Idhrendur

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Would you care to expound a little more on Plato and Aristotle's henotheism? I recall the reference in the Apology, and I've heard many different claims regarding their theistic beliefs, but have never had a chance to corner someone who might explain the evidence.
 

volksmarschall

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I do like the historical voice adopted. It is so delightfully prejudiced.

Never met a book that wasn't, it's just whether that voice is esoteric or explicit. :p Well, I suppose you should just get used to it. That authorial voice is how I plan to write the entire AAR. :)

Would you care to expound a little more on Plato and Aristotle's henotheism? I recall the reference in the Apology, and I've heard many different claims regarding their theistic beliefs, but have never had a chance to corner someone who might explain the evidence.

I'm afraid you may have slightly misinterpreted that part. Be not afraid -- I'm going be dropping stuff like this throughout, wait until the Renassiance! :D -- but Plato and Aristotle lived in a henotheistic society. Both were strict monotheists in their philosophy (well, definitely Aristotle anyway). The difference, much like with Cicero (who was the best example of a monotheist who didn't touch the question of the Roman pantheon for obvious reasons), they weren't interested in getting rid of the pantheon because look at what happened to Socrates for trying to do that :p. The pantheon plays its role in society, all fine and good because the plebs are satisfied. "Pagan religion" was really henotheistic in this respect: most people, save the elites for the reason of it's never a bad idea to cover all your bases, devoted themselves to a single god while simply acknowledging that there were probably others. That's what henotheism is in a nutshell. Plato and Aristotle, as were almost all the ancient philosophers save people like Epicurus (who was an atheist in the truest sense of the term e.g. not the "atheists" of today who, in their metaphysics, ethics, and ontology, are essentially Christian carrying all the idiosyncrasies of Christianity into their atheism), were monotheists. Plato is the one who can be read as a quasi-henotheist, with a Supreme God at the top, and lesser divinities filling the gradation downward, but that's closer to neo-Pythagorean theology than to Plato, though the neo-Pythagoreans were synthesizing Pythagoras and Plato.

But that's quite a loaded question and since classical philosophy is kind of my specialization, I don't want to get bogged down in all the nuances of this on a forum like this. :p I can just direct you to my blog in my signature if you want to delve into philosophy and that stuff on your own time. You'll get another free education from me. Guess that makes me a socialist...
 

stnylan

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Never met a book that wasn't, it's just whether that voice is esoteric or explicit. :p Well, I suppose you should just get used to it. [\QUOTE]
Used to it? I am eager for more of it! :D
 

Tom D.

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I didn't know the Ka'ba existed before Islam, nice to learn a thing or two from this.
 

volksmarschall

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I didn't know the Ka'ba existed before Islam, nice to learn a thing or two from this.

As I like to say, my AARs can be a learning experience as much as it is about the game I played itself. Or as @stnylan noted, digging through the authorial voice to also glean all the nitty gritty stuff that's going on in between the lines. :p

First off, fantastic AAR, can't wait to read more.

Secondly, what is your opinion on John Julius Norwich's 'The Popes: A history book'?

Thanks! Glad that you're enjoying it and have found it "fantastic!" :p

JJN isn't worth reading if you want a "scholarly" work that you can actually pride yourself having read from which you'll be more attune to the actual practice of history and current trends in historiographical scholarship. Norwich is the perfect example of a dilettante, who has garnered his success -- to his credit -- because he is an easy reader. Admittedly, I know this from experience, professional academics don't always have the gift of easy writing. That said, he's not as bad as some of the other popular journalist historian types, but he really peddles in all of his works I've read (his three volume (full) history of the Byzantines, Short History of Byzantium, Absolute Monarchs (also titled The Popes: A History), and History of Venice) jibberish and nonsense that the academy doesn't hold to. Now, we might say, some of those works are a bit dated. True, but even then his works on the Byzantines and Venice which came out in the 80s and 90s should have been attune to all the changes in Mediterranean and Late Antique/Late Antiquity studies that emerged in the Anglosphere beginning in the 1960s and 1970s. His lack of languages, as far as I can tell from his bibliographies, also hurts him since the continent has never had the same "Dark Age" prejudice as the English-speaking world. If he knew French or German he could have easily included the hundreds of years of Byzantine scholarship from French and German scholars, which he doesn't. (My guess being because he's unable to read that scholarship since it's slow going in the translation world which is why we need to learn so many languages for the purposes of historiography in other parts of the world.) Although he does have some funny things to say about the mythological stories that are quite humorous, like with "Pope Joan" the female mystic who got elected Pope by pretending to be a man (story is 100% untrue but Norwich talks about it because, frankly, it shows that even Medievals had a sense of humor and poked fun at their own institutions). But then again, he often prefaces his works by saying stuff like "I'm not a scholar," or "I'm not a historian" so I suppose he can get brownie points for saying that.

