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Two Lives of Charlemagne

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  1,237 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Two revealingly different accounts of the life of the most important figure of the Roman Empire

Charlemagne, known as the father of Europe, was one of the most powerful and dynamic of all medieval rulers. The biographies brought together here provide a rich and varied portrait of the king from two perspectives: that of Einhard, a close friend and adviser, and of Notker, a m
Paperback, 160 pages
Published July 31st 2008 by Penguin Classics (first published 1960)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,787)
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Feb 06, 2016 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Exactly as the title says. Two biographies of Charlemagne, written in the 9th century.

Einhard's story is direct, precise, and lists the man's achievements and wars in order. It's like an encyclopedia entry, and all the more remarkable that we have something like it from someone who knew the man.

Notker the Stammerer's account, written a few decades later, somehow has a more personal account. He lists anecdotes, not military campaigns, and he ventures out of chronological order. Charlemagne of co
Jan 09, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Einhard and Notker the Stammerer. TWO LIVES OF CHARLEMAGNE. (1969). ****. Here are two translations from early German manuscripts, both purporting to be “biographies” of Charlemagne. Neither is a biography in the strict sense, but both are interesting to read for a sense of the times. Einhard (b. 770) wrote his tale between 829 and 836. He became the advisor and personal friend of Charlemagne and remained so until the Emperor’s death in 814. He was also in high favor with Lewis the Pious, Charle ...more
David Nichols
This volume contains two of the more important contemporary biographies of the most famous monarch of the Middle Ages, Charlemagne. The first, "Vito Caroli," was written in the early ninth century by Charlemagne's clerk Einhard, who modeled his account after Suetonius's TWELVE CAESARS (minus that author's salacious details). It is a matter-of-fact narrative of Charlemagne's wars against the Saxons, Avars, and Longobards (apropos of which Einhard quotes the Greek saying, “If a Frank is your frien ...more
Alexander Rolfe
I particularly liked Notker the Stammerer's anecdotes for the glimpses into various parts of 8th-century life-- congregational singing, making fun of red-haired people, the difficulty of exchanging envoys and legates, etc. I also thought it fascinating when he said that the quote he just gave from Charlemagne he actually pulled from the Life of Ambrose because Charlemagne said it in Frankish which didn't translate into Latin well.

I'm afraid some of the things that puzzle me most the academics wi
There's not much to say about these two 'biographies' of Charlemagne. The first, written by Einhard, a contemporary of Charlemagne, is brief and barren. His military exploits and his dress and manners are detailed, but one gets little indication of what the man was really like. Fine, but boring. The second, written by Notker the Stammerer, a monk at the monastery of Saint Gall, was much more interesting. However, I learned far less about Charlemagne, than about the inept and corrupt bishops of t ...more
Oct 28, 2011 Omar rated it liked it
Interesting somewhat. Started the book with no knowledge of Carolingian Renaissance ; had to BS a quick 8 pg paper in 6 hrs.... Would def recommend for those interesting in learning about a ruler who was sought by posterity as a model for rulership , Christian virtues, etc --- would probably not read it again =p
Contrast Einhard's life based on the Suetonius model and the anecdotal semi-folktale collection of Noktar the Stammerer.
M. Milner
Feb 17, 2015 M. Milner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm the kind of reader who digs reading ancient history and especially primary sources, but generally my knowledge is limited to ancient Rome and Greece, not to medieval history. So this collection of Charlemagne stories was something of a start point for me. I think it’s a good one for anyone, too.

In a nutshell, Charlemagne was a Frankish king who lived in the eighth century. He didn’t quite found the Carolingian Empire, but he greatly expanded it to include most of modern-day France Germany. I
This is an interesting read as you have two writers presenting their version of the life of Charlemagne. They could be called biographies but that does not seem to really characterise what that they write. The first is written by Einhard who was present in Charlemagne's reign and the second some years later by a monk named Notker the Stammerer.
Charlemagne also known as Charles the Great or Charles I, was the King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, and from 800 the first emperor
J. Allen Nelson
An interesting look at how the people of early medieval europe thought of the famous Charlemagne, and how the facts even then were vague and unanswerable. These predate a lot of the mythology that enveloped him in the centuries after his death.
It is tough for me to review a manuscript (or two) written so long ago, as I am tempted to use modern standards to criticize the authors for what they may not have attempted to do. Historians don't look on Notker kindly, as he messes up the facts and cre
Oct 27, 2013 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you have any interest in Carolingians and Charlemagne -- Charles the Great -- this book is well worth reading. After an interesting and detailed introduction by Thorpe, we are presented with Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, modelled both in content and Latin style upon Suetonius' life of Augustus. Despite its literary endebtedness, it is nevertheless an interesting and fairly accurate portrayal of a long-reigning monarch who forged and consolidated much of the West's legacy, as seen through the ...more
David Withun
Feb 24, 2013 David Withun rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This book, containing the two earliest biographies (really, nearly hagiographies) of Charlemagne, was a very interesting read. Charlemagne is, of course, one of the most important figures in the history of Europe and understanding the life and especially the legend of Charlemagne is essential to understanding medieval culture and the entire history and mythology of knights, nobility, and courtly life. Both of these short lives of Charlemagne were interesting not necessarily for the light they sh ...more
Oct 23, 2012 Scott rated it liked it
Chronicles of Charlemagne's life by his courtier Einhard and a monk named Notker the Stammerer are presented in this book. Both presented Charlemagne as a fearsome warrior and a man of great Christian piety. Classical and Biblical references peppered both texts, especially Notker's. Notker made parallels with King David's life multiple times. You can also see, especially in Notker's first book, the leadership that Charlemagne had over the church in his domains and the seeds of the Investiture Co ...more
Sep 03, 2016 Yann marked it as read-another-edition  ·  review of another edition
Aug 22, 2010 Thomas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, france
Surprisingly good. Einhard gives a very concise, solid version of Charlemagne's deeds. He can stand proudly among current authors, due to his brevity, references, and his admission of his own bias. Notker is something else entirely. His book is not cohesive, nor is it history. Rather, it is a series of sycophantic anecdotes about a wise king catching wicked bishops, pagans, and other bandits red-handed. Notker does a good job, but it's not the sort of thing that will appeal to most readers.
Elaine Ruth Boe
I only read the Einhard version of Charlemagne's life, but I found his narration interesting for its reflection on medieval society. Because Einhard was indebted to Charlemagne for his prestige, and still living off of his successor's kindness at the time of writing, it is no surprise that this is a biased piece. What we do learn about the great king (namely, that he was a womanizer and a patron of the liberal arts) makes him an intriguing, albeit mysterious, character.
Dec 28, 2009 Shelby rated it liked it
A nice read for people who like reading about historical figures.

