Part One: Life of Charlemagne
Damien F. Mackey
Emperor Charlemagne’s life bears some uncanny likenesses to
that of the ancient King Solomon of Israel and his family.
Charlemagne has indeed been likened to King Solomon of old, e.g. by H. Daniel-Rops (The Church in the Dark Ages, p. 395), who calls him “a witness of God, after the style of Solomon …”, and he has been spoken of in terms of the ancient kings of Israel; whilst Charlemagne’s father, Pepin the Short, was hailed as “the new king David”.
Charlemagne, too, appears sometimes as a larger-than-life king, almost too good to be true. His coronation on Christmas Day of 800 AD can seem just too neat and perfect. He was, according to Daniel-Rops (ibid., p. 390), “… the heaven-sent man, for whom Europe was waiting …”. And: (p. 401): “Who in the world fitted this role more than this glamorous personage, who set every man’s imagination afire and who seemed so much larger than life?”
Charlemagne is assigned to the period known as the Dark Ages (c. 600-900 AD); a period somewhat lacking in archaeology – and there is precious little evidence for the many buildings that this famous king is supposed to have had erected. (See Part Two)
Admittedly, the anomalies and contradictions associated with virtually every aspect of the life of Charlemagne, from his birth to his death, are evident for all to consider.
Other striking likenesses to the persons of the Old Testament, apart from that of Charlemagne’s father king Pepin being like king David; are his mother, Bertha or Bertrada, reminding of Bathsheba; Charlemagne’s wife, “Desideria”, reminding of the “Queen of Sheba”; and Charlemagne’s colourful eastern friend and ally, Harun al-Raschid, most definitely like Solomon’s ally, King Hiram of Tyre. The last I believe to have been - as King Solomon most certainly was - a real historical person:
Charlemagne’s Father, Pepin, “the new David”
D. Fraioli tells of Pepin at his peak (Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War, p. 46): “An aura of prestige now surrounded the king, whom the pope called the “new king David” …”. Gregory of Tours had, as we shall read below, spoken similarly of king Clovis I, of the Merovingian dynasty. This traditional likening of Frankish kings to the ancient Davidic kings immediately raises the important point to be considered in this article concerning a sacred attitude held in regard to French kings, and this might go a long way towards accounting for the phenomenon of Charlemagne.
Let us take a relevant section on this from Fraioli’s book (pp. 43-45):
THE FRENCH TRADITION
France developed by far the most sacred mythology around its kingship of all the kingdoms in western Europe, although the earliest known coronations occurred in Visigothic Spain and Ireland. The sacred mythology of French kingship, which became known as “the religion of the monarchy”, first emerged during the Merovingian dynasty, in the context of a baptismal anointing rather than a sacred coronation, when Clovis, king of the Franks, converted to Christianity. ….
Fraioli will however, in a later section on Hincmar (d. 882), suggest that this whole notion of sacred kingship was a late tradition, both mythical and “fabricated”. Here is what she has to say about it there (pp. 47-48. Emphasis added)
Hincmar, archbishop of Reims from 845 to 882, was a learned theologian and nimble politician, whose fame in the development of sacred kingship rests on his introduction of the legend of the Holy Ampulla into the history of Clovis, four centuries after the fact. In an effort to prove the continuity of Frankish kingship and, it is commonly believed, to challenge the influence of the abbey of Saint Denis – then successfully fusing its own history with that of the monarchy – Hincmar authorized a new myth. He is often believed to have fabricated the story himself in an attempt to expand the importance of the see of Reims. In all likelihood, he did not invent it, although he had confessed to forging other documents. The myth made the astonishing assertion that the liquid used to consecrate Frankish kings was of divine origin. A dove, the Christian symbol of the Holy Spirit, had allegedly delivered the Ampulla, or vial, of sacred liquid in its beak, when the bustling crowd at Clovis’ baptism had prevented the bearer of the baptismal oil from a timely arrival at the ceremony. Through this myth the election of French kings was seen as the will of God. Furthermore, the continuity of their rule was guaranteed by an inexhaustible supply of anointing balm in the Holy Ampulla, which could anoint French kings to the end of time.
[End of quote]
This charming story may have Old Testament origins in the miraculous preservation, in liquid form, of the sacred fire as recorded in 2 Maccabees 1:18-36, for the time of the biblical Nehemiah, whom we have found apparently making an anachronistic ‘return visit’ at the time of the Prophet Mohammed, BC dragged into AD time:
The legend of Hincmar may perhaps have arisen out of a confused transmission of the original true historical account relating to the governor Nehemiah.
