Tag Archives: 8th century CE

Charlemagne’s Letter to Baugaulf of Fulda

This late 8th century letter from Charlemagne to Abbot Baugaulf illustrates the emphasis the Emperor placed on learning.

Charles, by the grace of God, King of the Franks and Lombards and Patrician of the Romans, to Abbot Baugulf and to all the congregation, also to the faithful committed to you, we have directed a loving greeting by our ambassadors in the name of omnipotent God.

Be it known, therefore, to your devotion pleasing to God, that we, together with our faithful, have considered it to be useful that the bishoprics and monasteries entrusted by the favor of Christ to our control, in addition, in the culture of letters also ought to be zealous in teaching those who by the gift of God are able to learn, according to the capacity of each individual, so that just as the observance of the rule imparts order and grace to honesty of morals, so also zeal in teaching and learning may do the same for sentences, so that those who desire to please God by living rightly should not neglect to please him also by speaking correctly. For it is written: “Either from thy words thou shalt be justified or from thy words thou shalt be condemned.” For although correct conduct may be better than knowledge, nevertheless knowledge precedes conduct. Therefore, each one ought to study what he desires to accomplish, so that so much the more fully the mind may know what ought to be done, as the tongue hastens in the praises of omnipotent God without the hindrances of errors. For since errors should be shunned by all men, so much the more ought they to be avoided as far as possible by those who are chosen for this very purpose alone, so that they ought to be the especial servants of truth. For when in the years just passed letters were often written to us from several monasteries in which it was stated that the brethren who dwelt there offered up in our behalf sacred and pious prayers, we have recognized in most of these letters both correct thoughts and uncouth expressions; because what pious devotion dictated faithfully to the mind, the tongue, uneducated on account of the neglect of study, was not able to express in the letter without error. Whence it happened that we began to fear lest perchance, as the skill in writing was less, so also the wisdom for understanding the Holy Scriptures might be much less than it rightly ought to be. And we all know well that, although errors of speech are dangerous, far more dangerous are errors of the understanding. Therefore, we exhort you not only not to neglect the study of letters, but also with most humble mind, pleasing to God, to study earnestly in order that you may be able more easily and more correctly to penetrate the mysteries of the divine Scriptures. Since, moreover, images, tropes and similar figures are found in the sacred pages, -no one doubts that each one in reading these will understand the spiritual sense more quickly if previously he shall have been fully instructed in the mastery of letters. Such men truly are to be chosen for this work as have both the will and the ability to learn and a desire to instruct others. And may this be done with a zeal as great as the earnestness with which we command it. For we desire you to be, as it is fitting that soldiers of the church should be, devout in mind, learned in discourse, chaste in conduct and eloquent in speech, so that whosoever shall seek to see you out of reverence of God, or on account of your reputation for holy conduct, just as he is edified by your appearance, may also be instructed by your wisdom, which he has learned from your reading or singing, and may go away joyfully giving thanks to omnipotent God. Do not neglect, therefore, if you wish to have our favor, to send copies of this letter to all your suffragans and fellow-bishops and to all the monasteries. And let no monk hold courts outside of his monastery or go to the judicial and other public assemblies. Farewell.

In Boretius, No. 29, p. 78, trans. by D. C. Munro, Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1900]. Vol. VI, No. 5, pp. 12-14

Pepin the Short becomes King

749. Burchard, bishop of Wilrzburg, and Fulrad, priest and chaplain, were sent [by Pepin] to Pope Zacharias to ask his advice in regard to the kings who were then ruling in France, who had the title of king but no real royal authority. The Pope replied by these ambassadors that it would be better that he who actually had the power should be called king.

750 [751]. In this year Pepin was named king of the Franks with the sanction of the Pope, and in the city of Soissons he was anointed with the holy oil by the hands of Boniface, archbishop and martyr of blessed memory, and was raised to the throne after the custom of the Franks. But Childeric, who had the name of king, was shorn of his locks and sent into a monastery.

753. In this year Pope Stephen came to Pepin at Kiersy, to urge him to defend the Roman church from the attacks of the Lombards. 754. And after Pope Stephen had received a promise from king Pepin that he would defend the Roman church, he anointed the king and his two sons, Charles and Carloman, with the holy oil. And the pope remained that winter in France.

