A Thirteenth-Century Life of Charlemagne

(volume III of Viard's edition of the Grandes Chroniques)

translated by Robert Levine

published by Garland Press, 1991

(endnotes are between square brackets in the body of the text;

for a brief introduction, fuller notes and a more scrupulously proofread text, see the published version)





A translation into late thirteenth-century French of a collection of Latin chronicles, histories, biographies, saints' lives, and, in some cases, pseudo-historical works, loosely referred to by Primat, the initial translator, as the "Chronicles of Saint-Denis," Les Grandes Chroniques became the version of French history current in the fourteenth century, and traditional until well into the Renaissance, when the printing press made it the historical coin of the realm. The third volume of Les Grandes Chroniques is devoted entirely to the life of Charlemagne, whom the Capetians, and particularly Louis IX, were eager to claim as an ancestor. Without ever citing his sources precisely, and rarely indicating where one text ends and another begins, Primat took material from the Royal Frankish Annals (RFA, also know as the Annals of Einhard), from the Life of Charlemagne by Einhard, and added to it a relatively straightforward translation of the Journey of Charlemagne to Palestine (an entirely fictitious exercise in hagiographic commonplaces), as well as a translation of the Pseudo-Turpin.


The Translation




Here begins the life and noble deeds of the glorious prince Charles the Great, written and arranged partly by the hand of Einhard, and partly by Turpin, the archbishop of Rheims, both of whom were with him through all his deeds at various times, and were witnesses of his life and of his conversation. Einhard describes his life up until his deeds in Spain; the rest was completed by archbishop Turpin, who was always at his side, and therefore was fully informed about everything that happened, until the emperor died.

Therefore I, Einhard, chaplain [This section is taken from Einhard's Prologue; the title of chaplain is added by Primat] and tutor in the palace of my lord, the victorious prince and the renowned emperor Charlemagne, have decided to describe his behavior and his life, as briefly as I can, and especially those things that he did after he came into his inheritance and received his kingdom. For the things that he did in his youth, in Spain, in the service of Galafre, the king of Toledo, are beyond my recall [This last sentence is added by Primat]. It is useful to commit to writing the victories and deeds of such a great prince, so that his name and repute may never be forgotten, and Christian kings and princes make take example from his deeds and words. It would seem to me wrong and greatly negligent not to carry out this work, since I know that no one can know more surely than I, who was present and saw these things with my own eyes, and I think that no one other than I has written them down. Another reasonable cause, which should alone suffice to compel me to describe his life, motivates me; he brought me up, and always showed me the greatest affection, and I felt the same way about him and his children, from the time that I first began to live in the palace; therfore I am compelled and bound to show by my efforts after his death, the good will that I received from him while he lived. I should be accused of ingratitude if I did not acknowledge the honors and gifts that he gave me during his life.

At this point, to make our subject matter more understandable, we should briefly touch on some other things, which were mentioned before. [VKM I.] The Merovingian line, from which the French customarily took their kings, lasted until the time of a king whose name was Childeric (III), who, by the command of pope Stephen [Actually, Zacharius authorized Pepin to depose him; Stephen II crowned Pepin in 754 at Saint Denis], was deposed and tonsured in an abbey, at a time when Pepin, who then became king, was still prince of the palace. It seemed that the lineage had ended with him, since this king had no strength, and was worthy of no praise. Powerless, he was king in name only. The provosts of the palace, who were then called the mayors of the house, held in their hands the wealth and power of the kingdom; the king had only the title. He sat in his chair, his beard on his chest and his hair spread on his shoulders, with the outward semblance of power. He heard the emissaries who came to court from various parts (of the kingdom), and he gave them such responses as he had been taught or had been ordered to give, as though the authority was his. The mayor of the palace regulated his expenses at his own discretion; the king himself owned nothing more than a paltry villa, and a manor where he spent both the summer and the winter, with enough income to maintain some servants. If, by chance, he went any place, he was carried in a wagon drawn by oxen or bulls [V. points out Primat's misunderstanding of Einhard's Carpento ibat, quod bubus junctis, et bubulco rustico more agente, trahebatur. J.M. Wallace-Hadrill goes further, pointing out Einhard's misunderstanding of Merovingian roots: "they were, after all, heirs in a small way to the Vicars and Governors of Roman Gaul. The point understandably escpaed Einhard in his famous description of the last Merovingians trundling round their estates in their ox-wagons, for he could not see behind them to the Gallo-Roman Governors doing their rounds in the angariae of the cursus clabularis, the imperial slow-post." Early Medieval History, New York, 1976, p. 98] like a peasant. In this manner he went to the palace, or to the common assembly of the people, which was held once a year, for the common good of the kingdom. Afterwards he returned to his home and remained there all year, while the mayor of the palace took care of the needs of the kingdom, both far and near.

King Hildric was in this condition at the time that he was deposed, and prince Pepin, the father of Charlemagne, held the authority in the palace as though by inheritance, for his grandfather Pepin the Short and his father Charles Martel had held it before him, and had delivered all of France from Saracens and unbelievers by means of two battles, one of which was fought in Aquitaine, near the city of Poitiers, and the other in Narbonne, at the river Berre. So many Saracens came from the Spanish territories that he killed 425,000 in one battle, and those who were able to escape fled back to Spain, with no hope of returning.

Prince Pepin administered the power in the palace, which had come down to him through his father, in a noble manner. This honor in ancient days had been given to the noblest man in the kingdom, and to the man whose lineage was most powerful. Pepin held this authority from his grandfather, from his father, and from his elder brother Carloman, under king Hildric, for the peace and harmony of the kingdom, for his brother Carloman, after having reigned a short while, retired to an abbey he established at Rome, in a place called Monsorat [Einhard's monte Soracte]. He founded it in honor of saint Silvester, because this was the place in which he hid in the time of his persecution. Carloman later left this place, and went to live in the abbey of Saint Benedict of Montecassino, because the noblemen of France who went there visited him too often.

Prince Pepin asked the apostle Stephen [again, the question was asked of Pope Zacharius] who should be the king, the man who was of no use to the kingdom, and simply existed, or the man who had all the responsibility, both near and far, and by whom the kingdom was actually governed. And the Pope replied that he should be the king who had the power and the responsibility, and he confirmed his answer with anointing and with the crown of the kingdom. In this way he became king.


After king Pepin's death, his two sons, Caroloman and Charlemagne reigned, and they shared the kingdom in such a way that each ruled in his own part. The first war that he undertook was against duke Waifre of Aquitaine, a war which his father king Pepin had not brought to a conclusion, and we propose to describe this more clearly hereafter.

When this war was entirely finished, he took up a fight against the Lombards, at the request of the apostle Hadrian, because they had deserted the church of Rome. King Pepin, his father, had undertaken this same war, at the request of the apostle Stephen, against king Haistufle, to whom he laid siege in the city of Pavia, compelling him to swear to give back to the church of Rome everything that he had taken away. But king Charlemagne, having undertaken the war, did not stop until he had captured king Desiderius and his son Adagise, and sent them into exile, together with Ruodgause, the provost of the duchy of Aquilea (776), who had waged war against him. He made the entire kingdom of Lombardy submit to his will, and he gave it one of his son, named Pepin.

After these two wars, he took up a third, which had been interrupted, against the Saxons; The king had never waged so long and so cruel a war, nor one that had given so much pain to the people of France, for the Saxons, who are cruel by nature, and who, in those times, were still pagan, like lawless people, thought nothing of breaking their word. The reason why peace could not be kept between the Saxons and the French was because the border between the two kingdoms was heavily wooded in some places where there were mountains and forests. There they burned, looted, and killed, and the French who could not tolerate this behavior attacked them, fighting openly man-to-man, and the war began on both sides, with great efforts, that lasted steadily for 30 years, with great losses on both sides, but the Saxons lost incomparably more than the French. The war could easily have been ended, had the Saxons not been treacherous, for when the king had defeated themd so badly that they had to ask for mercy, they did not keep their faith, or the oath that they had sworn, but began the war as soon as the king returned to France. It would take a long time to tell how many times they were defeated in battle, put themselves entirely at the mercy of the king, and gave him whatever hostages he demanded. Several times they received the king's emissaries, and several times were so badly beaten that they promised to accept the Christian faith. But though they were ready and eager to do this, they were just as ready to break the agreements, so that one could not tell which thing they were more eager to do. In the very first year of the war they went through this series of about-faces. But the great heart and firm purpose of the king, who always remained the same, both in prosperity and in adversity, could not be beaten by their unreliable nature, nor would he let up no matter how much trouble they gave him. He would not permit them to do him any harm without taking vengeance, either in person, or through his ministers. In any event, all the greatest and noblest Saxons, who had always supported the war, finally came to ask mercy, and they submitted to his authority without further resistance. He took 10,000 men, women, and children, of those who lived on either bank of the Elba, and distributed them throughout various parts of the kingdom of France. The king demanded that they abandon their paganism and idol-worship, and accept the Christian faith, living among the French like one and the same people, and they willingly agreed.

Thus the war, which had lasted a long time, was ended, and the king would fight against them in the field of battle only twice more; the first was at a mountain named Osning, at a place called Theotmelli (Detmold), and the second was at the river Hasa. These two battles were in the same month, one right after the other (June 783). They were so badly beaten in these two battles, that no one ever after dared to fight him or challenge his authority; none of them had any faith in the protection of any of the fortified places. In these two battles just mentioned, the greatest and noblest of the Saxons and of the French were killed. The war ended in the thirty-third year of his reign.

