BECK index

Franks and Anglo-Saxons 613-899

Isidore and Christian Spain
Lombards and Franks 613-774
Charlemagne 768-814 and Alcuin
Frank Empire Divided 814-899
Anglo-Saxons 616-865
Beowulf and Irish Legends
John Scotus Erigena
Danes in England and Alfred 871-899

This chapter has been published in the book MEDIEVAL EUROPE 610-1250. For ordering information, please click here.

Isidore and Christian Spain

Isidore succeeded his brother Leander as bishop of Seville about 600. Their sister Florentiana supervised more than a thousand nuns in forty convents. Isidore presided over the second council at Seville in 619 and probably at the fourth council of Toledo in 633. Isidore had dedicated his History of the Kings of the Goths, Vandals, and Suevi to King Suinthila (r. 621-631) for his royal virtues and generosity to the poor; but after Suinthila was deposed, Isidore withdrew his praise and supported King Sisenand, who may have been the first Western monarch in the middle ages to be anointed by bishops. The 633 Toledo council in its Canon 75 called for "the strengthening of our kings and the stability of the Gothic people."1 The Toledo council of 636 prohibited kings from confiscating property lawfully acquired by their predecessors and made the king elected by the Gothic nobility. Isidore wrote many books and was working on the Etymologies when he died in 636. Isidore helped to keep alive classical learning in an age that believed philosophy without religion is of little value. Even his moral judgments come out mostly in his discussion of angels and demons. Most of the education that did go on in Europe in the middle ages came through those in the Church and its monasteries.

Isidore based his Three Books of Sentences on morals and theology mostly on the works of Augustine and Pope Gregory. He believed that the life of the body is brief and limited compared to the Spirit. In his Sentences he wrote,

Holy men desire to spurn the world
and devote the activity of their minds to things above,
in order to convey themselves back to the place
from which they have come,
and withdraw from the place into which they have been cast.2

Isidore's encyclopedic Etymologies became a basic text book for the middle ages; only the Bible was more widely read in western Europe for the next nine centuries. Isidore was concerned that ignorance, which nourishes vice and is the mother of all errors, would increase without good education. His disciples founded schools in Toledo, Mérida, Zaragoza, and Palencia. In addition to the seven traditional liberal arts of grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, he also discussed the important professions of law and medicine, wrote a book on times, and three books on theology. Law, medicine, and theology would become important curricula in the medieval universities founded several centuries later.

In the book on logic or dialectic Isidore defined philosophy as "the knowledge of things human and divine, united with a zeal for right living."3 He interpreted the four classical virtues: wisdom distinguishes good from evil; courage endures adversity with calmness; temperance bridles lust and desire; and justice by right judgment renders each one's due. He observed that philosophy as meditating upon death is most suitable to Christians, who trample on worldly ambitions and live to learn for a future realm. Practical philosophy deals with moral customs, economics or domestic affairs, and the civil state. Isidore differentiated the human species as the only one that laughs. In addition to an etymological dictionary of a thousand terms Isidore also used his etymological approach in discussing such diverse topics as languages, races, empires, war, government, family, animals, geography, architecture, minerals, agriculture, and amusements. He condemned the cruel spectacles popular in Spain that had replaced gladiatorial games with tournaments between warriors and the ancient Iberian sport of bull-fighting.

The most influential book in Isidore's Etymologies was the one on law. He wrote that natural law is common to all people by natural instinct rather than by statutes. Examples of natural law include the union of a man and woman, educating children and their right of inheritance, payment of debts, defense against aggression, communal property, and equal freedom for all. Isidore believed that private property and slavery resulted from sin. Without sin there would be no need for private property nor for government. What people enact he called civil law, and the interactions between states developed the law of nations and wars military law. Laws of commerce on the seas were named after the island of Rhodes. Laws are made to protect the innocent from the wicked and should be drawn up for the common good of all citizens. Kings are obligated to promote justice, and one who does not rule correctly is not really a king and should lose his throne.

Suinthila (r. 621-631) established a Visigothic kingdom in Spain by driving out the Byzantines, while the bishops meeting in councils endeavored to promulgate canon laws, and dukes and counts governed local regions. Khindaswinth (r. 642-653) seized the throne after a civil war. Bishops at the sixth council of Toledo in 638 had passed a resolution not allowing Jews to violate the Catholic faith, and the 653 Visigothic law code influenced by Roman traditions promulgated by Reccesvinth (r. 653-672) forbade Jews from testifying against Christians. The Visigothic noble Fructuosus (d. 667) founded monasteries near Astorga and in Galicia. Bishop Braulio helped make Zaragoza an intellectual center, and Toledo thrived under the teaching of Bishop Julian (d. 690). King Wamba (r. 672-680) tried to reform the military but was deposed. His successors blamed the Jews and tried to convert them to Christianity or reduce them to slavery. When Wittiza (r. 700-710) died, Baetica duke Roderick (r. 710-711) overthrew his son but was soon overwhelmed and killed by the invading Muslims. By 718 they had taken over most of the Iberian peninsula except the north, where Pelayo (r. 718-737) established the Asturian kingdom. His son-in-law Alfonso I (r. 739-757) brought the Cantabrians into the struggle against the Muslims and extended Asturian territory south of the Duero River.

Fruela I (r. 757-768) was called the cruel and founded his capital at Oviedo in Leon; his raiding ended when he was murdered. Fruela's son Alfonso II (r. 791-842) was an infant, and four kings supported by Galicians intervened before a major defeat by the Muslims led to Alfonso's succession, as his predecessor Vermudo retired into a monastery. Charlemagne's Franks had failed to take Zaragoza in 778 but successfully invaded Catalonia and took Barcelona in 801. Iñigo Arista (d. 851) became the first king of Pamplona by defeating the Franks at Roncesvalles in 824 and Muslims to unite ancient Navarre. An Arab adventurer named Mahmud ibn 'Abd al-Djabbar fled from Amir 'Abd al-Rahman II to Asturia, but after seven years he was destroyed by Alfonso's army in 840.

The nephew of Alfonso II was also overthrown by Galicians, who backed Vermudo's son Ramiro I (r. 842-850). A Muslim army from Cordoba sacked Leon in 846. Ramiro's son Ordoño (r. 850-866) invaded the Muslims in 854 but was defeated, though Toledo continued to revolt until 859, when Ordoño's forces defeated the independent Muslim Musa Ibn Musa. Alfonso III (r. 866-910) built castles in what was so named Castile and secured an alliance with Basques by marrying Count Iñiguez's daughter Jimena. A conspiracy resulted in Asturia, Leon, and Galicia being divided among Alfonso's three sons in 910. Barcelona count Wifred (r. 873-898) asserted independence from the Frank empire, founding a dynasty that would rule Catalonia for the next five centuries.

Christian Spain 900-1095

Lombards and Franks 613-774

Frank Civil Wars and Brunhild 561-613

By the reign of Agilulf (590-615) the Lombards were well established in the Italian peninsula with a capital in the north at Pavia and strong duchies in Spoleto, Tuscany, and Beneventum. The monk Secundus counseled Queen Theodelinda and tutored prince Adaloald (r. 615-624), the first Lombard king baptized by the Catholic rite. After Ariold (r. 624-636), Rothari (r. 636-643) published his edicts in Latin with key terms explained in German. Rothari's son Rodwald was assassinated in 652. Aripert I (r. 653-661) ended the Arianism at the Pavia court. Monasteries were established at Monza, Milan, and Pavia. Aripert divided the Lombard kingdom between his two sons; however, Beneventum duke Grimwald (r. 662-671) entered Pavia to help Godebert but killed him, causing his older brother Perctarit at Milan to flee to the Avars. Under Grimwald the Lombards successfully fought the Franks and the Byzantines. When Friuli duke Lupus refused to swear allegiance, the king got the Avar khagan to attack him in 663. The invading Avars refused to leave, and Grimwald had to go to war to force them out. At Grimwald's death Perctarit (r. 671-686) recaptured the throne and associated his son Cuninebert (r. 686-700) in his government. Cuninebert was driven out of Pavia after a protracted war with rebellious Alahis of Trent until Alahis was killed near Como, and Cuninebert returned.

After a civil war over the succession, Raginbert's son Aripert II (r. 700-712) emerged as king of the Lombards and tried to rule justly while Duke Ansprand plotted to gain power. When Ansprand raised a force, Aripert's army mutinied; Aripert fled Pavia but was dragged down by the gold he was carrying and drowned. Ansprand died three months later, and his son Liutprand (r. 712-744) became king. Liutprand took Narnia from the Byzantines and plundered Classis, the port of Ravenna. In 731 Liutprand intervened in Beneventum to install as duke his nephew Gregory, who was killed seven years later. Then Godeschalk was duke there for three years until Liutprand subjugated Spoleto and attacked Beneventum, appointing his grand-nephew Gisulf II. Liutprand also conquered four cities in Roman territory in order to gain access to Spoleto when the Pope would not surrender rebelling vassals. In 739 Pope Gregory III (731-741) wrote two letters to the Frank Charles Martel, asking for help against the Lombards. Roman troops helped Spoleto duke Transamund II recapture his duchy by murdering Hilderic, whom Liutprand had appointed. Pope Gregory was succeeded by Zacharias (741-752), who asked for the four towns back in exchange for Transamund being consigned to a cloister. Thus Liutprand made peace with Rome and consolidated the Lombard kingdom.

Liutprand was succeeded by his grandson Hildebrand, but after seven months he was replaced as Lombard king by Friuli duke Ratchis (r. 744-749), who went to war with Rome. Ratchis retired to a monastery and was succeeded by his brother Aistulf (r. 749-756), who drove out the Byzantine exarch Eutychius in 752 before marching on Rome. Zacharias died, but Pope Stephen II negotiated a delay. Stephen went to Ponthion to meet Pippin and anointed him Frank king in 754; the next year Pippin declared war on the Lombards in order to reinstate the Pope. Aistulf granted Stephen safe conduct and came to a peace agreement with the invading Franks; but the next year Aistulf attacked Roman territory again and besieged Rome. Once again the Franks invaded and burned Italy until Aistulf was required to pay a third of his royal treasure for peace. After Aistulf died hunting, Desiderius (r. 756-774) gained the support of the Pope, but he was the last independent Lombard king. Charlemagne became sole Frank king in 771; but after Desiderius backed a Frank faction against him, he repudiated his Lombard wife and sided with Pope Adrian. Charlemagne's Franks routed the Lombard army, besieged Pavia, and forced Desiderius to swear an oath of fealty and go into exile in 774.

After Brunhild was killed in 613, Chlotar II united the Frank kingdoms of Burgundy and Austrasia with Neustria, where he was king since 584. He made his capital at Paris and in 614 increased the powers of the church at a council, appointing Arnulf bishop of Metz. Chlotar II made the first Pippin of Landen mayor of the palace of Austrasia. His oldest son Dagobert I (r. 629-639) succeeded him, and his second son Charibert was made duke of Aquitane. Arnulf and Pippin got Dagobert to order Chrodoald killed. Dagobert had been tutored by Pippin, whom he summoned to Neustria, making his three-year-old son Sigebert II (r. 629-656) king of Austrasia, which was to be run by Adalgesil and Cologne archbishop Cunibert. In 633 Slavs attacked Thuringia, and the Franks, though assisted by the Lombards and Bavarians, had to remit the tribute the Saxons had been paying the Franks since 536; the Thuringians became independent in 640.