We continue now with Fraioli’s earlier section on The French Tradition, where she briefly considers Clovis I (pp. 44-45), and then proceeds on to Pepin (p. 46), emphasis added:
Clovis I (d. 511) and the Franks
…. At his baptism, King Clovis was anointed with a holy balm, or salve … in a ceremony blending kingship and religion. According to the contemporary chronicle of Gregory of Tours, the anointing of Clovis occurred by the grace of God, prompting Gregory to draw an analogy between Clovis and the sacred kingship of David in the Old Testament. ….
Pepin the Short (d. 768)
…. Pepin the Short … receives the credit for introducing the ritual of sacred anointing, or consecration, into the installation ceremony for French kings. …. As Patrick Simon has stated, Pepin’s innovation consisted of “legitimizing through a religious ceremony a power obtained by force ...”.
…. The union of king and clergy provided mutual benefit …. An aura of prestige now surrounded the king, whom the pope called the “new David” ….
[End of quotes]
Again, we recall the famous anointing with “the horn of oil” of David the shepherd, the youngest son of Jesse, by Samuel the high priest and prophet, after Samuel had rejected one by one David’s seven older brothers (1 Samuel 16:1-13). After the death of Saul (Samuel was also dead by now) David was anointed again, at Hebron, as king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:3).
Now Pepin, likewise, was twice crowned (Fraioli, p. 46. Emphasis added): “The second coronation, celebrated at Saint-Denis in 754 [AD], cleverly reconnected Pepin’s reign to the Merovingians through his wife, big-foot Bertha, a descendant of Clovis, which provided fictional continuity to French kingship”.
King David is sometimes found going so far, it seems, as to act out the priest’s rôle, as for example when he had triumphantly returned the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, and he subsequently offered “burnt offerings and the offering of well-being before the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:17).
Both David and Pepin were warrior-kings and men of great personal courage. Pepin is famous, in his youthful days, like David, for his courage against wild animals, including lions. Daniel-Rops (op. cit., p. 387) tells of it: “A well-known picture, which was already very popular in the Middle Ages, has impressed on our minds the features of this thickset, broad-shouldered little man who, for a wager, amused himself by separating a lion and a bull who were in the middle of a fight in the circus arena”.
In the case of David, this courage is manifest, not “in the circus arena”, but in the field. More serious, and we might say less frivolous, was David’s situation, when the giant, Goliath, was challenging the armies of Israel. Then David said to Saul (1 Samuel 17:34-36):
‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God’.
Pepin was nicknamed “the Short”.
Was David also short? He probably was not of very tall stature. When the prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s boys, to anoint the one amongst them whom God had chosen, Samuel had been most impressed by Eliab, who was apparently of a good height (1 Samuel 16:6-7). So, we could probably draw the conclusion that, when the Lord advised Samuel not to look on “the height of [the candidate’s] stature” in making his choice, that David, the youngest of the boys, who eventually was chosen, was not that very tall. But David was of fine appearance, nonetheless: “Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome” (v. 12).
Charlemagne, “after the style of Solomon”
Like Solomon, the young son, Charlemagne (said to be 26 at the time), succeeded his father. But some hazy legend seems to surround Charlemagne’s mother and the king’s own early years. Thus Daniel-Rops (op. cit., p. 391):
What had he done, this boy who was promised to such a lofty destiny, between that day in 742 when Bertha, the daughter of the Count of Laon – the ‘Bertha of the big feet’ of the chansons de gestes – brought him into the world in some royal villa or other in Austrasia, and the premature hour of his succession? No one really knows, and Einhard of all people, who faithfully chronicled his reign, is strangely discreet about his hero’s early years.
[End of quote]
In the case of Solomon, he was not born out of wedlock, as it is thought of Charlemagne. Rather it was Bathsheba’s child who had died as a result of king David’s sin of adultery with her (2 Samuel 12:16-23). Solomon himself was the child of ‘consolation’ for the pair after the sad death of this un-named child (v. 24).
Now were, perhaps, the French 'Songs' (or Chansons), the Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland) and the "Songs of heroic deeds [or lineages]" (Chansons de gestes), inspired by, or even in part based upon, the biblical “Song of Songs” or “Canticle of Canticles” (also known as the “Song of Solomon”); a love poem that could well have inspired some of the famous French chivalric notions?