His book in question is a perfect example of a writer who can't hide when he loves a Pope (John XXIII for instance), and Popes he hates or loathes. If you want a better book on the history of the Popes, read John O'Malley's A History of the Popes. It's even a bit shorter than Norwich's work iirc and O'Malley still presents the same picture, and is a far more thoughtful work. If you want a book comparable to Norwich that isn't so much a history as it describes what the Popes were doing during their tenures, Richard McBrian's Lives of the Popes is a good read. A bit dated since he published that in the late 90s but still a fun read. That said, I'm not really aware of any "scholarly" works on the topics. Both O'Malley and McBrian are one volume "introduction"-esque works. The real scholarly works would be if you read all the individual biographies of the Popes. But that means you'd have to have a lot of time on your hand. :p

Let's just be clear, the popular histories are popular for obvious reasons. And I own many of them from across many subject fields. But when you read them, don't have illusions that you're suddenly "enlightened" on the topic. :p There are some wonderful popular/journalistic histories that come out from time to time too, but those are few and far between.
 

stnylan

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Personally I have always found Norwich a bit too obvious with the justifications of his prejudice. I think that is especially prevalent with his Venice book. Also he sups from Gibbon's well when it comes to the latter Roman Empire, without the excuse of Gibbon's particular situation (ie, writing in the late 18thC) or Gibbon's particular vision.
 

Idhrendur

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I'm afraid you may have slightly misinterpreted that part. Be not afraid -- I'm going be dropping stuff like this throughout, wait until the Renassiance! :D -- but Plato and Aristotle lived in a henotheistic society. Both were strict monotheists in their philosophy (well, definitely Aristotle anyway). The difference, much like with Cicero (who was the best example of a monotheist who didn't touch the question of the Roman pantheon for obvious reasons), they weren't interested in getting rid of the pantheon because look at what happened to Socrates for trying to do that :p. The pantheon plays its role in society, all fine and good because the plebs are satisfied. "Pagan religion" was really henotheistic in this respect: most people, save the elites for the reason of it's never a bad idea to cover all your bases, devoted themselves to a single god while simply acknowledging that there were probably others. That's what henotheism is in a nutshell. Plato and Aristotle, as were almost all the ancient philosophers save people like Epicurus (who was an atheist in the truest sense of the term e.g. not the "atheists" of today who, in their metaphysics, ethics, and ontology, are essentially Christian carrying all the idiosyncrasies of Christianity into their atheism), were monotheists. Plato is the one who can be read as a quasi-henotheist, with a Supreme God at the top, and lesser divinities filling the gradation downward, but that's closer to neo-Pythagorean theology than to Plato, though the neo-Pythagoreans were synthesizing Pythagoras and Plato.

But that's quite a loaded question and since classical philosophy is kind of my specialization, I don't want to get bogged down in all the nuances of this on a forum like this. :p I can just direct you to my blog in my signature if you want to delve into philosophy and that stuff on your own time. You'll get another free education from me. Guess that makes me a socialist...

Ah, got it. I guess I wasn't quite understanding henotheism itself. That makes more since. And thanks for pointing out your blog. I've started reading through your archives and plan to keep up with it once I'm current.
 

volksmarschall

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INTRODUCTION

THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE


IV

The Rise of the Kingdoms of the Franks

I have taken to calling France, in Late Antiquity, and up through the Medieval and Early Modern period, as the “Kingdoms of the Franks.” The purposeful inclusion of the term “kingdoms” is not to refer to multiple kingdoms – but the reflection of how the Franks tended to operate their lands, as well as to comment upon the succeeding Frankish dynasties over the centuries. The Merovingian Dynasty had the habit of dividing all lands between sons. This resulted in the highly decentralized Frankish kingdom, at least in respect to the Ile-de-France, but also resulted, indirectly, in the codification of the ancien régime among the descendants of Clovis’s commes and duces (counts and dukes – or warrior leaders), and especially the apanages (the royal counts and dukes) from his seed.