The French fought not only the Saxons, but, at the same time, they fought a number of great battles in various parts of the world; they were conducted so well and so wisely, thanks to the king's courage and diligence, that one does not know whether to marvel more at the fine results and glorious fortune of the king, or at his thoughtfulness and patience. For he began this war two years before the war with the Lombards, and it was waged steadily, and the others, which arose in various places, were also conducted without interruption. The king was so wise, and of such a noble heart, that he never avoided difficulties, nor feared the danger of war and battle, whenever they arose. So wise and discreet was he in accepting what came his way, that he never became arrogant in victory, nor baffled in adversity.

The third war was in Spain and Gascony, at the same time as the Saxon campaign; he set out with great force, crossed the Pyrenees, captured castles and cities everwhere he turned, and then returned to France with his entire army unharmed, except for a bit of trouble created by the Gascons while he was returning across the mountains.

The fourth war was against the Bretons, who inhabit a part of France towards the west, on the great sea. In that time they did not submit to the kingdom of France (even though we find written in the deeds of king Dagobert the First that the king of Britanny, whose name was Judicail, rendered homage to him on behalf of his entire kingdom). To carry out this task, king Charlemagne sent some of his princes, who brought the country into subjection [Einhard mentions no princes, merely an expedition].

The fifth war was in Italy, [this paragraph in the ms. is attached to chapter III, but seems to belong to chapter II, if the number of battles described in the chapter headings is to be believed] in Apulia, in Calabria, and in the land of Labor against the duke Aragise; the duke surrendered without a fight, giving his two sons, Rumold and Grimold, as hostages, together with considerable wealth, to assure peace and harmony. The king kept Grimold, the elder, as a hostage, and returned Rimold, the younger, to his father. With him he sent emissaries to accept the fealty of the people of the country, then he went swiftly to Rome, remained there for a few days to honor the apostles, and then returned to France.


The sixth of his wars was against the Bavarians, and was begun and ended very quickly. The pride and perverse disposition of duke Tassilo was the cause of this war, and he was instigated by his wife, who was the daughter of Desiderius, the king of Pavia whom Charlemagne had driven into exile. She thought that she might avenge her father through her husband, but because he knew that he was not strong enough to fight so powerful a man, he made an alliance with a group of people called the Huns. (787) The king attacked him with a large army, but the duke asked for mercy when he saw that he could not stand up to him. He gave whatever hostages the king asked for, including his own son, whose name was Theodo. The duke swore that he would never, for any reason, oppose the king. In this way the war, which men had thought might last a long time, was quickly brought to an end. The king sent for the duke a short time afterwards, and did not let him return. Henceforth the duchy of Bavaria was not held by dukes, but governed by counts. Before returning from this trip, the king set up a body of water as a division and border between the Bavarians and the Allemands [this last sentence is not in Einhard, but may come from Sigebert of Gembloux or Annales Mettenses RHG V, p. 346].

The seventh war he undertook was against the Slavs; in the army were Saxons, together with other nations obedient to the king, although they were not performing out of good will, but out of fear rather than love. The king undertook this war against the Slavs because they were doing harm to the Abodrites, who had long been allies of the French, and the king thought that he was obliged to aid them against their enemies [this last clause is Primat's addition, as is the next sentence] He also was concerned that they did not wish to obey his orders.

Through this territory ran an arm of the sea, rising from the great sea in the west, and running directly east. Its length was too great to measure, and in some places it was one hundred miles wide, and in some places less. On this arm of the sea lived many different kinds of people; the Danes and the Swedes, whom we call the Normans, inhabit the river banks towards the north. On the other side of the river, the Slavs and Esthonians and many other nations live. The noblest and most powerful of all these people were the Slavs, against whom the king was preparing to fight. He fought so successfully against them, that they never again dared to resist his will.

After this war, his eighth fight (791-799) was against the Huns, who are now called the Hungarians, as some people think. This war was the longest and most difficult that the king ever undertook, except for the war against the Saxons, and he waged it more vigorously and with greater preparation than any other. He fought only one battle against them in Pannonia, for they lived in that country at that time. His son Pepin fought the other battles, together with the counts and baillifs of his provinces. This war was conducted so well and so wisely, that it was ended in the eighth year after it had begun. The land of Pannonia, which was entirely laid waste, bears witness to the great battles and slaughter that took place in that land, and the spot where the palace of king Cagan [by which Einhard means "the Khan's palace"; Primat regularly mistakes "Khan" for a proper name]stood remained so bare that it seems never to have been anyone's home. All the glory and all the nobility of the Huns perished in this war; all the treasures that their king and their ancient princes had amassed were carried off. No living man can remember when the French ever had such a great victory, or gained so much wealth; it seemed to them that they had previously been poor, because of the great storehouse of riches they won in this war. The found so much gold and silver and precious spoils and treaures of the palace, that one could think that the French had justly taken from the Huns what the Huns had always unjustly taken from other nations. In that war, only two French princes died; one was named Eric, the duke of Aquilea (Friuli), and the other Gerold, one of the provosts of Bavaria. Eric was killed in a land called Liburnia, near a city named Tersatto, caught in an ambush set by the people of the city. The other, whose name was Gerold, was killed (1 sept 799), in Pannonia, accompanied by two others, as he rode through his army to draw them up for battle against the Huns; no one knows who killed him. The war did not do great damage to the French, and though it lasted a long time, it ended fortunately. After that, the war with the Saxons, which had lasted a long time, was ended. It had a fortunate ending, in any event, although it had harmed the French more than all the others. The wars in Lynonie and Bohemia, which came later, did not last long; each was quickly ended by an army led only by Charles, the king's son.

The ninth and last of his battles was against the Normans, who were a group of Danes. This war was begun because they were sea-robbers, called pirates. They assembled a large navy and began to harry and to invade the people of Gaul and of Germany, and the cities on the edge of the sea. They grew so proud that they considered all of Saxony and Frisia as their own territory. They had already subdued the Abrodites, making them their subjects, and they boasted that they would, in time, arrive with a great army at Aix-la-Chapelle, which was then the king's own home, where his greatest power was. It looked as though they were going to try to carry out their boast, no matter what the consequences, when their plan was upset and prevented by the death of their prince, who was killed by one of his own men [Primat offers serjant for Einhard's satellite, while the monk of Saint-Gall, RHG V, p. 130 accuses the pirate's son; according to Annales Francorum for 810, the pirate's name was Godefrid]. Thus this war, which the king would have quickly undertaken, had this accident not occured, was ended before it began [Primat adds the clause about what Charlemagne would have done].


Up to this point, we have spoken briefly about his victories; hereafter we shall speak of them more clearly, each in its order; first we shall tell how he came to power after the death of his father [RFA 768] .

After the death of king Pepin, his two sons, Charles and Carloman, shared the kingdom, with the consent of the barons, and each ruled in his own territory. Charles, who was the eldest, was crowned in the city of Noion, and Carloman, the younger, in the city of Soissons [Both were crowned 9 oct 768] After his coronation, Charles went to Aix-la-Chapelle, celebrating the Nativity there, and the Resurrection in the city of Rouen. He was called by his own name, Charles, but afterwards he was called Charlemagne, because of the great things he did, for Charlemagne means great Charles.

The province of Aquitaine, which was in Charlemagnes' territory, did not remain at peace, because of an unfinished earlier war, which king Pepin had not brought to a conclusion before he died. Duke Hunald, wanting the kingdom for himself, roused the noblest and most powerful men of the region to begin a new war against the new king, and the king assembled his army and attacked him vigorously. Before attacking, however, he summoned his brother Carloman to a meeting and he asked him for help. He did not want to give him help, because his barons advised him badly; he remained in his kingdom, and Charlemagne fought against his enemies directly before the city of Angouleme. He pursued and barely missed capturing duke Hunald, whose knowledge of the passes and natural protection of the area, which could not be entered easily or safely, preserved him. Finally he abandoned the country, and fled to duke Lupus of Gascony, placed himself in his protection, and asked for sanctuary. But the king, who knew where he had fled, ordered the duke to turn the traitor and fugitive over to him, or he would enter Gascony with his entire army, nor would he leave until he had exacted vengeance. Duke Lupus, very much afraid of the king, sent duke Hunald to him, together with his wife and children, saying that he was completely prepared to obey and to carry out all of the king's orders. The king awaited the emissaries at the very place from which they had been sent forth, and he built a castle there, named Frontenoi, on the banks of the Dordogne. When the emissaries returned, and had given duke Lupus, together with his wife and children to the king, and the foundation of the castle had been laid and built, he returned to France, celebrated the Nativity in a town called Durie, and that of the Resurrection at Saint Lambert of Liege.