Was the ‘wisdom of Oliver’ in the Song of Roland inspired by the Wisdom of Solomon? “Oliver urges caution; wisdom and restraint are part of what makes him a good knight” (http://www.gradesaver.com/song-of-roland/study-guide/section2/).
Did the “giants” in these Chansons perhaps arise from the encounter between David and the giant Goliath? Wikipedia tells (article “Chanson de geste”):
Composed in Old French and apparently intended for oral performance by jongleurs, the chansons de geste narrate legendary incidents (sometimes based on real events) in the history of France during the eighth and ninth centuries, the age of Charles Martel, Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, with emphasis on their conflicts with the Moors and Saracens. To these historical legends, fantasy is gradually added; giants, magic, and monsters increasingly appear among the foes along with Muslims. ….
[End of quote]
More than a dozen places are claiming the honour to be the birthplace of Charles.
The year of birth varies between 742 and 747 AD. Bertrada, the mother of Charles, was said to be a Bretonian princess, an Hungarian noble woman, or a member of the imperial family of Byzantium.
The competition for the throne between Charles and his brother, Carloman, is also very much like what we find in the biblical account of the challenge to the throne by Solomon’s brother, Adonijah (1 Kings 1:5-10). The mother may perhaps have been complicit in this (cf. 2:9). According to Daniel-Rops (op. cit., p. 395): “At the time of [Charles’] accession this question [of Italy, Rome and the Lombards] had been considerably confused owing to the political mistakes of Queen Bertha, his mother”. Solomon, like Carloman, seems to have been twice elected king (accession and coronation), and in the first case, in both instances, the mother appears to have played an ambiguous part.
Again, when Adonijah’s bid for the throne had failed, he cunningly approached Bathsheba to ask Solomon to give him the beautiful Abishag for his wife (2:13-18). When Bathsheba did approach Solomon, the latter acted out the pretence of complying with his mother’s request (2:2): “King Solomon answered his mother, ‘And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom as well! For he is my elder brother; ask not only for him but also for the priest Abiathar and for Joab the son of Zeruiah!’ [both of whom had supported Adonijah in his revolt against David and Solomon]”.
This situation can perhaps be likened to the case of what Daniel-Rops (op. cit., ibid.) has referred to as “these manoeuvres when Queen Bertha had married her elder son … to Desiderius’s [King of Pavia’s] daughter, Desideria”. Though, in the biblical story, Adonijah apparently was not actually a son of Bathsheba’s (1 Kings 1:5), nor of course did he manage to fulfil his wish of marrying Abishag, despite his desire for her. “Desideria” is certainly a most appropriate appellation for the much-desired Abishag. And soon I shall be showing, from another parallel situation between Solomon and Charlemagne, that Desideria well equates with this Abishag.
Of course Solomon was being completely sarcastic in his reply to Adonijah’s request via Bathsheba. The wise king fully appreciated the implications of the scheming Adonijah’s attaining the hand of David’s favourite, Abishag. Thus he added, chillingly (vv. 23-25):
‘So may God do to me, and more also [a typical idiom of the time], for Adonijah has devised this scheme at the risk of his life! Now therefore as the Lord lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of my father David, and who has made me a house as he promised, today Adonijah shall be put to death’. So King Solomon sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he struck him down, and he died.
Conveniently, likewise, Charlemagne’s brother died suddenly (Daniel-Rops, p. 391): “But scarcely three years had elapsed when an unexpected death completely broke these shackles …. Charles claimed his brother’s heritage and thus rebuilt the unity of the paternal realm under his leadership”.
Solomon’s sarcasm in the face of Bathsheba’s request may even have its faint glimmer in the case of the chaffing compliance of the young Charles towards his own mother (ibid., pp. 394-395): “Despite his twenty-five years Charles had appeared to defer to his energetic mother’s wishes. But he fretted under the restraint”.
His Natural Qualities
Like Solomon, Charlemagne was a most gifted individual, and the perfect king material (Daniel-Rops, p. 392):
Charles was … throughout his life – quick, far-sighted, and energetic. In these instinctive qualities lies the secret of his incomparably fruitful labour, and, to their service, a never-failing vigour lent an activity which was truly prodigious. ….And he had other complementary qualities, which decisively defined his grandeur: prudence, moderation, a realistic appreciation of the possible, a mistrust of unconsidered actions. It is the Emperor Augustus whom Charlemagne recalls, rather than Caesar or Alexander.