When Charles IV, Duke of Anjou, Bar, Burgundy and Lorraine, Count of Provence, and Maine, Fief of Algiers, and titular King of Majorca, inherited the many titles of his father – Charles III, the multitude of titles was reflection of the highly decentralized nature of the Frankish kingdom even into the late 15th century. Even when Charles Martel defeat the invading Arab armies at Poitiers, it was Duke Odo of Aquitaine that was the initial bulwark – who himself alerted Charles and participated in the battle itself. In the mid-15th century, the Kingdom of France was divided among the various Valois family lines, the Duchy of Brittany, English Aquitaine and Normandy, as well as the various many French aristocrats loyal to King Charles VII and his successors of the direct Valois-Capetian lineage.

TMa2u6a.jpg

FIGURE 1: Charles de Steuben’s “Battle of Poitiers in October 732.”

There was, in legal terms, only a single Kingdom of France. In actuality, however, there many “little Frances” with many “kings” who held their territories and manors with far greater power and authority than any king residing in Paris, at the time, could have ever dreamed. Of course, this was a bit problematic for some of the nobles who, in most ways, were more powerful than the king.

As mentioned, it was the French who enthusiastically joined the various Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land. And it was the French nobles who crowned themselves kings of the Crusader territories, and it was the Francophone nobility during the Fourth Crusade that proclaimed the Latin Empire. Indeed, one could say that there was plenty of internal jealously and rivalry among the French aristocracy among whom should be the rightful kings of France. The Valois family, however, was already consolidating themselves as the next race of kings – but not at the expense of their aristocratic patrons and power brokers.

The jealousy over the title “King of France” and “King of the Franks” hit heavily upon the junior House of Valois from Anjou, who, although later claiming the throne of France, had to look elsewhere for titles. The deposition of Rene as King of Naples took away the last actual kingship from the junior cadet family, and this was something shameful considering the lineage of the House of Anjou as one of the major power-broking families during the late Middle Ages. Charles IV, for instance, through his good relationship with Pope Clemens VII, was the duke and count who restored a rightful and legal kingdom to the family name – and it was a new kingdom to merit the warm praise of the French crusader legacy when the Kingdom of Catalonia and Algiers were proclaimed with Charles as its king, and thereby giving the passage of the kingdom to the Angevins.

In 1450, many noble families contested for power in the Kingdom of France. The direct descendants of the Capetians, the Valois, held the crownlands, but other Capetian-Valois children had come to hold their own fiefdoms, titles, and territories: Valois-Alecon, Valois-Anjou (the Angevins), and Valois-Orleans, and Bourbon families, also there was the House of Armagnac holding their own titles and territories. In a way, this was the direct legacy of the decentralizing inheritance policy of the Merovingian Family.

***

The Upper Germanic Limes ran from the Rhine to the Alps. Two important developments from this section of the Roman garrisons are important to the formation of the post-Roman West. Three Barbarian tribes in the region would become indispensable in the creation of the future Western European kingdoms, the Visigoths, Burgundians, and the Franks, which would also serve Charlemagne in the division of his empire upon his death.

The Visigoths, who eventually settled down in Southern France and Northern Spain after sacking Rome in 410, became important allies to the Romans at the latter end of Western Roman history (having provided half of the soldiers serving with Aetius in their defeat of Attila). However, the two more important tribes were the Burgundians and Franks. The Franks, a confederation of tribes along the lower Rhine, were on the best terms with the Romans. Many Franks were hired to serve in the Roman Army to boost the frontier fortifications – thus, the Franks crossed over the Rhine to serve in the Roman Army freely. This migration allowed for the Franks to spread out and serve in the frontier lines of the Lower Germanic Limes. The inclusion of Frankish mercenaries into the Roman garrisons formed the basis for the future Frankish kingdoms of Western Europe – and the future development of France. As generations passed, the Franks moved further and further in-land, away from the frontier garrisons and encompassed modern day France.

After the Burgundians, along with several other tribes crossed the Rhine in 405-406, the Burgundians settled down along the Upper Germanic Limes, and in the border between the Frankish settlements more inland and the Roman garrisons along the river, became the basis for the future Burgundian people and Kingdom of Burgundy. In close proximity with the Franks, the two tribes came together to create a unique culture that was Frankish-Germanic in orientation. The other Germanic tribes, which were kept out of the Roman Empire by the Rhaetian Limes along the Danube River near modern Austria, would develop into the proto-Germans.