In a city which was then called Garmancie (Worms), the king convoked a general meeting of the people and of the barons. Queen Bertha, mother of two kings, spoke to king Carloman, the younger son, to establish peace and harmony between the brothers, in a town called Salucia, since there was contention between them. Then she went to Lombardy, and from there to Rome, to honor the Apostles. She returned to France when she had completed the task for which she had gone; the purpose of this journey had been to ask for the hand of the daughter of king Desiderius of Pavia, for her elder son, Charlemagne. The king celebrated the Nativity in Burgundy, in the city of Macon [Primat's confusion with Mainz] and the Resurrection in Valencienne in Hainault, capital of that county, and situated on the banks of the Cauz (Escaut). [Another confusion by Primat; Herstal is where he celebrated Resurrection in this year]

While he was spending the winter there, his brother, king Carloman, died in the town of Saumoncy, on the second nones of December (4 dec 771). He was buried in the church of Saint Denis in France, next to his father, king Pepin [Viard points out that he was buried in Rheims, and transferred to Saint-Denis, perhaps in 1264; an elision by Primat, to heighten the importance of Saint-Denis]. King Charles then moved to take over the whole kingdom. He came to a town named Carbonac, where he awaited the barons and prelates of the kingdom, who offered him homage and fealty, as they had his brother. The queen, who had been his brother's wife, together with her son and some of the barons, had gone off to Lombardy. The king, however, made no display of force, for he knew that that would not be very useful. He celebrated Noel in the town of Attigny, and Easter in another town, named Aristall (Herstal).

At this time, Pope Stephen died; the next Pope was named Hadrian.

The king held a meeting of his barons in the city of Garmancie (Worms), because he wanted to fight in Saxony; he assembled his army and invaded the land, laying waste everything with fire and slaughter, taking a stronghold named Hyresburc. There he found one of the idols of the Saxons, which they called Irmensule, and the king had it destroyed and burned. He remained there three days, but while the army remained there, the springs dried up because of the harshness of the weather. The entire army, men and beasts, suffered terribly because they could find nothing to drink. They were suffering terribly from thirst, when Our Lord, who did not want his people to suffer such distress very long, visited them. For it happened that, as they were resting in their tents at noon, Our Lord sent them fresh water, through a stream that ran near their tents, at the foot of a mountain, so abundantly that there was enough for the men and beasts of the entire army. After the destruction of these idols, the king and his army left this place and came to the Weser river. There the Saxons came to him and gave him twelve hostages. Then he returned to France, celebrating the holidays of Noeld and Easter in the city of Herstal. In that same year, he left the daughter of Desiderius, the king of Lombardy, whom his mother, queen Bertha had brought him, and married another, whose name was Hildegard, a woman born in Swabia, of great beauty and nobility.

Pope Hadrian, who could not tolerate the persecution and destruction that king Desiderius and the Lombards were inflicting upon the church of Rome, sent an emissary named Peter to King Charles in France. He begged him to defend him against king Desiderius and the Lombards, who had done so much damage to the church and to the Romans. Because the emissary could not pass through Lombardy because of the fighting and because enemies of the church guarded it, he came by sea to the port of Marseilles, and from there traveled by land to France, reaching the king at a town camed Theodone (Thionville), where he was staying for part of the winter. He related his message, and then returned to Rome, by the same path that he had come by.

When the king had made careful inquiry and understood how things were going between the Romans and the Lombards, and he had seen that the church of Rome was been damaged without cause, he took the task upon himself, and established himself as its defender. He raised the French army and arrived in Burgundy, reaching a city named Geneva, which is located on the Rhone river. There he planned how best to lead his troops into the plains of Lombardy; he divided them into two groups, assigning one to his uncle, whose name was Bernard, ordering him to travel through the mountains of Monjeu [over the St. Bernard pass]. He kept the other group himself, leading them through the mountains of Moncenis; when the king and his troops had climbed the mountains and traversed the passes, they descended into the plains of Lombardy. King Desiderius confronted him, together with his army, prepared for battle, but to no avail, for they fled without a fight, and the king pursued him and besieged him in a city which was then called Ticinus, but now is called Pavia. The siege lasted through the entire winter, for the town was too strong to be taken.

An incident. Hunald, the duke of Aquitaine, of whom we spoke above, fled to the Romans, and from the Romans to the Lombards; among them he became an apostate and renounced his belief in holy Church. A short time later he was stoned to death.

The king left his army in front of the city, and went to Rome at the command of the apostle Hadrian, who was the ninety-third apostle in the seven hundred and seventy-three years since the Incarnation. There he celebrated Easter; before he left [an account of the council is not to be found in BN lat. 5925, but in additions to Sigebert of Gembloux, MGH VI, p. 393], a council of 153 bishops and abbots was held. Charles was present at this council, where Pope Hadrian, with the assent and confirmation of the entire council, granted him the power to choose the Pope and to direct the Roman see, making him prince and defender of the Romans; in addition, the archbishops and bishops would enter into possession of their sees with his permission, and if they took possession of their sees otherwise, without his consent and good will, that person could not be anointed, and the king could seize the possessions of those who resisted him, and they would have no recourse. Finally, the Pope confirmed this privilege by declaring all those who went against this decree excommunicate, by the authority of Saint Peter.

After this council, the king returned to his army and captured the city, which had been worn out by the long siege. After this, all the Lombards submitted to the authority of the French, and when the king had taken and reduced to his will all of Lombardy (early June, 774), and arranged things there as he wished, he returned to France, bring back king Desiderius bound and tied. Algises, his son, who represented the Lombards' great hope, fled to Constantine, the emperor of Constantinople, when he saw his father captured and his country lost. There he remained, spending the rest of his life in an office granted him by the emperor. King Desiderius was captured, together with his wife, his daughter, and all his barons. He gave back to the Romans whatever the Lombards had taken from them; thus the entire kingdom of Lombardy submitted to the kingdom of France, and their kings ceased to reign, 204 years after they began to rule.


While Charles was working in this manner for the cause of Holy Church, the Saxons left their land, with a large army, and invaded the French territory bordering their own, until they reached a castle named Jaburg [this section is based on Annales Laurissenes, MGH, Scriptores, I, p. 152; see also RHG V, pp. 318, 341]. Those who lived in the neighborhood shut themselves up in the fortress when they saw the Saxons, who spread out through the countryside and laid waste the entire country with fire and slaughter, burning everything they found outside the fortress. They came to a place named Frisdilar, where there was a chapel that saint Boniface the martyr had founded, and which he had predicted, at the dedication, would never burn. The Saxons surrounded it, and began to think about how to burn it; at the very moment when they were about to cast fire within it, two young men in white robes appeared in the air; they were seen by some Christians who were in the castle, and by some pagans outside. They protected the chapel from the fire that the pagans had lit. Because they were unable to set fire either to the inside or to the outside of the chapel, they became very frightened, and turned in flight, even though no one could be seen pursuing them. One of them remained behind, and he was found dead, on his elbows and knees before the chapel, with the fire in front of him, and his mouth between his hands, as though he had breathed in the fire set to burn the chapel.

When the king heard this news, he quickly moved his army, divided it into three parts, and entered Saxon territory at three places before they knew what was happening. He destroyed and laid waste everything before him with fire and slaughter, killing those who put up any resistance. He then returned to France, laden with booty and spoils from his enemies, celebrating Noel and Easter in a town called Karisi. While spending the winter there, he thought about how to invade Saxony more effectively, to destroy and wipe out this faithless generation, and to conduct the war so that they would be utterly defeated, or accept the Christian faith. For this purpose he called a general meeting at a town named Durie; he raised his army, crossed the Rhine, and attacked Saxony in great strength. He captured by force a formidable castle named Sigiburg, and rebuilt and equipped another, named Ereburg, which the Saxons had destroyed, and he placed a French garrison in it. From there he went directly to the Weser river, to a place called Brunisberg, where he found many Saxons assembled to protect the crossing, to defend the port, and to put up a fight at the mouth of the river. But their efforts were futile, for they were pushed back and scattered at the first encounter, and many of them were killed. When the king and his army had crossed the river, he took part of his army and went off directly to a river named the Ocker, where he was confronted by Helsis, one of the Saxon princes, at the head of an army of Eastphalians. Helsis submitted to the king, together with all of his men, swearing an oath of loyalty, and giving the king whatever hostages he demanded. From there the army went off to a place called Burki [Buki in Einhard], where another group of people, called the Engariem, came to the king. Among them were the most important princes of their land, who gave whatever oaths and hostages the king demanded, as the Eastphalians had done. Meanwhile, the part of his army that Charles had left at the Weser, in a place called Hudbeki, was betrayed by the trickery and malice of their enemies, particularly because they did not behave as cautiously as they should have in the presence of dangerous enemies. For when those who led the horses to pasture were returning to camp, at the ninth hour (3 PM), the Saxons mingled with them, as though they were their own men, and in this way entered their tents; when they fell asleep, the Saxons killed them, and by such malice accomplished a great slaughter in a short time. However, those who were guarding the tents attacked them when they saw what had happened, and the Saxons fled. When the king heard what had happened, he rushed back as quickly as he could, pursued the fleeing Saxons, and killed a great many of them. He took hostages from the Eastphalians, and then returned to France.

When he returned, emissaries arrived, announcing that Ragaud, the Lombard whom he had made patrician and duke of the city of Aquilea, was conspiring against him, and had rallied to his cause several cities in Lombardy. Realizing that he had to take quick action in this case, to restrain and punish Ragaud for his treachery, quickly invaded Lombardy with a large force of good men. He had Ragaud decapitated for stirring up the country against him, and he took back the cities that had broken away from him, under the same conditions as before, but he put French counts and judges in charge of them. But he had scarcely crossed the mountains when new emissaries arrived,, announcing that the Saxons had captured the castle of Hereburg, and had killed and driven out the French garrison, and that Sigeburg, another castle, had been attacked. It had not been captured, however, because its garrison had come out and suddenly attacked the the Saxons from the rear. The Saxons were unprotected in that direction, since they were intent on the attack. The emissaries related more, and what they said was true, for the glory and the power of Our Lord was manifested when the Saxons and the others who were present thought they saw in the air two flaming shields, one after the other, burning above the castle's church, as though knights were bringing them into battle. Because of this miracle, and because of the assault the French had launched at their rear, the Saxons became so frightened that they all turned and fled, and the French pursued them as far as the river Lippie, killing many of them in the chase.

