Two Lives of Charlemagne

Two Lives of Charlemagne

Penguin Classics
by Einhard, Notker the Stammerer Balbulus, Lewis Thorpe (Translator)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Trade Paperback, 227 pages
Price: $16.00

Charlemagne's name shines out over the historical landscape, illuminating the Dark Ages and anticipating the Renaissance.

These two Lives provide a fascinating contrast. Einhard, who spent twenty-three years in Charlemagne's service, chose to approach his Vita Caroli as a public history and in beautifully expressed language, recounts Charlemagne's personal life and his achievements in warfare, learning, art, building, and in the skilful administration of the state.

Notker the monk's De Carolo Magno is a collection of anecdotes rather than a presentation of historical facts, and his main delight seems to stem from the ingenious ways in which Charlemagne subdues proud or corrupt bishops and other men of power. In these stories, which merge into fiction, Charlemagne is already half-way to becoming the legendary figure of the epics in the later Middle Ages.

Lewis Thorpe's introduction offers a comparison of the two biographies and examines Charlemagne's influence on the development of Europe.

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