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Becoming Charlemagne: Europe, Baghdad, and the Empires of A.D. 800
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Becoming Charlemagne: Europe, Baghdad, and the Empires of A.D. 800

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  306 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
On Christmas morning in the year 800, Pope Leo III placed the crown of imperial Rome on the brow of a Germanic king named Karl—a gesture that enabled the man later hailed as Charlemagne to claim his empire and forever shape the destiny of Europe. Becoming Charlemagne tells the story of the international power struggle that led to this world-changing event, illuminating an ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published November 21st 2006)
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Sean Gibson
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I reviewed this for Kirkus a few years back.
Mar 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"The landscape of history is not alone the solid earth of fact; above must spread the rolling cloudbanks of imagination."

-- Donald J. Grout, Preface to the First Edition of A Short History of Opera

"Becoming Charlemagne: Europe, Baghdad, and the Empires of A. D. 800" is a surprisingly suspenseful and beautifully written account of the years immediately preceding the Christmas morning in A. D. 800 when Karl, King of the Franks, became Charlemagne, the "first emperor in Rome in nearly 400 years."

"Becoming Charlemagne" is definitely history light, and a quick read which seems almost more like a historical novel than a stab at a history book. Sypeck spends a great deal of time trying to recreate what sights and sounds of places like Charlemagne's rural mountainside court in Aachen, or the colorful, corrupt streets of Constantinople. While these recreations are mostly fun to read, by the end of the book I felt like I had been reading more of Sypecks flights of imagination than actual histo ...more
This is a compact book that gives the reader a feel for the life of early Medieval Europe as well as elucidating the importance of Charlemagne in shaping Europe. In addition to describing the king and his primitive court at Aachen we learn about the role of the Church and the king's relations to the papacy. We also learn of the strained relations to the Eastern Roman empire at Constantinople and an unusual concord with the Abbasid caliphate, since they too were at odds with Constantinople. The m ...more
I liked the beginning and ending, the middle was too bogged down in details for me. There were amusing lines throughout the book, I credit the author but need to quit reading biographies for pleasure.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Focuses on 796 to 802, with long interludes in Constantinople and Baghdad. I really enjoyed his writing style and had never considered the world events and far-flung rulers that contributed to Karl becoming Karl the Great, then becoming enshrouded in the myth that Charlemagne became.
Purva Brown
Aug 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. The book promised and did not deliver.
Robert Hill
The history during the time of Karl Magnus, or Charlemagne was quite interesting.(around 800 ad) He was the first ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. During his rule, he directed monks to copy and preserve knowledge in books. He directed that bibles would be copied but also some of the pagan beliefs of the time. He planned to cultivate knowledge in the service of religion. He was the first ruler in history to send Christian and Jewish emissaries to the Muslims of Baghdad. The structure of the Christ ...more
Linda C.
Jul 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in history
I've read many books on the Medieval period and Charlemagne in the last two years. This is now one of my favorites.

Jeff Sypeck put the events of the period in a context which allows the reader to understand the various political forces competing against one another during that era, and the skill used by King Charles which ultimately led to him being referred to as King Charles the Great or Charlemagne.

I had read mentions of Empress Irene of the Byzantine Empire, but her villainy and treachery ne
Marc Towersap
Was rather disappointed. While it was about Karl, former king then emperor of Rome(!!), it seemed kinda like skimming without digging in. I'm still not sure why King Karl was so great, seems like he was always battling the Saxons, lost heavily to the Basque, yet the book kinda felt to me like he was Forrest Gump, a nice likeable guy who seemed to be in the right place at the right time. It seemed he went here, then there, then over there, then back, but did anything significant happen here, ther ...more
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