Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

HISTORY.

CHAPTER LI.

THE REIGN AND EMPIRE OF CHARLES THE GREAT, OR CHARLEMAGNE.

FROM A. D. 768. to A. D. 814.

A. D.

to

A. D.

to

A. D.

A. D.

Division of

between the

A. D.

History The reign of Charlemagne * stands out in prominent ability and valour; and his fortunes at once acquired France,

relief from the History of the Dark Ages: a distinct the decided ascendant over those of his feebler brother. Germany, From epoch of solitary grandeur dividing two long periods of He forcibly stripped Carloman of a part of Austrasia, Italy, &c. A. D. Barbarian tumult and disorder. It forms that signal which was in dispute between them; quelled an effort

From 768. and equidistant point between the destruction of the of the deprived Duke of Aquitaine to reestablish his Roman Empire and the slow revival of social cultiva- independence ;* and overawed both the tributary Sove

768. tion, which alone breaks the dull continuity of six cen- reigns of the Bavarians and Lombards, who were dis814.

turies of anarchy; and it offers the only contrast of or- posed to renounce their allegiance. The politic marganized power on which the mind can repose amidst riage of Charles with the daughter of Desiderio, the 814. the disruptured elements of political civilization. It Lombard Monarch, gave a hollow promise of friendintervenes between two examples of degenerate dynas- ship, which was shortly broken by the death of Carloties and two periods of corrupted Barbarism : between man. Seizing the inheritance of his brother's infant

Charles sole the common decay of the original Royal Houses of the sons with little opposition, Charles was no sooner Monarch. Northern nations, and of the Imperial line which sup- master of the whole Frankish Empire, than he insultplanted them; between the dissolution of the free Go- ingly divorced his Lombard Princess; and the resent- .771. thic Democracies, and the consolidation of the Feudal ment which Desiderio rashly betrayed, and the asylum system.

and countenance which he afforded to the widow and Notwithstanding the fatal experience of the Merovin- children of Carloman, entailed a total ruin upon the he Frankish gian custom of partition, it was imitated by the second declining Monarchy of the Lombards. Monarchy. Royal line of the Franks. Pepin le Bref bequeathed That Kingdom was in no degree equal to a contest His con. $698 of Per his extensive dominions between his two sons, Charles with the power of the Frankish Empire, even if Desi- quest of the

and Carloman ;t and the usual evils of the division were derio, with the usual imprudence or fatality of his Lombard A. D. immediately shown in the quarrel of the brothers and House, had not also outraged the Papacy, and by his Kingdom. 768. the insurrection of their tributary States. These turbu- aggressions compelled the reigning Pontiff, Adrian I.,

774. lent members of the Empire, no longer compressed into to implore the succour of the hereditary protector of the unity and obedience under the vigorous sceptre of Pepin, Holy See. At the call of the Pope, the Frankish were immediately encouraged to attempt the recovery Monarch, like his father, descended with alacrity from of their independence by the youth, the inexperience, the Alps, besieged Desiderio in his Capital of Pavia, and and the dissensions of his sons. If the talents of the compelling him to surrender at discretion, finally extinyoung Princes had been similar and their lives equally guished the national independence and dynasty of the prolonged, their rivalry would have perpetuated the Lombards. The widow and children of Carloman, as first disorders of their common reign: but Charles sur- well as Desiderio and his family, fell into the hands of prised his enemies by an early display of extraordinary the victor, who is said to have conveyed all these Royal

captives to France. History is silent on their subseThe only original authority that can be relied upon for the quent fate; and the Lombard Monarch and his chilHistory of the reign and actions of Charlemagne is his Secretary, dren may either have perished by violence or have been Eginhart, who composed both a well-known Life of the Emperor, and suffered to languish out their days in obscurity : but the Annals of the Carlovingian Monarchy, which we haie before quoted

there can be less doubt that the infant nephews of These Works, with the occasional light thrown on the porernment of Charlemagne by his Laws or Capitularies, (which have

