Charles the Great

Charles the Great - Charles the Great invaded Spain in the...

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Charles the Great invaded Spain in the year 778. He had been invited in by the governor of the strategic city of Zaragoza, who had promised to turn the city over to him. He entered through a pass in the western Pyrenees Mountains and marched through the lands of the Basques, a people who had managed to maintain their freedom from Muslim domination and who were not too pleased with the Franks entering their land without even asking permission. Charles took care of their objections by seizing hostages and allowing his men to loot and plunder the countryside as he headed east to Zaragoza. When he reached his objective, however, he found that the Muslim governor had changed his mind, and that the gates of the city were closed to him. After lingering a while to no purpose, he and his army began to retrace their steps. The Basques were still angry with his earlier treatment of them and, as his army went through the pass of Roncevalles, attacked his rearguard. As Einhard noted in his Life of Charlemagne , a few nobles were killed, including "Hrudoland, lord of the Marches of Brittany." By the 900's, the shrine of Saint James of Compostela, located in the northeastern corner of Spain, had become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites of western Europe, and the main route from France to Saint James lay through the pass of Roncevalles. Over time, Roland became one of the heroes whose battlefield passing pilgrims were eager to see, and, eventually, he became the protagonist of an epic poem. Although historians have argued about when the written version that has survived was composed, most now agree that it dates from sometime about 1200, and was written somewhere in northern France. It is the most famous of a number of similar tales, more or less based upon the events of the era of the Carolingian monarchs and called chansons de geste. This means "songs of deeds," and these songs were the preferred "literature" of the nobility of the twelfth century. They were sung to their audience, much as Beowulf was composed to be sung to an audience the members of which were most illiterate. The idea that Roland and the other chansons were songs of deeds lead many readers to miss the complexity of these poems. If one views them simply as heroic tales in which one warrior chops up a bunch of other warriors, they can seem rather primitive and quickly become boring. The fact
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This note was uploaded on 11/18/2011 for the course HISTORY 170 taught by Professor Romero during the Fall '11 term at Rutgers.

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Charles the Great - Charles the Great invaded Spain in the...

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