Charlemagne was one of the most successful of the Frankish kings, creating an Empire that included modern France, and parts of Italy, Germany and Austria. This issue of Medieval Warfare magazine focuses on the military aspects of his long reign, with articles on several of his main wars, the organisation of his army and one of his more controversial acts.
There are three articles on Charlemagne's campaigns. The first looks at his campaign against the Christian Lombards in northern Italy, a campaign conducted to help the Pope and that established Frankish power in Italy. This played a major part in allowing Charlemagne to claim the Imperial title as the successor of the western Roman emperors. This war saw Charlemagne cross the Alps, defeating an attempt to block him in the passes, and then carry out a year long siege of Pavia.
Next is a look at his long war against the Pagan Saxons. This war lasted for several decades, although the most serious fighting took place early in the period. This was a long drawn out campaign and illustrates how Charlemagne could be persistent against elusive foes. Another article looks at the contemporary reactions to this campaign, and in particular to the execution of 4,500 Saxon rebels at Verden, a war crime by modern standards, but not that unusual in ancient and early medieval history.
Finally comes a look at his campaign against the Avars, once a fearsome nomadic force, but soon to be overwhelmed by the Franks, Slavs and Bulgars. This campaign is perhaps most famous for the capture of the treasure of the Avars, accumulated loot of their earlier campaigns.
Two articles look at Charlemagne's army. The first looks at the size of the army, its equipment, structure and tactics, examining the tool that Charlemagne used for his conquests. The second looks at his engineers, who could turn their hands to roads, bridges, fortifications and even church building, and who clearly played a major role in his victories.
Away from the theme there is a fascinating account of the skills needed to recreate a decorated shield fitting found at Sutton Hoo, an account of the Hussite victory at Aussig, where they probably used a double circle of fortified wagons to trap their enemies, and finally a look at the evolution of the English treason laws and the brutal punishment inflicted on the guilty.
Over the Alps: Charlemagne in Italy
Felling the Irminsul: Charlemagne's Saxon Wars
Atrocity or apology: Charlemagne the mass murderer
A reign at an end: Charlemagne versus the Avars
Men of iron: the Carolingian army, AD 742-814
To build and destroy: Charlemagne's combat engineers
A little bird told me: Insight through reproduction
Triumph for the heretics: The Battle of Aussig
Drawn and quartered: The law of treason in medieval England.
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