Charles were inhumanly sacrificed to the safety of his been collected it the work of Stephen Baluze, Capitularia Regum usurpation. The conquest of Lombardy was not comFrancorum, 2 vols. fol. Paris, 1680,) form the only authentic materials out of which various modern writers have raised their Historical * Though composing an integral portion of France itself, the Prosuperstructure. + This partition, however, was rather in fact ultimately the work

vince of Aquitaine was not completely brought under the immediate of a National Assembly, after the death of Pepin.

dominiou of the Crown, until the repeated rebellion of its Dukes had

Franci, facto solemniter generali conventu, says Eginhari, ambos sibi reges

been punished by confiscation, imprisonment, and death. Gaillard, constituunt. Eginharti, Vila Caroli Magni, c. 4. They repeated

the modern biographer of Charlemagne, has laboriously attempted the division; or rather, it should seem, made a new one.

(Histoire de Charlemagne, vol. i1. p. 60, et seq.) to trace the Merovin

gian descent of thiese Princes. 295

From A. D. 768.

to A. D.

From A. D.

to

A. D.

ons.

A. D.

History. pleted, until after a revolt which was punished by the continued for four centuries to acknowledge at least France,

Germans. defeat and death of a Duke of Friuli : but another great the feudal superiority of the French Crown.

Italy, &c.
Chieftain, whose family had established the Lombard The termination of Charles's Spanish expedition was
Duchy of Benevento in Southern Italy, successfully remarkably contrasted both with its substantial success
resisted the Frankish arms, and was finally permitted and the general splendour of his reign. _While his vic-

to preserve at least the forms of independence. It was torious forces, on their return into France, wound 768. 814. the policy of the conqueror rather to annex the Lom- through the defiles of the Pyrenees, they were suddenly

bard Kingdom by an equal union to his Empire, than attacked by the Gascons: an aboriginal, or at least
to treat it as a subjugated Country. The great aristo- Keltish race, whose possession of that region had sur- 814.
cracy of the Lombard Dukes, or Governors of Provinces, vived the long revolutions of Ages, and the vicissitudes Memorable

defeat of whose functions and power had become hereditary, re- of the Roman, the Gothic, and the Saracenic conquests.

Charles at mained undisturbed ; the people were suffered to retain In the pass of Roncesvalles, these hardy mountaineers

Roncesral. their own national laws and customs ; and Charles was succeeded in cutting off the rear guard of the Frankish les. contented with the paramount Sovereignty and the host, and capturing the immense booty which encumbered general allegiance of Northern Italy.*

its careless or toilsome march. History obscurely beSubjugation From the easy task of completing the valuable con- trays the real circumstances of a disgraceful and calaof the Saxe quest of that Peninsula, by the acquisition of its South- mitous defeat, of which the magnitude is more strongly

ern Provinces, which were still subject to the Eastern attested, since the memory has been imperishably pre

Emperors, the ambition of the Frankish Sovereign was served, in the wildest traditions of Romance. One of 775.

strangely diverted to the wild and distant forests of Charles's principal Commanders was slain in the rout;
Saxony. Though a considerable portion of Germany and the prowess and fall of the Paladin Rolando in the
had been embraced within the Merovingian Monarchy, fight of Roncesvalles, was long the dearest theme of
the fierce and Pagan Tribes or confederacy of the those early fables of chivalry, which have been so
Saxons, which extended over its Northern regions, had luxuriantly adorned by the Italian muse.f
always in a large sense maintained their independence. From the Spanish, the attention of the King of
The bold spirit of freedom, with which this rude people France reverted to the Italian Peninsula ; and his
disdained a foreign yoke, was associated with an insur- next visit to the latter Country was principally employed
mountable repugnance to Christianity; and the obsti- in settling the Kingdom of Lombardy upon his infant
nate resistance and frequent rebellions of the Saxons, son Carloman, or Pepin. He accordingly caused the
seem to have been chiefly