When Dagobert died, the Frank kingdom was divided between his sons Sigebert II in Austrasia while Neustria and Burgundy went to six-year-old Clovis II (r. 639-657). The powerful Pippin brought part of the treasury to Metz but died the next year. The Columbanian convert Amandus preached in Gaul and in 640 established a monastery at Nivelles, where Pippin's widow Itta was replaced in 652 as abbess by her daughter Gertrude, who sent to Rome and Ireland for books and ruled a double monastery of men and women with Columbanian principles until she died in 659. When Thuringian duke Radulf rebelled, Pippin's son Grimoald intervened and helped save Sigebert's life. Grimoald then had the royal tutor and palace mayor Otto assassinated so that he could become mayor of the palace and put his son on the throne as Childebert the Adopted; but Clovis II had them put to death and was succeeded by his son Chlotar III (r. 657-673), whose Anglo-Saxon mother Balthild was a capable administrator and withdrew into the monastery she founded at Chelles in 664. The Austrasians became independent by putting Chlotar's brother Childeric II (r. 662-675) on that throne.

When Chlotar III died, Ebroin, his mayor of the palace in Neustria, tried to rule on behalf of a third brother named Theuderic III (r. 673, 675-690), but they were sent to a monastery when conspirators gave the Neustrian crown to Childeric II of Austrasia. After having a noble whipped, Childeric, his queen, and son were assassinated by another conspiracy. Ebroin and Theuderic III came back to rule Neustria while Dagobert II (r. 676-679) returned from Ireland, where he had been taught by York bishop Wilfrid, to reign over Austrasia. Dagobert II and Martin, brother of the second Pippin of Herstal, were killed by the ambitious intrigues of Ebroin, who was murdered himself, probably in 681. This allowed Pippin II to gain power by defeating Neustria at the battle of Tertry in 687, unifying Austrasia and Neustria. Though Merovingians continued to sit on thrones, power was now in the hands of Pippin.

Frisian king Aldgisl allowed the Anglo-Saxon missionaries Wilfrid of York, Wigbert, and Willibrord to preach in his country. The pagan chieftain Radbod refused conversion, because he preferred to join his ancestors in the next world. Pippin II defeated Radbod and invited Willibrord to go to Rome to be consecrated archbishop of the Frisians by Pope Sergius I. Thuringian dukes Theobald and Heden gave Willibrord land grants in Kitzingen. The Anglo-Saxons Hewald the White and Hewald the Black became martyrs attempting to convert the Saxons. In 697 Pippin drove the Frisians north of the Rhine, and he also regained Frank sovereignty over the Alemanni after Gottfried died in 709. Pippin supported the founding of several new monasteries and kept abbots under his patronage. In the last year of his life when Pippin was ill, conspirators murdered his son Grimoald, Neustrian mayor of the palace; but Pippin recovered and gained revenge.

When Pippin II died in 714, his wife Plectrude tried to rule with her grandson Theodoald and had Pippin's son Charles (Martel) by Alpaid imprisoned. Neustrian nobles rejected Theodoald and elected Ragamfred mayor of the palace, and with Frisians led by Radbod they defeated the Pippin family led by Charles, who had escaped from prison, and in 716 they forced Plectrude to give up treasure from Cologne. By 717 Charles had raised enough forces to defeat the Neustrians at Vinchy and move back to Cologne to oust Plectrude and secure the treasury and his position as mayor. The next year he defeated Radbod, and the Frisians withdrew after Radbod died in 719. Charles fought against Ragamfred and Aquitane duke Eudo, who both fled. Charles won again at Soissons in 719 and now controlled Neustria as well as Austrasia. He appointed his relatives and noble supporters to ecclesiastical as well as secular positions. The term "vassal" now appeared in the laws of the Alemanni and Bavarians for those who were dependent on lords for protection and swore to serve them.

Some bishops, such as Savaric of Auxerre, enhanced their power by military means; in 714 and 715 he subjugated Orleans, Nevers, Avallon, and Tonnerre, and he was marching on Lyons when he died of a stroke. In 719 the Anglo-Saxon Winfrith, later called Boniface, went to Rome as a pilgrim and was sent by Pope Gregory II (715-731) into Germany to convert pagans. Four years later Charles ordered all his agents to protect Boniface, and the next year he supported a monastic settlement by Pirmin on Reichenau in Lake Constance. Irish monks had been established at Honau in the Rhine River in 722 by Eticho's son Adalbert. Pirmin was driven off Reichenau in 727 but was entrusted with the monastery at Murbach that Adalbert's son Eberhard founded that year. These efforts by Pirmin and his disciples helped Charles gain control of the eastern provinces.

Muslim invasions, which began taking over Spain in 711, were spreading across the Pyrenees, but in 721 Toulouse was successfully defended by Aguitane duke Eudo. In 725 Muslims raiding in Burgundy sacked Autun. Duke Eudo married his daughter to a Berber chieftain, who was defeated and killed by the Muslim leader Abdul Rahman. With perhaps about 70,000 fighting men Abdul Rahman took Bordeaux by assault. Aguitane duke Eudo appealed to Charles, and an army of Franks, Burgundians, Gallo-Romans, and Germans met the Muslims between Tours and Poitiers in 732, defeating them and killing Abdul Rahman. This battle is considered a turning point that stopped the Islamic advance into western Europe and earned Charles the name of Hammer or Martel, conferred by later historians. The same year Charles took over Burgundy by driving out his former ally Eucherius. The next year Charles regained Lyons, Vienne, and Valence.

After Eudo died in 735, Charles took over the Garonne valley and Bordeaux. While Charles went back to fight the Frisians, Provence duke Maurontus joined with Abdul Rahman's son Yussuf and helped the Muslims conquer much of Provence in the next three years; but in 737 Charles returned to cross the Rhone, march on Narbonne, and drive the Muslims out of Septimania (Languedoc). Charles then laid waste to Provence, trying to burn down Roman arenas. After fighting the Saxons in the north, Charles returned again in 739 to drive the Muslims completely out of Provence through Marseilles and Arles. In 739 Pope Gregory III appealed to Charles Martel for help against the Lombards, and the Pope declared Charles the Roman patricius, as the Catholic church, discontent with the Byzantines, turned toward the growing power of the Franks.

When Charles died in 741, he gave his eldest son Carloman Austrasia, Alemannia, and Thuringia while leaving Burgundy, Neustria, and Provence to his son Pippin. Charles' son Grifo by the Bavarian Sunnichild got little and made trouble. The new mayors' elder sister Chiltrude fled and married Bavarian duke Odilo. Alemanni, Bavarians, Slavs, and Saxons struggled for independence in the east, but Carloman and Pippin forced Swabian duke Theobald to swear allegiance and give hostages. In the west revolting Aquitane duke Hunoald took Bourges; but in 745 Hunoald was forced to deliver hostages and pledge fealty before retiring into a monastery on the isle of Ré.

In 742 Pippin named Chrodegang bishop of Metz, and Boniface founded the monastery of Fulda in Hesse in 744. The Irish cleric Virgil visited Pippin for two years and was consecrated bishop of Salzburg. Carloman finally defeated the Alemanni at Canstatt in 746 and was reported to have put several thousand people to death. The next year Carloman abdicated so that he could retire to a monastery near Rome. Pippin released Grifo, who fled to the Saxons and then Bavaria. Pippin re-captured Grifo and gave him some lands between the Seine and the Loire, but Grifo fled to Aquitane duke Waiofar and was not killed until 753 on his way to Italy. In 748 Duke Odilo died, but Pippin quashed the Saxons with his army and imposed an annual tribute of 500 cattle.

Efforts to reform the church began in 742 when Carloman convened the Germanic Council of bishops and priests. The next year Pope Zacharias held a Lateran council to condemn clerical immorality, and in 744 Pippin gathered 23 bishops at Soissons. Straying clerics and deacons were deprived of their status. Those in the church were no longer to bear arms or accompany the army except as chaplains. Hunting was forbidden, and clerics were not to live with a woman. Monks guilty of fornication would be imprisoned, and fallen nuns would have their heads shaved. The Rule of Benedict became the monastic guide and the basis of the Rule for Canons; bishops were given jurisdiction over clerics to prevent them from wandering. Carloman and Pippin also condemned pagan practices. Carloman was going to return ecclesiastical funds but then decided that the church's wealth was needed to support the army, because fealty would be lost if church lands were taken away from the nobles. A system of precarial tenure was devised that confirmed the property rights of the church but allowed lords to give their vassals lifetime tenure of benefices in exchange for rents to the churches and monasteries on those lands. Fulrad, for example, owned ten domains in Alsace, and in 749 Pippin made him abbot at St. Denis.

Pippin sent Fulrad and bishop Burchard to ask Pope Zacharias about kingship to prepare the way for Pippin to be anointed by bishops king of the Franks in 751, replacing the last Merovingian, Childeric III, who was sent to a monastery. Boniface went back to convert more pagan Saxons but was killed by marauding Frisians in 754. Pope Stephen II came to visit King Pippin to ask his help against the Lombards and anointed him in 754. Stephen gave Metz bishop Chrodegang the pallium, making him his papal representative in Francia. Frank liturgical forms were increasingly Romanized. Lombard king Aistulf sent Carloman from his monastery to negotiate with his brother Pippin, who imprisoned him in a monastery until his death. Pippin invaded Italy the next year, captured Pavia, and made Aistulf promise to return Ravenna; but as soon as the Frank army had departed, the Lombards attacked Rome again. After another Frank invasion, Pippin demanded more hostages from Aistulf and gave the lands claimed by the Byzantine empire to the Pope as the "Republic of St. Peter." When Lombard king Desiderius did not fulfill the treaty, Pope Paul I, who succeeded Stephen II in 757, wrote to Pippin as the "new David." Pippin fought the Saxons in 753 and 758. In 759 the Franks captured Septimania and took Narbonne back from the Muslims. Pippin led annual campaigns against Aquitane starting in 760 and just about had it conquered by the time he died in 768.

Charlemagne 768-814 and Alcuin

At Pippin's death in 768 the Frank kingdom was divided between his sons Charles (known as Charlemagne), who was probably 21, and Carloman, 17. Charlemagne marched south to put down a revolt in Aquitane led by Hunold, but his brother Carloman refused to join the fight. Their mother Bertrada tried to form an alliance with the Lombards by marrying her daughter Gisela to a son of Desiderius while Charlemagne married the Lombard king's daughter Desiderata even though he already had a son by Himilitrude. When Carloman died in December 771, his widow Gerberga fled to Desiderius with her two young sons. Charlemagne sent Desiderata back to Pavia, breaking off relations with the Lombards, as he married the Swabian Hildegard. To end the marauding of the Saxons in 772 Charlemagne began a 32-year war by sacking their pagan shrines at Irminsul. Then he crossed the Alps and besieged Pavia in October 773. During the siege Charlemagne visited Rome at Easter and confirmed the donation of the Papal state. Pavia fell in June 774, and Charlemagne claimed the Lombard treasury, proclaiming himself king of the Lombards and allowing them to live under their previous laws. After Friuli duke Rodgaud tried to claim the Lombard crown, he was defeated and killed in 776.

Meanwhile the Saxons ravaged Hesse in 774, stimulating another Frank campaign the following summer and again 776. Mass baptisms of Saxons were performed. The next year Saxons submitted at a diet in Paderborn, where Muslim emissaries appealed to the Franks after Suleiman of Barcelona had revolted against the Umayyad rulers in Spain. There Pamplona surrendered to the Franks, who failed to take Zaragoza. Charlemagne gained a buffer territory called the Spanish March; but on the return march in 778 he ordered Pamplona razed so that it could not revolt, and the Franks were ambushed at Roncevaux by Basque guerrillas, who killed Breton Count Roland, later made famous by the epic Song of Roland. That year Widukind led another Saxon rebellion, but Charlemagne's forces defeated him in 779 at Bochult. The Frank king now sent missionaries led by the Anglo-Saxon Willihad along the lower Weser and Liudger to East Frisia.

