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The Invasion Of Spain

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The episode of comes next in chronological order. The condition of the dignified Iberian Church, still suffering under Moslem domination, appealed strongly to the king's sympathy. In 777 there came to Paderborn three Moorish emirs, enemies of the Ommeyad Abderrahman, the Moorish King of Cordova. These emirs did homage to Charles and proposed to him an invasion of Northern Spain; one of the, Ibn-el-Arabi, promised to bring to the invaders' assistance a force of Berber auxiliaries from Africa; the other two promised to exert their powerful influence at Barcelona and elsewhere north of the Ebro. Accordingly, in the spring of 778, Charles, with a host of crusaders, speaking many tongues, and which numbered among its constituents even a quota of Lombards, moved towards the Pyrenees. His trusted lieutenant, Duke Bernhard. with one division, entered Spain by the coast. Charles himself marched through the mountain passes straight to Pampelona. But the emissary of Abderrahman assassinated Ibn-el-Arabi, who had prematurely brought on his army of Berbers,, and though Pampelona was razed, and Barcelona and other cities fell, Saragossa held out. Apart from the moral effect of this campaign upon the Moslem rulers of Spain, its result was insignificant, though the famous ambuscade in which perished Roland, the great Paladin, at the Pass of Roncesvalles, furnished to the medieval world the material for its most glorious and influential epic, the "Chanson de Roland".
Much more important to posterity were the next succeeding events which continued and decided the long struggle in Saxony. During the Spanish crusade Wittekind had returned from his exile, bringing with him Danish allies, and was now ravaging Hesse; the Rhine valley from Deutz to Andenach was a prey to the Saxon "devil-worshipers"; the Christian missionaries were scattered or in hiding. Charles gathered his hosts at D'ren, in June, 779, and stormed Wittekind's entrenched camp at Bocholt, after which campaign he seems to have considered Saxony a fairly subdued country. At any rate, the "Saxon Capitulary" of 781 obliged all Saxons not only to accept baptism (and this on the pain of death) but also to pay tithes, as the Franks did for the support of the Church; moreover it confiscated a large amount of property for the benefit of the missions. This was Wittekind's last opportunity to restore the national independence and paganism; his people, exasperated against the Franks and their God, eagerly rushed to arms. At Suntal on the Weser, Charles being absent, they defeated a Frankish army killing two royal legates and five Counts. But Wittekind committed the error of enlisting as allies the non-Teutonic Sorbs from beyond the Saale; race-antagonism soon weakened his forces, and the Saxon hosts melted away. Of the so-called "Massacre of Verdun" (783) it is fair to say that the 4500 Saxons who perished were not prisoners of war; legally, they were ringleaders in a rebellion, selected as such from a number of their fellow rebels. Wittekind himself escaped beyond the Elbe. It was not until after another defeat of the Saxons at Detmold, and again at Osnabr'ck, on the "Hill of Slaughter", that Wittekind acknowledged the God of Charles the stronger than Odin. In 785 Wittekind received baptism at Attigny, and Charles stood godfather.
The summer of 783 began a new period in the life of Charles, in which signs begin to appear of his less amiable traits. It was in this year, signalized, according to the chroniclers, by unexampled heat and a pestilence, that the two queens died, Bertha, the king's mother, and Hildegarde, his second (or his third) wife. Both of these women, the former in particular, had exercised over him a strong influence for good. Within a few months the king married Fastrada, daughter of an Austrasian count. The succeeding years were, comparatively speaking, years of harvest after the stupendous period of ploughing and sowing that had gone before; and Charles' nature was of a type that appears to best advantage in storm and stress. What was to be the Western Empire of the Middle Ages was already hewn out in the rough when Wittekind received baptism. From that date until the coronation of Charles at Rome, in 800, his military work was chiefly in suppressing risings of the newly conquered or quelling the discontents of jealous subject princes. Thrice in these fifteen years did the Saxons rise, only to be defeated. Tassilo, Duke of Bavaria, had been a more or less rebellious vassal ever since the beginning of his reign, and Charles now made use of the pope's influence, exercised through the powerful bishops of Freising, Salzburg, and Regensburg (Ratisbon), to bring him to terms. In 786 a Thuringian revolt was quelled by the timely death, blinding, and banishment of its leaders. Next year the Lombard prince, Areghis, having fortified himself at Salerno, had actually been crowned King of the Lombards when Charles descended upon him at Beneventum, received his submission, and took his son Grimwald as a hostage, after which, finding that Tassilo had been secretly associated with the conspiracy of the Lombards, he invaded Bavaria from three sides with three armies drawn from at least five nationalities. Once more the influence of the Roman Church settled the Bavarian question in Charles' favour; Adrian threatened Tassilo with excommunication if he persisted in rebellion, and as the Duke's own subjects refused to follow him to the field, he personally made submission, did homage, and in return received from Charles a new lease of his duchy (October, 787).