excited and aggravated by young Prince to be solemnly presented with the ancient
the religious zeal of the Frankish Monarch. In his diadem of the Lombard Kings, the Iron Crown of
first or second expedition into Saxony, after a sangui- Italy: that symbol of an imaginary right, which was in
nary contest, of which the details would be odious to after ages so often to form the prize of foreign con-
humanity and are little worth particular record, Charles flict; and which, in our own times, after typifying the
had received the submission and enforced the reluctant ambitious pretensions of the modern Charlemagne, I
Baptism of several thousands of the people, when his has descended upon the brows of an Austrian dynasty.
attention was invited, by the arrival of a Saracen Emir The infant King of Lombardy was left to grow up
in his camp at Paderborn in Westphalia, to the oppo- among his new subjects; but the restless activity of his
site extremity of his dominions.t

parent was soon summoned a second time from the Expedition

The dissensions among the Moorish Governors of Italian plains to the forests of Northern Germany, by into Spain, Spain had at this period attained their height in the the intelligence of a fresh insurrection among the

struggle betwen the adherents of the Abbassidan and Saxons. The unconquerable love of freedoin, or the
Ommiadan dynasties of the Caliphate ; and the Emir blind hatred of Christianity, which distinguished that
of Saragossa, after being expelled from his possessions, people, was animated by the hero Witikend, who, like Revolt of
had traversed France and Germany to implore protec- another Arminius, headed his nation in the obstinate the Saxons
tion from the most powerful enerny of his national Faith. struggle against the double yoke of conquest and civi- under Witi
Charles promptly accepted an office which gratified his lization. Disdaining submission to the force which he
insatiable thirst of dominion; and soon after assembling was not prepared to withstand, the Saxon Chieftain,
a great army on the Spanish frontier, he descended during the former successes of Charles, had retired into
from the Pyrenees and penetrated without difficulty to Scandinavia : but the general revolt of his Countrymen
the banks of the Ebro. The tremendous renown of his was the signal for his return; and before Charles could
grandfather's victory had not been effaced by the lapse
of half a century from the memory of the affrighted and

* L'Art de Vérifier les Dates, vol. ii. p. 291.
degenerate Saracens; their divisions or fears made his

+ This Spanish expedition of Charlemagne is briefly related in the

1Xih chapter of Eginhart, our only origiral authority of credit. But power irresistible; and the capitulation of Saragossa the fabulous exploits of Charles and hi: Paladins against the Saraceus,

completed the rapid conquest of the country between which form the darling theme of the Romances of the Middle Ages, and perma. the mountains and the Ebro, which, under the title of

are reflected and multiplied, like many-coloured hues of prismatic nent exten- the Spanish March,

he permanently annexed to the light, from the lustre of his real achievements. sion of his Frankish Empire. The Emir of Saragossa was faith. Empire, suggested to literary adulation the obvious resemblance

At a distance of ten centuries, the reestablishment of a French Empire to fully restored to his government: but the supreme ad- between its first and second founders; and several acts of Napoleon ne Ebro.

ministration of the March was confided to a Frankish attested his eagerness to accept the comparison. His assumption of 778. Count, who resided at Barcelona, and whose successors

the Iron Crown was a palpable copy or Charlemagne ; and his legislative labours, his patronage of Letters and the Arts, and the magnifi

cence of his public works, might have justified the parallel :-is the • Eginharti. Annales, ad annos 768–776. Vita Car. c. 5, &c. enlightened conqueror of our times had expiated the cold selfishness of Annules Bertiniani, apud Muratori, Script. Rer, Ilal, vol. ii. p. 475– his desolating ambition with the same unaffected sympathy and zeal

for the welfare and happiness of his people, wbich bave sanctified the † Eginharti, Annales, ad ann. 778.

memory of the illustrious Barbarian.

A. D.

498.

A. D.

A. D.

to A. D.

to

A. D.

A. D.

789.