From Thatcher and McNeil, eds., A Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners, 1905), p. 37-38 [Some spelling of names adjusted]

Ibn Abd-el-Hakem on the Conquest of Spain

Musa Ibn Nosseyr sent his son Merwan to Tangiers, to wage a holy war upon her coast. Having, then, exerted himself together with his friends, he returned, leaving to Tarik Ibn Amru the command of his army which amounted to 1,700. Others say that 12,000 Berbers besides 16 Arabs were with Tarik: but that is false. It is also said that Musa Ibn Nosseyr marched out of Ifrikiya [Africa] upon an expedition into Tangiers, and that he was the first governor who entered Tangiers, where parts of the Berber tribes Botr and Beranes resided. These bad not vet submitted themselves. When he approached Tangiers, be scattered his light troops. On the arrival of his cavalry in the nearest province of Sus, he subdued its inhabitants, and made them prisoners, they yielding him obedience. And he gave them a governor whose conduct was agreeable to them. He sent Ibn Beshr Ibn Abi Artah to a citadel, three days’ journey from the town of Cairwan. Having taken the former, he made prisoners of the children, and plundered the treasury. The citadel was called Beshr, by which name it is known to this day. Afterwards Musa deposed the viceroy whom be bad placed over Tangiers, and appointed Tarik Ibn Zeiyad governor. He, then, returned to Cairwan, Tarik with his female slave of the name Umm-Hakim setting out for Tangiers. Tarik remained some time in this district, waging a holy war. This was in the year 92. The governor of the straits between this district and Andalus was a foreigner called Ilyan, Lord of Septa. He was also the governor of a town called Alchadra, situated on the same side of the straits of Andalus as Tangiers. Ilyan was a subject of Roderic, the Lord of Andalus [i.e. king of Spain], who used to reside in Toledo. Tarik put himself in communication with Ilyan, and treated him kindly, until they made peace with each other. Ilyan had sent one of his daughters to Roderic, the Lord of Andalus, for her improvement and education; but she became pregnant by him. Ilyan having heard of this, said, I see for him no other punishment or recompense, than that I should bring the Arabs against him. He sent to Tarik, saying, I will bring thee to Andalus; Tarik being at that time in Tlemsen, and Musa Ibn Nossevr in Cairwan. But Tarik said I cannot trust thee until thou send me a hostage. So be sent his two daughters, having no other children. Tarik allowed them to remain in Tlemsen, guarding them closely. After that Tarik went to Ilyan who – was in Septa on the straits. The latter rejoicing at his coming, said, I will bring thee to Andalus. But there was a mountain called the mountain of Tarik between the two landing places, that is, between Septa and Andalus. When the evening came, Ilyan brought him the vessels, in which he made him embark for that landing-place, where he concealed himself during the day, and in the evening sent back the vessels to bring over the rest of his companions. So they embarked for the landing-place, none of them being left behind: whereas the people of Andalus did not observe them, thinking that the vessels crossing and recrossing were similar to the trading vessels which for their benefit plied backwards and forwards. Tarik was in the last division which went across. He proceeded to his companions, Ilyan together with the merchants that were with him being left behind in Alchadra, in order that be might the better encourage his companions and countrymen. The news of Tarik and of those who were with him, as well as of the place where they were, reached the people of Andalus. Tarik, going along with his companions, marched over a bridge of mountains to a town called Cartagena. He went in the direction of Cordova. Having passed by an island in the sea, he left behind his female slave of the name of Umm-Hakim, and with her a division of his troops. That island was then called Umm-Hakim. When the Moslems settled in the island, they found no other inhabitants there, than vinedressers. They made them prisoners. After that they took one of the vinedressers, slaughtered him, cut him in pieces, and boiled him, while the rest of his companions looked on. They had also boiled meat in other cauldrons. When the meat was cooked, they threw away the flesh of that man which they had boiled; no one knowing that it was thrown away: and they ate the meat which theh had boiled, while the rest of the vinedressers were spectators. These did not doubt but that the Moslems ate the flesh of their companion; the rest being afterwards sent away informed the people of Andalus that the Moslems feed on human flesh, acquainting them with what had been done to the vinedresser.

Questions for consideration:

  1. Ibn Abd-el-Hakem wrote his account of these events a hundred years or so after the fact. How does his document illustrate the difficulties in doing this accurately?
  2. What do you imagine the reaction to these events might have been elsewhere in Europe, particularly among Christian Europeans?

Tariq ibn Ziyad addresses his troops

When Tarik (an alternate spelling of Tariq) had been informed of the approach of the enemy, he rose in the midst of his companions and, after having glorified God in the highest, he spoke to his soldiers thus:

“Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance, but vou, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy. If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, if you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put far from you the disgrace from which you flee in dreams, and attack this monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freelv to death. Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers which I shall refuse to share with you. In the attack I myself will be in the fore, where the chance of life is always least.

“Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you. You have heard that in this country there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal kings. The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country. Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this country, and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will belong to yourselves.

“Remember that I place myself in the front of this glorious charge which I exhort you to make. At the moment when the two armies meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderick, tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing. If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you.”

Questions for consideration:

  1. How does Tariq attempt to motivate his soldiers?
  2. What role does religion play in this speech? How might this speech have worked differently without religious elements?

The Early Middle Ages

After the decline of Rome in the West, various “barbarian” kingdoms emerged. One of these, the kingdom of the Franks, became dominant in what is now France and Germany. Its first dynasty, that of the Merovingian and, later, the stronger Carolingian Dynasty.
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