the eyes of one party a mere will-of-the-wisp, and in those of the other the expression of a political principle, which, in the interest of national freedom and the independence of the smaller principalities, must be resisted to the death. Thus in the second half of the thirteenth century a new principle makes its influence felt more and more. The great union of the Germanic and Romance peoples in the Western Empire is completely dissolved; and the different nations shape their political and social systems for themselves according to their special conditions and needs. Thus arose a great diversity, which was permanently incompatible with the ecclesiastical uniformity which the papacy, as head of the universal church, was still striving after. Hence the establishment of national states naturally led to the organization of the churches of the different countries on a national basis, and became the source of a constant opposition to the claims of the Bishop of Rome.
Thus at the end of the thirteenth century begins the decay of the universal church. This great change was also promoted by another cause. During the first half of the Middle Ages the struggle for the faith and for the spread of Christianity not only played a very important part in the life of the different peoples, but proved one of the most efficient means of uniting them in one great whole. To the age in which the Germans and Romans defended themselves only with the most strenuous exertions against the northern Teutons, the Slavs, the Arabs, and the Hungarians, succeeded a period of many generations in which the Germans and Romans assumed the offensive against those very peoples. The boundaries of the latter were pushed far back, while at the same time the domain of Christian civilization was permanently enlarged. The struggle of the Germans with the Danes and Wends, with the Poles, Bohemians, and Hungarians, belongs to this great onward movement of civilization in the Middle Ages, just as much as does the long strife of the Romance peoples in Spain with the Arab conquerors, or the establishment of the military empire of the Normans in southern Italy and Sicily. But all these separate movements joined in one mighty current, when, in the age of the Crusades, the summons to free the Holy Land from the sway of unbelievers roused to arms the nations of the West. During more than a century and a half tens of thousands of western warriors marched to the coast of Palestine in order to defend, without regard to differences of nationality, the common possession of western Christendom, the kingdom of Jerusalem. Though this possession was not maintained, the results of the great conflicts waged in its behalf were most important for the development of the Christian nations. The contact with the East and its rich material civilization was for the West the source of the most varied and lasting stimulus in every department of life. To this contact the men of the Occident owed their acquaintance with new products, new arts, new commercial routes, and new lands and peoples; while at the same time, as they encountered the intellectual world of the East, which was limited and defined by the Byzantine civilization and Mohammedanism, they experienced a broadening of their field of vision such as they had never dreamed of. Thus the one-sidedness and narrowness of the thought which stood under the control of the church were overcome, and the inclination and power to appropriate and utilize the civilization of the East were created. In this manner the deep dissension which had arrayed the West and East against each other in bitter hostility was again removed.
But with such a turn of affairs as the final outcome of the Crusades produced, the papal church lost in the eyes of its own followers its claim to universal sovereignty, since it had shown itself unequal to the great task which had been set for it. Accordingly, doubts as to the validity of the principles on which its whole proud structure rested arose more and more frequently and forcibly. While the swift rise of numerous heterodox churches, and the successful reformatory activity of independent thinkers, already actually endangered the internal unity of the Roman church, the nations at last learned to know, not merely the charm, but also the inexhaustible wealth and inestimable value, of the secular science and art which had hitherto been closed to them. Thus, and thus only, were they fully enabled to turn their gaze, which up to that time had been directed only toward heaven, to the earth and earthly interests as well, to take their stand without reserve on the foundation of reality, and to attain simultaneously their freedom and the strength for a successful and satisfactory career.
With this change begins the last stage of development, and a movement in the opposite direction now sets in. As the relation between the two halves of the ancient world changed, and as in each of those halves the different peoples became separated from one another, and national states were founded, new aims, new forms, and new forces came into operation; and in consequence a similar change took place also in the intellectual, moral, and economic life of the peoples individually as well as collectively.
