800: Charlemagne

Pope Leo III crowning Charlemagne, 14th century illumination.


Charlemagne is another ambiguous character. After he becomes Holy Roman Emperor in 800, he revives the Latin language and rescues ancient manuscripts from oblivion. But he also makes blasphemy a capital crime and converts heathens by the sword.


“Ah, woe is me! that I was not thought worthy to see my Christian hands dabbling in the blood of those dog-headed fiends.”
– Charlemagne on the Scandinavian Vikings recorded by Notker the Stammerer in De Carolo Magno, 9th century.