Dem bones are his bones

Last Thursday,
A bone thief,
Entered my home,
Came to my room,
And stole my arm’s bone…1.Mr. R’s World of Math and Science, Bone Poem.

In case you were worried that a variation on a classic joke would stump you, it has been confirmed that Charlemagne is buried in Charlemagne’s tomb.

Scientists led by Dr. Frank Ruhli of the University of Zurich announced that the bones found in Charlemagne’s tomb are almost certainly those of the Emperor. “Thanks to the results from 1988 up until today, we can say with great likelihood that we are dealing with the skeleton of Charlemagne.”2.The Local de, Charlemagne’s bones are (probably) real, 31 January 2014.

Somewhat surprisingly (to me, anyway) this news was carried widely. A quick Google search shows reports in CNN, Fox News, USA Today, and (not as surprisingly) in many European outlets.

Read moreDem bones are his bones

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Mr. R’s World of Math and Science, Bone Poem.
2. The Local de, Charlemagne’s bones are (probably) real, 31 January 2014.

Chapters of decrees

While written laws like the lex salica governed everyday life, the Carolingians also issued decrees from time to time, called capitularies. Capitularies are legal documents, so named because they are divided into chapters or articles called ‘capitula.’ Capitularies were issued by the king, and describe and explain legal obligations of the king’s subjects. It is through capitularies that the flavor of royal rule can be known. “While the decisive influence of Charlemagne on the institutions of the Frankish monarchy is well known, what is more obscure… is the manner in which Charlemagne wielded this influence. This was done chiefly through the capitularies… by which the Carolingian monarchs issued legislative and administrative provisions.”1.Ganshof, Carolingians, “The impact of Charlemagne on the institutions of the Frankish realm,” p.143.

There are about 100 capitularies that have come down to modern times. Of these, maybe twenty-five have been translated into English, primarily by King and Loyn & Percival. I find Loyn & Percival’s translations a little clearer to read, although King provides more background on each capitulary.

Read moreChapters of decrees

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Ganshof, Carolingians, “The impact of Charlemagne on the institutions of the Frankish realm,” p.143.

Francia travelogue – Lombardy

The Lombard tribes came out of the north and east of Europe in the sixth century, under their king Alboin. They settled in northern and central Italy, an area which came to be known, if you can believe it, as Lombardy. The river Po drains from the Alps in the west to the Adriatic in the east, and most of the major Lombard cities, including Milan and the Lombard capital Pavia, sat along the river or its tributaries. The only outposts of the non-Lombard rule were the papal areas and the regions of the Exarchate of Ravenna, which were a part of the eastern Roman empire.

As with all of the Germanic “barbarians,” the Lombards remained pagan through the seventh century. Barbatus of Benevento (admittedly to the south) records that “the people of Benevento indulged in many idolatrous behaviors, including veneration of a golden viper and a local tree.

Read moreFrancia travelogue – Lombardy

What’s for dinner?

Food is central to the daily life of everyone who has ever lived, and the Carolingians were no exception. What did they have available to eat? What was on the menu of a peasant, or a lord?

For this post I will rely heavily on secondary sources, as the primary sources simply don’t touch on food that much. Discerning patterns in food production and consumption requires a survey of historical and archaeological sources that span centuries and frontiers, and then coming up with inferences and suppositions based on experience and scholarship. I will leave that to the experts. But let’s see what they have to say.

Let’s start with what was available. The age of the hunter-gatherer had passed, and the populace lived a settled, agricultural life. Cultivated grains included wheat, barley, rye, and oats. While wheat produced more seed per plant, it was not as hardy as some of the others.1.Pearson, Early Medieval Diet, p.4. Growers of the time thought in terms of two types of vegetables. Legumina, or legumes, grew in the fields, and included beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, and others. Olera, or roots, grew in a garden, and included leeks, garlic, carrots, onions, etc.2.Riche, Daily Life, p.173.

Read moreWhat’s for dinner?

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Pearson, Early Medieval Diet, p.4.
2. Riche, Daily Life, p.173.