Exactly five hundred years after the beginning of Charlemagne’s reign, Conradin, the last scion of the house of Hohenstaufen, fell beneath the axe of the executioner. The high-spirited youth, in the struggle for his hereditary rights, fell a victim to the irreconcilable hostility of those powers which had combated the imperial idea in his predecessors. They had doomed his whole race to destruction. The death of Conradin simply marks the epilogue in the tragedy of imperial and papal antagonism. In its wider aspect it coincides nearly with a great turning-point in the history of the Christian West.
For at the same time when the Neo-Roman empire, founded by Charlemagne, collapses, the first period of French constitutional growth closes with the death of Louis IX, ‘Saint Louis,’ in 1270. Henceforth Germany was to have a western neighbor which would ill brook the German tutelage of the past. In fact, France, strengthened within, was soon to make its influence felt without, to the detriment of divided Germany. About the same time the English state took national form. It had really begun under Henry II, in the amalgamation of Normans and Anglo-Saxons, and had been furthered by the constitutional struggles under Henry III. In its conflicts with Wales and Scotland, under Edward I, who reigned from 1272 to 1307, the English nation found active scope for its growing national consciousness. Wherever we turn, the end of the thirteenth century presents the same development. Everywhere we find the national spirit rising against the sense of community which the world-embracing empire and papacy had kept alive. The failure of the last Crusade was a decisive blow to that feeling of uniform community of interests. It led to a transformation of the old political system. In the new polity, there was no room for a world empire. Both its justification and its necessity had vanished; consequently Germany lost the paramount position it had held for half a millennium. For even the eastern countries, won to Christianity, and roused to organized political development through German activity, now begin to play an independent part in western European history. The German monarchy was forced back into narrow limits, and relegated to a purely national field of power.
The downfall of the empire seemed, to the contemporary mind, a judgment of God. Blinded by the momentary triumph of the papacy, Western Europe regarded the event as an absolute triumph of theocracy. Italy and Germany were soon given opportunity to understand the rude blessings of the new order. On the pretext of freeing from the imperial yoke those nations over which the church had assumed guardianship, Innocent IV and his followers utilized Italian and French forces so as entirely to overthrow the empire of the Hohenstaufens. The papacy now tried to replace their rule in Italy by its own supremacy, but succeeded only in breaking down all political order in that country, and in exposing it to centuries of foreign invasions and domestic disintegration.
But the papacy was to meet with painful disappointment after the downfall of the empire. It tried to found its claim to universal rule on theories which were directly opposed to the reality of existing political conditions. When finally Boniface VIII dared to change this theory into practice, the papacy was worsted by the strong national French monarchy. This defeat resulted in the subjugation of the papacy under the French crown for more than two generations. By diverting the dynastic schemes of the Roman Church into French channels, the kings of France aspired, on behalf of the Anjous of Lower Italy, to the authority which had once belonged to the German emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The opposition which they met in England and Germany led to the national conflict between France and England. The contest which broke out between Pope John XXII and the emperor Louis the Bavarian, likewise became a national one, which at last gave birth to a feeling of national consciousness among the Germans.
Thus the chimera of papal supremacy entirely vanished. It even seemed as if the Eternal City was to be wrested from the church. To prevent that calamity, the papal court finally went back to Rome from its French exile at Avignon, but only to see the strong French party rise in revolt. The Great Schism was the outcome. The depravity of the enslaved church grew apace. Its internal conflicts bore the more heavily on the Christian nations, because in losing its unity the church had forfeited the strongest tie which had bound its members together. Therefore the threatening downfall of the church shook the foundations of social order, and caused an upheaval in the lower classes which threatened to find vent in a violent eruption. It was clear that not only the unity of the church, but also the foundations of society, had to be saved from ruin. In the age of the great church councils this attempt was made. But they succeeded no more in bringing about the much-needed unity of the church than in strengthening and rejuvenating the mediaeval state. The failure of the conciliar movement of the fifteenth century proved the inefficiency of the mediaeval church to fill its former place. In consequence it ceased to be a directive force in the social development of western Christian Europe.