In 782 Charlemagne appointed Saxon nobles as counts; but as soon as he left, Widukind destroyed the churches and drove out the missionaries. In revenge for Frank losses Charlemagne ordered 4,500 Saxon prisoners decapitated in one day at Verdun, and in 785 he established capital punishment for violating a church, refusing to fast during Lent, using pagan funeral rituals, refusing the Christian sacrament, and failing to abide by loyalty to the king. Pope Adrian congratulated Charlemagne, but Alcuin warned that levying fines and tithes before teaching the faith was hardly the gentle way of Christ. Willihad returned as bishop of Bremen in 789 and remained there until he died in 804. Eventually Widukind was given amnesty, converted to Christianity, and was made Duke of Saxony.

In 781 Charlemagne visited Rome so that Pope Adrian could crown his son Pippin as king of Italy and his son Louis king of Aquitane. In Bavaria Charlemagne demanded that his cousin Tassilo renew the pledges he had made Pippin in 757; after failing to get the Pope to take his side, Tassilo finally had to capitulate to the Frank army in 787, and the next year the king spared his life and sent him to a monastery. Bavaria thus was annexed to the Frank empire. Meanwhile Thuringian counts had rebelled in 786, and relations with Byzantine empress Irene deteriorated after the Franks invaded southern Italy in 787.

Charlemagne crossed the Elbe with local allies to campaign against the Wilzi and the Linoni in 789, moving toward the Baltic Sea. In 791 after the army fasted and prayed for three days, the Frank king punished the Avars for siding with Tassilo by invading the Danube region and taking over Ratisbon (Regensburg). In 792 an attempt to enthrone the hunchback Pippin, son of Charlemagne by Himilitrude, failed; the rebelling nobles were condemned, but Pippin was sent to a monastery. Massive efforts to link the Danube to the Rhine with a canal failed; but in 796 the Franks seized the immense Avar treasures, destroying their Ring capital. In 799 Bavarian governor Gerold and Friuli duke Eric were killed in an Avar revolt, but by 805 the Avar khagan had been baptized and pledged fealty, though many Avars migrated into the Slavic kingdom of the Bulgarian khagan Krum (r. 803-814).

The Saxon war continued, and 7,000 were deported in 794. Charlemagne spent the winter there in 797-8, deporting every third Saxon family, and the following year 1600 leaders were expelled. Pope Leo III was attacked by personal enemies in 799, and his face was cut. Charlemagne's envoys, Stablo abbot Wirund and Spoletium duke Winichis, took the Pope to Spoletium to recover. Then he was escorted to the Frank court and eventually back to Rome. Before going to Rome himself, Charlemagne sent his son Pippin to pillage Beneventum, where Duke Grimoald was revolting. Since Irene had removed and blinded her son in order to rule the Byzantine empire, Alcuin argued that the Roman emperor had been deposed and that only Charlemagne could save the churches of Christ. The Pope agreed that they should not be dominated by a woman, and Charlemagne was crowned Emperor by Leo III on Christmas day in 800.

In the south Louis invaded the Muslims in 797, and Barcelona fell to the Franks in 801 after a two-year blockade. The Christian kingdom of Asturia under Alfonso II became allied to the Frank empire. Charlemagne had his somewhat Christianized laws put in writing in 802. Murders persuaded by the devil were to be settled by paying compensation to the victims' family, and those relatives in turn were forbidden to continue the evil but must make peace. Finally in 804 he ended the Saxon war by deporting 10,000 families and distributing their land to his followers and allies, the Slavic Abodrites. In 805 the king sent his son Charles to invade Bohemia.

Frank ambassadors were sent to Harun al-Rashid at Baghdad in 797 and 807, the year Harun's envoys arrived at Charlemagne's court of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle). A two-year war with the Danes ended when their leader Godfred was murdered in 810. That year Charlemagne made peace treaties with Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I, Cordoba emir Al-Hakim, and Dane king Hemming. In the west although Wido defeated the Bretons in 799, causing them to pledge fidelity to the Frank king, they were still fighting for independence in 811. That year the Frank Emperor instituted an inquiry into the increasing desertion problem. The poor complained that they were being deprived of their property by bishops, abbots and officials as well as by military counts. Many serfs must have been unhappy, because there were strict laws against aiding runaways. No one was allowed to ignore a summons to war by the Lord Emperor, impede his commands, nor refuse to pay his taxes. Byzantine emperor Michael I recognized Charlemagne as Western Emperor in 812, and the next year Charlemagne crowned his son Louis, who inherited his entire kingdom of more than a million square kilometers after Charlemagne died of pleurisy in 814.

According to Einhard, who knew him from 791 to the end of his life, Charlemagne sought wisdom even though he never learned to write. The king studied grammar with Peter the Deacon of Pisa and was taught rhetoric, dialectic, and astrology by Alcuin. Charlemagne went to church in the morning and evening, and he gave large amounts to charity, even helping those in Syria, Egypt, Africa, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage. His will distributed most of his wealth to charity, and his favorite book was Augustine's City of God, which he apparently tried to manifest in his own forceful way. A monk called Notker the Stammerer (d. 912) also wrote a biography of Charlemagne with numerous anecdotes. A court jester moved Charlemagne to tears by noting that Uodalric had lost all his lands, which the king then restored. Charlemagne often made fun of bishops whom he felt were overly covetous, parsimonious, or extravagant. Criticized for eating early during Lent, Charlemagne made the commenting bishop eat after all the others so that he could understand why the king did that. Charlemagne's desire to increase learning in his empire that led to what is called the Carolingian renaissance can be seen from the letter he wrote to Fulda abbot Baugulf, which advises supplementing the Rule of Benedict with literary education:

Be it known, therefore, to your devotion pleasing to God,
that we, together with our faithful, have considered it to be useful
that the bishoprics and monasteries,
entrusted by the favor of Christ to our control,
in addition to the order of monastic life
and the intercourse of holy religion,
in the culture of letters also ought to be zealous in teaching
those who by the gift of God are able to learn,
according to the capacity of each individual,
so that just as the observance of the rule
imparts order and grace to honesty of morals,
so also zeal in teaching and learning may do the same for sentences,
so that those who desire to please God by living rightly
should not neglect to please him also by speaking correctly....
For we desire you to be,
as it is fitting that soldiers of the church should be,
devout in mind, learned in discourse,
chaste in conduct and eloquent in speech,
so that whosoever shall seek to see you out of reverence of God,
or on account of your reputation for holy conduct,
just as he is edified by your appearance,
may also be instructed by your wisdom,
which he has learned from your reading and singing,
and may go away joyfully giving thanks to omnipotent God.4

Numerous campaigns had pacified rebels and pagans, greatly expanding and consolidating the Frank kingdom by military force. Depending mostly on well equipped heavy cavalry provided by one out of four free men, the others were allowed to supervise farming by serfs. Efforts were made to keep the powerful iron weapons of the Franks out of their enemies' hands. Charlemagne ordered oaths of allegiance throughout his kingdom in 789, 792, and again after he was crowned emperor in 800, when every man over 12 years old had to swear allegiance. These were administered by pairs of missi dominici, a priest and a layman, who also conveyed royal edicts to provincial assemblies. The royal vassals then parceled out land to their vassal clients, making this feudal vassal system widespread in this era. Charlemagne appointed counts to govern counties and preside over a public judicial assembly. Local courts were conducted by seven scabini jurymen elected for life. Each year the Frank king convened an assembly of nobles, bishops, and military officers before his summer campaigns. Charlemagne ordered that clergy should not wander abroad, strive to make money, plunder, fornicate, quarrel, blaspheme, get drunk, nor kill.

Alcuin was born in Northumbria about the time Bede died in 735. He was taught in the cathedral community of York by Aelberht, whom Alcuin replaced as master of the school in 767 when Aelberht became bishop. Alcuin accompanied Aelberht on visits to Francia and Rome, bringing back enough books to make their library founded by York archbishop Egbert (732-766) the best in England. Alcuin wrote the historical poem The Bishops, Kings, and Saints of York about 781. Most of the poem is based on works by Bede, but he also praised the learning and saintly life of Aelberht. That year Alcuin went to Rome to receive the archbishop's pallium from Pope Adrian for Aelberht's successor Eanbald. At Parma Charlemagne invited Alcuin to join his court in order to promote educational reforms. Except for two visits to England, Alcuin moved around with the Frank king's itinerant court from 782 until they settled at Aachen in 794.

At about that time Alcuin wrote a book on rhetoric that is based mostly on De Inventione by Cicero and partly on Julius Victor's Ars Rhetorica from the fourth century. In this dialog between Charlemagne and Alcuin the king tells Alcuin what he wants to know, asking him questions, and Alcuin provides the answers. For example, Alcuin distinguishes the four principals in a trial as the following:

The judge must be armed with the scepter of justice,
the plaintive with the dagger of ill-will,
the defendant with the shield of piety,
and the witnesses with the trumpet of truth.5

After Alcuin discusses the various aspects of rhetoric all the way to training for delivery, the king suggests that integrity is most important in discourse, because speech reveals one's character.

Probably the most original part of Alciun's work on rhetoric is his interpretation of the four classical virtues from a Christian perspective. Alcuin recommends temperance as one of the four virtues from which grows elevation of mind, propriety, integrity, and superior training. After discussing the Greek idea of nothing excessive, Alcuin mentions as most important virtue, knowledge, truth, and love of good. He describes virtue as having a perfect mind, a dignified character, a reasonable life, and excellent habits. The four aspects of virtue are prudence, justice, courage, and temperance. Prudence is knowledge and includes memory, intelligence, and foresight. Justice is a mental disposition to render what is due and includes the worship of God, the laws of humanity, and the principle of equity. Being disposed to justice in nature means religion, duty, gratitude, retribution, respect, and truthfulness, and in human conventions it involves contracts, equity, judicial decisions, and law. Courage is able to endure danger and hardship with an undaunted spirit, and it consists of high-mindedness, confidence, forbearance, and perseverance. Temperance is firm and moderate rule by reason of our desires and wayward passions, and its attributes are restraint, clemency, and moderation.

Next Charlemagne asks Alcuin to relate these classical virtues to the Christian religion. Alcuin suggests that prudence is knowing God as far as the human mind can. Justice means loving and keeping God's commandments. Courage conquers the "ancient enemy" and bears the world's trials. Temperance governs lust, controls greed, and calms all the passions. The goal is to love God and our neighbor. Charlemagne concludes the dialog by hoping that Alcuin's attitude will benefit the learned if they are not envious of him.

Also in 794 Alcuin, though only a deacon, attended the council at Frankfort convened by Charlemagne and spoke against the worship of images and Adoptionism. The latter was considered heretical, because it assumed the Nestorian idea that Christ had separate divine and human natures and then concluded that the man born of Mary was the adopted son of God, though they believed his divine nature is the true son of God. These beliefs developed in Spain, where they were championed by Elipandus and Urgel bishop Felix, and Alcuin wrote several books against each of them. In 799 Alcuin debated Felix, who recanted on Adoptionism. This controversy stimulated Alcuin and Paulinus to institute the practice of chanting the creed in the mass in Frank churches. This custom originally came from the East and was taken up in Spain and Ireland before the Franks spread it to the Roman church.