After this news, the king assembled a meeting of his gentry in the city of Garmacie (Worms), and devised a plan by means of which he might quickly begin to fight in Saxony. He assembled his army, and reached the place he wanted to get to so quickly that he completely destroyed his enemies' plans and preparations top resist him. When he reached the source of the Lippie, he found a great multitude of this treacherous generation, apparently devout, humble, and sorry for the wrongs they had committed against him. They asked for mercy, and promised him that they would accept baptism and the holy Christian faith. The king, who was kind and merciful, forgave them, and he had all those who requested baptism baptized. When he had heard their false oaths and promises, and taken whatever hostages he wanted, he returned to France. He celebrated Noel and Easter in a city named Herstal, but before he left Saxony he rebuilt the castle of Hereburg, which the Saxons had destroyed, and he built another on the Lippie river, and garrisoned it with Frenchmen.


When spring returned and the season was young, the king convoked a meeting of the barons and the people after the holiday of the Resurrection, to go fight in Saxony, because he had no faith in the oaths and promises of that country's treacherous people. When he arrived, he found the most important and the oldest people of the country apparently humble and obedient, for they had feelings in their hearts different from the ones they showed openly. They all came, except Witikind [baptised in 785 at Attigny, killed in 807], one of the Westphalian princes. He did not dare come before the king, because he knew himself to be guilty of much wrongdoing, and he fled to Sigifroi, the king of Denmark. All of those who came to the king asked for his mercy and pity, swearing that if they broke his laws and commands, they would give up their freedom and forever be slaves. The king supervised the baptizing of one group, who asked for baptism more to obtain the good graces of the king than to obtain salvation for their souls, as they would later show.

There too a Spanish Saracen came to the king; his name was Ibnan l'Arrabi. He brought some of his people with him, and he offered himself, and all the cities that the Spanish king had put in his care, to Charles. Then the king returned to France, celebrating the Nativity in a town named Durzi, and the Resurrection in Poitou, at a castle named Cassinole; there queen Hildegard bore a child, who was named Louis.

Then the king, advised by Ibnalabi, the Saracen just mentioned, moved his army, in hope of taking some cities in Spain; the plan did not prove futile, for he captured some of them. He invaded Gascony, and when he had crossed the mountains, he laid siege to and captured Pamplona, a city of Navarre. He crossed the Ebro river and went directly to Saragossa, the noblest city in the area. He captured the town, laid waste the countryside, and then returned to Pamplona. He tore the then returned to France. He entered a forest in the Pyrenees; At the highest point in these mountains the Gascons [Gascons and Basques are interchangeable terms here] had laid an ambush, and when the army had passed by, they suddenly attacked the rearguard (15 August 778). There was great shouting and confusion, and although the French were far superior, both in strength and bravery, than the Gascons, they were greatly outnumbered, and at a disadvantage because of the terrain of the country in which they were fighting. Some of the noblest men of the palace, captains and leaders in battle, were killed in this assault, and the Gascons quickly fled and took refuge in the mountain strongholds. The king was unhappy with this misfortune, for it partially diminished his reputation, and the repute of the noble deeds he had performed in Spain. The Saxons, who heard of this event, thinking that the king had been harmed more than he actually had been, made an armed attack against him, getting as far as the Rhine. When they were unable to cross, however, they destroyed the entire countryside with fire and slaughter, looting towns and villages, destroying and burning churches. They killed men and women, children and young girls indiscriminately, withou regard for age or sex, so that it became clear that they were not motivated merely by a desire for booty, but they wanted to take vengeance for the bloody killings that the French had done so many times to their people. This destruction took place over an area stretching from a city named Nyce all the way to the Moselle river. According to some chronicles, they did this harm to the king on the advice of Widikind, of whom we spoke above. News of these events reached the king on his return from Spain, at the city of Auxerre. He quickly ordered that the French Austrasians and the Allemands be sent against them; then he dismissed his army and spent the winter in the city of Herstal. The French Austrasians and the Allemands, who had been sent against the Saxons, rode quickly to determine whether they could find the Saxons in their country, but when they arrived there, the Saxons had already returned to their own territory. They quickly pursued them into the country of the Hessians, catching up to them at a river named the Herman (the Eder). They attacked them those guarding them as they crossed the river, killing so many of them that very few escaped of the great number who were there; most were killed or drowned.

After celebrating Noel and Easter in the city of Herstal, the king left for Compiegne, where he remained as long as he wished. When he left, Hildebrand, the duke of Spoleto, came to him, bringing many large gifts and presents, although the history gives no details about them. The king received him with honor, and gave him generous gifts in turn. He departed from the king in a town called Murtigni [Wirciniaco in Einhard, Verzenay or Versigny] and returned to his own country.

The king assembled his army in a town which was then called Duren, to wage war in Saxony. But first he called the customary assembly of his barons. He crossed the Rhine at a place called Lippeham. The Saxons met him in battle at a place called Bocholt, hoping to resist him, but their hope was futile, for they were defeated and routed, and the king went beyond their territory, into the land of the Westphalians, compelling them to ask for his mercy. From there he went down the Weser to a place called Midfulli [Viard is unconvinced by attempts to identify the place], where he remained I don't know how many days, to rest his troops. Before he left, the Westphalians and other group of people called the Angariems came to the king, swore oaths of loyalty to him, and gave him hostages. The king then departed, crossed the Rhine, and went off to spend the winter in a city named Varmaise (Worms).

When spring returned, and fighting could begin, the king assembled his army and invaded Saxony, crossing at the castle of Heresburg, going directly to the source of the Lippie. There he had tents set up, and he remained I don't know how many days, before proceeding eastward towards a castle named Ovacres [ad Ovacrum fluvium, and therefore a river, not a castle]. There all the east Saxons came to him, as he ordered, and a large part of them were baptized, for the most part insincerely, for they were like that. From there the king and all his army departed and went directly to the Elba. He had his tents set up at a place where this river and another, called the Ohre, came together. They all assembled at the place where the king was lodged, and he remained there a while to arrange matters between the Saxons, who dwelt on this side of the river, and the Slavs, who inhabited the other side. When he had settled matters as well as he could, he returned to France.


The king set out for Rome, as he had previously proposed, to make a pilgrimage. He brought with him his wife, queen Hildegard, and his two sons. They arrived at the city of Pavia, where they celebrated the Nativity, and remained for the rest of the winter; when spring returned, he went to Rome. There the Pope crowned him and his two sons, Pepin, the elder, as king of Lombardy, and Louis, the younger, as king of Aquitaine. When he had stayed as long as he wished, he set out to return by way of the city of Milan. Thomas, the archbishop of the city, baptized and raised from the font one of the king's daughters (781); he became her foster-father, and named her Gile (Gisele). Then the king returned to France. But before he left the city of Rome, he and Pope Hadrian collaborated in the matter of Tassilo, the duke of Bavaria. The both sent their emissaries to advise him to keep the oath that he had made to king Pepin, his father, and to his two sons, that he would forever be their obedient subjects. The apostle sent two bishops, Formosus and Damasus; the king sent Riculf, a deacon, and Eberhard, the master of the royal cup-bearers. After they had arrived and given their message, duke Tassilo humbly and obediently replied that he would very willingly set out immediately to visit the king, if sufficient security and hostages were given him, so that he need have no fear [His psychological condition is Primat's addition, as is the request for security]. The emissaries gave him such assurance, and he was satisfied. Straightway he went off to France, and he found the king in the city that was then called Warmaise (Worms). There he gave the king the same oath that he had given to his father, King Pepin. The king asked him to secure his oath, and the duke gave him 12 hostages whom he had brought from Bavaria by Suibert (Sindbert, or Simpert), one of his archbishops. The king was at the castle of Compiegne when he received these hostages. The duke then took his leave and returned to his own country, but when he returned, he did not keep his agreement or the loyalty that he had sworn to the king very long, as the history will relate below.

When spring returned, and fighting could begin, because food was again abundant, the king convoked a general meeting of the barons and of the people, as had always been his custom before fighting the Saxons. He set out for and reached the city of Cologne, crossed the Rhine, and led his army right to the source of the Lippie. There he had the tents pitched, and he remained several days. Among the other tasks he accomplished before leaving this place, he received emissaries from Sigifrid, the king of Denmark; they had been sent by Caganes and Wigaires, two princes of the Huns sent them to conclude the peace [again, a misunderstanding of the Latin by Primat; Sigifrid sent his emissaries, and the Khan and jugur sent their own]. After the king had remained for a while in this area, and had arranged matters as well as he could for the time, he crossed the Rhine to return to France. But Widukind, of whom we spoke above, who had fled out of fear of the king to Sigifrid, the king of Denemark, returned to his country when he learned that the king had left, and then roused the Saxons by his speeches to a vain hope of victory, so that they broke the peace and the agreements they had made with the king, and began a new war.

