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Two Lives of Charlemagne (Penguin Classics)…

Two Lives of Charlemagne (Penguin Classics) (edition 1969)

by Einhard and Notker the Stammerer (Author)

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1,072813,189 (3.55)18
Einhard's Two Lives of Charlemagneis an absorbing chronicle of one of the most powerful and dynamic of all medieval rulers, written by a close friend and adviser. In elegant prose it describes Charlemagne's personal life, details his achievements in reviving learning and the arts, recounts his military successes and depicts one of the defining moments in European history- Charlemagne's coronation as emperor in Rome on Christmas Day 800AD. By contrast, Notker's account, written some decades after Charlemagne's death, is a collection of anecdotes rather than a presentation of historical facts.… (more)
Title:Two Lives of Charlemagne (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Einhard and Notker the Stammerer (Author)
Info:Penguin Classics (1969)
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Two Lives of Charlemagne by Einhard



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Penguin Books’ Two Lives of Charlemagne collects Einhard’s Vita Karoli Magni (Life of Charles the Great), written between 817-833 CE, and the Gesta Karoli (“deeds of Charlemagne”) written by the Monk of Saint Gall in the 880s, whom scholars believe to be Notker the Stammerer. Charlemagne lived between 2 April 748 and 28 January 814, and was King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and the Holy Roman Emperor from 800, uniting most of Western Europe for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire in 476.

Einhard sought to evoke classical works, specifically Suetonius’s Lives of the Caesars. He worked in Charlemagne’s court and so had good knowledge of his source, drawing upon first-hand accounts while using his book to promote education. Unlike other biographies from the Middle Ages that focus on their subjects’ good deeds, scholars such as F.A. Ogg (1907) and Thomas Hodgkin (1897) consider the work a faithful account and a starting point for modern biographers.

Notker wrote his account of Charlemagne’s life for Charles III, known as “The Fat,” the great-grandson of Charlemagne who visited Gall in 833. The work demonstrates the effect of that patronage, as Charles III sought to emulate his great-grandfather, even modeling his palace at Sélestate in Alsace after Charlemagne’s Palace at Aachen. Notker’s work compiles anecdotes of Charlemagne rather than attempt to offer a proper biography, invoking the virtues of Charlemagne in order to please his patron. At times, he cites nonexistent sources or mistakes dates, using parables to teach lessons while criticizing the pride of high-born bishops.

Taken together, the two biographies offer insight into the Middle Ages as well as the process of historical writing at this time. They resemble Plutarch’s Roman Lives or some other European sagas, like that of Egil or Snorri Sturluson’s saga of King Harald. Historians and classicists will find this particularly useful, but Penguin’s paperback editions also help make this history available to laypeople seeking to broaden their own reading. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Jun 13, 2020 |
How can you not like a book written by someone called 'Notker the Stammerer'? ( )
  Eyejaybee | Sep 24, 2015 |
The lives are well served by their translator. The prose seems lively, and the introduction is very informative. These lives were originally written by Einhard between 824 and 836, and by Notker in 883 84. Einhard's work was a personal memoir, as he spent at least twenty-three years in the service of the Frankish king. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Feb 21, 2014 |
*note to self.copy from Al.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
This small volume contains two biographies of Charlemagne, one by a man who knew him, the other written within 100 years of his death. The translated biographies are interesting for their style, attitudes and anecdotes. The commentary points out when the biographies make factual errors or omissions and the sources of some of the references to sources like the Bible or the Aeneid. The personalities of both writers and of the translator come through, which I sometimes found amusing and sometimes found annoying. ( )
1 vote khkeeler | Aug 30, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Einhardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Notker the Stammerermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Thorpe, Lewis G. M.Translatormain authorall editionsconfirmed

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The Merovingian dynasty, from which the Franks were accustomed to choose their king, is thought to have lasted down to King Childeric III, who was deposed on the order of Stephen II, the Pope of Rome. (Einhard)
He, who ordains the fate of kingdoms and the march of the centuries, the all-powerful Disposer of events, having destroyed one extraordinary image, that of the Romans, which had, it was true, feet of iron, or even feet of clay, then raised up, among the Franks, the golden head of a second image, equally remarkable, in the person of the illustrious Charlemagne. (Notker)
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