Alcuin objected to bishops being employed in military actions, to capital punishment, to surrendering persons who have taken refuge in a church, and to priests being involved in secular work. Alcuin suggested that money often spent on pilgrimages should be given to the poor. He counseled against wearing amulets and suggested that it is better to imitate saints in one's heart than to carry their bones in bags. He recommended studying the Bible and revised the latest copies of the Latin Vulgate. Alcuin criticized the force his king used to make Saxons and Avars submit to baptism, and he warned that the results would be disastrous. He believed that Christians are not made by violence but by preaching with love. In 799 he wrote to Charlemagne:

If possible, let peace be made with that unspeakable people. Leave threats for a little while, lest they harden their hearts and flee from you. Be content to hold fast what you have, lest in pursuing the lesser gain, you lose the greater.... Would that at last Divine grace might set you free from that unmentionable Saxon people - to travel, to govern, to do justice, to renew the churches, to correct the people, to defend the oppressed, to draw up laws.6

When Charlemagne's son Pippin was invading Beneventum to subdue Duke Grimoald, Alcuin advised that policy could do more than open war because vengeance should be left to God. Yet Alcuin expected his king to protect the Pope, punish his assailants, and defend the churches and the rule of justice. Alcuin favored a strong ruler imposing God's will, because he had little faith in the common people, believing that the crowd is always near madness. In 796 the king made Alcuin the abbot of St. Martin's at Tours, where he supervised 20,000 serfs on the land and students in the school. Alcuin died there on the day of Pentecost in 804.

Frank Empire Divided 814-899

When Charlemagne appointed his son Louis (r. 814-840) his sole heir as emperor in 813, he advised him to love God, govern and defend God's churches, be merciful to all his relatives, appoint loyal servants who will not take bribes, and do not dismiss anyone from his honor without good grounds. Louis the Pious began by driving the prostitutes out of Aachen and sending his sisters to the monasteries given them by their father. His cousins Adalhard and Wala withdrew as Louis surrounded himself mostly with counselors he had known while ruling Aquitane. Monks were ordered to follow the Rule of Benedict and cathedral clergy Chrodegang's Rule for Canons, while special statutes addressed the needs of nuns. After a beam nearly fell on him in 817, Louis crowned his oldest son Lothar co-emperor and made his other sons Pippin king of Aquitane and Louis king of Bavaria. Lyons archbishop Agobard wrote, dreaming of a spiritual empire in Europe

where there is neither gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision,
barbarian nor Scythian, Aquitanian nor Lombard,
Burgundian nor Aleman, slave nor freeman,
but where Christ is all, and in all.7

Fearing that he might lose the kingdom in Italy if Louis died, his nephew Bernard was encouraged to revolt by his advisors. When his father marched against him, Bernard had to submit. He was blinded along with the lay leaders and died two days later; clergy involved in the revolt were deposed and sent to monasteries. Louis then had his half-brothers Drogo, Hugh, and Theuderic sent to monasteries. After his wife Ermengard died in 817, Louis married the beautiful Swabian Judith; in 823 she gave birth to Charles. In 828 Louis had sent Hugh of Tours and Matfrid of Orleans to help Bernard of Septimania fight the Muslims; but they delayed so long that the Emperor removed them from office, as Wala pleaded to save their lives. Victorious Bernard came to court and became a close advisor of Louis and friend of Judith. The next year Judith persuaded Louis to give young Charles land in Alemannia, send Wala to the Corbie abbey, and make Bernard chamberlain. In 829 Lyons bishop Agobard and two other bishops wrote a letter to the Emperor against the danger of favoring Jews. Finding them useful in commerce, both Charlemagne and Louis the Pious treated Jews well and even appointed Eberard as master of the Jews for advice. Agobard's mistreatment of Jews was probably a factor in his eventual deposition.

Wala spread rumors that the Empress Judith and Bernard were guilty of adultery and sorcery, which led Aquitane king Pippin and the disgruntled counts Hugh and Matfrid to join with Bavaria king Louis to free the Emperor from these evil influences. Louis sent Bernard to Barcelona and surrendered himself at Compiegne. Lothar then arrived as Co-emperor and urged his father to retire to a monastery. Lothar had Bernard's brother Heribert blinded and sent Judith and her brothers to monasteries while keeping his father Louis at St. Denis. Louis refused to submit and promised his sons Pippin and Louis (the German) larger kingdoms, enabling him to regain his power a few months later in 830 at a meeting attended by Saxon and German nobles. Lothar returned to Italy while his brothers Pippin, Louis, and Charles (the Bald) were given larger kingdoms. Bernard of Septimania induced Pippin to revolt; so in 833 Emperor Louis gave Pippin's kingdom to Charles. Louis of Bavaria, assisted by Slavs, tried to invade Alemannia and was also put down by his father's imperial forces.

Lothar joined with his brothers Pippin and Louis the German, and he got Pope Gregory IV to support their cause of imperial unity. They all met in Alsace at what was later called the "Field of Lies." In the face of this united effort, the supporters of Emperor Louis went over to the other side. Archbishops Agobard and Ebbo of Rheims made Louis the Pious do penance for sacrilege, the death of Bernard, breaking the peace, and violating the church. The next year Fulda abbot Hrabanus Maurus complained in a treatise about sons revolting against their father and subjects against their sovereign. Bernard of Septimania got Pippin to revolt against Lothar, and they were joined by Louis of Bavaria and Louis the Pious, who again regained his authority in early 834. All this maneuvering turned to violence when Lothar captured Chalon and executed several nobles; but he was overwhelmed by the coalition and agreed to return to Italy and stay there. The next year Louis the Pious was crowned again, this time at Metz by his half-brother Drogo before 44 bishops, while Ebbo and Agobard were deposed.

In 826 Danish chieftain Harald Klak and 400 followers came to Ingelheim, were baptized, and pledged fealty to the Frank Emperor. The missionary Anskar accompanied them back to Denmark; but the next year Harald Klak was driven out by their other king, Godfred's son Horik. In 829 Anskar moved on to visit Swedish king Bjorn at Birka, where he converted the prefect Hergeir, who built a church. In 831 Anskar was consecrated archbishop at Hamburg for the northern region, and three years later Louis the Pious endowed a rich monastery in West Flanders. From 834 Viking raids of Frisia became more frequent, and the port of Dorestad was plundered four times. In 838 Dane king Horik claimed sovereignty there, and a treaty was made the next year.

In 837 Judith got Emperor Louis to give more territory to Charles. The next year when Pippin died, his heirs were ignored, and in 839 the empire was divided at the Meuse River, giving Charles the west and Lothar the east, while Louis the German was confined to Bavaria. Before Louis the Pious died in 840, he proclaimed Lothar emperor and commended Charles and Judith to his protection. Lothar announced he would take over the empire promised him in 817 and demanded that fealty be sworn to him. Young Pippin with Aquitanian nobles revolted against Charles and joined with Lothar. Charles the Bald and Louis the German combined their forces at Auxerre and confronted Lothar and Pippin II one year after their father's death in June, 841 in a bloody battle said to have involved 300,000 men that left 40,000 dead. Lothar was defeated and fled to Aachen. The following February at Salzburg Charles and Louis swore they would defend each other's rights; Charles the Bald and his men spoke in a Romance language, and Louis the German and his followers swore in a Germanic one. The two brothers marched on Aachen, which Lothar abandoned after taking its treasury.

In December 842 Charles married Orleans count Odo's daughter Ermentrude, allying himself with the powerful seneschal Adalhard. Louis was occupied crushing with executions and mutilations a league of rebellious Saxon peasants called the Stellinga, who had been allied with Lothar. After much negotiation the historic Treaty of Verdun was made in 843. Each remained king over his base - Charles of Aquitane, Lothar of Lombardy, and Louis of Bavaria, while Francia was shared among them, giving Charles the west, Louis the east, and Lothar a narrow strip from Italy to the Frisian coast. The main consideration was to include those benefices of vassals loyal to each of them. Yet the result would eventually be the nations of France and Germany separated by Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, and Netherlands. The next year the three brothers met at Yutz with Metz bishop Drogo and promised each other fraternal cooperation and assistance against external enemies, and they continued to meet at regular intervals for a few years.

Vikings raided Toulouse in 844, Paris and Hamburg in 845, Bordeaux in 848, and Orleans in 853. In 846 the see of Bremen was united with Hamburg, stimulating Anskar to return in 849 to Denmark, where King Horik let him build a church at Hedeby in Schleswig. Anskar also returned to Birka, where Swedish king Olaf was persuaded by an old Swede that the Christian god is stronger than Thor. In 850 Horik had to share power with his two nephews, and the Younger Horik closed the church; but after Horik I was killed in the civil war of 854, it was re-opened.

Lothar in 850 had allowed his son Louis II to be crowned emperor by Pope Leo IV (847-855), who promised Christians a heavenly reward if they died fighting Muslim raiders. Louis II restored the Aurelian walls around Rome. In southern Italy independent Capua had been destroyed by Muslims in 840; but it was rebuilt and defended against Benevento and Salerno by counts Lando (840-863) and Landulf (863-879). Bari was captured by Muslims in 841, and Louis II failed to retake it in 851. When Louis the German refused to meet his brothers Charles the Bald and Lothar at Liege in 854, they allied against him; but Lothar died in 855, and his middle kingdom was divided for his three sons. Louis II inherited the imperial title but only Italy. Lothar II ruled over a kingdom named after himself Lotharingia in the north. Charles was too young to rule over his Provence and Lyons, which were governed by his tutor, Vienne count Gerard II, who drove off Northmen from the Rhone delta in 860 and managed to keep Charles the Bald from invading Provence. When young Charles died in 863, Louis II gained Provence, but Lyons went to Lothar II. In 866 Louis II conscripted all the wealthy men into the army for a year, and Bari was finally recaptured in 871. Yet that year Louis II was imprisoned and released by Benevento's Adalgisus, and the next year Pope Adrian II recrowned Louis and absolved him of his promise of non-interference.

Even though he had a son Hugh by his mistress Waldrada, Lothar II was married in 855 to Theutberga. She bore no children, and in 860 he accused her of incest with her brother Hubert; but Pope Nicholas (858-867) refused to authorize the divorce even though Lothar had already married Waldrada in 862. To assert the hierarchical authority of the Pope and bishops over civil powers Nicholas quoted decretals from early bishops of Rome and the "donation of Constantine." Yet most scholars agree that all of these documents referred to as the Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals were forged only a few years before Nicholas became Pope, though at the time not even Hincmar, who challenged their validity, questioned their authenticity. In 863 Nicholas convened a local synod of Italian prelates in order to depose Cologne archbishop Gunther and Treves archbishop Theutgaud and to declare the decisions of the 862 Metz synod void. Pope Nicholas even went so far as to threaten with anathema anyone who condemned any of his measures. The deposed prelates appealed to Lothar's brother Louis II, who marched on Rome but could not budge Nicholas from his sanctuary in the church of St. Peter. Nicholas also took on Byzantine emperor Michael III in the Photius controversy. This was the last time a pope would interfere officially with the Eastern church.

While Charles the Bald was busy fighting Viking raiders and an Aquitanian revolt, Louis of Bavaria invaded western Francia in 858, winning most nobles to his side except for Sens archbishop Wenilo (Ganelon). Hincmar, Rheims archbishop (845-882), led clergy that remained loyal to Charles and condemned Louis, who withdrew back to the east. The two brothers met and once again swore in their respective languages to defend each other's rights. Hubert ruled the upper Rhone valley of Burgundy with banditry but was defeated and killed by Welf Conrad II in 864. When Lothar II died in 869, his illegitimate son Hugh could not succeed him.