Meanwhile, the king heard the news that the Sorabians and the Slavs [the Sorabians and the Slavs are the same people in the Latin], who inhabited the land between the Elbe and a river called the Saale, had invaded the territory of the Thuringians and the Saxons that bordered on their own, and had done much destruction, destroying many places by fire and slaughter. Then the king ordered three of his ministers -- Adalgise, his master chamberlain, Gailo, his constable, and Garond his count of the palace -- to lead the Austrasian Franks and Saxons against the Slavs. They went out, together with the Eastern Franks, and moved into Saxony, to reinforce their army with Saxon troops. However, when they got there, they found that Witikund had provoked the Saxons to revolt against the king, and were prepared to fight against the French. They interrupted the task they had been sent to perform, and went directly to where they had heard that their enemy had gathered. On the way, they met count Theodoric, who was a cousin of the king, ready to help them with as many men as he could get together quickly, when he understood that the Saxons were in league against the king. He was careful not to pursue the enemy without careful preparation, advising that they should send scouts to determine where the enemy was, what shape they were in, and how many of them there were, and, when they were certain of their condition, whether they should attack them, if the place was such that they might make a frontal attack. Everyone agree to this plan, and they all rode off together as far as a mountain named Sontal. The Saxons were encamped on the northern side of the mountain. Count Theodoric had the French pitch their tents on the other side, and the ministers of the king led their army across the Weser, and set up camp on the other side, to cover both sides of the mountain. They then consulted with each other on how to attack their enemies, and because they were afraid that the honor and the glory of victory might be given to count Theodoric if they fought jointly, they proposed to fight without him. Then they all armed themselves, and went out of their tents in apparent disorder. They pretended that they were not going to attack their enemies, drawn up properly for battle, but as though they were going to flee, gathering up the spoils. Many of them ran in one direction, many in another, as fast as their horses could carry them, and their enemies waited outside of their tents, drawn up in battle array. Because they were in such confusion, they fought badly; at the beginning of the battle, the Saxons surrounded them entirely, and killed almost all of them. Those who escaped did not flee to their own tents, but to those of count Tyerri (Theodoric), who was at another part of the mountain. The losses were greater because of the importance of the princes killed rather than because of the great number of casualties, for two of the king's emissaries, Adalgis and Gailo, and four of the counts, and twenty other nobles were killed, without counting the other gentry who had followed them and who preferred to die with them rather than to remain alive after their deaths.

When the king had heard this news, he got his army together immediately and invaded Saxony. He summoned all the most important men of the country, and asked by whose advice this harm had been done, and who had turned the Saxons against him. They all cried out that it had been done by Widukind, but they could not hand him over, because he had fled to the Normans right after the deed. But they did hand over to the kfing up to 4500 of those who had participated in the crime, and the king had them brought to a river called the Aller, to a place named Ferdi (Verden), where he had all their heads cut off. On the third day after the king had taken his vengeance, he went to spend the winter in a town called Theodone (Thionville); there he celebrated the holidays of Noel and of Easter.

Tassilo, the duke of Bavaria, who had previously sworn fealty to the king, took up arms against him, urged by his wife [this is translated from Sigebert de Gembloux, 780, and Viard thinks it is in the wrong spot] She was the daughter of Desiderius, the king of Pavia, whom the king had unseated and sent into exile; she thought that she would avenge her father's loss through her husband.


When spring returned, and the weather improved, the king again prepared to fight in Saxony, for he had heard that the Saxons were persisting in revolting against him, more fiercely than ever before. Before he left the town in which he had spent the winter, his wife, queen Hildegard died, on the second calends of May [at Thionville, 30 april, 783] He gave her a dignified burial, as was proper, and then went off to Saxony, as he had intended. He heard that the Saxons were gathering at a place named Theomel (Detmold), and that they were ready to battle against him with all their strength. He hurried in that direction as quickly as he could, and fought them so fiercely that few of the great number who were there managed to escape; they were almost all killed. After this victory, he left the battlefield, and went off to another place, called in their language Padrabunum (Paderborn); there he had tents pitched to wait for a part of his army that was supposed to come. While he was still waiting in this place, news reached him that the Saxons who had escaped the battle, when they had been able to get help from everywhere, had gathered in the country of Westphalia, at a river named Hasam (the Hase). There they were agin prepared to do battle against him, if he came into their territory. When the king heard this news, he gathered the men who had previously come with him from France, and moved without delay to the place where the Saxons were gathered. He did as well against them in battle as before, killing most of them, and capturing and making prisoners of the rest. The French took for themselves all the booty that the Saxons had gathered, and the king proceeded on to the east. First he reached the Weser, then another river called the Elbe, traversing and laying waste the entire countryside with fire and slaughter. When he had entirely devastated all these regions, he set out for France, and married a woman named FAstrada. She was French, and a daughter of a count named Raoul. A short time later she conceived and bore two daughters to the king.

In this year, queen Bertha, the king's mother, passed from this world; she had been the wife of his father, king Pepin. She died on the third Ides of June, a woman of exemplary behavior and of sweet memory. She was buried in the church of Saint Denis in France [actually, she died on the fourth Ides of June -- 12 July 783 -- and was buried, first at Choisy-au-Bac, where she died, then translated to Saint-Denis], at the side of king Pepin, her lord, and next to her other son Carloman. This happened 784 years after the Incarnation of Our Lord.

The king dismissed his army, and went off to spend the winter in a town called Herstal, where he celebrated Noel and Easter.

When spring returned, the king assembled his army to fight again in Saxony and to try, if possible, to end this war which had lasted so long. He crossed the Rhine at the source of the Lippe, and from there went to the Weser, laying waste all of Westphalia. Then he made his way to a place named Huccubi (probably Petershagen today), where he had his tents set up on the banks of a river. While there, he realized that he could not invade Saxony through the north. as he ha planned, because heavy rains had made the rivers too deep. Therefore he went through Thuringia, leaving part of the army with his son Charles, ordering him not to leave Westphalia. Then he passed through Thuringia to invade the plains of Saxony; these plains were between the Elba and another river, called the Sable (Saale). When he had entered the land, he laid waste and destroyed all the fields and the land of the east Saxons, killing part of the people, and making slaves of others. He destroyed and burned the towns, and then returned to France.

Meanwhile, his son Charles, whom he had left in Westphalia, was riding through a section called Drahigni, when an army of Saxons appeared before him, all ready for battle, near the Lippe. His battle with them had a fortunate outcome, since he stunned them so that he killed most of them, and the remainder escaped by fleeing. He returned to his father in France with a great victory, and with much booty from his enemies, and the king took his army back to Saxony for the winter. He celebrated the Nativity in quarters on the river Ambre (Emmer), in a section called Huttagore, near a castle whose name was Squidroburg (Chieder). From there he went to a place called Rimi (Rehme), to destroy the entire countryside; this is the place where the Weser and the Werre come together. Then he returned to the castle of Hereburg, prevented from fighting by the harshness of the winter and by the flooded rivers.

Because he intended to spend the winter in this area, he assigned a reliable group of his own men to guard his wife and children, then left them and rode out, together with his entire army, to lay waste the towns and countries of Saxony. Throughout the entire winter he made war throughout the land, sometimes in one place, sometimes in another, without ever resting, laying waste the entire country with slaughter and fire, not merely on his own part, but also by ministers he sent to lay waste various areas in the country. Thus he destroyed the Saxon land, throughout the winter. When spring came, he summoned men from France, together with food and whatever else was necessary, and convoked a meeting of his barons in a place called Padrabonnes. When everything for which the meeting had been called had been taken care of, and business was finished, he went off into a country called Bardengohont (Bardengau). There he was told that Abbi and Widukind, who had done much harm to him, were in a part of Saxony called [The Latin says: in transalbiana Saxonum regione, "Saxony beyond the Elba"]. First he had the Saxons tell them that they should abandon their disloyal behavior, and come to him in safety. However, they, who felt themselves to be guilty criminals, did not dare to come to him, until he promised to pardon them mercifully, which they very much wanted, and until they had hostages to guarantee their lives. These hostages were brought to them by Amalwin, one of the princes of the palace whom Charles sent, and they came back with him, into the presence of the king, in a town named Attigny. There they were baptized and received the Christian faith, for the king had returned to France after sending Amalwin to them. For a long time perverse nation remained peaceful, especially because they could not find any reason or occasion to begin a new war, more because they feared the king, and because whatever he did turned out well.

In that year, The eastern French happened to grow discontent with the king, and they conspired against him. A principal conspirator was a count of the palace named Hardres. When the king found out what was going on, the plot fell through because of his sensible handling of the situation; he punished all those who had participated in and consented to the betrayal; some he exiled, and in the case of others, he had their eyes gouged out.


When winter had passed and spring had returned, the king celebrated the Resurrection in the town of Attigny. Then he assembled his army to fight in Little Britain (Britanny), which is called Little Britain to distinguish it from Great Britain, which is now called England. Some say that the people there still speak the original language of the ancient Bretons. For, when the English, who came from a part of Saxony called Anglia, took over Great Britain, they killed and expelled the Bretons from that island, and the English are descended from that nation. Part of the people of that land fled, crossed the sea, and came to live in the furthest part of France, on the great sea, facing west, and these people are the ones called Bretons of Britanny. These people were conquered by king Dagobert, and became his tributaries, and because they would not obey him, the king sent Audulf, one of the princes of his palace, with a large army. He quickly brought them to heel, and punished their presumption, bringing back to the king hostages and several of their noblemen, who obeyed him and honored him in the name of all of the people.