A. D.

A. 0.

History. reach the theatre of action, Witikend had inflicted a blood; and while their union with the body of the France,

Germany, severe defeat upon his Lieutenants. The approach of Frankish Empire was gradually effected, the indepen

Italy, &c. From

the Frankish King with a formidable army revived the dence and distinction of their national character were in
terror of his power; the Saxons, as usual, submitted at a great measure preserved.

From 768.

his presence, only to await a more favourable oppor- The victories by which Charles subjugated, or at
tunity of insurrection ; and Witikend, deserted by his least curbed, the other barbarous nations who disquieted 768.

followers, fled again for refuge to the North. Charles the Eastern frontiers of his Empire, were associated 814.

then resolved, with a cool and detestable cruelty which with circumstances less repugnant to humanity, and

has left an indelible stain upon his memory, to quell the almost equally important in their results. The Sclavo- 814. Subdued by spirit of the whole Saxon people by an appalling ex- nic Tribes, who had overspread the modern regions of Victories of

Charles over Charles : ample of severity. All the principal men of the nation Bohemia, Prussia, and Poland, were in general com

the Sclavobut bis being convened to attend his camp at Verden for the pelled to acknowledge obedience to his sceptre; and nic Tribes atrocious

purpose of homage or counsel, the peaceful assembly the first of those Countries, at least, may be numbered and Huns. massacre of the Saxons

was suddenly surrounded by his troops and disarmed; among the conquered Provinces which he annexed to

and four thousand five hundred Saxons of the nollest his dominions. It required a more arduous effort, and 783.

blood of their nation were led out and beheaded on the a sanguinary and devastating struggle of several years,
same spot.*

to reduce the Huns or Avares of Pannonia to a similar provokes a

This horrible butchery, so far from producing the subjection: but after the Frankish arms had penetrated
new insur-
rection.

desired effect, only goaded a brave and ferocious people to the Royal village of those Barbarians, and all the
to fury and vengeance. They everywhere flew to arms; flower of their race had perished in several engage-
Witikend once inore appeared as their leader; and a ments, the wreck of the nation accepted the mercy of
war of extermination raged for two years longer, until the conqueror ; and the frontier of the Empire was per- 796.
Charles, either relenting in his policy or sincerely weary manently extended over a part of the modern Hun-
of endless massacre, converted his victories into the gary and Dalmatia, to the junction of the Danube with
means of conciliation. The courage of the surviving the Save, and the shores of the Istrian gulf.*
Saxon leaders had been broken by repeated defeats, These conquests on the Eastern extremity of the Consoli.,
they gladly listened to his overtures of mercy; and even Frankish Empire seemed to put the seal to its grandeur dation and
Witikend himself
, as if yielding to the spell of inevitable and security. The traitorous machinations and fre-

Empire. Subreission destiny, at last tendered a faithful submission, and ac- quent rebellions of Tassillon, the Duke of Bavaria, a of Witikend.

knowledged the Religion and dominion of the victor. kinsmau of Charles, in concert with the Saxons and
A. D.
785.

His example had a powerful influence upon his Country- Huns, had justified a lenient sentence of deposition ; the
men: but it did not prevent a frequent recurrence of whole of his great Duchy was incorporated into the gene-
insurrection and massacre ; nor were the Saxons finally ral Monarchy; and the Carlovingian dominions extended
subdued, and the remains of Paganism extirpated in

without intermission from the Ebro to the Elbe and the
Germany, until after above thirty years had elapsed of Lower Danube, and from the North Sea to the Medi-
Protracted frightful persecution and bloodshed. Even in the total terranean and the Adriatic, over a part of Spain, the
resistance of
the Saxons.