Or is it rather king Solomon “whom Charlemagne [most closely] recalls”?
As for “prudence” and his other cardinal virtues, as mentioned in the quote above, well, was not Solomon the first person to list these virtues (Wisdom of Solomon 8:7)?
What did Charlemagne look like?
“Truth to tell, nothing very detailed can be put forward on this point” (Daniel-Rops, ibid.).
What is certain is that Charlemagne was not in fact the giant ‘with the flowing beard’ whom Chanson de Roland has immortalized; the mighty build is a poetic exaggeration, and the beard is an anachronism which owes its origin to the Byzantine-Arab fashion which, in the tenth century, considered that all distinguished Western Europeans should be excessively hairy.
[End of quote]
The beard was of course de rigueur in Solomon’s era.
For an idealized (and even mighty) physical description of king Solomon and his Shunammite bride, from which Chanson de Roland may perhaps have gained some epic inspiration, see “Song of Songs” 5:10-16.
His Intelligence and Discernment
“Was he intelligent?”, asks Daniel-Rops (op. cit., p. 393), who then answers his question:
Most certainly; and when we think of his profound knowledge of men, of his ease at grasping situations, of the immensity of the tasks which he conceived and of the undertakings which he managed, we realize that his intelligence was far above the average”. And: “He unquestionably had a supreme appreciation of the overriding need of the moment – the foundation of a new culture – and this is one of the aspects of his character in which his genius shines forth most brilliantly”.
Solomon was of course the wisest of the wise; his name being a byword for wisdom. We read, for instance, in the Book of Ecclesiastes of king Solomon (12:9-14):
Besides being wise, the Teacher [Qoheleth] also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find pleasing words, and he wrote words of truth plainly. The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd. Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
The end of the matter: all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Most of this could be applied to Charlemagne, we shall find, for we shall see unfurl the traditional multi-facetted concept of him as a pious, wise and culturally restructuring (even Renaissance-like) king.
There are many other examples, too, of Solomon’s extraordinary wisdom and discernment. Here are just a few:
1 Kings 4:29: “God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding, as vast as the sand on the seashore”.
Wisdom 1:1: “Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth …”.
Ecclesiastes 9:1: “… how the righteous and the wise … are in the hand of God”.
Moreover, Solomon was not shy about broadcasting his wisdom and the fact that he had exceeded all others in it. For example (Ecclesiastes 1:16): “I said to myself, ‘I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has great experience of wisdom and knowledge’.”
However Solomon, in his ‘Prayer for Wisdom’ (Book of Wisdom 7:15-17), had attributed his wisdom to God:
“May God grant me to speak with judgment, and to have thoughts worthy of what I have received; for He is the guide even of wisdom and the corrector of the wise. For both we and our words are in His hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts. For it is He who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists …”.
Ecclesiastes 1:12: “I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem applied my mind to seek and search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven …”.
Ecclesiastes 7:25: “I turned my mind to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the sum of things, and to know that wickedness is folly and that foolishness is madness”.
The multi-talented Solomon was, I have proposed, the genius Senenmut (or Senmut), a key organiser in 18th dynasty Egypt:
King Solomon, too, exhorted other kings and officials to follow his way (Wisdom 6:1-9):
Listen therefore, O kings, and understand; learn, O judges of the ends of the earth. Give ear you that rule over multitudes, and boast of many nations. For your dominion was given you from the Lord, and your sovereignty from the Most High; he will search out your works and inquire into your plans. Because as servants of his kingdom you did not rule rightly, or keep the law, or walk according to the purpose of God, he will come upon you terribly and swiftly, because severe judgment falls on those in high places. For the lowliest may be pardoned in mercy, but the mighty will be mightily tested. For the Lord of all will not stand in awe of anyone, or show deference to greatness; because he himself made both small and great, and he takes thought for all alike. But a strict inquiry is in store for the mighty. To you then, O monarchs, my words are directed, so that you may learn wisdom and not transgress.
His Repudiated Wife
Charlemagne, according to Daniel-Rops (op. cit., p. 396): “… repudiated Desideria, his Lombard wife, and sent her back to Pavia post-haste.