When the king had compelled all the foreigners on his borders to submit to him, and he had brought peace to his entire kingdom, he prepared to go to Rome to visit the apostles, and to conquer a part of Italy called the province of Benevento [The Lombards had taken it in 571], for it seemed to him correct for the members to be joined to the head, and that this part of the kingdom of Italy was rightfully his since he had become the head of Italy when he conquered king Desiderius. Unwilling to delay carrying out this task, he assembled his army and, in the middle of winter, invaded the plains of Lombardy. He celebrated the Nativity in the city of Florence, and then went, as quickly as possible, to Rome. There Pope Hadrian and all the people gave him a very honorable reception, and he consulted with the Apostle and with his barons on invading the province of Benevento. However, Arighis, the duke of that country, aware of Charles' arrival, and certain that he was going to invade his country, tried to change his plan by sending his son Romuald on his behalf, to present large gifts and presents to the king, asking him not to invade his land. But the king, who wanted to carry out his intention, and to finish what he had begun, kept Romuald and all his people with him. He waged war in Campania, and laid siege to the city of Capua, prepared to fight the duke if he did not do what he wished. Much afraid, the duke abandoned the city of Benevento, the capital of that region, and went off with all his people, to another city, which was situated on the sea, and which was named Salerno. Then, on the advice of his barons, he sent his two sons to the king with many significant, expensive gifts, and he promised to be ready to obey his orders. The king consented, and refrained from doing harm by beginning a fight, out of love and fear of Our Lord. He kept the younger of the two sons as hostage, as well as eleven other hostages delivered to him by the people. He sent the elder brother back to his father, then sent his own emissaries to the duke to receive homage and oaths from him and from the people. After these things were done, he received emissaries from Constantine, the emperor of Constantinople, who had come to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage, and when he had heard them, and delivered her to them, he returned to Rome, to celebrate the Resurrection there, with great joy and with great solemnity.

While he was at Rome, Tassilo, the duke of Bavaria, sent emissaries to the apostle Hadrian. These emissaries were a bishop named Arno, and an abbot named Hunric. Through them, he asked that the Pope act as mediator in establishing peace between himself and king Charles. The apostle, who was very pleased with this, willingly granted his plea, and asked the king, and urged him, on the authority of Saint Peter, to accept peace and harmony with duke Tassilo. The king replied that he would do so very willingly. Then he asked the emissaries what guarantees they would give to confirm the peace, and they replied that they had not been given any instruction in this area, and that they could do nothing more than report to their lord what had been said, and what they had said in turn. Pope Hadrian was very angry with their reply, and he called them false and treacherous, and threatened to excommunicate them if they withdrew from the fealty that they had promised to the king. In this way they left, without having accomplished anything more of the task on which they came.

After the king had humbly visited the apostles and the holy places, and had given his vows and oblations, he set out for France. He found Queen Fastrada, his sons and daughters, and their entire entourage in the city of Worms, exactly as he had left them, and he called a general meeting of the barons and the people before leaving. In the presence of his princes he recounted what he had done on this trip, and finally told them about the emissaries of duke Tassilo, and why they had come.


When the king returned to France, he consulted with his barons in the matter of duke Tassilo. Some advised him to take up the offer made by the duke, but the king collected his army to fight in Bavaria, and divided the men up into three parts. He entrusted the Lombard army to his son Pepin, and ordered him to move through the valley of Trent. He ordered the French Austrasians and the Saxons to go directly to the Danube, to a place named Pforring. He kept the other third of his people with him, and led them directly to the river Lech, which separates Bavaria from Allemania. He had his army bivouac outside of a city called Augsburg; he intended to invade Bavaria with his three divisions, if the duke would not submit. When he discovered that he was surrounded by three divisions, he came to the king and begged with great humility to be pardoned for his misdeeds, and the king, who was, by nature, forgiving and kind, pardoned him completely. He took as hostages Theodo, one of Tassilo's sons, and twelve other persons of his own choice. Having taken oaths from the people and the barons, he returned to France, to spend the winter at a town called Ingelheim, near the city of Mainz, and he celebrated Noel and Easter there.

In this same town the king called a general meeting of his barons. To this meeting duke Tassilo came, as did the other barons. In the presence of the king and in front of the whole gathering the Bavarians accused him of treason and conspiracy against his lord, for which the legal penalty was decapitation. They accused him of having done this after the king left Bavaria, and after he had sworn fealty and homage to him, and had given him hostages. They said that he had made an alliance with the Huns against the king, and had brought them to the point of waging war against the king and the French; they said that this was done at the urging of Liutberg, his wife, who had been the daughter of Desiderius, the king of Pavia, because she hated the French for having exiled and destroyed her father, and their accusation was certainly true, as the outcome proved in this very year. They accused him of many other things, both deeds and words, that would not have been done or said by anyone who was not clearly an enemy of the king and of the French. Finally, he was condemned by all the barons of the council to lose his head, because he was convicted in front of everyone of the crime of which he was accused. But the kindness of the king delivered him, although he had been condemned to death. He had both Tassilo and his son Theodo tonsured and put in a monastery. There he lived a religious life, which he did with good will and devotion. All of the Bavarians who had been willing participants in his crime were condemned to exile and sent off to various places. A short time later, the treachery was manifested, when the Huns, with whom Tassilo had made alliances, performed what they had promised. They got together enough men for two armies; one invaded the border of Aquilea (Friuli), and the other Bavaria, but in vain, and with great damage to themselves, for they were beaten and driven out of both places, fleeing to their own country with great loss of material wealth and of lives. Again they returned to Bavaria, with a greater army than they had ever gathered before, but the Bavarians defeated them in the first battle, and killed a multitude of them. Many others, who were not killed, thinking that they could escape, threw themselves into the Danube, where they sank and drowned.

Meanwhile, Constantine, the emperor of Constantinople, who very much disliked Charlemagne, because the king had refused his daughter, ordered Theodo, who was in charge of Sicily, and several other ministers, to invade the province of Benevento, and to lay waste everything. They prepared to carry out his order, but Grimoald, who had received the duchy after the death of his father, in that same year, by the will of the king, and Hildebrand, the duke of Spoleto, assembled their forces. Winigis, one of the king's emissaries who became duke of Spoleto after Hildebrand died, was also with them. The encountered the emperor's men in Calabria, fought with them, and killed a great many of them, winning a victory with very little loss of their own men. They returned to their tents with many prisoners and much booty. At the same time, the king went to Bavaria, traversing the country, and arranged matters entirely as he wished. Then he returned to Aix-la-Chapelle, and remained there a long time, for the Native and the Resurrection passed before he left.

In Slavonia [Germania in RFA], a nation called in their own language the Wellathabbi, and in French the Wilzi, lived at the edge of the great sea. They always hated the French, and willingly waged war on their neighbors who were subject to the French, or had alliances with them. The king, who did not wish to tolerate their arrogance without taking vengeance, assembled his army, to restrain and overcome their presumption. He crossed the Rhine at Cologne, then went through Saxony as far as the Elba, setting up his tents on the river-bank. He had two sturdy wooden bridges built across the river, one of them enclosed at either end with strong wooden posts. Within these enclosures, he had easily defensible, well-garrisoned barbicans placed. He crossed the river and led his army into the country of this wretched nation, destroying everything before him by fire and slaughter. Although these people were fierce and aggressive, and there were many of them, nevertheless they could not long hold out against the king's strength. The king and his men continued on, reaching a city named Dragawit [Primat mistakes the name of the Slav king here for the name of a town]. The king of this city, who was of the noblest and most venerable lineage of all the Slavic kings, came forth from the town, accompanied by many of his people. He came before the king and placed himself entirely at his mercy, swearing an oath of fealty to him, and giving him whatever hostages he asked for. When the other kings and princes of this land saw this, following Dragawit's example the came before the king and paid him homage and gave him the guarantees he demanded.

When the king had conquered these people and reduced them to submission, as you have heard, he returned by the same path he had come, crossing over the bridges that he had made over the Elba, and, as he passed through Saxony, taking care of whatever tasks needed to be done.

He returned to France and celebrated Noel and Easter in the city of Worms. That year the king waged no war. In that city he received emissaries from the Huns, and he sent his own to their princes. The reason for this exchange of emissaries was to determine the boundaries of their kingdoms and territories. This controversy arose as a result of the war that he had waged against the Huns. And because the king had no wish to be idle, he made a trip by boat on the Main river to Germany, to a place named Salz, where he had built a very fine palace on the river Saale. There he remained as long as he wished, then returned on the same river to the city from which he had set out. While he was spending the winter in this town, the palace in which he was staying accidentally burned, but he did not move on until the Nativity and the Resurrection had passed.