subjugation of their Country, the most resolute freemen whole of France, and Germany Proper, with portions
or the fiercest idolaters, preserving their spirit untame-

of Bohemia and Hungary, some Dalmatian Provinces,
able, retired to the forests of Scandinavia ; and carrying and Italy, as far as the present Neapolitan frontiers. Greatness,
with them their hatred of the Frankish name, while they The completion of this geographical circle by the arms power, and
gradually mingled their blood with the Tribes of the and the activity of Charles opens the most glorious reputation

of Charles, Northmen, or Normans, these Saxon exiles swelled the epoch in his long and fortunate reign. The supremacy piratical swarms which were shortiy to issue from the of his power and the renown of his great talents were shores of the Baltic, and took a deadly vengeance on

acknowledged, not only in his vast dominions, but the Carlovingian Empire for the original wrongs of their throughout the Western world, in the respect and fear nation.t

of the Saracens of Spain, in the reverence of the ChrisFinal settle

The great talents and incessant activity of Charles, tian Monarchs of Gallicia and Asturias, and in the homent of Germany by

the magnitude of his power, and the constancy of his mage of the Scottish and perhaps of the Saxon Princes
the inter- fortune, had barely sufficed for the conquest of a people, of Britain.t The fame of his greatness extended
change of whose rebellion was renewed as often as he withdrew even to the distant Court of the Mohammedan rulers
Saxon and his armies or even his presence from among them. A of Asia and Africa ; and Haroun Alraschid, his con-
Frokisha
colonies.

transfusion of races was adopted as the only alternative temporary, and the most illustrious of the Abbassidan
of perpetual revolt or gradual extermination. By the Caliphs of Bagdad, sought an interchange of embassies
wisdom of the conqueror, Frankish colonies were settled and compliments with his Throne, and cultivated a
on the Elbe and the Weser; and bodies of the Saxons ceremonial friendship, which was protected by distance
were compelled to transport themselves to Italy, and from any interruption, and could not be endangered by
more numerously into Flanders and Brabant: in which the collision of political interests. I
Jatter Provinces they still maintained that inextinguish-

Upon less doubtful motives than curiosity or vanity, His inter. able passion for freedom, and resistance to tyranny, the reputation and power of the Frankish Monarch course with which, fostered by the spirit of Commerce, became for commanded the respect and excited the dread of the the Eastern

Empire.
many centuries the proverbial inheritance of their brave only Potentate who might pretend to dispute with him
and industrious descendants. In their native seats,

the obedience of the Christian world. The sceptre of
the remains of the Saxons were permitted to retain their
own laws; they were governed by Dukes of their own

* Eginbart, Annales, ad ann, 788—794. Vita Cur. c. 15.

+ The respectful correspondence of our Saxon Egbert with Charle• Eginhart, Annales, all ann. 783.

magne appears rather apocryphal. But see Gaillard, vol. ii. ad p.

384, &c. + Jbid. ad ann. 783--786.

Egin grt. Vita, c. 16.

VOL. XI.

20

A. D.

From A. D.

to

A. D.

to A. D.

was

A. D.

History. · the Eastern Empire was now held by a woman and a The elevation of Charlemagne to the Imperial dignity France, mother, whose unnatural ambition was defiled with the introduces the most splendid, the pacific glories, of his Germany

, From deposition and cruel mutilation of her own son. After protracted dominion. In a natural division of his reign, Italy

, ac. depriving him of his birthright and his eyes, Irene that event marks the triumphant term of his conquests, 768.

reigned alone as Empress of the East; and her alarm and the settlement of his Civil administration. In a at the increasing power of the Frankish Monarchy had period of thirty-two years, which were passed in incessant

768. 814 been artfully evinced in the intrigues by which she had hostilities, he had extended his possessions from the

instigated the unsuccessful revolt of the Dukes of Rhine to the Elbe and the Save, from the Pyrenees to
Bavaria and Benevento and the Sclavonic Barbarians. the Ebro, and from the Alps to the borders of Calabria :