UoVBKT0.jpg

FIGURE 2: Movements of the Barbarian Tribes and major events during the “Late Roman Empire.”

The creation of the Frankish successor kingdoms, modern France, and the eventual Germanic kingdoms and principalities that form the Holy Roman Empire, have their origins in the now obscure and forgotten frontier Roman military system. The culturing and isolation of tribes as a result of the Roman Limes prevented any national cultures from arising in Europe. Rather, the Franks remained Franks. The Bugundians remained Burgundian. The Saxons Saxon, and the Germans German.

Again, in almost an ironic twist, the Roman attempt to preserve Roman culture actually led to the diminishing of Romanism and the creation of the multiple nationalities of the post-Roman West. Largely confined to their territories based on the old system of Roman forts and roads, these barbarian tribes slowly civilized themselves from within to create the unique post-Roman cultures and kingdoms of Western Europe that remain, even to this day. The burdens of maintaining the empire from the Roman perspective effectually created the political system inherited by the post-Roman West, and ultimately served to fracture and dissolve the empire itself.

***

It was out of this inheritance that the Franks emerged, and when the Umayyads came rolling into Southern and Central France, it was the individual tribal duchies that, initially, stepped up to meet them. Odo the Great, the Duke of Aquitaine, was the first of the Frankish nobles to confront the Arab invasion of the 8th century. He had earlier been fighting the Carolingians to keep his ducal sovereignty, but quickly found the greater threat coming from Umayyad invasion than Carolingian encroachment. At the Siege of Toulouse, Odo led his army to victory against the Umayyad invasion.

The Franks who had come to settle into Roman Gaul was disparate diversity of tribes and people of Germanic origin. The Franks were among the earliest of the Germanic tribes to begin serving in the Roman Army, as I briefly stated in the preceding paragraphs. Of these tribes, the Salian Franks – with the legendary founding of the Merovingians, Merovech – were present at the Battle of Chalons against Attila the Hun where the King of the Visigoths, Theodoric, fell in battle in the last great encounter of the Western Roman army against an invading force – though the battle itself was no where no as important as the Hunnic defeat along the Nedao River, the importance of Merovech's presence at the last great showdown during the Roman Empire in the West was of tremendous importance to Frankish myth-making.

The Merovingians were the “first race of kings” and came directly from the line of Merovech who was the leader of the Salian Franks, and, after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west, came into conflict with the other tribes in Gaul and the former territories of the western portion of the Roman Empire. Clovis I, the Merovingian king who was baptized into the Gallic Roman church, to which much of the Frankish nobility followed suit, cemented his dominance in what would become France at Vouillé against Alaric the Visigoth. Clovis’s baptism was one of the most significant events prior to the Battle of Poitiers in Western European history.

As mentioned, before the codification of the Roman episcopate in Rome, Gaul was one of the major epicenters of Western Christianity. Christianity always had a stronger presence in the east than the west, at least in its informative years. Greece, Palestine, and Egypt were the centers of Christian light and scholarship, the western centers, in comparison – until the rise of Augustine – reflected a more popular religion with a heart closer to ancient Paganism than the already proto-scholastic Christianity forming in the east around Alexandria and Antioch. The episcopates at Arles and Lyon held tremendous importance in practicality, even if Rome was always seen as the spiritual head of the Western church. Clovis’s adoption of Gallican-Rite Catholicism separated him from the other successor kingdoms, and especially in comparison to the Visigoths who followed Arian Christianity which had been officially condemned back at the Council of Nicaea. In fact, the importance of Gallican Christianity to Western Christianity would be among the many reasons for the love-hate relationship between Rome and France. In sum, Gaul was the seat of early Western Christianity: 163 Gallic saints, the Gallican-Rite liturgy, and at least 34 sanctioned church synods and councils were held in Gaul up until the rise of Ambrose and Augustine when the church centered in the cities of Rome, Carthage, and Milan began to foster the same literary Christianity of the east.

e1m8H1o.jpg

FIGURE 3: “The Baptism of Clovis.”

