Which historical figure was also known as "Charles the Great?"

And the answer: Charlemagne.    

With a name that loosely translates to Charles the Great, Charlemagne was a medieval emperor who ruled much of Western Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries. He inspired future leaders such as Napoleon, who sought to unify Europe.

Photo credit: Beckstet

Charlemagne was one of the most prolific conquerers of Western and Central Europe. Presiding over the Franks, the Lombards, and pretty much anything else he could get his hands on, Charlemagne inspired leaders for centuries to come. However, unlike many iconic rulers, not much is definitively known about his early life. Although no one knows exactly when and where he was born, modern historians speculate that he was born in what is now Germany or Belgium. Regardless of the details, though, we do know that Charlemagne was hardly a man of humble beginnings. As the grandson of a legendary statesman named Charles Martel, also known as The Hammer, Charlemagne was born the heir to the Carolingian Dynasty.

In 768 AD, Charlemagne's father died, passing the kingdom to him and his brother. However, when his brother died in 771 AD from what historians believe was a severe nosebleed, Charlemagne consolidated power as the single ruler of his kingdom. From there on out, Charlemagne was known for his ability to solve problems that couldn't be remedied through diplomacy with the more violent alternative: the sword. In fact, Charlemagne even had an iconic sword named Joyeuse (French for "joyful").

The immense territories which Charlemagne controlled became known as the Carolingian empire. Charlemagne introduced administrative reforms throughout the lands he controlled, establishing key representatives in each region and holding a general assembly each year at his court at Aachen (a city in modern-day Germany, bordering Belgium and the Netherlands). He standardized weights, measures, and customs dues, which helped improve commerce and initiated important legal reforms, while also attempting to consolidate Christianity throughout his vast empire. Meanwhile, he persuaded many eminent scholars to come to his court and established a new library of Christian and classical works.

Learn more about Charlemagne below.

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