Becoming Charlemagne

Europe, Baghdad, and the Empires of A.D. 800

    • 3.7 • 29 Ratings
    • $10.99
    • $10.99

Publisher Description

On Christmas morning in the year 800, Pope Leo III placed the crown of imperial Rome on the brow of a Germanic king named Karl. With one gesture, the man later hailed as Charlemagne claimed his empire and forever shaped the destiny of Europe. Becoming Charlemagne tells the story of the international power struggle that led to this world-changing event.

Illuminating an era that has long been overshadowed by legend, this far-ranging book shows how the Frankish king and his wise counselors built an empire not only through warfare but also by careful diplomacy. With consummate political skill, Charlemagne partnered with a scandal-ridden pope, fended off a ruthless Byzantine empress, nurtured Jewish communities in his empire, and fostered ties with a famous Islamic caliph. For 1,200 years, the deeds of Charlemagne captured the imagination of his descendants, inspiring kings and crusaders, the conquests of Napoléon and Hitler, and the optimistic architects of the European Union.

In this engaging narrative, Jeff Sypeck crafts a vivid portrait of Karl, the ruler who became a legend, while transporting readers far beyond Europe to the glittering palaces of Constantinople and the streets of medieval Baghdad. Evoking a long-ago world of kings, caliphs, merchants, and monks, Becoming Charlemagne brings alive an age of empire building that continues to resonate today.

October 13
HarperCollins e-books

Customer Reviews

Kevincheckwo ,

Keeping it interesting

I really enjoyed this book. It was easy to read and brought the historical characters to life. I highly recommend this book to anyone learning about European history.

Linda c. McCabe ,

Medieval politics are at the core of this book

I've read many books on the Medieval period and Charlemagne in the last two years. This is now one of my favorites.

Jeff Sypeck put the events of the period in a context which allows the reader to understand the various political forces competing against one another during that era, and the skill used by King Charles which ultimately led to him being referred to as King Charles the Great or Charlemagne.

I had read mentions of Empress Irene of the Byzantine Empire before, but her villainy and treachery never really impressed me until reading Sypeck's version. This time it took on the magnitude worthy of Shakespearean tragedies.

The lives of Jews during the time of Charlemagne is a topic I had not seen mentioned at any length in the other various books I read, and Sypeck devoted a chapter to discussing how their treatment which by and large are hidden in the historical record. Charlemagne did not persecute Jews as he did those in his realm who worshiped pagan idols. Many Jews were educated, well-traveled, merchants, and officials in the royal courts.

One Jew was sent by Charlemagne as an ambassador to Baghdad to speak with the leader of the Muslim empire, Harun al-Rashid.

It is the various acts of political gifts from one leader to another (Harun to Charlemagne) which were then perceived as a political slight by other leaders (Empress Irene) that I found most fascinating.

And then there is the dramatic saga of Pope Leo III and his attempted assassination that underscores the dramatic story of Charlemagne's coronation as Emperor.

This isn't dry history with a simple recitation of facts, it is a story of intrigue brought to life.

You know that Shakespeare had to base his stories on something.

So&so ,

Great Book

One of my favorite books. Explores the culture of Francia, Roman/Byzantine Empire, and the Abbasid Caliphate very well.

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