The Merovingians, simply said, were instrumental in extinguishing the Arian heresy, the greatest of the early heresies though popular reception to the Gnostics tends to sway the less literate when it comes to the power, importance, and influence among the various heresies in early Christian history. This directly led to the Merovingian Renaissance in art and architecture, a great flourishing and spectacular rise in masonry, etching art, tapestry, and, for the 5-8th centuries, a fairly reasonable rise in literacy all things considered, including the eminent Gregory of Tours. Far from a dark and decrepit period as Whig historians like to portray, Gaul was a center of learning, education, architectural progression, and the cementing of a post-Roman Western Europe; it is no surprise that Francophobe Whigs would like to gloss over this.
 

stnylan

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Again I love the Gallic bias.

Gregory of Tours is a fascinating read, but in two respects I think he weakens our narrator's thesis. Gregory's worldview is very constricted in a way that even Sidonious Apollonaris isn't. That speaks of what one might call the overall constriction of the post-Empire period in the West. Secondly is the generalised political chaos of the Merovingians. The Empire's greatest gift was its relative stability.
 

Nathan Madien

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Looking at that map of Europe makes me wonder:

Was there any way the Romans could have expanded their reach into modern-day Germany? Or was that part of Europe a bridge too far for the Romans?
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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Looking at that map of Europe makes me wonder:

Was there any way the Romans could have expanded their reach into modern-day Germany? Or was that part of Europe a bridge too far for the Romans?
The Romans did have a campaign to expand the frontier to the Elbe, but it ultimately got defeated by the disaster at Teutenbergerwald. With partial exceptions of the conquest of Dacia under Trajan, and some smaller-scale conquests here and there to rationalise the frontier a bit, that was effectively it for Roman expansion in continental Europe. Consciously or not the Empire decided the effort to take over the comparatively poor and wild lands just not worth the cost in money and blood. Add in the paranoia of the Emperors about letting their generals get too much prestige (one possible reason for Agricola's recall from Britian when he was busily subduing Caledonia) and some Emperors just not being interesting in Conquest, everything gets stalled. Then, of course, from the death of Commodus onward the Empire generally has too many internal stresses to engage on such foreign expeditions.

NB: This is a very cursory answer - people have written books on the subject! :D
 

volksmarschall

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@Nathan Madien, Ditto @stnylan. In fact, the whole story of Rome and its relationship with the "Barbarians" has changed dramatically over the last 40 years of *English* speaking scholarship. Although I briefly mention it in the writings, it's a really sad story. Over time, the Romans and Germanic Tribes had a pretty decent relationship, and the Romans -- for many reasons -- started hiring the barbarians to serve in their armies (especially in the Western half of the empire). Thus, they crossed the natural barrier of the Rhine. Naturally, those not hired to serve wanted to come over too. Then with the Hunnic invasion, so many of the tribes were forced to flee and sought refuge in the Roman Empire. The Romans couldn't handle such pressure. In addition, some of the Roman generals and emperors began to refuse to pay for their services, angering some of the tribes who then began sacking Roman towns and cities for compensation. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

In many ways, the old "Catastrophist" (that's their name in historiography) of a major swarm of violent barbarians invading Rome is simply not true. True for the Huns and the Vandals, but not really for the rest. People can play those "what if" games had they pacified Germany and what that would have entailed concerning what wasn't so much Barbarian invasion as Barbarian migration and migrant crisis due to the Huns, but as I've told you in other venues, I don't play those games since they're unfounded and nothing but random speculation that always plays to the author's personal bias. And there are hundreds of books and thousands of articles published on just this topic. I've been lucky enough to engage in this question too. Fun, fun stuff. Like I hope this AAR is, especially if you conjure up a voice for the narrator. :D
 

Tom D.

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Nice introduction into the first race of kings.
 

Nathan Madien

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NB: This is a very cursory answer - people have written books on the subject! :D

It is a good in-a-nutshell answer, especially given how much written material there is out there about it.
 

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INTRODUCTION

THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE


V

Merovingian and Carolingian France

If the Merovingians were the founding cornerstone of the Frankish kingdom, then it was the Carolingians who really codified a quasi-united Frankish kingdom and empire. The Carolingians trace their lineage back to Charles Martel. Martel was the “Mayor of the Palace” during the last decades of Merovingian rule. The Mayor of the Palace was, in a way, the behind the scenes ruler of the Merovingian Kingdom. Brunhilda, that famous and infamous queen, was the first to begin ruling from behind the throne until her death by quartering from horses at the hands of Clothar II. But her story, though engaging, intriguing, and tragic, marks the slow decline of direct Merovingian rule over their land – even if a Merovingian had her killed to restore some sense of “hands on” Merovingian rule.

