Thursday, December 04, 2008

Today In History: Carolingian days...

On this date in 771AD, Carloman I choked on his last cookie, leaving his older brother Carolus to go on and rule the entire Frankish kingdom. The Frankish kingdom went on to become the Frankish empire, and the older brother went on to be remembered as the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, which is Frogspeak for "Chuck the Main".

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah the good old days, when nobody made fun of the pacifist Belgs.

They were from Herstal.

Ed Foster said...

Or Karl Der Grosse, as the krauts were fond of calling him. Karl Arnulfing by birth, although the wise Frankish policy of heavy intermarriage with the Gaulish nobility meant he was actually several times as much Gaul as German, with a pinch or two of Roman as well.
He never actually learned to read very well, unusual for a French prince of the time, and seems to have had a good case of dyslexia. However, he's reputed to have played a mean game of chess.
He hired a number of very bright Irish and Scottish monks to run the empire for him while he did the soldier stuff, and it worked out very well for everybody except the Germans.
A seldom mentioned effect of his policies was the rise of the first Slavic kingdom, and the traditional closeness between France and eastern Europe. Some of it was simple common interest (all those Germans in between them). But much of it stems from his arming and importing large numbers of Slavs from what would now be northern Poland, and resettling them in eastern Germany.
Today, they are still a noticeable part of the German population, called Wends, and were a major contributor to the gene pool of the German aristocracy.
The Slavs had been battered for centuries by wave after wave of Germanic raiders, looking not for land, but slaves. Our word slave comes from Slav.
In southern Poland, the beginning of a nation state was coalescing around the Celtic Bastarnae, who seem to have intermarried fairly peaceably with the incoming Slavs. Sensible, as the Bastarnae needed bodies, and the Slavs needed leadership and modern military technology.
The Bastarnae themselves are an interesting story. An eastern Gaulish people supposedly related to the Boii of northern Italy and Switzerland, the Romans had never been able to defeat them.
Their reputation for violence was so great Attila went around them, and around that same time, Rome allied with them as Foederati.
Their fame at the time was so great, the Germans have been trying to claim them as brother krauts for a thousand years.
Interesting,as all the digs in southern Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and western Ukraine dating to that period show a totally Celtic culture, highly mobile and warlike, and still depending on chariots to deliver their Dragoons to hotspots in battle, wait for them, then yank them out and throw them in to the next scary place.
Something never done by the Germans, with their emphasis on heavy horse for penetration and infantry for follow-up.
However, the Slav/Celt people of the Carpathian alps were tied to their mountains. Their infantry tactics worked well in rough terrain, but would have been suicidal farther north on the plains.
Polonia, from the Slavic polae, field. Land of fields. Most of it is flat, perfect terrain for heavy cavalry.
So the first Poles built their city of Krakovia, or Crag Oppida as it would have originally have been called, Celtic for fortified city on the high rocky hill.
They made treaties with the Germans that let everybody save face, and watched helplessly as their cousins in the north were butchered or bred as animals to be sold to the brothels of the eastern Roman and Persian empires.
Charlemagne changed all that. The Slavs could fight, they'd proved that in one desperate, futile fight after another.
He took the nastiest of them, gave them the training and equiptment they needed to meet the Germans head on in heavy cavalry battle, and let them loose.
The Wends had four hundred years of get-even in their blood, and when the smoke cleared, they controlled all the major rivers and crossing points in eastern Germany, and when a German addressed a Wend, he said "Mein Herr" very politely.
The hybrid Slav/German culture that grew up in the aftermath of the Wendish wars was responsible for the peaceable German penetration of the Slavic countries.
Even today, probably 10% or 12% of the Poles you meet have German names, from long ago ancestors who came as traders and craftsmen, stating the foundation of the Polish, Czech, Wallachian, and Slovak middle class.
Name one war where the Poles have ever fought France. You can't.
Now think of the gallant Poles who died so well for Napoleon, sticking with him long after there was any hope, or the Poles and Free French Foriegn Legion taking central Italy away from the Nazis, litterally burying the German machineguns under their piled bodies at places like Monte Cassino. The French have had their good moments and their bad moments over the centuries, but the Poles are a people who know their friends and pay their debts.

Timmeehh said...

I thought Charlemagne meant "Chuck U D MAN!".

WV = baird

A fine prep school, when flamethrowers are not involved.

Cossack in a Kilt said...

Ed:

That was the coolest thing I read all day (and I make it a point to read cool things every day).

The Poles have historically had grit.

Anonymous said...

Cossack, the Poles, historically, haven't had a choice in the matter.

Carl H said...

Now that it's Repeal Day, I'ma hoist a shot of Sobieski wodka in the general direction of the Kingdom of the Franks. Yep, here's to Karl the Great, and Jan Sobieski, who was pretty damned swell his own self.

And another thing...if Charles Martel was the Hammer of God, was his cousin Marcel Martel the Nail Apron of God? Maybe the Tri-Square of God? Whatev.

Anonymous said...

Carl. You're a Mason. Aren't you.