The shipwreck of the reform movement brought on a violent revolutionary crisis which smote all Western Europe. It ushered in a new period. To this period belong not only the Hussite Wars, perhaps its most characteristic phase, but also the wars between England and France. Both of these states emerged from them with a new political and social organization, the same in each in all essentials. By the restoration of their natural boundaries, the two powers arrived at distinctive national characters. The conflicts which raged in Spain in the second half of the fifteenth century also sprang from the general upheaval. The main lines and forms of the modern states now first took definite shape. More immediate, however, was the connection between the revolutionary movement and the Hussite Wars, the influence of which affected all the Slav races.
This great commotion brought territorial losses and grave danger to Germany. The position of that country was very precarious. It was wedged in between the new national states of England, France, and Spain in the west, and Poland and Hungary in the east. Nor was it able to carry out the new political ideas of national growth. As a result Germany was handicapped not only in ecclesiastical matters, but also in regard to the great economic and commercial changes which came in the train of the geographical discoveries of the last half of the fifteenth century.
The attempts at reform by the general ecclesiastical councils in the first half of the same century led only to a renewed recognition and strengthening of the Papal Church. Nevertheless, the reorganized western states were able to thwart its far-reaching hierarchical claims, and to win for their national churches a partial independence from Rome. Only Germany was unsuccessful in this particular. There the weight of the papal authority remained almost unrelieved. It lay especially heavily on the economic life of the nation. Naturally the church suffered in return. The higher classes were indifferent if not hostile to it. This unfriendly feeling grew in proportion as the new humanistic spirit gained ground in Germany, which finally turned the intellectual tendency toward an education based on classical antiquity.
The strong feeling of caste in Germany only became more antagonistic, instead of adjusting itself as in the other states. For both in France and England the royal power had, in its struggle against feudalism, found support in the mass of the lower ranks of the nobility, the cities, and even the peasantry. In return, these elements took a much more advantageous part in the new political system than they had taken in the feudal states of the Middle Ages.
The collapse of the mediaeval regime was completed by the new geographical discoveries. The centre of civilization had formerly lain in the border lands of the Mediterranean. In the northwest the Baltic, and the North Sea between England, the Netherlands, and Germany, created subordinate centres. But now the failure of the Crusades and the spread of Turkish power lessened the importance of the Mediterranean as the chief sea-route, and embarrassed the traffic between the east and the west. This condition of affairs brought about a change in the traffic of the world, which found new carriers and new objects. The result was a great shifting in the colonial growth and the profits from trade on the part of the different nations. The maritime development of the Portuguese and Spaniards was the greatest. Next came the Dutch and the English. The Germans and Italians, now cut off from the highways of traffic, saw their former commercial importance diminish.
The attendant economic changes again produced results in the political status of the European states which led to the first general European wars. The fantastic ambition of Charles VIII of France, and the greedy territorial policy of Maximilian I of Germany, proved the sparks which set the scattered combustible elements of Italy on fire. The flames spread through a large part of Europe. Through a strange fatality the House of Hapsburg was the gainer, in consequence of the acquisition of the Spanish throne. It seemed as if the dream of the German kings of ruling the world through the possession of power in Italy was now to be realized by the union of the crowns of Germany and Spain in the Hapsburgers. But to attain universal rule, it was necessary to blot out all national aspirations. This, however, was only possible by putting down the spiritual liberation which, spreading throughout Europe, had weakened the power of the church.
It was incompatible with the dynastic schemes of the papacy to further the universal monarchy of the House of Hapsburg, embracing, as it did, Spain, Germany, the New World, the Netherlands, and Italy.
The papacy did not keep the promises of reform which it had made in the era of the great general councils. If England and France set up a barrier in their national churches against the encroachment of papal power, Spain went a step farther. At the end of the fifteenth century the Spanish monarch used his political predominance to work an intellectual and moral reform in the clergy, thus leading the van in the religious movement of Western Europe.
