With decline of the Merovingian dynasty, Charles Martel revived the lost power of the Franks and, in 732 AD, helped Aquitaine, which was occupied by Spanish Muslims and defeated them near Poitiers under the command of his powerful cavalry. The Battle of Poitiers brought great prestige to Charles Martel. In 735, the king of Aquitaine accepted Frankish rule. Their numerous campaigns in Aquitaine and Provence consolidated this dominance.
In 737, following the death of Theuderic III, King of Merovingian, although Charles Martel did not dare to declare his kingdom, but had the power to prevent the election of his successor. Before his death in 741, Charles paved the way for the division of the monarchy between his two sons, Carloman and the Pepin the Short. And this is the beginning of the formation of the second important French dynasty, the Carolingians, who with the rise of Charlemagne, laid the foundations for the formation of the Holy Roman Empire.
Pepin the Short and Charlemagne
In 747, Carloman choose seclusion in a monastery, leaving Pepin the short as the only court minister. Although in 743, inevitably, a Merovingian king ascended the throne again to counter a general rebellion, Pepin clearly had real power. He suppressed the rebels and succeeded in ousting the Muslims from the Septimania (modern-day Languedoc), thus bringing the region under Frankish control. In 751, Pepin asked Pope Zachary who should have the title of king, the one in power (the court minister) or the one not in power (the king of Merovingian)? In a difficult situation, the pope ruled in Pepin’s favor because of threats from the Lombards (Government of the Kingdom of Pavia). Elected king of the Franks, Pepin imprisoned the last king of Merovingian in a monastery. The crown of the kingdom was placed on him by Saint Boniface. In 754, the pope instituted heresy at the coronation ceremony. For the first time, a Frankish king was officially proclaimed king by the Church. From then obedience to Pepin was a religious duty. In 754 and 756, the new king, in order to gratitude to the pope, fought against the Lombards in Italy, seizing important lands and handing them over to the pope. Pepin the Short is also considered the founder of the papal government. Before his death in 768, he divided his kingdom between his two sons Carloman and Charles (Charlemagne means Charles the Great). (Review, 1390: 62-64)
Charlemagne’s death in 771 made Charlemagne the only king of the Franks. He was tall and had a thick mustache; but he had a very low voice. Charlemagne was very active; uninterruptedly and from all sides he expanded its monarchy, and engaged in numerous military campaigns. This clever, tyrannical and sometimes ruthless king benefited from a powerful army of which mass cavalry was the main element (52,000 under normal circumstances, 12,000 of whom were cavalry). Every year in May, by order of the emperor, a large number of free and well-equipped men joined the corps, and the corps immediately set out for the battlefield. Leather-covered chariots accompanied the soldiers. Serving the military for small freelance farmers summoned to the “May Battlefield” was an overwhelming task. The equipment of a cavalryman was equivalent to 20 cows, and the Count fined each absentee soldier 60 sol (later called a sou). Many free men preferred to lose their freedom and be supported by a great lord. Instead, numerous military campaigns allowed the Frankish king to oversee the nobility. Before going to war, Charlemagne dealt with judges’ affairs and involved the nobility in drafting the law. Immediately, these laws, known as royal decrees, were written and recorded chapter to chapter. Also, short-lived military campaigns (from May to October) provided access to spoils of war and the conquest of new lands. Charlemagne immediately divided them among the aristocracy. The kingdom of the Franks expanded rapidly. Charlemagne conquered the kingdom of the Lombards in Pavia (773-774), appended Bavaria (788), and defeated the Avars that settled in the Hungarian plains in 796. The Frankish campaign was sometimes met with fierce resistance. The Bretons always disobeyed. Charlemagne also failed to dominate Muslim Spain. In 778, he was defeated at Zaragoza, and the continuation of his army that was commanded by Roland Marquis of the Brittany Territory, was killed by Basques in Roncevaux Pass. However, in 801 the Franks succeeded in capturing Barcelona. In the north, from 772 onwards, Charlemagne launched several operations against the Saxons; because their attacks threatened his kingdom. The violent Saxon revolt in 778 troubled the Franks. Nearly 30 years of relentless fighting and intense repression (after a revolt, 4,500 Saxon chiefs were beheaded) were necessary to