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The Saracenic Conquests; Karl the Great; the Holy Roman Empire. page 2

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We must now trace the progress of the Moorish arms beyond the Pyrenees, and see what there awaited the Saracen conquerors. After his great victory, Tarik pressed forward, occupying city after city by force or surrender, and always aided by the Jews, rejoiced to see the triumph of their Semitic kinsmen, the Arabs, over their Christian oppressors. Toledo, the Visigothic capital, was abandoned to the advancing Moors, and in 712 Musa, the African governor, crossed the Straits with a large army, and assumed the command. On his recall to Damascus, the work was carried on by others, and in 719 the southern part of Gaul, the region called Septimania, with the cities of Narbonne and Carcassonne, was occupied. The Saracens, who had been making raids on Burgundy and Aquitania, were utterly defeated in 721 under the walls of Toulouse. A new Moorish leader, Abd-er-Rahman, turned the tide of victory, and took Bordeaux by assault. This able and ambitious man, now commanding a vast host of Syrians, Berbers, Saracens, and Greek and Visigothic renegades, was renowned for his skill and courage in the conquest of northern Africa, and had resolved upon subduing the whole of Gaul. From Bordeaux he marched on towards Tours and then, in 732, came another great crisis in the history of the world, a battle which was to give judgment between the claims of Christianity and Islam to hold sway in Europe. It was, as regarded the future of Greek, Roman, and Teutonic civilisation, the last great contest between the Crescent and the Cross, and it ended in one of those signal deliverances which have affected for ever the interests of mankind, in deciding for the German against the Arab in a struggle for the mastery of the old Roman world. Exactly a century had passed away since the death of Mohammed, when Karl, son of the Prankish ruler Pipin of Heristal, and duke of the Austrasian Franks, the bravest and most thoroughly Germanic part of the nation, met Abd-er-Rahman and his motley array. The Frank warrior, now in the prime of his years, had done much hard fighting against heathen Frisians, Bavarians, Saxons, and Thuringians, who had assailed with peculiar ferocity, the Christianised Germans on the left bank of the Rhine. Thus skilled in warfare and full of courage, he commanded, in his Frank militia, warriors quite as brave and hardy as the foemen, and superior to them in stature and strength. The Saracen horsemen, with their tawny skins, white turbans, glittering spear-heads, and curved Damascus blades, saw before them fair-haired shaggy giants in steel casques, and cuirasses of leather interwoven with iron plates, each wielding a long heavy sword, or a huge iron mace and battle-axe. After six days of skirmishing, the decisive conflict began on a Sunday morning of October, 732. The wild riders dashed in vain charges against the sturdy Frankish foot. Their turbans could not resist the blows of sword or mace, while their light scimitars fell harmless on the helms and corselets. The ground became piled with the bodies of men and horses. A rear-attack of spearmen of Aquitaine, led by Duke Eudo, with the light of fresh steel glittering amidst thick clouds of dust, threw the Moslem host into confusion. Abd-er-Rahman died fighting, and the next day's sun showed the enemy fleeing towards the Pyrenees, leaving their camp, with abundant spoil, to the victors. The ponderous blows dealt on this great day by Duke Karl, as he clove his way with his mace through the enemy's ranks, gave him the surname of "Martel," or "the Hammer." A bound had been set to Saracen conquest towards the north, and their hold on Gaul was confined, until its close in 797, to Narbonne and the districts at the foot of the Pyrenees.

