History for the Rest of Us

Frederick I – Barbarossa

Frederick I – Barbarossa

Oct 12, 2012

EMPEROR FROM 1152-1190 Frederick I was one of the most famous of German emperors. He was a tall, stalwart man of majestic appearance. He had a long red beard and so the people called him Barbarossa, or Red-Beard. He came to the throne in 1152. At that time the province of Lombardy in northern Italy was a part of the German empire. In 1158 Milan, the chief city of Lombardy, revolted. Then over the Alps came an army of a hundred thousand German soldiers, with Frederick at their head. After a long siege the city surrendered. Soon it revolted again. The emperor besieged it once more and once more it surrendered. Its fortifications were destroyed and many of its buildings ruined. Even then the spirit of the Lombards was not broken. Milan and the other cities of Lombardy united in a league and defied the emperor. He called upon the German dukes to bring their men to his aid. All responded except Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, Frederick’s cousin, whom he had made duke of Bavaria also. Frederick is said to have knelt and implored Henry to do his duty, but in vain. In his campaign against the Lombards Frederick was unsuccessful. His army was completely defeated and he was compelled to grant freedom to the cities of Lombardy. Everybody blamed Henry the Lion. The other dukes charged him with treason and he was summoned to appear before a meeting of the nobles. He failed to come and the nobles thereupon declared him guilty and took from him everything that he had, except the lands he had inherited from his father. Frederick now devoted himself to making Germany a united nation. Two of his nobles had been quarreling for a long time and as a punishment for their conduct each was condemned, with ten of his counts and barons, to carry dogs on his shoulders from one country to another. Frederick finally succeeded in keeping the nobles in the different provinces of Germany at peace with one another, and persuaded them to work together for the good of the whole empire. He had no more trouble with them and for many years his...

Charlemagne

Charlemagne

Sep 7, 2012

KING FROM 768-814 A.D. Pepin (King of the Franks) had two sons, Charles and Carloman. After the death of their father they ruled together, but in a few years Carloman died, and Charles became sole king. Charles was the most famous of the kings of the Franks. He did so many great and wonderful things that he is called Charlemagne which means Charles the Great. He was a great soldier. For thirty years he carried on a war against the Saxons. Finally he conquered them, and their great chief, Wittekind, submitted to him. The Saxons were a people of Germany, who then lived near the land of the Franks. They spoke the same language and were of the same race as the Franks, but had not been civilized by contact with the Romans. They were still pagans, just as the Franks had been before Clovis became a Christian. They actually offered human sacrifices. After Charlemagne conquered them he made their lands part of his kingdom. A great number of them, among whom was Wittekind, then became Christians and were baptized; and soon they had churches and schools in many parts of their country. Another of Charlemagne’s wars was against the Lombards. Pepin, had defeated the Lombards and given to the Pope part of the country held by them. The Lombard king now invaded the Pope’s lands and threatened Rome itself; so the Pope sent to Charlemagne for help. Charlemagne quickly marched across the Alps and attacked the Lombards. He drove them out of the Pope’s lands and took possession of their country. After he had conquered the Lombards he carried on war, in 778, in Spain. A large portion of Spain was then held by the Moorish Saracens. But a Mohammedan leader from Damascus had invaded their country, and the Moors invited Charlemagne to help them. He therefore led an army across the Pyrenees. He succeeded in putting his Moorish friends in possession of their lands in Spain and then set out on his return to his own country. On the march his army was divided into two parts. The main body was led by Charlemagne himself. The rear guard was commanded by a...