At the beginning of the period under consideration we find that in the church were united all the elements and forces then making for a higher civilization and culture, whether religious or secular. At its close the relation is reversed. The church now stands aside from all these tendencies, which had gained in strength and richness with the Crusades, and later with the revival of learning, and at times assumes an attitude of opposition, especially when awakened thought takes the direction of church reform. The champions of reform are struck down with such violence that even the most moderate are constrained to array themselves against the tyranny of the church, and revolution results. Thus the great social and economic changes of the later Middle Ages were at last accompanied by a breach of a part of the faithful with the church. It was a disruption which brought in a new era that had already been heralded for some generations in all the fields of human activity.
DEVELOPMENT OF LITERARY ACTIVITY IN a people, preceded and accompanied by an awakening and intensification of the historic sense, is a sure result of great achievements in an eventful epoch. Whether literature gains more from these achievements for the growth of its national mythology and poetry, or for the more serious task of writing national history, depends upon the stage of culture to which it has attained as a whole. In both directions the mighty personality of Charlemagne was the source of an inexhaustible stimulus, which continued to be felt long after his time. Surrounded by the glittering circle of his renowned paladins, by the members of a numerous family, and by the representatives of a fresh and progressive civilization, who had been summoned to his court from all parts of the realm, the great emperor became the centre of a poetic cycle of legends, which remained the common freehold of the Germans and the Romance peoples. These Carolingian legends render invaluable aid in forming a conception of the way in which Charlemagne’s contemporaries, and the generations immediately following, understood and judged his actions. For this reason the work of an unknown monk of St. Gall on the “Exploits of Charlemagne” has claims to unusual interest. It was composed in 883, at the request of Charles the Fat and gives in two books, written in a clumsy style, a vivid but fanciful picture of the great emperor.
Among the historical records from which we draw our knowledge of the Carolingian period, the numerous annals occupy relatively the largest space. They arose from brief entries which were made in the vacant portion of the Easter-tables that existed in every monastery and every church. Copies were often made of these entries, together with the tables, for the use of more recent ecclesiastical establishments. Thus they often reappear in very distant places as the basis of later works of like character.
These Carolingian annals have been sometimes named after the place where they originated,—e.g., the annals of St. Amand, a diocese of Tournai (extending down to 810), of St. Germain-des-Prés, near Paris (coming down to 797), etc.,—and sometimes after the place where they were discovered or from which came the manuscript that has preserved them to us,—e.g., the annals of Wolfenbüttel, etc. Among them those which originated in the monastery of Lorsch, near Worms (Annales Laurissenses majores), and which in all extend from 741 to 825, claim a special interest, because scholars have wished to attribute to them the character of official annals of the empire. Their reason for this is that the author, who is clearly an ecclesiastic who knew how to write, is able to give especially good information about those very things which were naturally beyond the knowledge of an ordinary monk, e.g., military enterprises, diplomatic transactions, etc.
The character and actions of Charlemagne are also brought near to us by the accounts of men who lived on intimate terms with him, and who, therefore, portray him as the man, and not merely as the emperor or warrior. Here lies the never-fading charm which Einhard’s “Life of Charlemagne” exercises upon its readers. Einhard was born about 770, in Maingau, and was of noble parentage. He was reared at Fulda, and entered the court-school of Charlemagne, which had been established by the Anglo-Saxon Alcuin. There he not only won the respect of all by his learning, but was deemed by the emperor himself worthy of the sincerest love and the most flattering confidence. People teased him, to be sure, about his diminutive size; but, on the other hand, they gave him the name of the builder of the tabernacle, Bezaleel, on account of his much admired dexterity in all the minor arts. But the prudent advice of ‘little’ Einhard was listened to also in important questions of state. After the death of the great emperor, Einhard retired with his wife, Imma (who has been erroneously called a daughter of the great emperor), to the monastery of Michelstadt, in the Odenwald, but was repeatedly forced, by the commotions of the following period, to take part in the business of the empire. He died in 840. Scholars have recently been inclined to regard his “Life of Charlemagne” as a maiden work, in view of its clumsy arrangement and the painful exactness with which it adheres to the plan of the biography of Augustus, by Suetonius. Although not free from errors and inaccuracies, it is conspicuous for unity of conception, for affection free from all flattery, and for loving absorption in the character of the hero. It gives a picture of the emperor which in general may still be characterized as a correct one.