The little Christian kingdom of the north of Spain was increased, under Alfonso I., by the addition of Galicia, and the recapture of Salamanca, Astorga, and other towns, and, with Biscay and Navarre in the east, his dominion soon included about a fourth oft the whole country. At the end of the 8th century, the boundary between the Christian north and Moslem south agreed roughly with the course of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the range running north-eastwards from Coimbra in Portugal to Zaragoza (Saragossa), and thence with the river Ebro. The Moors thus held the fertile valleys of the Tagus, the Guadiana, and the Guadalquivir, a name corrupted from the Arabic Wady-al-kebir, "the Great River." The country was governed with justice, mildness, and wisdom by its Arab conquerors. A light poll-tax was levied on Christians and Jews; the land-tax was raised in equal proportions from Christians, Jews, and Moslems. There was no religious persecution, and the Christians openly declared their preference for Moorish rule over that of the Visigoths. The old slavery was a very humane institution in Mohammedan hands, according to the founder's strict precepts in the Koran. The bulk of the slaves became prosperous tillers of the soil under their masters, and many at once gained freedom by adopting the faith of Islam. This course was also taken by many large landowners and other men of good position. The conquest was assuredly a benefit to the conquered. The Arabs or Moors, the victors who were really made up of many once hostile tribes or clans, the majority being Berbers or the true Moors, were soon at issue with each other, on religious and political grounds, both in Africa and Spain. A civil war ensued, in which the Berbers were routed by the Arabs of Andalusia, and they had, in their turn, a long conflict with Syrian auxiliaries brought in to their aid. At last another Abd-er-Rahman, from Bagdad, a survivor of the family of Caliphs there deposed and almost extirpated by the founder of the Abbaside Caliphs, descended from Abbas, an uncle of Mohammed, arrived in Spain and became by conquest in 756 the despotic and cruel Caliph of Cordova, independent of the Eastern ruler. His reign ended in 788, and there we leave Spain until the middle of the 9th century, and take up the career of one of the foremost men in history.

Karl, surnamed "the Great," styled "Charlemagne" by French writers, son of Pipin of Heristal, became in 771, by the death of his brother, sole ruler of the Frank kingdom. In a reign of 45 years (769-814) he proved himself to be a great general, statesman, legislator, administrator, and civiliser, stained indeed by acts of ferocious cruelty towards heathen opponents, but grand in conception and active in execution beyond most of the sons of men that have gained positions of supreme power. Strong alike in mind and body, he was equal to either Julius Caesar or Napoleon in the intense, restless energy which enabled him to play so many parts - in the field of war, in religious controversy, in the encouragement of learning, in the reform of coinage, in diplomacy and statecraft. His vast genius is shown in the European history which preceded and followed his tenure of power. He stands out like a mass of solid land between two weltering wastes of waters; he divides two periods of turbulence, in the latter of which none was found competent to wield his sceptre, none could draw Ulysses' bow. Omitting details of his 53 separate expeditions against Frisians, Bavarians, Saxons, Avars, Slavs, and Danes; against the Lombards in Italy, and the Saracens in Spain, Sardinia, and Corsica; and against Bretons and Aquitanians in Gaul, we summarise his conquests by stating that his dominion at last included nearly all the territory that forms Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, northern Italy, and the north-east of Spain. The Saxons were crushed in a series of wars, and forced to accept Christianity. The Lombards were conquered in 774, and their king Desiderius was deposed. In the Spanish expedition of 778, territory as far as the Ebro was taken; the large rear-guard of Karl being, however, destroyed on his return by the Basque mountaineers, in the famous pass of Roncesvalles. Bavaria was conquered, and its duke deposed; the Avars of Hungary were overcome, and the country annexed, with the settlement of German colonists. The Slavonic tribes on the eastern borders of Germany were compelled to submit. The centre of the great empire was the Rhineland. The capitals were Rome in the south, and Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) in the north, the latter being the emperor's favourite city, adorned by him with a palace and a beautiful church. There were also imperial residences at Engilenheim or Ingelheim, near the left bank of the Rhine between Mentz (Mayence) and Bingen, and at Worms.

Karl was a thorough German in character and sympathies. His strength and stature were almost superhuman; in fight he was terrible and persistent; his powers in swimming and hunting were such as none could surpass. His army was composed of Prankish soldiers, and his literary work included the composition of a German grammar, the gathering of the old Teutonic songs about heroes, and a decree against confining prayer in the churches to Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. In organising his vast dominion, Karl divided it into kingdoms, duchies, and counties. The country east of Bavaria became a province called the East March, and was the origin of the East Realm, Oesterreich, or Austria. The border-districts became "Marks," placed under Margraves or "Counts of Borderlands," responsible for the safety of the empire against foreign attacks. Imperial commissioners made periodical visits to different parts, hearing complaints and making reports to the emperor. Two assemblies were yearly held, composed of the leading laymen and bishops. Their functions lay in discussion and advice; the making of new law rested with the emperor, who issued his capitularii or rescripts. As a protector of the Church, Karl created many bishoprics and monasteries, which were endowed with rich lands, and the payment of tithes was made compulsory throughout his dominions. The church-worship was improved by singers and musicians brought from Italy, and schools for the education of the clergy were founded at Tours and Paris. Among the learned men of his court were the great English scholar Alcuin, the honoured friend and adviser of Karl for 20 years; the Lombard historian Paulus Diaconus; and Eginhard of Franconia, who became superintendent of public buildings, and the author of the Latin life of Karl the Great, the most important biographical work of the middle ages. The schools founded in connection with monasteries by the advice of Alcuin helped, for several centuries of intellectual darkness, to keep learning in some sort alive.