During this period the national discontent with Fastrada culminated in a plot in which Pepin the Hunchback, Charles' son by Himiltrude, was implicated, and though his life was spared through his father's intercession, Pepin spent what remained of his days in a monastery. Another son of Charles (Carloman, afterwards called Pepin, and crowned King of Lombardy at Rome in 781, on the occasion of an Easter visit by the king, at which time also his brother Louis was crowned King of Aquitaine) served his father in dealing with the Avars, a pagan danger on the frontier, compared with which the invasion of Septimania by the Saracens (793) was but an insignificant incident of border warfare. These Avars, probably of Turanian blood, occupied the territories north of the Save and west of the Theiss. Tassilo had invited their assistance against his overlord; and after the Duke's final submission Charles invaded their country and conquered it as far as the Raab (791). By the capture of the famous "Ring" of the Avars, with its nine concentric circles, Charles came into possession of vast quantities of gold and silver, parts of the plunder which these barbarians had been accumulating for two centuries. In this campaign King Pepin of Lombardy cooperated with his father, with forces drawn from Italy; the later stages of this war (which may be considered the last of Charles' great wars) were left in the hands of the younger king.
The last stages by which the story of Charles' career is brought to its climax touch upon the exclusive spiritual domain of the Church. He had never ceased to interest himself in the deliberations of synods, and this interest extended (an example that wrought fatal results in after ages) to the discussion of questions which would now be regarded as purely dogmatic. Charles interfered in the dispute about the Adoptionist heresy. His interference was less pleasing to Adrian in the matter of Iconoclasm, a heresy with which the Empress-mother Irene and Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, had dealt in the second Council of Nicaea. The Synod of Frankfort, wrongly informed, but inspired by Charles, took upon itself to condemn the aforesaid Council, although the latter had the sanction of the Roman Church. In the year 797 the Eastern Emperor Constantine VI, with whom his mother Irene had for some time been at variance, was by her dethroned, imprisoned, and blinded. It is significant of Charles' position as de facto Emperor of the West that Irene sent envoys to Aachen to lay before Charles her side of this horrible story. It is also to be noted that the popular impression that Constantine had been put to death, and the aversion to committing the imperial sceptre to a woman's hand, also bore upon what followed. Lastly, it was to Charles alone that the Christians of the East were now crying out for succour against the threatening advance of the Moslem Caliph Haroun al Raschid. In 795 Adrian I died (25 Dec.), deeply regretted by Charles, who held this pope in great esteem and caused a Latin metrical epitaph to be prepared for the papal tomb. In 787 Charles had visited Rome for the third time in the interest of the pope and his secure possession of the Patrimony of Peter.
Leo III, the immediate successor of Adrian I, notified Charles of his election (26 December, 795) to the Roman Church. The king sent in return rich presents by Abbot Angilbert whom he commissioned to deal with the pope in all manners pertaining to the royal office of Roman Patrician. While this letter is respectful and even affectionate, it also exhibits Charles' concept of the coordination of the spiritual and temporal powers, nor does he hesitate to remind the Pope of his grave spiritual obligations. The new pope, a Roman, had bitter enemies in the Eternal City, who spread the most damaging reports of his previous life. At length (25 April, 799) he was waylaid, and left unconscious. After escaping to St. Peter's ...

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