finally conquer the Saxe. The kingdom of the Franks, centered on ancient Austrasia, expanded. It had an area of about one million and two hundred square kilometers and had a population of 15 to 18 million people. On December 25, 800, the crown of the Western Christianity Empire was placed on Charlemagne head by Pope Leo III in Rome. This title brought great prestige to the King of the Franks and made him not only a great political leader, but also a religious leader. The Byzantine Empire was very upset by this incident; But the Caliph of the Muslims, Harun al-Rashid, under the influence of Charlemagne glory, sent his ambassadors to him with many gifts such as a blue clock, an elephant and a chess. (The same: 64-66)
Charlemagne sought to make this empire had an administrative system and a government, of which ancient Gaul was only a part of it. Although the empire had no significant tax revenue other than the taxes levied on the transportation of goods, the emperor instead had enormous land wealth that he could use to attract the nobility. Thus, Charlemagne controlled nearly 600 vast territories and about 200 monasteries. In 794, Aachen (in French as Aix-la-Chapelle) became the permanent capital of the monarchy. The post of court minister was abolished, but the emperor was always assisted by a number of high-ranking officials, such as judges, treasurers, hostler, cavalry officers, and so on. The clergies of the palace Chapel, by order of the bureaucrat, was responsible for writing the emperor’s decrees and sending correspondence. Across the empire territory, nearly 700 Counts, selected from members of large families, they carried out imperial orders, summoned free men to serve in the military, presided over the courts, and received fines. Each Count received a piece of land lifetime for his services. He also had a small group of bureaucrats (about 12) and a Viscount have helped him. In high-risk border areas such as Brittany and Catalonia, the Counts had special military power and were called Marquis. In total, the administrative staff of the empire was undoubtedly estimated at between 8,000 and 9,000. In the cities, the most influential and powerful person was the bishop, who was appointed by the emperor. Charlemagne, a distrustful and skeptical man, regularly sent inspectors (often a Count and a bishop) to the states. They were in charge of monitoring and inspection. Finally, the emperor took a vow of allegiance from all free men over the age of 12. These vows, which concluded in 789, 793 and 802, extend the chain of allegiance to the emperor as a large network throughout the empire. Communication between individuals was also expanding. After the petty free peasants, it was time for the warriors to look for someone to be their master.
From the end of the eighth century, dictionaries and rites of entry into the feudal system developed between the Loire and Rhine rivers. A “Vassal” placed his hands in the hands of a “master”, declaring his “loyalty and respect” to him. Vassal pledged to help his master during the war, to guide him, and in return the lord supported Vassal, giving him a lifetime of land as a gift, later called the “Feudum” (Thiol). (The same: 67-69)
Although the Carolingian Empire seemed relatively orderly and organized, it was weak and unstable. The empire was not centralized enough, and Charlemagne gave some areas such as Aquitaine a lot of independence. In Aquitaine, Provence, Italy, and Germany, inspection committees did not intervene, and many Counts, who had become influential and powerful persons, were lazy in carrying out the emperor’s orders (The same: 69).
The period between 750 and 850 saw the population regrowth, a limited resumption of economic activity, and especially a sudden awakening to cultural activity. (The same)
The plague was gone and the population was growing. Some written documents, such as the royal decree of Venice and Polyptych of Irminon monastery, make it possible to better understand rural life. Landowners divided their large estates (2,850 hectares in Anapa) into “lordly grounds” around a country house and a collection of small estates (between 5 and 12 acres) or “peasant grounds” that gave them to free villagers, land-dependent farmers and slaves settled on the land. Land-dependent farmers and slaves paid taxes to landowners and secured the value of lordly lands by hard work on the land. This system improved the living conditions of the slaves, whose number was also decreasing day to day; On the contrary, the living conditions of many small-scale peasants who were dominated by a large landowner deteriorated. Gradually, the society of slaves and free people joined each other, thus forming the class of peasants who worked on the land (The same: 69&70).