We now come to the notable event which was the restoration in a sense of the old Roman Empire. When Karl rescued the Papacy and the people of Rome from the Lombards in 774, his title became "King of the Franks and Lombards and Patrician of the Romans," the latter part being bestowed by the Pope in the sense of "defender" or "protector." In 796 Leo III. came to the Papal chair, and two years later he had to flee to Karl for refuge from rebels. The king, as he still was, sent him back to Rome under due escort, and in 799 was once more in Italy. The Pope had, for the ends of the Papal temporal power, conceived the notion of reviving the old Roman Empire, the idea of which was still prominent in the minds of men. The Prankish king and the Roman pontiff were the two chief powers in the Christian world, and the rise of Mohammedanism had brought the common Christianity of Europe into stronger relief. The Byzantine emperors were wholly unable to defend western Christianity, and a great man had arisen, the founder, it was hoped, of an enduring dominion, who seemed well fitted to assume the sceptre of Julius and Augustus Caesar. On Christmas-day, a.d. 800, when Karl was hearing mass in the basilica of St. Peter, on the site of the great modern edifice, the Pope rose from his chair, as the reading of the Gospel ended, advanced to where the king knelt in prayer by the high altar, and placed the diadem of the Caesars upon his brow, while the multitude raised a shout in Latin "To Karl Augustus, crowned of God, the great and peaceful emperor, be life and victory." This was the beginning of the "Holy Roman Empire," "Holy" because its ruler was in close alliance, as protector and as wielder of the civil sword, with the spiritual head of the Church, "Roman" because he was crowned in Rome and in Western power represented the old imperial authority which had dominated the world. This was the central event of the middle ages, the connection of Church and State which made bishops and abbots as much a part of feudalism as counts and dukes. The new imperial authority was the headship of the world, and the first great holder of it, reviving order and culture, and moulding the West into a compact whole, with all of the wealth and knowledge and spirit that was left in Christian Europe, and controlling, as king, the great warlike power of the Franks, left much behind him which subsequent anarchy could not destroy, but on which men would build for many generations.

The death of Karl in 814 brought a time of trouble under his son, Ludwig the Pious, a weak well-meaning personage. The empire was divided, and civil war occurred between his sons. After Ludwig's death in 840, his sons Ludwig and Charles the Bald combined against their brother Lothar in an alliance remarkable for the fact that the oath was taken by Charles and his soldiers in the earliest specimen now extant of the French language, a mingling of the Gaulish or Celtic, Latin, and German. In 843 the Treaty of Verdun divided the empire amongst the three brothers. Lothar had the imperial crown, with the Netherlands, left bank of the Rhine, north Italy, Burgundy, and Provence. Ludwig took Germany east of the Rhine, except Friesland, and the dioceses of Mainz, Worms, and Speier on the left (west) bank of the river. Charles had as his share.the western part of the Frankish lands - Neustria, Aquitania, the north of Burgundy, and the Spanish Mark or border-land. The kingdom of Ludwig embracing the eastern part of the empire of Karl the Great, had the German element in the majority, and these East Franks called their language deutsch, or the language of the people, the modern name for "German," giving rise to "Dutch" in the narrow modern sense. The West Frank subjects of Charles the Bald mostly spoke the Romance language, one that largely incorporated the Latin or old Roman speech. We thus have the beginning of a separation between Germany and France, though we shall find that they were again for a time united.

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