In the east Saxon duke Liudolf had helped Louis the German crush the Stellinga and established a monastery at Brunhausen that was moved to Gandersheim in 858. Louis' sparsely populated region was governed mostly by abbeys such as Fulda, St. Gall, Reichenau, and Niederalteich. In 846 Louis helped the Moravian Christian Rastislav overthrow his pagan uncle Mojmir; but in 861 Carloman, the oldest son of Louis, helped the revolt of Rastislav, who the next year appealed to the Byzantines. By using Slavic language for his missionary work Constantine of Thessalonica and his brother Methodius were more successful in that region than missionaries using Latin. Westphalian poets did translate the Gospel story of the Savior into Old Saxon in the Heliand, and about 860 an Alsatian monk named Otfrid wrote a poetic life of Christ in 15,000 rhymed lines of the Krist.

In the west Charles the Bald was unfortunate with his children. Judith married Ethelwulf of Wessex; but he died in 858, and her next husband, his successor Ethelbald, died two years later. Judith returned to Francia as a queen but eloped with Count Baldwin of Flanders in 862. Charles eventually was reconciled with Baldwin, who helped fight the Northmen until he died in 879. Charles' oldest son Louis stuttered and was easily influenced. Another Charles suffered brain damage from a hunt in 864 and died two years later. Another Lothar was crippled and so entered a religious life. Carloman, the youngest, also became a priest and acquired abbacies at Soissons, Auxerre, St. Amand, St. Riquier, Lobbes, and at Metz before he revolted in 870 to become a robber baron; three years later Carloman was captured, blinded, and put in a monastery until his death in 876.

Charles the Bald also found trouble in Aquitane led by Bernard of Septimania and Pippin II. After seeing 111 Frank prisoners hanged across the river, Charles had paid the Viking Ragnar 7,000 pounds of silver to leave Paris in 845. Another large ransom was paid to Northmen for his chaplain Louis in 858. The next year peasants between the Seine and the Loire took up arms to defend themselves against Danish attacks; but local nobles, fearing disorder, killed the peasants. Brittany remained fairly independent as Salomon assassinated his cousin Erispoe in 857, replacing him as duke. Charles the Bald's wife Ermentrude was crowned queen in 866; but her brother William revolted, and Charles had him beheaded. Within a month after Lothar II died in 869, Charles the Bald had himself crowned at Metz; but the next year in the treaty of Meersen Charles gave up Metz and Aachen to his brother Louis the German to gain Lyons, though he had to fight Count Gerard for Vienne. Pope John VIII crowned Charles Emperor on Christmas day 875, while Louis was in western Francia at Attigny, though he was soon driven out by the nobles and Archbishop Hincmar. Louis the German died the following summer. John VIII asked Charles to defend Italy from Muslim invasions, and Louis the Stammerer was left as regent in June 877; but his father Charles died in October.

The aged Rheims archbishop Hincmar sent prudent advice to Louis for avoiding civil war. Louis the Stammerer was anointed king at Compiegne in December 877, but he died sixteen months later. The next year 16-year-old Louis III took over Neustria while his 13-year-old brother Carloman was given Aquitane and Burgundy. Also in 879 Boso of Provence claimed to be king of Italy; but he was defeated when Louis III and Carloman united with Louis the German's sons, Charles the Fat and Louis the Younger. Charles the Fat had been king of Alemannia since 876, and he was crowned emperor in 881. He organized an army against the Northmen but then made a treaty allowing them to settle in Frisia; their chief Godofrid was baptized and married Lothar II's daughter Gisela.

New Viking raids began in 879, but Louis III won a victory against them in 881 at Saucourt that was celebrated in the poem Ludwigslied. However, Louis III died after a riding accident the next year. That year Hincmar had to flee Rheims from raiders and died. According to the Annals of St. Bertin for the year 882, Charles the Fat paid Sigfrid and Gorm several thousand pounds of silver and gold taken from the treasury of St. Stephen at Metz and other saintly places. Carloman got rid of the Northmen for a while by giving them 1200 pounds of silver in 884, but he too died after a hunting accident later that year. The last remaining son of Louis the Stammerer, Charles the Simple, was only five years old. So Charles the Fat was invited to rule western Francia, briefly reintegrating the Carolingian empire. Later in 885 Norse raiders besieged Paris, and its young count Odo asked the Emperor for help. The diplomatic Charles responded by giving the Vikings 700 pounds of silver, but his letting them winter in Burgundy resulted in more pillaging. Charles the Fat was suffering such bad headaches that he submitted to surgery and agreed to abdicate in 887, a few months before he died. His nephew Arnulf became king of Germany, as the empire quickly broke into regional governments by nobles and clergy.

The heroic Paris count Odo was anointed king at Compiegne in 888, but within a month Wido was crowned in Burgundy. At the same time at Pavia nobles led by the Supponids elected Friuli marquis Berengar king; but he was driven into northeastern Italy by Spoleto's Guido II. Also in 888 the Welf Rudolph was elected king of Upper Burgundy. In 890 Boso's son Louis was crowned king of Provence. Guido was crowned Emperor by Pope Stephen V in 891. Arnulf went to war against the Moravians in 892 and even called on the Magyars for aid; three years later the Bohemians did homage. Rheims archbishop Fulk anointed Charles the Simple in 893; but in spite of an alliance with Arnulf, Odo forced Charles to renounce his crown and live in Laon.

In 894 Guido blocked invading German king Arnulf from entering Rome; but Guido died later that year. Arnulf welcomed the advice of bishops and abbots at his assemblies, and in 895 at Frankfurt 26 bishops promulgated a program of reforms that allowed bishops to hold markets, exact customs dues, and even gave them military responsibilities and the right to create their own vassals in the increasingly feudal system. Arnulf returned to Italy, overcame Guido's son Lambert, and was crowned Emperor by Pope Formosus in 896; but Arnulf became ill and abandoned Italy, allowing Lambert to re-assert his authority. The next year Pope Stephen VI convened a synod that declared void all the acts of Formosus and even mutilated his corpse; this caused a mob to depose Stephen, resulting in a few months of confusion. Then Pope John IX, working with Lambert, restored the acts and ordinations of Formosus in 898. After young Lambert died in a hunting accident that year, Berengar ruled the entire kingdom of Italy. Odo also died in 898, and Charles the Simple was once again elected king of western Francia. Arnulf had bitter conflicts with nobles. When he died in 899, he left his six-year-old son Louis with a feud between the Babenbergers and the Conradins.

Franks and Western Europe 900-1095

Anglo-Saxons 616-865

Saxon Kingdoms in Britain 476-616

Edwin had been expelled from Northumbria by Aethelfrith; but he was protected by East Angle king Raedwald, who refused to give him up to Aethelfrith. Instead in 616 Raedwald attacked Northumbria, defeating and killing Aethelfrith. Edwin became king of Northumbria and was known for his administration of justice and influence over other kingdoms. Edwin married Aethelburh, daughter of Kent king Aethelbert. She brought the bishop Paulinus, who was able to convert Edwin to Christianity in 627. The East Angles killed their king Raedwald and offered the throne to Edwin; but Edwin, in gratitude to his benefactor, let Raedwald's son Earpwold rule under his protection. Earpwold was succeeded by his brother Sigbert, who was so pious that he gave up his throne to his kinsman Egric in order to become a monk. A pilgrim from Ireland named Fursey established a monastery in East Anglia, and he had a vision warning against falsehood, coveting, discord, and cruelty. Expecting pagan attacks, Fursey traveled on to Gaul to visit the court of King Clovis II and built a monastery there too. When Mercia king Penda attacked, the East Angles compelled Sigbert to lead their army; but he would only carry a stick and was killed along with Egric, as their army scattered.

After ruling seventeen years 48-year-old Edwin quarreled with Cadwallon and defeated his Britons in battle. Edwin then subjected Demecia, Venedocia, and Menevia, burning their cities and farms. Cadwallon fled to Ireland and Brittany before returning with 10,000 men to attack Mercia, whose Penda was captured and swore allegiance to Cadwallon. Together they invaded Northumbria; Edwin and his son Osric were killed in 633 as many men and women were slaughtered. Edwin's son Eadfrith surrendered and was eventually put to death in breach of the oath made by warrior king Penda, who ruled Mercia 633-655. Northumbria was divided by Aethelfrith's sons and returned to paganism, but Eanfrith was killed when he went to Cadwallon to ask for peace. The next year Edwin's nephew Oswald (r. 634-642) reunited Northumbria and restored Christianity. Bede credited Oswald's diplomacy for uniting the provinces of Deira and Bernicia. The Christian Scots sent the saintly Aidan to Northumbria, and in 635 King Oswald granted the island of Lindisfarne as his episcopal see. Mercia's Penda had to recognize Northumbrian overlordship, but in 642 he defeated and killed Northumbria's king Oswald, who after his death was revered as a saint.

Wessex was ruled by King Cynegils (r. 611-642), who accepted Christianity in 635. Penda had won a victory at Cirencester in 628 and annexed some West Saxon people. Cenwalh, son of Cynegils, put away his wife, Penda's sister, and took another wife. This caused Penda to drive him out of Wessex, and Cenwalh took refuge in East Anglia from 645 to 648. Penda made his son Peada king over Middle Anglia in 653. The next year Penda attacked East Anglia king Anna and destroyed him with his army. Peada wanted to marry Oswiu's daughter but had to convert and be baptized to do so. Penda tolerated this and Christian preaching but despised hypocrites. In 655 he invaded Northumbria but was defeated and killed by Oswiu (r. 655-670), who took his kingdom and sponsored Christianity by giving lands for churches and monasteries. Deira king Alcfrith promoted Roman Catholic practices. When Eata and Cuthbert refused to give up Celtic usages, they left Ripon, and Wilfrid was appointed abbot about 661, introducing the Rule of Benedict.

Mercia revolted and enthroned Penda's son Wulfhere (r. 658-675). The army of Wessex pushed the Britons back to the Parret River in 658, but the Mercian army of Wulfhere encroached on West Saxon territory. At the synod of Whitby in 664 Oswiu accepted Roman Catholic doctrine, and he cooperated with the southern kingdoms he had lost in order to spread Christianity. Pope Vitalian consecrated a monk from Tarsus named Theodore as a bishop, and he was sent to Britain with Hadrian; Theodore became archbishop of Canterbury, and Hadrian assisted with the teaching as abbot of the monastery. Bishops met at Hertford in 672 and agreed on the Roman determination of Easter and canon laws forbidding monks to leave their monasteries without their abbot's approval; bishops were not allowed to take property from monasteries. Separate convents did not exist for nuns; but there were many double monasteries for monks and nuns, and they were usually headed by an abbess, such as Hild of Whitby. In 673 Mercia king Wulfhere tried to unite the southern peoples in an attack on Northumbria's Ecgfrith, but he was defeated and soon died.

Ecgfrith had married Etheldreda, who refused to consummate the marriage. Wilfrid, bishop of York, helped her become a nun, and so King Ecgfrith had him deposed and replaced by three bishops. Wilfrid became the first English cleric to appeal his case to the Pope in Rome. Ecgfrith took Lindsey but lost it to Mercia's Aethelred (r. 675-704) at the battle of Trent in 678. Ecgfrith's younger brother Elfwin was killed, and more war was likely; but Archbishop Theodore arranged for compensation to be paid to Ecgfrith, and peace was restored. In 679 a Lateran synod in Rome affirmed Wilfrid's position; but when he returned, Ecgfrith had him imprisoned for nine months. Then Wilfrid converted pagans in Sussex, where he freed 250 slaves. King Ecgfrith provided land for a monastery at Jarrow in 682. Northumbria became busy fighting the Picts in the north, and Ecgfrith was killed by them in 685. The Picts became the dominant northern power during the reign of King Strathclyde's son Buide mac Beli (r. 672-693). According to Bede, the Northumbrian king Aldfrith (r. 686-705), son of Oswiu, rebuilt the kingdom, though within narrower boundaries.