Solomon also divorced “the Queen of Sheba”, Hatshepsut, and sent her back to Egypt. This, as I have explained following the terrific research of Dr. Ed Metzler (http://moziani.tripod.com/dynasty/ammm_2_1.htm), is the full meaning of the Hebrew of 1 Kings 10:13, that now translates weakly as: “Then she returned to her own land, with her servants”. Metzler has suggested that the biblical phrase "she [Sheba] turned" (to go back home) indicates 'divorce' (Latin divortium, from divertere, "to turn away") ….
The Europeans of the Middle Ages would have known of Solomon only from the Bible. They did not have the advantages that we have today of archaeology and other knowledges – and even today this era can still be so poorly known.
Solomon’s divorce of ‘the Queen of Sheba’ was all purely political.
Despite King David’s having made absolutely clear his wish regarding the succession in favour of his son, Solomon, there arose ‘the Abishag incident’, in relation to which Queen Bathsheba was involved in an intrigue with Solomon’s brother for the throne. And, just as Solomon went counter to his mother, Queen Bathsheba, on behalf of David, so, we find from Daniel-Rops (op. cit., ibid.) that: “Bertha’s policy was abruptly abandoned, and Charlemagne was returning to that pursued by Pepin”.
Charlemagne’s triumph is recounted by Daniel-Rops as follows (ibid., p. 397):
At Easter 774, in a grandiose ceremony, the victorious Frank was to be received at St. Peter’s like a hero; the three doors of the basilica were opened in his honour. As he ascended the steps he kissed them piously, one by one, and prostrated himself upon the apostle’s ‘confession’, whilst the choir sang: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Cf. The Accession of King Solomon: 1 Kings 1:28-48.
And the proclamation here: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’, is of course straight out of David’s Psalm 118:26.
His Morality and His Piety
“As for his personal morals, they too remained typical of his epoch: this virile man, who married four times certainly followed Old rather than new Testament practices in his private life” (Daniel-Rops, ibid. Emphasis added).
Solomon was of course a serial polygamist.
Charlemagne was most definitely a religious man, too (ibid., p. 394):
Charles was personally devout, rigorously observant in his prayers and his fasting (and the latter cut into his fine appetite), and he was indeed the man as portrayed by the chroniclers, the man who attended interminable religious services entirely of his own free will, his own strong voice mingling with those of the choir.
We could expect that Solomon might have inherited some of David’s musicianship.
Charlemagne was a wise and religious ruler, and here is where Daniel-Rops does actually liken him to King Solomon (ibid., 394-395. Emphasis added):
To make his subjects live in perfect harmony, to establish the concordia pacis between men, above all to fight against all the evils which ravaged the world: famine, cruelty, and injustice – such was the ideal of this mighty and awe-inspiring monarch …. And the certainty which this man held at the bottom of his heart, of ‘taking the place of God on earth, of having, as his task, the exaltation of His Law [the Torah?]’ …. Charles is, on the historical plane, a witness of God, after the style of Solomon….
[End of quote]
Cf. King Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication of the Temple: 1 Kings 8:22-61.
Solomon also acted like a priest on this important and triumphal occasion (vv. 62-64).
His Imperial Coronation
It is unclear whether Charles requested the coronation, or whether he was crowned unexpectedly by the Pope. It is not clear whether there was a formal coronation or an acclamation. Einhard reports just the 'acceptance of the imperial title'. Andreas from Bergamo (9th century), Bonizo from Sutri (11th century), Gero from Reichersberg (12th century) and Nicolaus Cusanus (15th century) don't know anything about an emperor Charles.
Similarly Daniel-Rops has written (op. cit., p. 402):
There only remains the … element which was responsible for the great event of Christmas 800: Charles’s own will. This is the point upon which we know the least. Was the imperial coronation the result of a well-matured plan on the part of the Frankish leader, a ladder which he had long ago resolved to climb? It is quite impossible to give an answer.
And Fraioli writes (p. 47):
So on Christmas day 800, in commemoration of the birth of Christ, a surprise coronation took place … Charlemagne, whom his biographer Einhard described as persuaded of his own God-given mission to unite western Christendom …. was looked upon as king and priest (rex et sacerdos).