Much knowledge of the time of Charlemagne, and especially of the condition of the court and of literature, may be gained from the letters of the learned Anglo-Saxon, Alcuin. He was sent out from York to Rome, and in 781, in Parma, met with the emperor, whom he followed to his dominions. Alcuin was given the abbacy of Ferrières, and for a considerable time was at the head of the court-school; after which he spent several years in his native land, but finally settled permanently in France, and died there as head of the famous abbey of St. Martin, at Tours. He also essayed poetry, but in this was far surpassed by Angilbert, a man of high descent, who appears to have grown up at court, and to have been educated at the court-school. Angilbert afterwards was honored with the surname of ‘Homer’, and Charlemagne provided for him by giving him the rich abbey of St. Riquier, in Normandy. Angilbert, to be sure, did not share the monastic life to any great extent. He furnishes a noteworthy example of the surprising toleration which the emperor showed toward certain offences. Bertha, the beautiful daughter of Charlemagne (with whom Imma, the wife of Einhard, has been confused), was Angilbert’s mistress, and bore him two sons, Nithard and Hartnid. His poems draw for us in elegant language, copied after the best ancient models, vivid pictures of the splendor of life in the imperial palace. They also give an instructive view of the life and occupations of the circle that surrounded the monarch.
Nithard, the elder son of Angilbert and the princess Bertha, wrote in four books the history (Historiarum Libri Quattuor) of the quarrels which the weakness of Louis the Pious brought upon the house and realm of the Carolingians. It was composed by direction of Charles the Bald, immediately after the events occurred, and extends to the beginning of the year 843. It is probable that about that time the author fell in one of the less important battles. The account of this valiant soldier is the more valuable because the time of Louis the Pious produced no other important historical work. The two biographies of Louis, of which one was composed by Thegan, an ecclesiastic of Treves, the other by an anonymous writer who betrays knowledge of astronomy, are party documents; and the account given by them sometimes almost reverses the actual course of events. The biographies of several other important men of that time, as of the brothers Adalhard, bishop of Corvei, and Wala, are biased by party spirit, or, like that of Ansgar, the apostle of Scandinavia, are influenced by ecclesiastical prejudices. The chronicle of Abbot Regino of Prüm supplies important materials for the history of the close of the Carolingian period until the beginning of the tenth century.
As to original documents the historian is better situated in regard to the Carolingian period than to the rest of the Middle Ages, inasmuch as for the former a considerable number of public documents exists in addition to the private records, which in other periods are almost the only ones represented. The most important of these public documents are the “Capitularies,” the laws of the realm, which were considered and published at the imperial diets. These laws affect almost every domain of civil life, and are especially adapted to give us a vivid picture of the administrative activity of the emperor, which included with equal care things great and small alike. This praise is justified on the one hand by the famous capitulary respecting the royal estates, which gives minute and careful directions for their management, and on the other by the fact that Charlemagne, in order to have a reliable basis for his frequent diplomatic dealings with the Holy See, ordered the letters of the popes to him and his predecessors to be gathered in a special collection (Codex Carolinus).
Valuable, as illustrating the spirit and conditions of the age, are the various lives of the saints; accounts of the (hiding and removal of relics, and their transportation with solemn rites to the places where they were to be kept (so-called ‘translations’); attempts at poetry, which owe their origin to the most different causes, and occasional theological or other learned works; also the rather numerous compilations which the heads of churches and monasteries caused to be made on the basis of the documents which they possessed, or of official tax-lists, in order to obtain a precise survey of the condition of these establishments, their income from rent, tithes, taxes, etc., and their rights to special aid or services from their vassals, tenants, or servants. Such records, e.g., the so-called ‘polyptychon’ of Abbot Irminon, of St. Germain-des-Prés, near Paris, are invaluable for the knowledge of economic conditions, of which the historians of that time usually have not the least comprehension.
