The Carolingian Empire and the history of Charlemagne –

have you heard of The Carolingian Empire and the history of Charlemagne? Charlemagne is one of the most important figures in the history of Europe. He remains so prominent that, more than a thousand years after his coronation in Rome, his name still rings with enormous force. But what happened to this Empire, how long did it last? These and other questions we will solve in this article.

The Carolingian Empire | Background

Let’s start as you always have to start in history, at the beginning. We have to situate ourselves both in space and in time.

The Roman Empire had reached such dimensions that both its control and its defense became very difficult. was the emperor Theodosius I, in the year 395 AD, who decided to divide the Empire into two parts, dividing each part between his two sons. The part Occidental was given to his son Honorio Y the Eastern part to his son Arcadio.

This division succeeded in dividing the Roman Empire, which until now was unified, in the Eastern Roman Empire and Western Roman Empire. From here both empires will follow different paths, with different endings. The Western Roman Empire began in 395 AD and ended in 476 AD, while the Eastern Roman Empire began in 395 AD and ended in 1435 AD, also known as the Byzantine Empire.

Learn more about the Roman Empire:

beginning of the fifth century, germanic tribes They were being pressured by some steppe peoples of Asia called Huns, after the pressure exerted by the Germanic tribes, they were forced to retreat to the west, penetrating into the borders of the Roman Empire.

But the empire was not going through its best moments, many territories to control and many borders attacked by the barbarian peoples, made the defense of the empire very difficult, to the point of not being able to prevent their entry into Rome and its looting.

Vandals, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, etc. settled in different regions of the Empire founding new kingdoms totally independent. One of these kingdoms would soon be one of the most important since the Holy Germanic Empire would emerge from it.

The Carolingian Empire | Carolingian empire

If someone traveled back in time to the court of Charlemagneif I were to use the term “Carolingian empire”, people would not know what you were talking about. This name was later coined by historians to name the period in which the medieval Frankish kingdom was dominated by the so-called Carolingian dynasty and reached its maximum splendor with Charlemagne himself.

Their territories stretched across most of Europe, including the territories that now make up present-day France, Switzerland, most of Italy, and a considerable part of what is now Germany, among other territories. Experts do not agree when it comes to setting specific limits to the existence of the Carolingian Empire.

Some experts set its end with the death of Charlemagne, in 814, while others extend it at least until the Treaty of Verdun in the year 843, in which his empire was divided, or even until 987, when the last representative of the dynasty died. Carolingian, Louis V.

The Carolingian Empire, has its origin in the Frankish kingdom ruled by the Carolingian dynasty from the 8th to the 9th century. It was an attempt to revive the imperial era of the Western Roman Empire that lasted three centuries, until the division in the year 843 after the Treaty of Verdum, by which, the Carolingian Empire was divided into two parts, the Kingdom of France in the West and the Holy Germanic Empire in the East.

This is the history of Rome:

In the 5th century, among the Germanic kingdoms the frank kingdom was one of the most important, but within the Frankish kingdom, the Salians located north of what is now France, specifically in the province of Tournai, would be the ones that gave rise to the the Merovingian dynasty, in honor of grandfather Meroveo, former Frankish King Salio.

Clovis Ithe first Merovingian king, carried out a policy of expansion first from other free provinces and later by annexing territories both to the South and to the West.

With the death of Clovis, the entire kingdom was divided into four smaller kingdoms: Neustria, Austrasia, Burgundy, and Aquitaine. The struggles between the Merovingians themselves caused them to lose power and prestige, which is why this era is called that of the lazy kings.

Given the constant loss of prestige, it was the nobles who would really hold power. These nobles received as a title “Palace Butlers” concentrating great power as they had the ability to lead shadow governments. But just entered the seventh century, the stewards of Austrasia, belonging to the Heristal family, were the ones who took precedence.

The beginnings of Carolingian empire can be placed on the ascent to the throne of Pepin the Short, son of the famous Carlos Martel, belonging to the Heristal dynasty. Carlos Martel had become famous for his victory against the Arab troops at the Battle of Poitiers and had achieved an important power that he bequeathed to his son Pepin, called the Brief.

With great ascendancy among the nobility, Pepin dethroned the last Merovingian king, Childeric III, in 751. He was recognized as king two years later and consolidated his position with a alliance with the papacy, who would recognize his lineage as the legitimate successors of the Roman emperors, a dignity that would later be transmitted to the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle and Modern Ages. Pepin, with his influence and power, laid the foundations for his son, Charlemagne, to rule the immense empire that made him famous.