But now it is Charlemagne who is the ‘new [king] David’. Thus Daniel-Rops (p. 400): “Next the pontiff [Leo III] anointed the forehead of the ‘new David’ with sacred oil and, uniting the ceremonial imposed, since Diocletian’s time, by the protocol of the Roman emperors, with the ancient biblical rite, he prostrated himself before him and ‘adored him’.”
No wonder the French kings came to consider themselves the rightful descendants of the Israelite royalty!
“The triple and ritual acclamation” to which Daniel-Rops refers in this part (ibid.) is also seemingly reminiscent of the triple procedure to which I have referred in my article:
Like Solomon, Charlemagne reigned for at least four decades.
Whilst Solomon’s empire lay entirely in the ancient region of ‘the Fertile Crescent’ (Egypt; Syro-Palestine; Mesopotamia), as reconstructed in my various articles on him, to Charlemagne are attributed European conquests; firstly, Italy, Rome and the Lombards. “The ease with which Charles could impose his rule on Italy in this way remains astonishing” (Daniel-Rops, op. cit., p. 397). Then, he pushed back Islam and conquered the entire Germanic world, so that (ibid., p. 401): “His domain, which spread to the Elbe, to the middle Danube, to Brussels, and even as far as the outskirts of Rome, seemed now too large for the ordinary world ‘realm’ to fit it any longer”.
In Solomon’s case, he would have been pushing back, not Germans and Islamic armies, but Philistines, Syro-Hittites, Elamites and Nubians.
His Ally, Harun al-Rashid
Finally, the whole Charlemagnian scene does shift to the east.
Daniel-Rops introduces this exotic phase in the life of Charlemagne as follows, once again making allusion to Solomon (and also now to “the Queen of Sheba”), p. 410:
Another aspect of Charlemagne’s ‘Christian policy’ struck his contemporaries very strongly; it is almost unbelievable, and brings into his career, which is almost devoid of poetic quality, a note of exotic charm similar to that which the visit of the Queen of Sheba casts upon the reign of Solomon; in other words, his relations with Haroun-al-Raschid, the Caliph of Bagdad.
I would be more emphatic here and suggest that it is more than “almost unbelievable”. It is unbelievable!
Harun al-Raschid belongs to the world of fairy tales! “Harun al-Raschid has become famous as protagonist in tales from One Thousand and One Night[s]”.
Charles exchanged diplomats with Harun al-Raschid, the Caliph of Baghdad, who sent him the white elephant Abul Abbas, which took part in all journeys and military actions of Charles between 802 and 810 AD. Arab sources do not mention these relations. Harun al-Raschid has become famous as protagonist in tales from One Thousand and One Night[s].
In a Solomonic context, Harun is not unlike the king of Israel’s great Phoenician ally, Hiram, king of Tyre. Though Hiram’s power extended much further than Tyre; for he, as I have argued in my “King Hiram” article (ref. above), was also the mighty merchant-king Iarim-Lim of the Aleppo region, who was able militarily to threaten with extermination rulers as far away as Babylonia (the region of the exotic Harun), if they failed to pay for his shipbuilding services.
King Hiram had told Solomon that the Galilean towns that the latter had given him in payment for his services were “Cabul” (1 Kings 9:13), virtually ‘rubbish dumps’. According to Daniel-Rops (ibid.), Harun “was an intelligent, well-educated, and relatively sympathetic man …”. And Daniel-Rops continues with his account of Harun:
Probably no Eastern ruler ever equalled the glory of this great caliph: he lived in the palace of the ‘Golden Gate’, whose famous green dome dominated the Mesopotamian plain, amongst his priceless carpets and tapestries, in the midst of a gigantic court of servants, concubines and eunuchs, and he was worthy indeed to become the hero of the Arabian Nights. But he was also a skilful diplomat and a soldier.
[End of quote]
The architecture, the lavish courts and the multitudes of servants, as well as the skill factor in ruling and conquering, all are perfectly true of Hiram, too, especially in his partnership with the magnificent Solomon. The royal pair had fleets of ships visiting the most exotic regions, for gold, slaves, precious myrrh and rare spices, and other quite unique flora and fauna. I have suggested that Solomon and Hiram were actually turning Palestine at the time into a zoo and a botanical gardens; a lot of which atmosphere is reflected in the exotic “Song of Songs”.