At this time, a heavy plow was created in Île-de-France, the turning soil of which could plow the earth more deeply. The document, which dates back to 800, mentions a yoke that made it possible to drag more animals. The use of horseshoes was first introduced in 855. However, any generalization of the use of this tool should be avoided. In other words, these innovations spread slowly. The plough was still widely used, and land that was not well cultivated had to be left for a long time. An examination of the list of available tools in the vast realm of Anapa indicates the extreme scarcity of iron tools, as it mentions only two shovels, two sickles and two long-handled sickles. Based on the interpretations made on the documents of that era, it is possible to estimate the amount of agricultural products as good and desirable. (The same: 70)
The most active region of the empire was located in the north, in a land between the rivers Rhine and Moselle. Kent Dover was an active port on the English Channel (Manche) and Dorset on the lower Rhine. Trade relations between Italy (Venice) and the region remained strong through the Alps. Despite stop minting gold coins in the seventh century, numerous local markets developed. The Jewish merchants’ community (Verdun, Macon, Troy, Arles, etc.) was always active, especially in the trade of atheist slaves sold to Spanish Muslims. Most of the walls built in the third and fourth centuries around the cities, which put the city in strait, were destroyed. Many monuments such as new walls, monasteries and churches were built in Lyon, Metz, Arras, Rémy, Le Mans, Vienna, etc. (The same: 71)
Charlemagne knew Latin and arithmetic, he liked someone read a book for him – his favorite book was The City of God by Saint Augustine – but he learned to write too late. Charlemagne is considered as an incentive for literary and artistic revival. He invited famous scientists such as Pierre Puvis and especially the English Alcuin to his palace. A school was established in the Imperial Palace of Aix-la-Chapelle to educate young priests and nobles. Elsewhere in the empire, monasteries and cathedrals formed similar educational complexes in which more knowledgeable and educated priests were trained according to a well-codified curriculum. Latin language, free from impurity, was retrained and thus became the language of scholars; but it was incomprehensible to the general public. In the monasteries, considerable copying activities made it possible to preserve a significant portion of ancient thought. From 770 onwards, a new and very clear way of writing called the Carolingian minuscule appeared. The manuscripts were often decorated with very delicate and precious miniatures. Thus, Aix-la-Chapelle, Tours, Rémy, Metz, and Saint-Denis became the most important intellectual and religious centers. This attempt to retrain classical culture in the ninth century allowed the emergence of major works such as the historical stories of Einhard and Nithard, the writings of Agobard, or the ideas of Jean Scott. Charlemagne who was a great architect, facilitated the reopening of many open-air workshops. The Palatine Chapel, built in 796 at Aix-la-Chapelle by architect Odo of Met, as well as the churches of Germigny-des-Prés, Saint Gall, Fulda Cathedral and St. Riquier, testify to this progress. A motet was composed in the religious ceremonies of this period. (The same: 71-73)
Charlemagne, who considered himself the secular leader of Christianity, declared his support for the church. He encouraged the construction of Benedictines monasteries and sent missionaries to invite Saxons to Christianity. The emperor forced the peasants to give part of their produce (originally one tenth or tithe) to the priest of the local church. The church tried to prevent certain social customs, such as the forced abduction of women, as well as polygamy that were not in harmony with Christianity. Charlemagne, who had four consecutive wives and six illegitimate wives, was not a good example and pattern; like his daughters, who also remained single while all had children (The same: 73 & 74).
Source: Reviewer, Daniel (2011). History of France: From the Beginning to the Renaissance, translated by Shahnaz Salami, Tehran: Information.