The Carolingian Empire | Charlemagne

Charlemagne was born on a date that is not known for sure, between the year 742 and 748, from the marriage between Pepin and Bertrada of Laon. He ascended the throne on the death of his father in the year 768. According to the customs of the time, Pepin distributed his territories between his son Carloman and Charlemagne himself, something that would continue to be practiced later and is considered as one of the reasons for his dissolution. However, Carloman died shortly after his own accession to the throne and Charlemagne ruled over all of the territories inherited from his father.

With an important military and political domain over the territory, Charlemagne imposed himself as the objective recapture the former glory of the Roman Empire, of which he considered himself heir. Through his significant military power, he defeated the Saxons, who then lived in northern Germany, defeated the Avars in the area of ​​present-day Bavaria and finished off the Lombards, annexing northern Italy to their territories. Also, stopped the advance of Muslims into Europewhich his grandfather had already begun with the aforementioned victory at Poitiers, creating the so-called “Hispanic Mark”, which would serve as a border in later centuries.

Aware of the problems that previous monarchs had had in controlling their territories and protecting themselves from their enemies, both internal and external, Charlemagne ruled with an iron will and created border territorial divisions, called marches, governed by the marquises and watched over by the marquesses. Missy Dominicwho were under the orders of the emperor.

forged a strong alliance with the Papacy, being crowned as emperor in Rome in the year 800, despite the protests of the Byzantine emperor, who saw his appointment as a usurpation. With this alliance, Charlemagne became what many have defined as the armed wing of the Churchdefending a threatened Papacy and largely seeking the expansion of Christianity, showing himself as a prominent enemy of Muslims and pagans.

Charlemagne was also a great protector of culture. During his government there was a moment of great cultural splendor, sponsored by the emperor himself, known as the Carolingian Renaissance. Schools, libraries and knowledge centers were created, of which the most important was the so-called palatine school, increasing the production of books and protecting the testimonies that still remained of classical literature. The basis of medieval culture is, to a large extent, in the Carolingian Empire and European culture cannot be conceived without the cultural advances sponsored by Charlemagne.

However, this huge empire did not long survive the death of its greatest exponent. Charlemagne died in 814.. His heir was his son Luis, called Luis the Pious, who lacked the leadership skills and authority of his father. Very soon, Charlemagne’s enemies saw his opportunity to attack and Louis had to face continuous revolts, invasion attempts and internal wars that weakened the authority of the monarch.

After an unstable government, Luis died in the year 840 and distributed his territories, following his custom, among his sons, Lothair, Luis and Carlos. After different unions, divisions and confrontations, the Carolingian dynasty ended up extinct at the end of the 9th century, less than a century after the death of the great Charlemagne.

The Carolingian Empire | Causes of the Disintegration of the Empire

The political organization that Charlemagne established, based on the fidelity of the nobles to the Emperor, King of the Franks and King of the Lombards, would not survive long. The cities or counties had become more autonomous, both economically and socially. The maintenance of the soldiers was very expensive, on the part of the empire, which caused that the richest classes or large owners could get hold of a small army, the free men were forced to submit to a vassalage system towards his lord, to be able to subsist.

The economy was based on the subsistence farmingreason why the cities were practically uninhabited, the commerce had disappeared, with which each province of the empire was forced to subsist by its own means.

The network of roads and communications within the empire was very poor, added to the fact that a new class was beginning to appear, the nobles. A rich class, which served as a link between free men and the Emperor, both reasons cause the vassals to be more faithful to their lord than to the Emperor, thus practically degrading their power.

Charlemagne had been a man of great prestige, a good ruler and, above all, had brought an immense fortune to the nobility obtained from the benefits of territorial conquests. His son Carlos would have been a good successor to the Empire, with great military skills, but he died young.

His successor, also son of Charlemagne, Louis the Pious, He had neither the attitude nor the character that his father had had, the continuous civil wars together with the low income of the Empire, managed to dissipate the loyalty of the nobles with respect to the Emperor.

A new system hovered over Europe, which would mark the entire Middle Ages, the Feudal system. But this is another chapter in the story, to which we have dedicated another article from Sobrehistoria.