It is such a pity that the archaeologists have been looking at the wrong strata levels for the cosmopolitan Late Bronze phase of king Solomon. See my:
The harmonious relations between the two sovereigns were marked by exchanges of gifts, which the Carolingian chroniclers enlarge upon charmingly and freely. Everyone at Aix-la-Chapelle was enraptured by the arrival of a chess set with the figures finely carved in ivory, of spices with unknown scents, of a clock which moved by means of a cunning hydraulic mechanism, and even of elephants and other strange animals!
Archaeology of Charlemagne
For AD history to be fully convincing and to be made to rest on firm foundations, it
will need to undergo a rigorous revision similar to the one that scholars have been undertaking for BC history, with the application of a revised stratigraphy.
There may be some indications that the history of Charlemagne is yet far from having been established on such firm stratigraphical foundations.
The following will be based upon the research of some pioneering European revisionists (Illig; Niemitz; Topper) who have bravely embarked upon a re-assessment of AD time. Whilst I may not necessarily agree with all of their conclusions, or their revised models, I would applaud them for having undertaken so necessary a revision.
The findings of historians regarding Charles' economy show extreme contradictions: Some concede abundant wealth to Charles, while others have to complain economic decay. Jan Beaufort writes (“Illig’s Hypothesis on Phantom Times – FAQ”: http://www.cybis.se/forfun/dendro/hollstein/hollstein0/beaufort/index.htm):
Economy: The findings of historians regarding Charles' economy show extreme contradictions: Some concede abundant wealth to Charles, while others have to complain economic decay. [DeM 161 ff.] As Heinsohn has shown recently, coins attributed to Charles (or, likewise Charles the Bald-head) cannot be distinguished from the coins of Charles the Simple (898-929). According to Illig, Carolus Simplex has been a real Carolingian and the model for Charlemagne. The attribute "simplex" (= stupid, but likewise single, not-duplicated) has been used for the first time following the turn of the millennium. [Heinsohn (2001)]
Charlemagne’s Capital City
and His Cultural Achievements
‘The Carolingian Renaissance’, as Daniel-Rops calls it (The Church in the Dark Ages, p. 422), centred on Aix-la-Chapelle. But Aix-la-Chapelle is considered to have been a rather unusual geographical choice anyway:
The vital centre of this Renaissance was Aix-la-Chapelle, the ancient ‘villa’ of Pepin the Short’s time, which was situated some distance off the great Roman roads. From 794 onwards Charlemagne made it into a Carolingian Versailles, judging from its intellectual atmosphere and the splendour of its appearance. The geographical position of this new capital has given rise to much discussion: why was this Rhineland area chosen, rather than some town in Gaul, or even Rome itself? …. Aix was the centre of the intellectual Renaissance; and the centre of Aix, and especially the Palatine school, was a kind of general headquarters of the mind, which influenced the entire empire ….
[End of quote]
Amongst this august group was Charlemagne himself, now “known as David”; this being about the only seemingly eastern factor in what comes across as a very European ‘club of gentlemen’ (ibid., p. 424):
The leaders of this pleiade of scholars and cultured men formed a sort of club, a small, self-contained group. Historians are accustomed to call this group the Palatine Academy. Each of its members bore a pseudonym borrowed from antiquity. Charlemagne himself, who was not a whit averse to residing over this learned assembly, was known as David, which overestimated the power of the cantor of the Psalms and overrated even more outrageously the poetic talents of the son of Pepin!
[End of quote]
Charlemagne is also, like King Solomon, famed for his architectural achievements. Thus Daniel-Rops, p. 425:
…. Because the building, decoration, and beautifying of the House of God was one of the major preoccupations of the master, architecture and the plastic arts developed so much that Dawson has been able to write: ‘Charlemagne founded a Holy Roman architecture as well as a Holy Roman Empire’. In fact, it was not only Roman, but followed tendencies which we have already noticed in the Merovingian epoch, mingling Eastern and remote Asiatic influence with the revival of classical features.
But sadly - as somewhat also with king Solomon (but in his case due to centuries of destruction and looting, and also to the failure by archaeologists to identify Solomon’s era stratigraphically): “We no longer possess many examples of the architecture of this great reign”.