In the midst of this decline of direct rule emerged the Mayors of the Palace, of which Charles Martel was the most famous. The Mayor of the Palace, a sort of day-to-day head of state position where the real rule of Merovingian France was wielded from, reflected the highly paradoxical nature of the French monarchy in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Just as the Whigs had glossed over France’s role in early Renaissance, the Whigs turned to paint “monarchial absolutism” in the worst possible light since absolutism was a concept tied to the French monarchy over and against the more liberal and benign constitutionalism of the English monarchy.

The stereotypical, and inaccurate, idea that the medieval monarchies wielded absolute power greater than anything else in the world would have made even Thomas Hobbes blush; it is simply a fantastical product of the Whig imagination with obvious anti-monarchial and pro-Tudor bias.* In reality the Frankish monarchy, as highlighted in the constant fratricides, rule of Brunhilda from behind the scenes, the rise of the Carolingians from the Mayor of Palace position, as well as the rise of the apanages, commes, and duces reflect the reality of the decentralized nature of monarchy in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Absolute rule from the king hardly ever extended far beyond the immediate realm of the palace. True power was held in the hands of the knights, barons, counts, and dukes. Nominally France was a feudal and absolute monarchy, but in practice it was a highly devolved state where power was wielded at the local level.


z6wZcmT.jpg

FIGURE 1: A depiction of manorial life. Rather than the monarchies wielding “absolute power,” power was decentralized to the feudal and manor magnates. Medieval political structure was paradoxically decentralized yet, in that decentralized, local authority was deeply centralized and authoritative. Rather than a powerful central government, medieval political order was really a diverse sea of “little kings” controlling limited territory. The outer reaches of local authority, like on the peripheries and boundaries of manor zones, was often very dangerous.

To think, however, as some later romantics did, that the monarchies of Late Antiquity and the Medieval Era were quasi-anarchist, would be to also miss the mark. While it was true that the portrait of kings and queens being absolute tyrants is a fantasy that no serious historian believes in because of lack of credible evidence, the arbiters of power at the local level were not always as benign and pleasant as the romantics tried to paint. In some ways the chivalrous knight was a product of the romantic imagination – in many ways knights were brutal thugs, strongmen on horseback with armor and sword who were able to intimidate the local serfs and peasants into submission to the manor lord. The counts and dukes of France, in many instances – while various many were strong patrons of the arts, the church, and rule benignly – wielded a power that was greater than the titular king and this made them fall into a lust for vanity and grandeur, some seeking to claim the throne and others seizing and rising to kinship elsewhere through conquest and crusade.

The final decades of Merovingian France reflected this most paradoxical nature of early medieval political order. The actual kings tended to have limited practical power despite their de jure standing and legal authority granted by inherited Roman civil law. This decentralized power down to the local authorities did entail a decentralized local political order – just the opposite, it was the local political orders that were extensively and often exhaustively centralized and where the real nexus of power, taxation, church, and state, interwove together producing the extremely powerful ancien régime. In fact, part of the weakness of the French monarchy in its early conflict with the English monarchy during the Hundred Years’ War was that the English constitutional monarchy, precisely because of its constitution, was far more centralized and powerful than the “absolutist” monarchy in Paris.

The Kingdom of the Franks, even after the rise of Charles Martel and the deposition of the last Merovingian King, Childeric III, under Pepin the Short under the Papal pretext that the title of king should belong to he who actually rules as a king (hence the title passed to the Mayors of the Palace) and the inauguration of the Carolingians takes root, not even the Carolingians – behind all the pomp and circumstance and the birthed creation of the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne – could overcome the already entrenched and gentrified foundations of the ancien régime laid forth by the sons of Merovech.

In fact, if anything, the Carolingians only made the entrenchment of the localized nobility stronger through their practice of apanage. With the younger sons being given the divided fruits of the empire in the same manner that the Merovingians did, the inclusion of the royal apanage as compensation effectively created de-facto mini kingdoms in practice through the Carolingian holdings. While not, legally, kings, these royal apanages that traced their bloodlines back to the royal dynasty in Paris cultivated and secured for themselves great power and prestige for themselves that rivaled and often exceeded the direct dynasty in Paris. After all, it is from an apanage that the Angevins ultimately hailed from. And it was the apanage in Burgundy that caused the great contest between the Valois of Burgundy and the direct Valois in Paris that is one of the two other Hundred Years’ Wars that garner little attention in public history.