Aethelbert's son Eadbald reigned over Kent 616-640. As a pagan he outraged Christians by marrying his father's widow; but he was converted and repudiated this wife. His sister married Northumbria's Edwin, and Eadbald's second wife was a Frank princess. Their son Eorcenberht became king of Kent in 640. According to Bede, he was the first English king to order idols destroyed throughout his realm. Eorcenberht died during a plague in 664 and was succeeded by his eldest son Ecgberht (r. 664-673), who extended his sovereignty over Surrey and founded the Chertsey monastery. After Ecgberht, Kent was divided and invaded by Mercia's Aethelred in 676; but Ecgberht's brother Hlothere (r. 673-685) reunited the kingdom of Kent in 684, though the next year a Sussex army invaded, and Hlothhere died of his wounds. Ecgberht's eldest son Eadric had conspired with the invaders, but he died in 686. Kent was divided between Essex and Wessex's Caedwalla, but it was unified by Eadric's brother Wihtred (r. 690-725), who gained independence and issued a revised code of Kent laws in 695. Christian influence now punished unlawful marriages, pagan practices, and the neglecting of religious holidays; the church was exempted from taxation, and the oaths of bishops were declared as incontrovertible as the king's.

Centwine (r. 676-685) became king of Wessex and was praised by Aldhelm of Malmsbury for endowing churches and winning three great battles. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded that in 682 Centwine drove the Britons to the sea. In 685 Caedwalla organized an army that killed Sussex king Aethalwalh. For three years his forces fought wars in Wessex and Kent; then Caedwalla left England and was baptized in Rome on Easter 689. Ine (r. 689-726) became king of Wessex, and his father Cenred helped promulgate a code of laws in 694. The same year Ine forced Kentishmen to pay compensation for burning Caedwalla's brother Mul. Ine attacked Welsh king Gerent in 709 and defeated him. In the same year Northumbrians fought the Picts to avenge the killing of King Ecgfrith. In 721 Ine killed Cynewulf, and in 725 he invaded Sussex in order to kill Ealdberht. The next year Ine abdicated so that he could die at Rome.

During the 8th century several kings in Northumbria were murdered in their struggles for power, while Mercia dominated the kingdoms south of the Humber River. Aldfrith's son Osred (r. 705-716) was king of Northumbria as a boy and was only 19 when he was assassinated after killing many of his enemies. Bede praised Northumbrian king Ceolwulf (r. 729-737) for his religious tradition but doubted his political ability. While Eadbhert (r. 737-758) was off fighting the Picts, Mercia's Aethelbald invaded Northumbria. In 750 Eadberht vanquished Kyle and parts of the Britons' Strathclyde. Then in 756 Eadberht joined with the Picts to capture the Britons' capital at Alcluith.

After Eadberht died, a revolution overthrew his son Oswulf and put Aethelwald Moll (r. 758-765) on the throne. Alhred (r. 765-774) sent Willehad as a missionary to Bremen in Frisia; but nobles replaced him with Aethelwald Moll's son Aethelred (r. 774-778, 790-796). He ordered four of his enemies killed but was banished himself by Oswulf's son Aelfwald (r. 778-788), who was considered a just king but was killed by a conspiracy. Alhred's son Osred (r. 788-790) was driven out when Aethelred came back from his exile. The famous scholar Alcuin criticized Aethelred and considered the Northmen's sack of Lindisfarne in 793 the beginning of retribution on Northumbria for its violence, injustice, and bad rulers. When Aethelred was murdered by conspirators in 796, he was replaced by Eardwulf; but Northumbria degenerated into anarchy until Eardwulf was restored about 806. Eardwulf made an alliance with Charlemagne but was driven out of his kingdom in 808 and went to Rome to gain the Pope's support. Eardwulf returned to end the series of revolutions and pass on a more peaceful kingdom to his son Eanred (r. 810-840). Little is known of this period except that the Northumbrians submitted to Wessex's Ecgberht in 829.

By about 730 Mercia king Aethelbald (r. 716-757) had subjected all the provinces south of the Humber and was calling himself king of Britannia. Wessex king Aethelheard (r. 726-740) lost Somerton to Aethelbald in 733. Wessex's Cuthred (r. 740-756) revolted from Mercia in 752 and was probably independent for four years; but his successor Sigeberht was deposed within a year, and Cynewulf (r. 757-786) showed his respect by appearing at the court of Aethelbald. About 746 the missionary Boniface wrote a letter to Aethelbald commending his generosity to the poor and orderly kingdom but reprimanding him for violating ecclesiastical privilege and for misbehavior with religious women. Three years later Aethelbald freed churches from public burdens except that they had to repair bridges and maintain fortresses.

In 757 Aethelbald was murdered, and in a civil war Offa (r. 757-796) drove Beornred into exile. Mercia was reduced to its own borders; but after Kent's Aethelberht died in 762, Mercia soon regained power over Kent and the archbishop of Canterbury. Offa subdued Sussex by defeating Hastings men in 771. Offa's Mercian forces conquered those of Wessex king Cynewulf in 779 at Bensington. Seven years later Cynewulf was attacked by Sigebehrt's brother Cyneheard, and both were killed, a battle soon celebrated as a saga. Offa intervened in the civil war to help put Brihtric (r. 786-802) on the throne of Wessex. Mercia's Offa also dominated East Anglia and had Aethelberht beheaded in 794, making him a martyr. After fighting the Welsh in 760, 778, and 784, Offa had a long dyke built, and he invaded Dyfed again in 796, the year he died. Offa had gained an archbishop in Lichfield and got papal approval in 788. The next year three Viking ships arrived on the southern shore and killed the king's men from Dorchester who went to trade with them. In 793 Vikings raided the Northumbrian coast and slaughtered monks at Lindisfarne. Charlemagne and Offa negotiated marriages of their daughters; but a quarrel stopped trade for three years before they established the first known commercial treaty in English history in 796.

Offa had anointed his son Ecgfrith king of Mercia back in 787 when a papal legation visited; but Ecgfrith died five months after his father and was succeeded by Cenwulf (r. 796-821). Mercian influence over Northumbria ended when Offa's son-in-law Aethelred died also in 796. A revolt in Kent lasted two years; then Cenwulf appointed his brother Cuthred to be king of Kent until he died in 807, when Kent returned to being a Mercian province. Wessex king Brihtric married Offa's daughter, who poisoned him accidentally while trying to kill a noble youth. Ecgberht (r. 802-839) came out of exile to claim an independent throne and would later expand his sovereignty. Ecgberht conquered Cornwall for Wessex in 809. Under Cenwulf Mercia dominated Sussex, Essex, and East Anglia in addition to Kent. In 816 Mercians raided the Welsh, and two years later Cenwulf attacked Britons of Dyfed again. Cenwulf's successor Ceolwulf conquered the kingdom of Powys in 822 but was deposed the next year.

Mercia king Beornwulf (r. 823-825) was defeated by the Wessex army of Ecgberht in the famous battle at Ellendum in 825. Ecgberht sent his brother Aethelwulf with a large army to take Kent away from Baldred. Essex, Surrey, and Sussex submitted to Ecgberht, while the East Angles revolted against Mercia with protection from Ecgberht and killed Beornwulf. Mercia itself was conquered by Wessex in 829; but the next year Wiglaf (r. 827-840) came out of exile and regained Mercian independence. The first known Danish raid attacked Sheppey in 835. Ecgberht defeated Vikings that had joined with Britons at Cornwall in 838, and he was succeeded as king of Wessex by his son Aethelwulf (r. 839-856), who also had to deal with Viking raids.

An army of Danes killed many people at Canterbury and London in 842. A new king Raedwulf in Northumbria was killed by invaders in 844. Danes returned and spent their first winter in 851, making the forces of Mercia king Berhtwulf flee; but the invaders were defeated by the West Saxons led by Aethelwulf and his son Aethelbald. Two years later Mercia king Burgred got Aethelwulf's aid against the Britons of Wales and then married his daughter. Aethelwulf went to Rome and married Charles the Bald's daughter Judith in 856. Upon returning he avoided a civil war by giving his son Aethelbald Wessex. Aethelwulf passed Kent and the southeast to his second son Aethelberht when he died in 858; after Aethelbald died in 860, the West Saxon kingdom was reunited under Aethelberht. He was succeeded by his brother Aethelred in 865, the year a large army of Danes landed in East Anglia.

Danes in England and Alfred 871-899

Beowulf and Irish Legends

The Old English epic Beowulf was probably composed in the 8th century about three centuries after the legendary era it depicts. Its religious view suggests that people are rewarded and punished for their deeds in life and after death, though the only Biblical references are to the Old Testament. At Dane king Hrothgar's mead hall for twelve years the monster Grendel has been abducting sleeping warriors and devouring them. Beowulf, nephew of Geat king Hygelac in southern Sweden, sails with fourteen men to Denmark and banquets with Hrothgar. At night Grendel comes in and kills a Geat; but the strong Beowulf pulls off the arm of the monster, mortally wounding him. The next day Beowulf is honored at a feast as a poet recites the song of Finn. When they are asleep, Grendel's mother carries off Hrothgar's chief counselor in revenge. Beowulf and his men track her to a lake, where Beowulf kills her underwater and takes the head off Grendel's corpse. Again they celebrate at a banquet, and King Hrothgar offers the warrior hero this advice:

It is a wonder to say how in His great spirit
mighty God gives wisdom to mankind, land and earlship-
He possesses power over all things.
At times He lets the thought of a man of high lineage
move in delight, gives him joy of earth in his homeland,
a stronghold of men to rule over,
makes regions of the world so subject to him, wide kingdoms,
that in his unwisdom he may not himself have mind of his end.
He lives in plenty; illness and age in no way grieve him,
neither does dread care darken his heart,
nor does enmity bare sword-hate, for the world turns to his will-
he knows nothing worse-
until his portion of pride increases and flourishes within him;
then the watcher sleeps, the soul's guardian;
that sleep is too sound, bound in its own cares,
and the slayer most near whose bow shoots treacherously.
Then is he hit in the heart, beneath his armor,
with the bitter arrow-he cannot protect himself-
with the crooked dark commands of the accursed spirit.
What he has long held seems to him too little, angry-hearted he covets,
no plated rings does he give in men's honor,
and then he forgets and regards not his destiny
because of what God, Wielder of Heaven,
has given him before, his portion of glories.
In the end it happens in turn that the loaned body weakens, falls doomed;
another takes the earl's ancient treasure,
one who recklessly gives precious gifts, does not fearfully guard them.

Keep yourself against that wickedness,
beloved Beowulf, best of men, and choose better-eternal gains.
Have no care of pride, great warrior.
Now for a time there is glory in your might:
yet soon it shall be that sickness or sword will diminish your strength,
or fire's fangs, or flood's surge, or sword's swing, or spear's flight,
or appalling age; brightness of eyes will fail and grow dark;
then it shall be that death will overcome you, warrior.8

Hrothgar thanks Beowulf for the peace between the Geats and the Danes, and Beowulf returns home, loyally supporting the succession of Hygelac's son Heardred and wars against the Swedes and Franks. Then Beowulf becomes king of the Geats and rules them for fifty years until a fugitive slave finds a dragon's treasure. After Beowulf is given a golden goblet, the hoard is ransacked, causing the angry dragon to devastate the land. Beowulf sets out with eleven men; but during the fight all abandon Beowulf except Wiglaf, who helps Beowulf kill the dragon. However, the heroic Beowulf has been badly wounded and dies. The messenger prophesies that the Swedes and Franks will take revenge now that the Danes' strong hero is dead, and the poem concludes with the funeral and eulogy of Beowulf.