814.
After the failure of these machinations, she endeavoured, the renaining fourteen years of his life were almost Pacific glon
if the Chroniclers of her own nation may be believed, wholly occupied in unwearied and laudable efforts to con- ries of his
to divert the hostility and allure the ambition of Charles, solidate and ameliorate the institutions of his Empire. subsequent
with the hope of sharing the Imperial title, and uniting An era of general peace was maintained, with few inter-reiga
the Frankish and Grecian Empires by the possession ruptions, by the fame of his talents and power, and the
of her hand. *

dread of his arms and activity; and the establishment With whatever truth and sincerity the proposal may of tranquillity was followed by efforts for universal im- Efforts in have been made and accepted, its fulfilment was frus- provement in jurisprudence, learning, manners, and legislation, trated by a revolution which suddenly precipitated morals. Among the Franks, he restored the regular Irene from the Throne of Constantinople; and the convocation of the National Assemblies, which had formal elevation of Charles to the Imperial dignity was fallen into some disuse under the Merovingian Kings. reserved for another political architect. This

He laboured to introcluce order into their meetings, and Protection Pope Leo III., the successor of Adrian I. A sedition encouraged their legislative deliberations for the comof Pope Leo at Rome, in which the nephews of the late Pontiff com- mon weal. While he left the people of the conquered III.

pelled Leo to fly for his life, reduced the new Pope to Provinces as much as possible in the enjoyment of

throw himself upon the protection of Charles, and their own ancient privileges and customs, he endea799,

paved the way for a signal exhibition of his gratitude to voured to modify and amend their Barbarian institu-
his benefactor. Charles, after restoring the fugitive tions. He even meditated the comprehensive design
Pope in triumph to his seat, proceeded in person to of reducing and reconciling the contradictions of the
Rome; heard the accusations of Leo's enemies; con- Roman and Barbarian law into one uniform Code of
stituted himself the judge of his innocence ; and feigned jurisprudence throughout his whole Empire ; and the
a reluctance to receive the recompense of this service, magnitude of this conception, which a single life was
for which it is probable that he had privately stipulated. too short to mature, at least attests the capacity of his
Leo was popular at Rome; and his restorer was wel- mind and the elevation of his views. He also mingled
comed in the ancient Capital of the world with the actively in the Ecclesiastical affairs of his Empire ; and Supremacy
enthusiastic plaudits of the citizens. Ever since the even, with the tone of command or protection to the
first delivery of Rome from the oppression of the Lom- Latin Church, interposed in her controversies and dic-

fairs.
bards by the Carlovingian arms, both Pepin and Charles tated the proceedings of her Councils. It was in the
had exercised a general, though not very definite Sove- same plenitude and security of his own power, that he
reignty over the city, with the vague and unmeaning lavishly increased the privileges and authority of the
title of Patrician, which had originally been borne by Clergy, whom he intrusted with a large share in the
the Lieutenants of the Eastern Empire.

administration of the Empire. With too abundant a august appellation was now to confess the allegiance of confidence in their superior qualifications for office, he the Romans, and to assert the succession of the Frank- extended the jurisdiction of the Bishops over his tempoish Sovereigns to the purple of the Cæsars. During ral tribunals; he forbade the lay Magistrates to enter. the celebration of high mass at the festival of Christmas, tain causes against churchmen; and he thus elevated on the last year of the VIlIth century, and in the Church the influence of the Episcopal Order above all former of St. Peter, while the French King knelt before the example and authority.* altar, Leo suddenly approached him and placed an Im- With less questionable advantage to his subjects, Measures et perial crown on his head, with the exclamation, which this great Monarch reformed the coinage of the Empire

was immediately echoed in the shouts of the people, of and enacted the legal divisions of money, provided by And corona