At the end of the winter, as the summer was beginning, the king moved on from this city where he had spent such a long stay. He went directly to Bavaria, planning to fight the Huns as quickly as he could, to take vengeance for their deeds and for their arrogance. He assembled his army from everywhere in his kingdom, and when the food and necessary equipment for the army had been loaded, he set out on the journey. First he divided his army into two groups, putting count Thierry and Mangifroi, his chamberlain, in charge of one of them, ordering them to lead their army along the northern banks of the Danube towards the West [Primat's error; RFA, which indicates that the first group was composed of Saxons, Franks, and Frisians -- a detail suppressed by Primat -- gives Eos per aquilonalem Danubii ripam iter agere jussit. Ipse cum alia parte quam secum retinuit, australem ejusdem fluminis ripam Pannoniam petiturus occupavit] He kept the other part of the army with him, and went along the shore of this same river towards the East, to invade Pannonia. He ordered the Bavarians to go down the Danube to guard the boat that was bringing food and supplies for the army. The first place he stopped was on a river named Athnises (today, Enns), which forms the border between the Huns and the Bavarians, and it makes a clear demarcation between their kingdoms. The army remained there three days, praying to God, and chanting litanies that the battle might begin and end well. The armies moved quickly and the French joined battle with the Huns; Some of the Huns who formed the garrisons of the fortresses and garrisons were killed, and others were driven out, and the castles were destroyed and torn down. One of them was built on the Kamp river, and another near the city of Comagene, on the mountain of Coburg. This castle was enclosed by high, strong walls; the French destroyed all of these fortresses by fire and slaughter. The king then led his part of the army to a river called the Arrabon (Raba), crossed it, and went along the river until it joined the Danube. There he had tents set up to rest for a few days, intending to return from there through a land called Salbaria (Sabaria in RFA). He ordered the part of his army that he had put under the command of count Thierry and his chamberlain Mangifroi to return by the same route they had come. In this way he destroyed and laid waste by fire and slaughter most of Pannonia, without any more battles or meetings with his enemies; he and all his army returned to Bavaria hale and healthy. The Frisians and the Saxons, whom he had ordered to serve in the part of the army under the command of Mangifroi and count Thierry, returned to their own countries. The army had suffered no losses, except that a disease had struck the horses in the part of the army led by the kding, so that of the thousands of horses with which he had set out, scarcely the tenth part survived. Then he dismissed his army and went to spend the winter in a city named Raineburg (Regina in RFA), where he celebrated Noel and Easter.

An incident. Urgel is a city located high in the Pyrenees. The bishop of that city was a Spaniard named Felix. Elipand, the archbishop of Toledo, wrote a letter to him, asking his opinion about the humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to determine whether one should believe him to have been his own man, or the adopted son of God the father. To ask this question of Felix was a foolhardy error, for not only did he pronounce him the adopted son, contradicting the venerable teaching of the holy Church, but he composed books which he sent to this bishop, in which he tried strenuously to defend this heretical, nefarious opinion. For this activity he was summoned to the palace, where his error was recounted at a council of bishops convoked for the purpose of hearing the case. He was convicted of error and heresy, and the king sent him to Rome, ro the apostle Hadrian, who condemned his false teaching and sent him back to his city.

The eldest of the king's sons, whose name was Pepin, at this time formed a conspiracy, together with some other French, against his father. The reason for this conspiracy, they said, was that they could not tolerate the cruelty of queen Fastrada. A Lombard named Fardulf informed the king of this treachery, and the king rewarded him for loyally informing him by appointing him abbot of Saint-Denis. Those who participated in the conspiracy were condemned, according to the law, to lose their heads, or suffer other punishments; some were decapitated, others put to the sword, and others hanged [RFA does not mention decapitation]. All this winter the king remained in Bavaria to fight the Huns, building a bridge of boats (pontoons) on the Danube, to facilitate getting back and forth whenever necessary. In this country he celebrated Noel and Easter.

The king very much wanted to bring an end to the war against the Huns. As he was preparing to invade Pannonia, news reached him that the army that count Thierry was leading through Frisia had been trapped in a pass named Rihustre (Rustringen), where they had been attacked and defeated by the Saxons. When the king heard this news, he showed as little emotion as possible, disguising the loss nobly; to take vengeance more quickly on his enemies, he left off preparing to invade Pannonia to fight the Huns. Some of his men convinced him that it would an effective strategy to have a broad ditch dug between the two rivers, one of which was named the Rednitz, and the other Altmuhl; this ditch would be broad and deep enough to carry boats from the Danube to the Rhine, since one of the rivers flowed into the Danube. The king arrived at this place with his entire army, and began the task, with many workers. The entire month of September was spent digging between the two rivers, until the channel was 2000 paces long and 300 paces wide. The attempt finally proved futile, since the land was soft and unstable, and they rains were very heavy, and what took the workers two or three days to accomplish was wiped out at night in one hour.

While the king was staying there to work on this project. two pieces of news reached him; one was that the Saxons had all turned against him, and the other was that the Saracens had invaded his country from Spain, and had fought the French who were defending the borders, killing many of them, and returning to Spain victorious. The king, who was much troubled by this news, returned to France, celebrating the Nativity and the Resurrection on the Main river, near a town named St. Kilian.

At the beginning of the summer the king held a meeting of the barons and the people, and then a council of all the prelates of the realm, to condemn the Felician heresy. This council was attended by two bishops and legates from the court of Rome: Stephen and Theophilus (Theophylact in RFA), invested with the authority to act for pope Hadrian. At that council the heresy was condemned, and a book written to support the condemnation, confirmed by the seals of all the bishops present. There queen Fastrada died, and was buried in the church of Saint Alban, in the city of Mainz. When these things were done, the king assembled his army, and divided the men into two groups, to facilitate the invasion of Saxony. He led the group he kept with him into sovereign Austrasia, from the east; the other group he assigned to his son Charles, ordering him to cross the Rhine at Cologne, to invade Saxony from the west. The Saxons had gather there, bivouacking in a field named Quismelpheldit [Sinotfeld in RFA, the plain of Sendfeld]. They awaited the battle with the king with high hopes of victory. But when they understood that the king had surrounded them on two sides, with many men, they lost their vain hope, and were beaten without a battle. They came to the king for mercy, and placed themselves entirely at his disposal, giving him hostages. Without a battle, then, they returned to their land, and the king crossed the Rhine and returned to France, spending the winter at Aix-la-Chapelle, where he celebrated Noel and Easter.


Although the Saxons had sworn that summer to uphold their agreement, and had given whatever hostages the king demanded, nevertheless Charles did not think that they would adhere loyally to the agreements, since they had broken them many times before. Therefore he convoked a meeting of the barons, as was his custom, beyond the Rhine, at a town called Cufeste (Kostheim), across the way from Mainz, on the Main river. Then he gathered his army and invaded Saxony, almost entirely destroying it with fire and slaughter. He entered a part called Bardigo (Bardengau), near a town called Bardevult (Bardowiek), where he had his tents pitched. While he was waiting for the Slavs whom he had summoned to arrive, news reached him that Witzin, the king of the Obodrites had been caught in an ambush that the Saxons had set on the Weser, and that they had killed him as he was trying to cross the river. The news of this deed made the king even angrier at the Saxons than than he had been, and, like a storm, he destroyed and laid waste everything before him, and then returned to France. But before he left Saxony, while still camped on the banks of the Elba, emissaries came to him from the Huns who lived in Pannonia. Thudo [The "thudun," is a title, not a proper name], one of the highest-ranking of these people, promised the king that he would willingly become a Christian. The king returned to Aix-la-Chapelle, where he celebrated the Nativity and the Resurrection, as he had done the year before.

At this time pope Hadrian died in the city of Rome (25 December 795). His successor in the see was named Leon. As soon as he was consecrated, he sent the keys of the church of Saint Peter to the king, together with the insignia of the city of Rome, and many other presents, and asked him to send to Rome a number of his princes, so that they might receive, in the king's name, the oaths of obedience from the people of the city. For this task the king sent Angilbert, the abbot of Saint Riquier, and with him he sent many rich jewels from his storehouse to the church of Saint Peter.

Then the king gathered his army and invaded Saxony, ordering his son Pepin to gather an army of Lombards and Bavarians, to attack the Huns in Pannonia. When Charles reached Saxony, he laid waste the entire land, and then returned to spend the winter at Aix-la-Chapelle. Meanwhile, his son Pepin, who had invaded Pannonia, fought against the Huns, driving them, totally defeated, beyond a year that was named the Theiss. He laid waste their fields and the entire countryside, took their treasures and wealth, and returned to his father at Aix-la-Chapelle. Pepin gave his father the riches that he had won from the Huns in Pannonia, and the king sent part of them to the church in Rome, and very generously distributed part among his princes and knights. Tudo, of whom we spoke above, who was a prince of the Huns, came to the king as he had promised. He and all those who came with him were baptized. He gave an oath of loyalty to the king, who honored him very much, giving him jewels from his treasury. Tudo then returned, but did not remain loyal or a Christian long. God, however, gave him an appropriate reward, but the history does not mention it. That winter the king remained at Aix-la-Chapelle until after the Resurrection had been celebrated.