Irish myths and sagas of this era are rather violent, many of them focused on cattle raids. In "The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel" the bands of Ingcel Caech and Eccell, two grandsons of Conmac of Bretain, are about to engage each other on the sea; but Ingcel suggests that they make peace so that they can help each other plunder. Eccell has been cast out of Eriu (Ireland), and Ingcel has been ejected from Albu and Bretain. So Ingcel helps Eccel to destroy Eriu, even killing his own parents, seven brothers and the king of his country; then together with the help of Fer Rogain they destroy the hostel of Da Derga, the royal hospitaller of Eriu. The greatest of these raiders was Cu Chulaind, who kills large numbers with his spear. In "The Wasting Sickness of Cu Chulaind" three vats of cold water are heated up by the irate Cu Chulaind's body in an effort to extinguish his rage. Poets, artisans, and Druids of Ulaid are sent to calm down Cu Chulaind, who tries to kill the artisans before the Druids finally bring him to his senses by singing spells over him. In "Bricriu's Feast" Conchubar and the Ulaid chieftains are reluctant to accept Bricriu's invitation, because they fear he will incite them to violence until Bricriu threatens to incite every form of violence among them if they do not attend his feast. The chieftains in council decide to ask hostages from Bricriu, who still plots to incite them.

In the seventh century the Ui Neill dynasty referred to their king as the ruler of Ireland, and in 642 and 703 annalists called them rex Hiberniae (king of the Hibernians). Having been Christian since the mission of Patrick in the fifth century, the Irish had a strong monastic tradition and adopted the Old Testament concept of kingship from the book of Samuel. King Finnachta in 681 abolished the cow-tribute of Leinster at the urging of the Christian Moling, and in 697 Iona abbot Adaman got women exempted from military service. Ui Briuin became prominent in Connacht in the seventh century and were in control by 725. Munster king Cathal and King Aed Alaind (r. 733-742) agreed to regulate tribute to the church according to the see of Armagh. In 743 the Clann Cholmain took the kingship of Tara away from the southern Ui Neill. Kingship of the northern Ui Neill alternated between the Cenel Conaill and Cenel Eogain, but after 789 the latter dominated while alternating in the over-all rulership with the Clann Cholmain.

In Leinster, which contained the Kildare monastery and treasury, Ui Chennselaig took the kingship in the early seventh century; but Tara king Donnchadh Midi defeated them in 780, sacking their lands and churches. The next Tara king of the northern Ui Neill, Aed Oirnide, attacked Leinster in 804 and 805, deposing its king, though complaints and advice by the priest Fothud made Aed Oirnide exempt clergy from fighting. Abbots of the monasteries rivaled the power of kings, and their increasing wealth even led to monastic wars between Clonmacnoise and Birr in 760, Clonmacnoise and Durrow in 764, Cork and Clonfert in 807, and Kildare and Tallaght in 824. Bishops of Seir and Lusk were murdered in 744; killings occurred at Armagh in 759; and the community of Clonard fought the king of Tara in 775. Irish society was ruled by kings, nobles, and free commoners, exploiting landless serfs and slaves. Nobles gave their clients fiefs in exchange for a portion of their labor's harvest. Law was more by family than individuals though women had rights, and divorce was common.

Norse raids began in 795 and for forty years were hit-and-run raids by small groups. In 836 more Vikings sacked Clonmore and took many prisoners to sell as slaves. By 841 large fleets were arriving, and Vikings were staying the winter at Dublin. The Norwegian Turgeis took advantage of a civil war instigated by the priest-king of Munster to plunder Armagh and much of Ulster; but in 845 Turgeis was captured by Meath king Mael Seachlainn and drowned. The Irish had put down the Norwegians, but Danes arrived about 850 at Carlingford Lough and took over Dublin the next year, capturing treasure and women. In 852 the Norwegians attacked the Danish fleet at Carlingford, and only a few of them survived. Norwegians returned the next year led by Prince Olaf. The Danes left for England, and Olaf settled in Dublin, ruling it until 871, when he was succeeded by his brother Ivar, lord of Limerick. Danes from neighboring Deira attack Ivar at Dublin in 877. The attack failed, and Halfdan was killed at Strangford Lough. The Norse turned more toward Iceland, and in 902 Cearbhall, the Irish king of Leinster, took Dublin away from the invaders and ruled it peacefully for a dozen years.

John Scotus Erigena

Little is known about the life of John Scotus Erigena; but his name implies that he was from Ireland. About 845 he came to the court of Charles the Bald, who appointed him head of his palace school. In 851 John Scotus was asked to comment on the controversial views of the monk Gottschalk, who believed that God had pre-destined the elect and thus others to be damned. John Scotus argued that since God is good, one, and all, the ultimate destination of all can only be to good and holiness. Since all things come out of God, all things go back to God. Most decided against Gottschalk, though the libertarian views of John Scotus brought charges of heresy.

John Scotus had an excellent command of Greek, and in 858 Charles the Bald asked him to translate into Latin the Neo-Platonist writings attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, which had been given to Louis the Pious in 827 by Byzantine emperor Michael Balbus. John Scotus also translated works by Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus. Between 862 and 866 he wrote his On the Division of Nature, the first systematic treatise to attempt to synthesize Greek philosophy with Christian theology. He probably died about the same time as Charles the Bald died in 877. The work of John Scotus had little influence until the Cathars and Albigensians appealed to it. Then a Paris council ordered On the Division of Nature burned in 1210, as did Pope Honorius III in 1225. Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) mentioned it as an esoteric work that should be kept away from those incapable of understanding it. John Scotus has been accused of being a pantheist; but in my opinion he is really a pan-entheist, because he believed that God is not only in all but is also transcendent of all.

On the Division of Nature (Periphyseon) is a dialog between a teacher and his student. John Scotus as an idealist considered the highest division between what has being and what does not as what can be known by the mind and what can not. He divided Nature (all) into the following four stages: 1) what creates and is not created; 2) what is created and creates; 3) what is created and does not create; and 4) what neither creates nor is created. The first is God the Creator, the uncaused cause, who creates all from nothing. Second are the primordial ideas or archetypes or exemplary causes that exist in the divine mind as the Logos and also create the world. Third is the physical world that is created but does not create anything itself; it is created from nothing by God and manifests the hidden as bodies. Fourth is the mysterious nature that does not create nor is it created; in reality this is also God and does not differ from God the Creator except in human reason, which defines it as the end of the creative process.

In describing the divine essence of God the Creator John Scotus noted that even the contrary of goodness, wickedness, which corrupts and destroys, still cannot make everything perish except by perishing itself. In the second book the teacher explains that the primordial causes are the Platonic ideas or forms which mediate between the invisible spiritual reality and the visible world. They are God's creative ideas and exist in God's mind but are not identical with God. The human intellect can also recreate all that is in the universe in the human mind, and that too is part of this mental world. The third stage is the creation of the world as God's self-creation, and in the third book the teacher gives his allegorical interpretation of God's creation described in Genesis. In the fourth book he describes humanity as a microcosm that understands like an angel, reasons like a person, senses like an animal, and lives like a plant.

Everything created naturally in man
necessarily remains eternally whole and uncorrupted.
For it did not seem good to Divine Justice
for anything that It had created to perish,
especially because sin was not committed by nature itself,
but by perverse will
which is irrationally set in motion against rational nature.
There is a very cogent proof of this point.
If man naturally has an inherent loathing of death,
how could he fail to have a natural loathing
for the cause of death, namely sin?
It is common to all animals to avoid and fear death and its causes.
Therefore, as no wise man wishes to make a mistake,
so human nature did not wish to sin;
and hence its Creator, since He is just, did not wish to punish it
but wished to add to it something in which sin,
which had resulted from perverse will and the persuasion of the serpent,
could be cleansed so as not always to cling to it.
For although rational and intellectual nature
did not wish to be deceived, it was able to be beguiled,
especially since it had not yet received the perfection of its form
which it was to receive as a reward for obedience, namely deification.
We should therefore not judge human nature
according to what appears to the corporeal senses.
As a punishment for transgression,
it is born in this world in time and corruptibly
like irrational animals through union of the sexes;
and its end is death.
But we should rather judge it
according to its creation in God's image before it sinned.
This human nature, in accord with its ineffable dignity,
cannot be grasped but eludes all corporeal sense and all mortal thought.9

For John Scotus, humans fall because reason and intellect are deceived by the appearance of good or beauty to the senses. Thus evil has no real substance but is merely a perversion of the will based on this delusion by the corporeal senses. Ultimately divine nature is not created, because it is the prime cause of all. Humans cannot destroy this nature, because it is made in the image of God and so is incorruptible. Being and living eternally are common to all, both good and evil; but well-being and bliss are proper only to those perfect in action and knowledge.

In the fifth and last book of On the Division of Nature the teacher explains how the passions can be changed into natural virtues. Desire brings about movement of the intellect in the longing of those who reach for God. Pleasure becomes harmless joy of the soul's nutritive operation. Fear arouses care which protects against future retribution for faults. Sadness evokes penance so that present evils may be corrected. Pride is changed in the good to love of heavenly excellence and scorn for earthly weakness. Thus every vice can be transformed into virtue by the operation of divine grace. So goodness comes from evil, for its power consumes its opposite; but the ugliness of evil cannot taint the beauty of goodness. The teacher concludes, then, that lower natures can be transformed into higher natures. All rational beings seek the highest good, which is God, as it is contrary to nature to desire evil, though individuals may make mistakes and be deceived by wrong paths to their good goal. When the irrational motions are corrected, the soul moves to enter paradise. The soul always seeks and eventually finds God even though the totality of God is beyond human comprehension.

John Scotus argued that evil is not substantial, because God, the Creator of all substances, would not make it. What people call corruption is not substantial but a privation of good or a natural decay of mutable things. The teacher explains that the torments of hell are not physical but only exist in the perverse motions of evil wills, in corrupted consciences, in repentance, and in the inability to do evil. John Scotus believed that the greatest torture one can undergo is to desire evil but be unable to accomplish it. The evil will cannot defile the good, and therefore its torment does not affect its natural subject, the soul, which is always free of sin and the penalty of sin. Only the faults and wrongdoings committed are punished by the just Judge, Creator of the spiritual nature. Sin is voluntary but not spiritually natural. Its causes in the evil will, such as pride, are ultimately not real but defects of virtues. For both just and unjust, the spiritual nature is the same and equally beautiful and eternal when purified of animality.

The ugliness of evil, misery, and punishment look different and even beautiful when they are seen as part of the whole. The teacher explains that the Greek word for hell Hades means sadness. Those burning with desire for what they cannot have are sad; but this is a good to those who repent of their sins just as pain is a benefit to those moving toward blessedness. The perverse will of a rational creature is really just illicit desire, and this is punished not by death of the body but by fantasies in the memory. Ultimately everything is ordered justly and harmoniously by providence without discord just as sweet music is blended by different voices. Just punishments are good, and rewards are good because they come from a grace beyond what is earned. Freedom is given by God, and human obedience is not coerced. Illicit perversions of the irrational are corrected by divine justice, and it is divine mercy that such are so recalled to obedience. If one is inflated by pride and persists in perverse motions, they will continue; but the desires will never be attained, and this becomes the punishment. Vices are not completely evil but illicit; otherwise they could not be transformed into virtues.