Long life to Charles Augustus! crowned by the hand his laws for the correction of innumerable abuses of peror of the of God: the great, pious, and pacific Emperor of the administration, and laboured to ameliorate the slavish West. Romans!" The authority of the Pope to confer this condition and to diminish the oppression of the common

dignity might vainly be demanded, but the new Empe- people.f The same wise and benevolent zeal for the 800. ror was at least worthy of the honour; the restoration advancement of general civilization and happiness,

of the Empire of the West may be formally dated from
the solemn event; and the coronation of CHARLEMAGNE agitated the Middle Ages and has been more harmlessly continued to
has, perhaps, more than any other single circumstance, modern times by the zeal of literary and antiquarian partisans, the
indissolubly united the well-merited epithet of greatness circumstances of Charlemagno's coronation have been variously res
with his name.t

garded: but the simple fact remains the same, that the Pope first conferred the Imperial diadem upon a Prince whose general sove

reignty he had already acknowledged, and afterwards paid him the * Theophanes, Chronogruphia, p. 401–402. In the reign of homage of a subject.' See, chiefly, Muratori, Annali d'Italia, ad Nicephorus, the successor of Irene, a solemn Treaty was concluded ann.; Pagi, Critica, vol. iii. p. 418; Giannone, (Istoria di Napoli,) between him and Charlemagne which, (A. D. 802,) on the basis of vol. i. p. 395 ; Gaillard, vol. ii. p. 412—446; St. Marc, Abrégé possession, adjusted the limits, and proclaimed the alliance, of the Chronologique, vol. i. p. 440-450. Eastern and Western Empires.

* Steph. Baluzii, Capitularia, (Caroli,) vol. i. p. 227, 90+, 985, + Eginhart, Annales, ad ann. 799–800. In the contest for 1105, &c. supremacy between the Empire and the Popedom, which fiercely + Baluzii, Cupit. passim.

astical s.

A more

*

social in

provement

tion as Em

[ocr errors]

A. D.

A.D.

to

A. D.

* to A. D.

History. was shown in the number and variety of the public Normans, or Danes, is buried in the obscurity of Scan- France,

works which he directed : in the construction of roads dinavian legends ; but the Age and the Empire of Germany, From and bridges, the opening of navigable rivers, and the Charlemagne first witnessed and sustained the scourge

lialy, &c. creation of a marine to foster the commerce and pro- of their perpetual invasions. Nursed in the wild storms

From 768.

tect the coasts of the Empire. Among these projects, and cold of their native regions, and habituated to a
the attempt to complete a communication between the tempestuous navigation, 'these Northmen fearlessly

768. German Ocean and the Euxine by connecting the braved every peril, and were unequally opposed by the 814. Public

Rhine and the Danube with a canal, deserves a parti- less hardy people of milder climates, whose defenceless works cular and honourable mention for the grandeur of the coasts invited their roving activity, and whose posses- 814.

design, although it miscarried in the execution.* The sions tempted their ravenous appetite for plunder. In failure has been imputed to the rude state of the Arts a few years after their appearance on the Ocean, they and the ignorance and unskilfulness of a dark Age: yet, extended their desultory ravages along the shores of if the difficulties of the work were not really insuper- Germany, Englanı), France and Spain. Their descents able, it is a greater reproach to the superior intelligence were sometimes repulsed by the vigilance of Charleand power of modern times, that at the distance of ten magne and the victories of his navy: but all his power centuries, the magnificent conception of a Barbarian was insufficient to check the incessant expeditions and mind remains still unaccomplished.

avert the progress of their numerous fleets. Even All these useful efforts to associate his greatness during his life they penetrated into the Mediterranean;

with the welfare of his people have justly raised and on the first spectacle of their vessels from a port in and encou- and perpetuated the renown of Charlemagne far above that sea, the aged conqueror is said to have wept in nagement of the ordinary fame which is lit up in the desolation of prophetic sorrow at the evils which threatened his learning. conquest. Yet, to the eye of scholastic enthusiasm, it Empire.