The Carolingians, however, were strong patrons of the arts and church, in a manner similar but exceeding that of the Merovingians. The resulting Carolingian Renaissance, which in many ways was the extension of the Merovingian Renaissance into the new dynasty and new era, was a grand spectacle for those involved to witness.

VXZ3t0i.jpg

FIGURE 2: A photo of the interior of the Aachen Cathedral, constructed during the reign of Charlemagne. The Carolingian Renaissance was a great flourishing of art, architecture, philosophy, and theology. While the Carolingians were strong patrons of the arts and education, it often had intentional political and religious goals in mind as well.

One of the more important aspects of the Carolingian Renaissance was the universal standardization of Late Latin script through the Carolingian minuscule which standardized the Latin alphabet and writing methods for the literate classes of the Carolingian Empire and the Roman Church. Furthermore, the advances in jurisprudence are also often overlooked. As the Carolingian Empire expanded across Europe, and in following the same decentralized centralized political order, the local courts and justices were tasked with not just great responsibility to handle judicial affairs in their jurisdictions, but cultivating a similar means of legal jurisprudence that could be recognized from the westerly forests of the empire to the easterly coasts along the Atlantic. The need to standardize local jurisprudence practices resulted in the re-promulgation and revival in the study of Roman civil law, and very quickly the tribal juridic practices of the post-fall European West was reunified under a synthesis of tribal practices with Roman civil law practices bequeathing to Europe, as a whole, the cornerstones of civil law as its legal foundation – and something that ultimately set it apart from the British Isles and their integration of Roman civil law with distinctly Anglo-Saxon practices that eventually formed the basis of Common Law.

The Carolingian Renaissance, beyond the art and architecture that all already know well, also saw a great flourishing of music primarily for the benefit of church liturgy. Instrumental music had generally been neglected in favor of cantor choirs and chanting – while magnificent and beautiful in its own right – had therefore been relegated to the backwater of musical practices and the musical arts. This changed during the age of the Carolingians when the harp and lyre were restored to prestigious places in musical culture just as it was during the time of ancient Israel, Greece, and Rome.

But the most profound transformation in the musical arts under the Carolingians was the rise of the organ. The organ had been a longstanding instrument going back to the last centuries prior to the Common Era, and while organs were decreed to be official church instruments during the seventh century, it wasn’t until the mid-ninth century, during the height of the Carolingian Renaissance, that organs found widespread inclusion in churches. New churches and new cathedrals were built with organs in mind to help accompany the choirs, and organ masters and students crafted a new art and a new economic livelihood as a result. Throughout the Carolingian Empire the soothing harmonies of cantors and organs soon dotted the landscape and became a staple of the late Carolingian Renaissance.

In some way the Carolingian Renaissance is both the “revival” of the supposed grandeur of the West, but also the definitive end of the legacy of the Roman West and the fallout from the Roman Empire. True as it may be that Roman legal practices found new footing through the Carolingian Renaissance, the Carolingian Renaissance ultimately pushes what becomes France and Germany away from the legacy and Rome and cultivates a new European identity and culture. The coronation of Charlemagne as Holy “Roman” Emperor is one of the cruelest jokes in the history of title names. He may have been granted a title that paid homage to the memory of the old Roman Empire in the West, but the title granted unto him and the de jure empire he founded marked the final end of the Roman Empire in Western Europe and the birth of modern Europe as we know it today. As such, I endeavor to recount the story of Europa out of this lineage.


*Tudors are the reigning dynasty of England in the game.
 

stnylan

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I have no doubt our historian will seek to ignore the essential Germanic nature of Big Karl (as it were) :p

But more seriously, I find it fascinating nearly every nation in Western and central Europe gets entangled in the development of the Empire. The partial exceptions being the British Isles and Asturias.
 

volksmarschall

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I have no doubt our historian will seek to ignore the essential Germanic nature of Big Karl (as it were) :p

But more seriously, I find it fascinating nearly every nation in Western and central Europe gets entangled in the development of the Empire. The partial exceptions being the British Isles and Asturias.

I can't wait to read your responses over what our historian has to say about the Renaissance in France that I have slated upcoming when I cover the Renaissance in six posts. :p