The effects of sins are mourning, groaning, sadness, repentance that is too late, insatiable desire, the putrefaction of wrongdoing, and the obscurity of ignorance. These eventually will debilitate until they are turned into virtues. The effects of merit are happiness, joy, peace, bliss, glory, equality with angels, and ultimately deification. Those suffering the weakness of perverse wills will suffer retributions worthy of their works so that eventually they can be healed, enlightened, and be led back to paradise. The eternal spiritual nature is capable of withstanding the fantasies caused by guilt in order to atone for the wrongdoing. Free will does make sin possible, though it is not itself the cause of sin, for the free judgment of the will is part of the spiritual nature. The higher natural virtues such as wisdom, intellect, and reason cannot be corrupted, but the middle and lower goods of nature, such as the corporeal sense, may be perverted and abused. Thus it is better to speak of lustful appetite rather than evil will as the cause of punishment. John Scotus believed that all humanity will eventually return to its spiritual nature in which we were first created, though he added that not all will be transformed by deification, which transcends all nature and paradise.

Danes in England and Alfred 871-899

Anglo-Saxons 616-865

The Danish invasion of England was led by Ragnar Lothbrok's sons Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan, who landed with a large army in 865 in East Anglia, where they were supplied with horses. The next year they advanced into York and occupied the city for four months before they were attacked by Northumbrians, who stopped a civil war to unite between rival kings Osberht and Aella. Both these kings and eight ealdormen were killed; but peace was made, and the Danes installed Egbert as a tributary king. After spending another year in York, the Dane army attacked and defeated the East Anglians led by their king Edmund, who was killed and revered as a martyr. When the Danish army moved into Reading, they were attacked by Wessex king Aethelred and his brother Alfred. Although one Danish king and five earls were killed, Aethelred and Alfred were defeated.

When Aethelred died in April 871, his younger brother Alfred was chosen king at the age of 23. The English were attacked while Alfred was attending Aethelred's funeral, and Alfred's forces were defeated again at Wilton. The West Saxons made peace with the Danes, and Alfred's raising of funds from the church to pay the tribute was later criticized by Pope John VIII in his letter to Canterbury archbishop Aethelred. Mercia king Burgred had also capitulated, and the Danish army spent the winter in London. Northumbrians revolted against Egbert, causing him and York archbishop Wulfhere to flee to Burgred. Ricsige became king and ruled Northumbria for three years. When Burgred went to Rome, the Danes made Ceolwulf II (r. 874-879) king of Mercia. That year the Dane army was split in half. Halfdan divided eastern England into three parts while attacking the Picts and Britons of Strathclyde. Kings Guthrum, Oscytel, and Anund stayed a year in Cambridge and then attacked Wessex, which defended itself and then made a treaty with the Danes at Wareham, paying tribute while taking hostages. The Danes had promised to leave Wessex but did not do so until August 877 after making another treaty at Exeter. A reinforcing Viking fleet lost 120 ships in a storm off Swanage in 877.

In the winter of 878 a Dane army led by Guthrum occupied Chippenham, and King Alfred retreated west of Selwood; but his forces continued to fight Danish raiders. Alfred led men from Somerset, Wiltshire, and Hampshire and at Edington defeated the Danes, who accepted his terms. Guthrum and thirty Dane nobles agreed to be baptized, and godfather Alfred named Guthrum Athelstan. The Danes moved on to Cirencester in Mercia, and the following year they occupied East Anglia again. Another Dane army crossed the channel in 879 to Ghent. They returned to attack Kent in 884, but Alfred's forces relieved the siege of Rochester, and some of the Danes crossed the sea again. Alfred sent a fleet of ships against the Danes in East Anglia that captured sixteen Viking ships before they were defeated by a larger force. In 886 the West Saxons occupied London, repaired its walls, and Alfred became a rallying cry for the English wanting to resist the Danes. Alfred made a treaty on equal terms with Guthrum, who agreed not to discriminate against English subjects in his territory. Alfred did not annex London into Wessex but appointed to govern it the Mercian ealdorman Athelred, who married Alfred's eldest daughter Aethelflaed in 889.

In 892 Danes, who had been defeated by Arnulf, crossed from Bourne back to Kent. A large company of 250 ships fortified themselves at Appledore, while Danes in 80 ships led by Haesten occupied Milton. Alfred asked the Danes in Northumbria and East Anglia to keep the peace because of their hostages, and he tried to blunt the Viking edge at sea by constructing some warships. He managed to get peasants to fight by allowing half the eligible men to remain at home. Alfred placed his army between the two invading forces and was able to make a treaty with Haesten, who went to Essex, where his two sons were baptized. In 893 the larger Dane army raided Hampshire and Berkshire; but they were defeated by West Saxons led by Alfred's oldest son Edward. While Alfred was busy defending Exeter from the Danes of Northumbria and East Anglia, Edward drove the Danes back across the Thames. Danish ships concentrated in Exeter, but a Wessex army captured their camp while Haesten was raiding in Mercia. After gathering at Shoebury the Danes raided the Thames valley and the Severn River; but forces led by Mercia ealdorman Aethelred and ealdormen from Wiltshire and Somerset aided by Welsh princes besieged them on an island in the Severn, though the Danes managed to retreat to Shoebury.

When the Danes occupied Chester, the English starved them out by destroying their own wheat and cattle in the area. So the Danes went to Wales for nearly a year until the summer of 894. Then they returned to their ships in the Thames but were driven from there in 895 by Alfred's forces intent on protecting the harvest. The next year the Danes dispersed to join their compatriots in Northumbria and East Anglia while those without property left England for other lands. When crews from two marauding Viking ships were found shipwrecked on the Sussex coast, Alfred ordered them hanged. Meanwhile eastern England was being governed by the Danelaw. Northumbrian king Guthfrith was a Christian and died in 895. Raids from Northumbria were occurring again in 899, the year King Alfred died.

According to a biography of Alfred by the Welsh bishop Asser written in 893, the future king visited Rome as a child but did not learn to read until he was twelve. Alfred woke early to pray in church about his lust, and in 868 he married Ealhswith, the daughter of a Mercian ealdorman. In the mid-880s Alfred began gathering some learned men around him, including Worcester bishop Werferth, Canterbury archbishop Plegmund, and also from Mercia the priests Athelstan and Werwulf. He wrote to Rheims archbishop Fulco, who sent him Grimbald and a Saxon priest named John. At this time Asser agreed to spend part of his time in Wales and the rest with King Alfred. Asser noted that all the districts of Wales recognized the lordship of Alfred and were glad to have his protection. Asser believed that all the Angles and Saxons not subjected to the Vikings submitted willingly to Alfred's lordship, whom he referred to as the king of the Anglo-Saxons.

Alfred ordered many fortresses built throughout the land, and two monasteries were constructed and opened to all nationalities. He appointed his daughter Aethelgifu as abbess at Shaftesbury. The king tried to reduce judicial malpractice because of bias or even bribes by commanding judges to either relinquish their offices or pursue wisdom. Asser marveled that nearly all the ealdormen, reeves, and thegns applied themselves to learning how to read so they would not lose their offices. To those not making progress Alfred ordered that a son or other relative, a freeman or even a slave read aloud to them in English.

Alfred not only devoted himself to scholarship so that he could rule more wisely, he also sponsored the publication of translations of important works into English. His preface to Werferth's translation of the Dialogs by Pope Gregory I began as follows:

I, Alfred, honored with the dignity of kingship through Christ's gift,
have clearly perceived and frequently heard from statements in holy books
that for us, to whom God has granted such a lofty station of worldly office,
there is the most urgent necessity
occasionally to calm our minds amidst earthly anxieties
and direct them to divine and spiritual law.
And therefore I sought and petitioned my true friends
that they should write down for me from God's books
the following teaching concerning the virtues and miracles of holy men,
so that, strengthened through the exhortations and love they contain,
I might occasionally reflect in my mind
on heavenly things amidst these earthly tribulations.10

Next Alfred himself translated Gregory's book on Pastoral Care. In that preface he noted that learning had so declined in England that very few men could translate Latin into English and that when he became king he did not know of a single one south of the Thames. He lamented that they were Christians in name alone, and books provided little benefit because they could not understand their language. Thus he planned to have the most valuable books translated into English, and he encouraged those wanting to advance in holy orders and teach to learn Latin. All free-born youth, who could be supported to do so, should attend school until they could read English. Those wanting to become priests should also learn Latin.

Alfred also made his own translation of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius though he made some modifications, changing it to a dialog between the author's mind and a personification of wisdom. In his version of Augustine's Soliloquies he expounded on the immortality of the soul and its knowledge after death. As a Christian king fighting against pagan enemies, Alfred particularly identified with David's Psalms and translated the first fifty before he died. History was given a Christian perspective with the translation of Histories Against the Pagans by Orosius and Bede's Ecclesiastical History. Recent events were recounted in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that was compiled in 892. Eighty simple cures could be found in Bald's Leechbook, and about two hundred saints were described in the 9th-century Martyrology.

Alfred also published a work on laws that starts with the commandments of Moses and how they were modified for Christians by a letter from the apostles in Acts 15. The Golden Rule is affirmed from Matthew 7:12. By modifying the laws of Ine of Wessex, Offa of Mercia, and Aethelberht of Kent, Alfred implied that his laws applied to all those realms. Appended after Alfred's laws were the laws of Ine. New provisions protected the weak in society from oppression, and attempts were made to limit blood feuds. If a pledge was right and not fulfilled, one must surrender one's weapons and be imprisoned at a king's estate for forty days. Those plotting against the king or harboring those who did could lose their lives and all their possessions. Fines still varied depending on the social status of the victim. Anyone disturbing a public meeting by drawing a sword must pay a fine of 120 shillings. One may fight for one's lord, or a lord may fight for his man without incurring a feud. One may also fight for a kinsman but not if it is against his lord. If a man finds another man behind closed doors with his lawful wife, legitimate daughter or sister or mother, he may fight without incurring a feud. All his royal estates went to his successor Edward, but Alfred left a detailed will distributing the rest of his possessions to his other relatives.

England and the Danes 900-1042


1. Linehan, Peter, History and the Historians of Medieval Spain, p. 40.
2. Isidore, Sentences 3:16:5 quoted in Brehaut, Ernest, An Encyclopedist of the Dark Ages: Isidore of Seville, p. 70.
3. Etymologies 2:24 quoted in Brehaut, Ernest, An Encyclopedist of the Dark Ages: Isidore of Seville, p. 116.
4. The Middle Ages, Volume 1 ed. Brian Tierney, p. 113-114.
5. The Rhetoric of Alcuin & Charlemagne 463-465 tr. Wilbur Samuel Howell, p. 97.
6. Alcuin, Epistulae IV, 289, 293 quoted in Duckett, Alcuin, Friend of Charlemagne, p. 220.
7. Quoted in Riché, Pierre, The Carolingians tr. Michael Idomir Allen, p. 148.
8. Beowulf 24-25 tr. E. Talbot Donaldson, p. 30-31.
9. John the Scot, Periphyseon On the Division of Nature tr. Myra L. Uhlfelder, 4:6, p. 229-230.
10. Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources tr. Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge, p. 123.

Copyright © 2000-2009 by Sanderson Beck

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Byzantine Empire 610-1095
Franks and Anglo-Saxons 613-899
Vikings and Feudal Europe 900-1095
Crusaders, Greeks, and Muslims
Central and Eastern Europe 1095-1250
Western Europe 1095-1250
Christian Ethics 1095-1250
European Literature 1095-1250
Summary and Evaluation


World Chronology 30 BC to 750 CE
World Chronology 750-1300
Chronology of Europe to 1400

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