[End of quote]
Beaufort would concur with the fact of this dearth of architectural evidence (op. cit.):
Buildings: As we know from the ancient texts, between 476 and 855 AD more than 1695 large buildings were erected, including 312 cathedrals, 1254 convents and 129 royal palaces. The historian Harald Braunfels: "Of all these buildings [until 1991] only 215 were examined by archaeologists. Artefacts were found only at a fraction of these buildings. One may count with ten fingers the number of buildings that still exist as a whole or as a significant fraction." [DeM 208]
Publisher Heribert Illig, who has advanced the historical conspiracy theory known as the phantom time hypothesis, has made this observation about the “masterpiece of Carolignian architecture” (as told by Beaufort):
Pfalzkapelle Aachen: The masterpiece of Carolingian architecture, the Chapel of St. Mary at Aachen (about 792-799) is unique. Its direct predecessor (Ravenna's San Vitale) had been erected some 200 years earlier. Buildings comparable to Aachen in style and technology were not erected until the advent of the Romanesque style in the 11th century. Consequently, Illig assumes the Pfalzkapelle to be a Romanesque building of the 11th century.
[End of quote]
In other words, Illig claims it to be quite anachronistic.
His Burial and Tomb
Beaufort tells about this (op. cit.):
Burial: Charles' burial place is the Pfalzkapelle at Aachen (his explicit will to find his grave beneath his father at Saint-Denis had been ignored). This contradicted the general prohibition of burials within churches, proclaimed by councils held under Charles at Aachen (809) and Mainz (813). [DeM 44 f.]
Tomb: Charles' tomb had been camouflaged so well (in fear of the raiding Normans) that it could not be localized for two centuries. In the year 1000 the emperor Otto III discovers the tomb. He finds Charles sitting on his throne. Again the tomb became forgotten until it was found once more and reopened by Friedrich Barbarossa. Then again, the tomb disappeared and was never found again. For comparison: The tomb of Otto I in the dome of Magdeburg has always been honoured - despite of all destructions and rebuilds of this church. [DeM 44 ff.]
His Cult and Biography
And, again from the same source:
- Cult: Friedrich Barbarossa (1152-1190) is said to have coined the term Sacrum Romanum Imperium. Friedrich gave order to exhumate Charles, and to canonize him. Most known forgeries referring to Charles were produced during Friedrich's lifetime. The reliquary for Charles' arm (dated about 1170) displays the imperial attitude of Barbarossa in reference to Charlemagne. [DeM 338]
- Biography: Leopold von Ranke classifies the biography of Charles, written by his palatial clerk Einhard: "The small volume is full of historical errors [...]. Frequently, the years of reign are false [...]; about the split of the empire between the two brothers the opposite of what really happened is reported [...]; the names of the popes were confused, the spouses and children of Charles were not noted correctly; so many offences have been found that the authenticity of the book has been questioned quite often, although it is beyond all doubt." [DeM 345]
- Tradition: Charles' son in law Angilbert rhymes in 799 an epos, where he denotes Charles to be the "light of Europe", "Head of the world; summit of Europe; father of Europe; most graceful father; hero". But in 799 Charles was not yet crowned as the emperor. [DeM 35 f.] In an essay for the Spiegel magazine (“A dark lighthouse”), Johannes Fried has shown that the myth of Charles as the "father of Europe" came up very much later as a product of a romantic Napoleonism and even Hitlerism. [Fried][End of quotes]
It seems that French kings too, such as Philip II and Louis IX, did much to enhance the reputation of the glorious ‘Charlemagne’. D. Fraioli takes up this point (Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War, pp. 49-50, 51, 52.):
Philip II Augustus (r. 1180-1223)
…. Entranced by the life and imperial image of Charlemagne, to whom he must have considered himself in many ways parallel, Philip consciously patterned himself on the model of the great Christian emperor. …. In the twelfth century, Charlemagne was primarily known through literary rather than historical works. Philip had certainly listened to the popular epic poems about national heroes – the most prominent being Charlemagne – called chansons de geste. ….
Louis IX (r. 1226-1270)
…. Hincmar’s legend of the Holy Ampulla was permanently incorporated into the coronation ritual. As a result, it was declared, with far-reaching consequences, that because French rulers were appointed with oil sent from heaven, the king of France “outshines all the kings of the earth”.
…. As others before him, Saint Louis maintained that the consecration of French kings was intimately connected to the original anointings of Old Testament kings.
[End of quotes]
Hopefully this series has provided sufficient indications that the true Charlemagne must needs be sifted out from the larger-than-life, and often biblically-based “Charlemagne” we read about in the text books.
And, obviously, a proper archaeology needs to be developed to underpin all of this.