The book is split into 2 halves (aside from the hefty intro) by two authors. The first author is the best for a more accurate historical source, while the other, written by a monk, serves as an example of the legend Charlemagne would become. I didn't know much about Charlemagne prior to this reading, and came out with more knowledge than the average person, I suppose.
Sam Koenen
Nov 26, 2012 Sam Koenen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography

The essential biographies of one of the most important characters in medieval history. Both are written for the moral improvement of the reader; Einhard draws more on first-hand material, while Notker uses numerous entertaining anecdotes. While there are some inaccuracies (detailed in the endnotes), these chronicles show why Charlemagne deserves to be known as the man who "made" Western Europe.
Gwen Burrow
Jun 16, 2009 Gwen Burrow rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
So Einhard writes about Charlemagne. And he also appears to have been the first to record what really happened at Roncevaux, but his account is frustratingly brief. From his single reference to "Roland, Lord of the Briton Marches", we get the Song of Roland as we know it today. Einhard paid more attention to Charlemagne's clothes and stuff (apparently, he wore a blue cloak).
Einhard, writing in the manner of Suetonious, gives us the new Roman emperor, Charlemagne. It seems so innocent at times, despite the constant warfare. I especially appreciate the descriptions of Charlemagne trying to learn to write. The story of a man who did change history, both through his battles and through his conservation and advancement of learning.
Elijah Meeks
Feb 19, 2009 Elijah Meeks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Charlemagne was the first European, and understanding who he was and what it meant to be Christian and European during his time is critical in understanding the formation of Europe, the Catholic Church and the modern world. There, isn't that enough reason to pick up this book? How about his questionable relations with his sister, daughters, wives and concubines?
Jul 17, 2007 Betsy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: medieval dorks like me
I preferred Notker the Stammerer's biography to Einhard's, but was struck by both as being very true and friendly accounts of what Charlemagne was really like. There are more complete, more accurate histories out there, but to hear it in the words of those who knew him was fascinating.
Aug 01, 2008 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this -- or was given it -- in Florence. I read it before going to Aachen the first time. Thanks to Notker the Stammerer, we know that Pippin the younger, in the earliest days of unsettled Aachen, slew a demon in the hot springs. "Do not mind this little affair..."
C. Rufinus
This book contains two different biographies of Charlemagne - rather deeds of Charlemagne - the first being written by somebody seemingly close to him, and the other by a monk during the time of his great-grandson, also Charles.

The first is more a series of exploits by Charlemagne and is quite brief, but a nice, quick read.

The second I found much slower. It deals discursively with hobgoblins and demons, Charlemagne and his predecessor (father) and his successors (son, grandson), and seems to bea
Andre Piucci
Dec 09, 2015 Andre Piucci rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Professor Bury remarked in his inaugural lecture at Cambridge: “It would be a most fruitful investigation to trace from the earliest ages the history of public opinion in regard to the meaning of falsehood and the obligation of veracity”; and these two lives would form an interesting text for the illustration of such a treatise.
Jul 09, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Again, a more thorough reading of a required book for a college course, this time Medieval European History. The distinguishing factor between the two descriptions of the life of Charlemagne (Charles Martin) is that Einhard actually lived with Charlemagne and personally served him in various manners. His description is factual and less romanticized. In contrast, Notker the Stammerer gives his version of history several generations removed from the facts and portrays Charlemagne as more of the "G ...more
Really interesting read although I preferred Notker's story because of the anecdotes.
Ian Brydon
How can you not like a book written by someone called 'Notker the Stammerer'?
Tim Williams
Nov 12, 2015 Tim Williams rated it really liked it
Glad I taught this book this term. I enjoyed it as a nice break from my usual US history diet.
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Historian, born c. 770 in the district of the River Main in the eastern part of the Frankish Empire; d. 14 March, 840, at Seligenstadt. His earliest training he received at the monastery of Fulda, where he showed such exceptional promise that Abbot Baugulf sent him to the court of Charlemagne. His education was completed at the Palace School, where he was fortunate enough to count among his master ...more
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