is his zealous endeavours for the encouragement of In his family the heart of the Emperor was doomed Domestic Learning, imperfect and transient though they were, to suffer some of the severest trials which belong to the afflictions which have shed the purest and most pleasing lustre on parental condition : to witness and survive the death of his memory; and, with their usual prodigality of grati- his children. His eldest son, Pepin, whose legitimacy tude, men of letters have delighted to confer that im- is doubtful, had engaged in an unnatural rebellion, and mortality on the genius of Charlemagne, which Princes was justly punished by confinement to a Monastery in nave ever cheaply won by the patronage of intellec- which he died. Two other of his sons also, Charles tual studies. But after every detraction for the taste- and Pepin Carloman, closed their lives before him ; lessness and superstition which disfigured his purposes, and the death of his favourite daughter Rotrude filled the foundation of Schools and the collection of Libraries, up the measure of his affliction. These misfortunes, the attempt to form an Academy in his Court, and the indeed, were soothed by the filial piety of Lewis, his perseveri ng and successful desire to gather the few only remaining son, whom he rewarded by associating learned men of every Country around his person, are with him in the Government. In the last year of the all positive evidences of a real sympathy for literary Emperor's life, a solemn Assembly of his States was excellence, which not only overcame the original defi- convened at Aix-la-Chapelle, to confirm his intention; ciencies of a neglected education, but rose far superior and the Imperial Crown being laid on the altar, Charleto the rude spirit of his times.t

magne, as if he foresaw and desired to prevent the Distresses of All the glory and fortune of Charlemagne, however, usurpations of the Church, commanded the Prince to

and death of declining could not exempt his declining years from the heavy place it on his own head, in token that he received and years. cares of Empire and the ordinary afflictions of humanity. held it alone of God, his father, and his people.*

The perpetual anxiety for the repression of abuses which Charlemagne survived this remarkable ceremony only
his edicts evince, betrays also the inefficacy of his best a few months; breathing his last in the seventy-first 814.
efforts, and reveals the internal disorders of his reign and year of his age and the forty-seventh of his reign.t
the miseries of the lower class of people. The very ex- The character of Charlemagne has been perhaps Kis charac-
tension of his conquests had served only to enlarge the sufficiently described in the political, the military, and ter.
assailable circle of his dominions; and his subjugation the domestic transactions of his memorable life. But,
and settlement of Northern Germany first threw down on a formal estimate of his qualities of heart and mind,
the barrier which had concealed the general weakness our judgment should in fairness be confined, and his
of Europe from the fierce natives of Scandinavia. At real merit should be measured only by the moral and

least the advancement of the Frankish frontiers to the intellectual standard of his own times. Apart, indeed, First rawa- Elbe, and the flight of the Saxon exiles to the shores of from the accidents of his position at an epoch of thick Serif the the Baltic, were almost immediately followed by the barbarism and ferocious violence, we may readily dis

emerging of those piratical fleets from the Scandinavian cover in many features of liis conduct the true and unof the Em seas, which in a few years spread desolation through- changeable elements of greatness. His universal am

out the coasts of the Ocean and Mediterranean. bition of excellence, the magnitude of his conceptions,
genuine origin or fortuitous uniou of those merciless his benevolent purposes of social improvement, and the
swarms of adventurers, who became so terrible to the indefatigable activity of his spirit, could be the natural
less barbarous nations under the name of Northmen, products of no particular state of civilization, and less

than any, of the times in which he lived. In whatever
Eginhart, Annales, ad ann. 794 : with a commentary on the

age of the world he had filled a Throne, these capacities attempt, in the Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions, vol. xvii. would probably have numbered him among the most

+ Eginhart, in Vitú Car. passim, and especially c. 25. and 29. ilustrious of mankind : but the positive as well as the But the efforts of Charlemague for the promotion of Learning are best collected and developed in the Hist. Littéraire de France, vol. iv Thegan. Chron. Vitæ Ludovici Pii, c. 7. of the learned Benedictines.

4 Eginhart, ad ann.

Charlemagne.

A. D.

onibe coasts

Dite.

A. D. 808.

« ElőzőTovább »