Old Wine, New Skins: Models of Roman Leadership in the Court of Charlemagne

Brewbaker, Katarina A.
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Modern western society looks back on the Roman Empire as a model for politics, economics, and social relations. The use of the Roman Empire as a foundation for political organization began in the Early Middle Ages with the development of the idea of Christian kingship following the conversion to Christianity of Emperor Constantine (c.747-814). However, early medieval Francia adapted Roman principles selectively, and not primarily on the model of Constantine. During his rule of the Frankish Empire, Charlemagne (c.747-814) and his court consciously chose and incorporated elements from the first Emperor Augustus, as well as borrowed and reused Roman architecture. A comparison of ancient and Frankish historical, biographical, literary, and chronicle sources reveals how Frankish courtiers amended these Roman imperial ideas to establish Charlemagne’s Christian rulership, in part through an educational reform program and the establishment of royal court at Aächen modeled on Ravenna. Set against the backdrop of an emerging Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, Charlemagne’s court helped establish the legacy of Christian kingship usually attributed to Constantine.
Charlemagne, Antiquity, Middle Ages, Education, Architecture, Legitimacy, Imperial, Legacy
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