The Two Lives of Charlemage

Essay by mplancaCollege, Undergraduate June 2014

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Charlemagne, known as the father of Europe, is considered as one of the most powerful medieval rulers. The book The Two Lives of Charlemagne translated by Lewis Thorpe brings together Einhard's Vita Caroli and Notker the Stammerer's De Carolo Magno; two biographies that retell the life of Charlemagne. Einhard was sent to Charlemagne's court in the 790s where he became a close friend of Charlemagne and his family. He wrote Vita Caroli in 826-827 soon after Charlemagne's death, because he wanted to preserve and celebrate the history of a great ruler. On the other hand, Notker did not write De Carolo Magno because he believed Charlemagne's history should be preserved, but because he was asked by emperor Charles the Fat between 884 and 887, many years after Charlemagne's death. Both Einhard and Notker provide a rich and insightful portrayals of Charlemagne's life. Both oth biographies offer two very different perspectives of the life of Charlemagne. Einhard wrote passionately and in great detail about a great a friend who had human feelings, whilst Notker compiles anecdotes of a great heroic ruler. The vary in detail, because they were written in different time periods with different purposes.

Einhard knew every detail about Charlemagne's life, including his foreign affairs, public works, and private life. He talks about these aspects of his life in great admiration. Einhard claimed that Charlemagne was loved by all. Whenever he would send his ambassadors to other countries they were also met with great gifts. According to Einhard, the Persian king favored Charlemagne over all kings and believed that "him alone marks of honor and munificence were due (pg. 70)." Under public works Charlemagne did his best to adorn and take care of his kingdom. Sacred edifices were a priority for him. Whenever they were...