Barcelona is a city near the border of Spain, sometimes held by Saracens, and sometimes by Christians. At this time it was held by a Saracen named Zathun, who came to the king at Aix-la-Chapelle and voluntarily submitted the city and himself to the king. At this point the king sent his son Louis with part of his men to siege the city of Huesca, while he himself went to Saxony, as usual, to devastate the entire country and restrain the treachery of this wicked nation. He did not leave until he had traversed all sections of the country, waging war in the outermost parts, which extent to the great sea, between the Elba and the Weser. When he had done a thorough job of destruction, he returned to Aix-la-Chapelle. During his stay there, an emissary named Abdallah, a Saracen, the son of Abimauge (Emir ibn Muawijah), the king of Mauretania [Abdallah came from Mauritania, but his father was not the king; Primat's error] came to him; another emissary emissary also arrived, whose name was Theoctisos; he represented Nicetas, the patrician of Sicily, and he carried letters from the emperor of Constantinople. He heard these emissaries, and gave them leave to depart, and each returned to his own country. Then the king planned to go to spend the winter in Saxony, finally to end this war which had lasted so long. He ordered his two sons, Pepin and Louis, to come with him, and they carried out his order as soon as they had returned from fighting, Pepin from Italy and Louis from Spain. He crossed the Rhine and invaded Saxony, pitching his tents on the Weser. The place where he had his troops bivouac he named Herstelle, which is the name still used by the people of that country. He distributed his army through the land to spend the winter. He heard emissaries from the Huns, who brought him fine presents, and gave them leave to depart; he also gave an honorable welcome to the emissaries of Alfonso, the king of Galicia [Alonso the Chaste ruled 791-842], who brought many fine presents. The king sent his two sons out, Pepin to Italy, and Louis to Aquitaine, and he sent Abdallah [the Saracen mentioned above, who had been sent to him as an emissary] with his son Louis, to guide him through Spain. In accordance with the king's wishes, he led Louis wherever he wished to go, and the king remained in Saxony the whole winter, celebrating Noel and Easter there.

As spring approached (it was not yet time to fight, because the fields were still bare), the Saxons, who lived beyond the Elba, rose up, capturing the emissaries and the men whom the king had sent there to guard the country and administer justice, killing some of them, and holding the others for ransom. They also captured Godescal, as he was returning from a mission on which the king had sent him to Sigfrid, the king of Denmark, and they killed him. The news upset the king very much; he gathered his army at the Weser, and had his tents pitched at a place called Mithidan (Minda). Then he invaded Saxony to take vengeance for the humiliation and the loss of his people. He destroyed by fire and slaughter all the land between the Elba and the Weser. But the Saxons beyond the Elba, who had killed his envoys, became even more arrogant, since they had not yet endured such suffering. They took up arms and invaded the country of the Obodrites, who were allies of the French, and had always behaved loyally towards them from the time that they had made their pledge. When he heard of their invasion, Thrasco, the leader of these people, confronted the Saxons [Nordliudi in RFA] with his entire army, at a place called Suentana, fought them, and killed many of their men. 4000 of them fell at the first onslaught. Eburis, one of the king's emissaries, was at the battle, fighting on the side of the Obodrites, on the right wing. The Saxons were defeated and shamefully fled from the field, losing many men; they returned to their own country utterly confounded, having suffered great losses. The king then totally devastated their land, relieving his feelings about the envoys and people who had been killed, and returned to France, to Aix-la-Chapelle. There he received and heard emissaries from Helen, the empress of Constantinople (Irene); their names were Michael Ganglianos and Theophilus. Helen governed the Empire because her son Constantine had been captured and blinded by his own people, because of his arrogance and his wretched behavior. The emissaries came to the king to ask for Sisinnius, the brother of Tarasius, the patriarch of Constantinople, who had been captured in battle. The king willingly granted their request, and they departed. Then other emissaries, Roia and Basiliscus, arrived, from Alfonso, the king of Spain, carrying gifts and presents from their lord. They brought seven Moorish slaves, and seven mules with rich golden reins, which king Alfonso had won when he took the city of Clisipone (Olisipo, i.e., Lisbon) from the Manubiens [Primat's mistranslation of manubiis, "spoils"] Although they were sent as gifts, they seemed tokens of victory. The king gave a very honorable reception to the emissaries and their gifts, giving them in turn fine gifts, and permission to leave whenever they wished.

An incident. At this time the Moorish ships invaded islands in the sea, called the Balearic Islands, and did great damage there before leaving. All winter, until after Easter, the king remained at Aix-la-Chapelle.


At this time a very ugly thing happened (799, perhaps 25 April) in the city of Rome. One day, the apostle Leo was going from the church of Saint John Lateran to another church, called Saint Lawrence of the Grail [i.e., "grill")], to deliver a sermon to the people, and to conduct a service for Our Lord. Suddenly he fell into an ambush set for him by the Romans, near this same church [Liber Pontificalis locates the spot more exactly: "in front of the monastery of Saints Stephen and Sylvester, which pope Paul had built"]. They struck him from his horse, tore out his eyes, and cut out his tongue, according to some accounts [Primat's si come il sembla a aucuns represents a touch of skepticism not in the LP]. They stripped him naked and left him there half-dead. He was carried to the church of Saint Erasmus the martyr, by the orders of the very people who had committed the [The scene is far more complicated in the LP] Albinus, one of his chamberlains, took him out of this church through a wall, and he was taken in by Aminigile (Winigis), duke of Spoleto, who had come quickly to Rome when he heard what had happened, and had the Pope carried to his home, which was in the city [Winigis, according to LP, took him to Spoleto] When he heard what had happened, the king was very angry that the head of holy Church and the vicar of saint Peter had been dishonored, and he ordered that the Pope be brought to him with great honor. According to some chronicles, at this point, Our Lord miraculously restored his eyes and his tongue.

The king was determined to fight in Saxony, and nothing could deter him from going. He held a general meeting of his barons and people on the Rhine, at a place called Lippe (Lippeham), pitching his tents, and waiting for the apostle Leo, whom he had summoned. Meanwhile he sent his son Charles, together with part of his army, to a place named Albim, to handle negotiations with the Wilzis and the Obodrites, and to receive some of the Saxons of Nordlind (Nordliudi). While he was waiting for his son's return, the apostle Leo arrived; the king gave him a very honorable reception, and kept him with him I don't know how many days. The Pope told him the reason he had come, and the king had him brought back to Rome by his own people, who put him back in his see. While the king was still at Lippie, he received Daniel, the emissary from Michael, the patrician of Sicily, and gave him leave to depart. On the other hand, bad news arrived about Eric and Gerold, two of his knights, for Gerold, who was provost of Bavaria, had been killed in a battle against the Huns, and Eric, the other, who had previously participated in many great battles, and had won many victories, had been captured and killed by the citizens of Tarsatica, a city in Liburnia. Then the king invaded Saxony, traversed the entire country, put down the rebels, and straightened everything out, for the time being. Then he turned back to France, went to spend the winter at Aix-la-Chapelle, where he celebrated the Nativity and the Resurrection. Count Wido, provost in charge of the Breton March, came to Aix-la-Chapelle; that year he had traversed all of Britanny, together with some other counts who went with him on this task, and he carried, in written documents, the arms and the names of the dukes and princes of that country who had submitted to him. It seemed clear that he had conquered this entire country, and so it was, had not the treachery of the people of Britanny turned against him. The insignia of the Moors who had been killed attempting to invade and devastate the Balearic islands were also brought in.

A Saracen named Azan sent to him the keys of the city of Huesca, and many other presents, promising that he would turn the city over to the king at the proper time and place.

The patriarch of Jerusalem sent a monk to deliver to him a blessing, and other relics of the holy place of the Resurrection. When he wished to leave, the king gave him permission, and sent with him Zachariah, one of the priests of the palace, loading him with gifts and offerings to carry to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The king remained at Aix-la-Chapelle until he had celebrated the nativity of Our Lord.

In the spring, the king left Aix, about the middle of March. He rode along the shore of the sea of Flanders, towards the land of Neustria, which is now called Normandy. He placed ships and galley on the sea as protection against the incursions of the Normans, who often did damage there. He celebrated the Resurrection at Saint Riquier in Pontiu, and from there departed again, travelling along the shore of the sea, to Rouen. He crossed the Seine, and went directly to Tours, to make offering and to pray in the church of Saint Martin. Because the queen (Liutgarde) became ill, he remained there several days. There she died, and was buried in the church, on the second nones of June (4 June). From there the king set out to return; he made his way to Paris by way of Orleans, and then he went to Aix-la-Chapelle. In the city of Mainz he called a meeting.

After these activities, he assembled an army and set off for Lombardy; when he got to Ravenna, he stayed only seven days. he gave command of his army to his son Pepin, and ordered him to go to the duchy of Benevento. The king left Ravenna with him, and together they reached the county of Ancona. There the king parted from him and went off to Rome. The apostle Leo came to meet him, the day before he got to the city, at a town called Nomentium (Mentana). With great joy and honor the king welcomed him, and when they had eaten together, the apostle departed from him, and went before him to Rome. The next day the king entered the city, and the apostle stood on the steps of the church of Saint Peter, with a great company of cardinals and of the clergy, and welcomed him as he got down from his horse, giving praise to Our Lord. Then they led the king inside the church. This happened, according to my reckoning, on the eighth calends of December (24 November). Seven days after he arrived, the king called a meeting with the apostle, the cardinals, and the other prelates, and told them openly the reason for his coming, and thereafter he began the task which was the purpose of his trip. This task was very difficult to begin, because it involved investigating the crimes with which the apostle was charged. When no one came forward to prove him guilty of these crimes, the apostle (23 December) took the text of the Gospels in his hands, and climbed up into the pulpit, in front of all the people, called upon the name of the Holy Trinity, and cleared himself of the crimes with which he was falsely charged. On the same day the priest Zacharias, whom the king had sent to Jersalem, came to Rome, bringing with him two monks, emissaries from the patriarch, who carried with them, as his representatives, the keys of the Holy Sepulchre and the Mount of Calvary, and a silken flag [RFA mentions no material. Primat has a tendency to add silk to his descriptions, where possible]. The king graciously received the emissaries and the gifts, and when they had remained at his court as long as they wished, he dismissed them with rich gifts.