WITH the consent of the Frankish nobles, King Pepin, when he felt his end approaching, had at St. Denis divided his kingdom between his two sons. Charles (Charlemagne) received the Eastern Franks, properly so-called, and the ancient Neustria; to Carloman were given Provence and Burgundy in Gaul, which were Romance countries, and Alsace and Alamannia, which were German. As compared with the partitions of the empire that were made in the Merovingian period, this division was purposely conducted from a different point of view. Instead of separating a western half from an eastern one, the boundary-line was drawn between the north and south of the realm, so that in each of the resulting divisions pure Romance peoples, a mixed Romano-Germanic population, and pure German races dwelled side by side, and were politically connected. Only Aquitania was excepted from this arrangement; its western part fell to Carloman, its eastern to Charles. No mention whatever was made of Bavaria, which had at that time actually freed itself from the dominion of the Franks.
The wisdom of Pepin’s course was soon proved by the quarrel in which the two royal brothers engaged. The rupture between them took place in regard to the still unfinished organization of Aquitania. The breach then quickly widened, and caused disputes also in relation to other matters. Through the mediation of the queen-mother, the widowed Bertrada, the brothers held at Selz, in Alsace, an interview, which restored peace between them. But that there remained a certain estrangement maybe inferred from an event which happened afterwards, and which determined the attitude of the Frankish empire toward the Lombards (Langobards) and the Holy See. Bertrada persuaded Charlemagne to marry a daughter of Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and sister of the wife of Duke Thassilo of Bavaria, whose sudden revolt Pepin had been forced to leave unpunished, and who had since come to a peaceful understanding with Charlemagne himself. This Lombard marriage displeased Pope Stephen III. (768-772). His anxiety was not without foundation. The belief that a reconciliation between Charlemagne and Desiderius would he at the expense of the Bishop of Rome, whose latest successes had absolutely depended upon the hostility of the two empires, was surely a very natural one. Lender these circumstances Stephen preferred to come to an agreement with the Lombard, who was near at hand, rather than with the king of the Franks, who was far away, and seemed inclined to betray him. The agreement was made in 771. Desiderius himself came into the Eternal City, where the partisans of the Franks, who had hitherto been influential, were imprisoned and killed.
Charlemagne had not looked for such results from Iris Lombard marriage, and hastened to dissolve it. Carloman, after taking measures that threatened a renewal of hostilities, died on December 4, 771. No opposition was anywhere raised when Charlemagne appeared in the other half of the empire: and with consent of the ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries he took possession of it in due form, so that he now for the first time was really king of all the Franks. The few who were dissatisfied with this left the country, and went into banishment, together with Gerberga, the widow of Carloman, and the two sons of that prince, who fled with their retinue to the king of the Lombards, Desiderius. Of course security was not the only thing that Gerberga and her friends sought at his court. After Charlemagne had sent back to him his daughter, Desiderius must have welcomed every opportunity of checking the further growth of the Frankish power. Hence he resolved to defend the rights of Carloman’s sons. That these had been wronged by Charlemagne was not to be denied. Their exclusion from their father’s rights was contrary to what had previously been law among the Franks in such cases. If Desiderius had counted upon the aid of the pope, this expectation was thwarted by a change in the policy of Rome, which was introduced with a new occupant of the papal chair. Stephen III, who had quarreled with Charlemagne on account of the Lombard marriage, died. His successor, Adrian I (772—79o), at once renewed the alliance with Charlemagne, and firmly refused the request of Desiderius that he should anoint the sons of Carloman as kings of the Franks. In retaliation for the overthrow of his plans, the Lombard threatened the ‘patrimony of Peter’ with an invasion: and against him Adrian summoned in the Franks
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