Charlemagne: a Qualified Leader

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In Two Lives of Charlemagne, author Einhard, an advisor and close friend of Charles the Great, related the accomplishments and qualities of his lord and patron. He felt that if he failed to document Charlemagne's life, the Frankish King would lose much of the respect that his greatness deserved. Einhard organized his work by telling of the wars and political conquests, societal works, and the King's private life.

In glorifying Charlemagne, Einhard prescribed the qualities of a good and effective king. In each war, Charlemagne made an effort to fight with his troops, and unlike his father, had the gall to wage a long battle and pursue an enemy even after their surrender. For this he became very successful in every campaign. Einhard said his "mettlesome spirit and his imperturbility . . . remained as constant in adversity as in prosperity" (Thorpe, 62). He never let offenders go unpunished. Never withdrawing from an enterprise he had begun, Einhard said his skill and endurance made him "the most able and noble-spirited . . . [ruler] . . . in his time" (63). Charlemagne sent messengers to almost any enemy, offering them a peaceful surrender before he attacked. The surrender of Duke Tassilo of Bavaria, for example, happened before anyone made it to the battlefield. Many times this tactic worked, and his army and his enemies respected him more for it. Einhard mentioned how many of Charlemagne's campaigns and conquests were bloodless because of his pre-war actions. In his lifetime, Charlemagne annexed Aquitaine, Gascony, the Pyrenees, Italy, Saxony, most of the provinces of Pannonia and Dacia, and tamed many of the barbarous nations in Germany (69).

Einhard told of Charlemagne's friendly relations with other rulers, especially that of Harun-al-Rachid, King of the Persians. He always favored firm treaties and communication through messengers in order to prevent dissension. Einhard believed his public works and structures (the bridge over the Rhine at...
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