Two Lives of Charlemagne

Two Lives of Charlemagne

Penguin Classics
by Einhard, Notker the Stammerer Balbulus, David Ganz (Translator)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Trade Paperback, 131 pages
List Price: $16.00 Sale Price: $13.60

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 skillful 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.

David Ganz's introductions to this new translation explain how Einhard attempted to define Charlemagne's greatness and how Notker transformed and subverted Einhard's work. This edition also contains a map, suggested further reading, family trees and a chronology.

Did you find this review helpful?
Related Categories
Recommended for...