Life of Charlemagne
has a good Introduction with good historical background. Like Gregory
of Tours, Einhard followed the rhetorical convention of modesty about his writing (p. 17), but in fact, he
was a leader in the Carolingian Renaissance and Charlemagne's Palace School (at Aachen). He wrote
very smooth, graceful Classical Latin and followed the example of Roman historians like Suetonius. He
calls himself a barbarian, referring to the fact that he was Germanic, not Roman in ethnicity, although he
makes a conscious effort to master Roman Classics, History, and culture. Remember "Romanization"?
Remember "Rome has never said 'No more room' "? Here we see that the idea of the Roman Empire
made room for Franks attempting to revive the Western Roman Empire. We see Charlemagne's Holy
Roman Empire and the Carolingian Renaissance: a revival (rebirth) of Roman culture in art, literature,
education, and other aspects of culture.
It was a conscious, deliberate effort to recover a universal, not tribal, culture to provide a unifying
"global" culture for the new Holy Roman Empire composed of many diverse tribes and tribal kingdoms.
The basis for this unification and for Charlemagne's authority was the Roman-Christian synthesis.
Roman-Christian culture was universal; Germanic cultures, however, were ethnic (i.e. tribal, not
For Einhard's account of the fall of the Merovingian dynasty in 751, make sure to look at pages 82-84 in
Tierney and see XP page 32. Here are the official accounts and documents on a Frankish regime change
(from Merovingian to Carolingian), a coup d'etat (peaceful revolution to seize the throne) by Pepin the
Short, a Merovingian Mayor of the Palace, made legitimate king by a sacred ecclesiastical ritual of
anointing and consecration followed by coronation. The Pope, with this ritual coronation, made Pepin's
royal authority legitimate and sacred (theocratic). Pepin then reconquered the papal territories in Italy
that the Lombards had conquered and gave them back to the Pope. This was in accordance with the
You'll note that the "Donation of Constantine" was written around this time (~ 750 AD), but Constantine
had been quite dead since 337! Uh oh! The "Donation of Constantine" is a forgery (unmasked by the
Renaissance humanist Lorenzo Valla in the 15th century). However, the document nevertheless reflected
widespread, accepted beliefs. So the document is not authentic,
but the content of it is an accurate
representation of Early Medieval beliefs about the papacy