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What are Charlemagne's achievements?

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kmjames1993 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 27, 2009 at 9:23 AM via web

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What are Charlemagne's achievements?

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hi1954 | Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted May 27, 2009 at 6:38 PM (Answer #1)

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The most obvious, of course, is that Charlemagne was the first of the Holy Roman Emperors, crowned in the year 800 by Pope Leo III.  That title was not used at the time, but the title was Emperor of the Romans.  His empire consisted of what is today France, Switzerland, much of the Low Countries and the western and much of the central parts of Germany.  The Western Frankish Kingdom (France) later split off, and the Empire extended through Northern and Eastern Europe, but that was later.  In common with many medieval commanders he was not a truly great general, but he was tireless, tenacious and a great planner.  His strength of personality gained him the loyalty of competent allies and secretaries.  He commanded about 50 military campaigns in his lifetime.

When crowned emperor he was already King of the Franks, as son of Peppin the Short and Bertrada, Countess of Laon.  He and his brother were co-rulers until his brother's death in 771.  He conquered the Lombards and then Benevento, achieving control of Italy, and then seized control of Saxony by 804.  He followed this by taking control of Bavaria and redistributing the land into "counties," each controlled by a count loyal to him.  This was the basis of the system of fuedal government in Europe, the holding of land by local authorities who owed allegience and aid in war to an overlord who in turn owed them loyalty and justice.  He kept a picked group of knight-warriors called the vassi dominici who helped him establish and maintain his authority, bringing order to the areas under his control.  He also used what were termed missi dominici, paired administrators, one clergy and one military, and his instructions to them became the basis of medieval European law.

Between 791 and 795 Charlemagne had also crushed the power of the Avar, or Huns, to the east and opened the Danube Plain to colonization by the Franks.  By 800 he controlled the majority of what had been the European possessions of the old Roman Empire.  Due to his political abilities and his military accomplishments, he extended his power over vast areas and at the same time brought prosperity and order with him.  His campaigns also stopped the expansion of Islamic military adventurism in Western Europe.  His influence in the Church brought needed reforms, and his patronage of culture and art were invaluable in the development of medieval European culture.  His decrees to his officials became the basis of law throughout what is today Western and Central Europe.  Not only did his efforts influence the legal and cultural basis of European culture, but his emphasis on an educated priesthood of competent administrators was influential in both church and secular government.  He founded schools, including at Aachen, his home, where he died in 814.  His descendants became the three families eligible for election to the post of Holy Roman Emperor up to modern times, the Wittelsbachs, Luxembourgs and Hapsburgs.

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parkerlee | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted May 29, 2009 at 9:24 PM (Answer #2)

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To add a couple of details to an already very thorough answer, Charlemagne was also called "The Horse Prince," and some historians even attribute to him the invention of the stirrup, a winning factor in calvary combat.

Although he himself did not learn to read until later in life, Charlemagne assured the first steps towards compulsory education. There is even a children's song in French to this effect -  "Sacré Charlemagne!":

Qui a eu cette idée folle            Who had this wild idea
Un jour d'inventer l'école           One day to invent school
C'est ce sacré Charlemagne        It's crazy Charlemagne 
Sacré Charlemagne                   Crazy Charlemagne
De nous laisser dans la vie         To make us work with just
Que les dimanches, les jeudis      Weekends off -that's all!

C'est ce sacré Charlemagne        It's crazy Charlemagne

Sacré Charlemagne                   Crazy Charlemagne

Ce fils de Pépin le Bref              This son of Pepin the Short
Nous donne beaucoup d'ennuis   Has caused us lots of toil -
Et nous avons cent griefs          For which we can complain
Contre, contre, contre lui          One hundred fold and more

Qui a eu cette idée folle             Who had this wild idea
Un jour d'inventer l'école            One day to invent school
C'est ce sacré Charlemagne        It's crazy Charlemagne
Sacré Charlemagne                   Crazy Charlemagne

Il aurait dû caresser                  I'd rather he had spent
Longtemps sa barbe fleurie         Time at the barber's,
Oh Oh sacré Charlemagne          Trimming his beard just so -

Sacré Charlemagne                   Crazy Charlemagne,            

Au lieu de nous ennuyer             Not boring us to tears with
Avec la géographie                    Instruction in geography -
Oh Oh sacré Charlemagne           Oh,that crazy Charlemagne
Sacré Charlemagne                    Crazy Charlemagne

Il n'avait qu'à s'occuper              If only he'd kept busy with
De batailles et de chasse            His battles and his hunts
Nous n'serions pas obligés           We'd not have to go
D'aller chaque jour en classe        Forevermore to school

Il faut apprendre à compter         Between learning to count
Et faire des tas de dictées          And a heap of dicatation
Oh Oh sacré Charlemagne           It's just frustration -
Sacré Charlemagne                    Crazy, crazy Charlemagne

Car sans lui dans notre vie          Imagine life without him -
Y n'y aurait que des jeudis          So free! Why'd every day'd
Oh Oh sacré Charlemagne           Be Saturday! Oh, crazy
Oh Oh sacré Charlemagne           Charlemagne, oh, crazy
Oh Oh sacré Charlemagne...        Charlemagne...

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