Charlemagne's fight against the Lombards and Saxons
by Rit Nosotro
and Attila the Hun's fight against the Visigoths.
Compare Charlemagne's fight against the Lombards and Saxons with Attila the Hun's fight against the Visigoths.
Interesting comparisons can be made between some of the main military exploits of Charlemagne and Attila the Hun. Although some circumstances involving these two men may be similar, their motivations and the outcomes of their endeavors certainly differ greatly.
Attila the Hun, who has been known as the "last and most powerful king of the European Huns"1, ruled over the Germanic Hun tribe for nineteen years, from 434-453 A.D.2 Most know him as a very fierce warrior from a cruel and barbaric tribe, and indeed he was.
June 20, 451 proved to be a day of great struggle between many various powers. It was on this day that the Huns, Ostrogoths, and Vandals joined together to try and defeat the most rebellious Visigoths, Romans, and the Alans. The battle so bloody that even the fearless Attila turned back in defeat. Some accounts say that nearly 300,000 lives were lost that day. Yet the significant fact is that although Attila strategically wished to return and defeat the West some day, he never got the chance to wipe out the Visigoths.
Charles I, also know as Charlemagne (meaning Charles the Great), was king of the Franks for forty-six years. Will Durant has described him as possessing "Strength of body, courage of spirit, pride of race, and a crude simplicity."3 As the son and grandson of Pepin the Short and Charles Martel, he had quite a legacy to live up to. Ruling from 768-814 A.D., he lead many military expeditions, two of which were in an attempt to control and conquer both the Lombards and the Saxons.
The Saxons were a Germanic tribe which held land near the Franks. Charlemagne's conquest against them was by far the longest of the two. In 772 Charlemagne set out to both "[Conquer] and [Christianize] the powerful pagan Saxons in the north."4 The Saxons were a tribe who worshiped devils and held no regard for any type of law.5 Thus the idea of becoming a Christianized nation did not appeal to them, and it would be thirty years before their chief finally surrendered.
Right about the time when the Lombards seemed to have reached their peak, Charles I quickly and resolutely conquered them.6 His father, Pepin the Short, had conquered them before and given part of their land to the Pope. Now, however, the Lombards began to invade the Pope's land and even threatened to attack Rome. Panic-stricken, Pope Hadrian II summoned Charlemagne for help and thus Charlemagne's battle against the Lombards began. After crossing the Swiss Alps Charlemagne regained control of the Lombard's area and restored the Pope's control. That same year, A.D. 773, he claimed kingship over the Lombards.7
The similarities and differences between these men are vast. While Atilla the Hun may have been more merciless and barbarian-like than Charlemagne, they both possessed excellent leadership skills such as organization which enabled them to have a great impact on history. This is why many sources claim Attila as the greatest leader of the Huns and other sources describe Charlemagne as the most influential king of the Franks. While Charlemagne was victorious over both the Saxons and the Lombards, Attilla suffered defeat from the Visigoths and their allies.
Perhaps an explanation for this would be Attila's mindset. A legend which most likely contains some truth says that one day his servant found a sword in a field and brought it to him. Attila became persuaded that it was a sword of the Roman god of war, Mars, and stated that "I shall never be defeated in battle, as long as I fight with [this sword]"8. This statement shows his proud attitude. Scripture states that "Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble."9 Once Attila was defeated in his battle against the Visigoths, his hope to successfully war against them was defeated by his death.
Charlemagne, on the other hand, had attempted to conquer the Saxons in part to be able to Christianize them. Scriptures constantly remind us that the wicked man will fall, yet he who honors the Lord will remain strong. It has been said that "In I Samuel 2:30 God says, "Those who honor me I will honor . . . " [and] since Charlemagne honored God, God raised him up to lead a great nation."10
It is also interesting to note that while Attila the Hun is regarded as very barbarian-like, one would think of him as very cruel and fierce in war tactics, thereby seeming to give him an advantage over Charlemagne. However, examining scripture again reveals to us the fact that "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God."11 Also, scripture tells us that we are to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."12 Charlemagne chose to obey these words of the Lord, and thus his military exploits were blessed.
Therefore we see many obvious differences between Attila the Hun and Charlemagne's expeditions. One lost, the other won. Attila had strength, Charlemagne: faith. One's faith made the difference. Thereby an important lesson is learned through examining the lives of Attila the Hun and Charles the Great -- only those who fear the Lord shall truly be know as great.
1) Attila the Hun was:
a. A weak king of the European Huns who ruled for nineteen years
b. A powerful king of the European Hunting Association who ruled for 2.9 years.
c. A powerful king of the European Huns who ruled for twenty years
d. A powerful king of the European Huns who ruled for nineteen years.
2) All of the following are true about Charlemagne EXCEPT:
a. He led military expeditions against both the Saxons and Lombards
b. He became king of the Lombards in 737
c. He sought to spread Christianity
d. His military exploits were successful, he also had great organization and leadership skills
3) On June 20, 451, the ______________________, and the _________________ fought against each other.
a. Huns, Ostrogoths, and Vandals against the Visigoths, Romans, and the Alans
b. The Huns, Visigoths, Alans against the Romans, Ostrogoths, and Vandals
c. The Ostrogoths, Alans, and Romans against the Visigoths, Huns, and Vandals
d. None of these tribes ever fought against each other
4) Scriptures tell us we should:
a. Trust in battle weapons when we are in battle
b. Trust in the Lord and the weapons and resources we have
c. Trust solely in the Lord and seek to accomplish His work
d. Spend our lives thinking about what we can do for God
D, B, A, C
Durant, Will. Charlemagne the King. 2000. December 3, 2004. <http://www.chronique.com/Library/MedHistory/charlemagne.htm>
Koeller, David W. The Franks. 1996-1999. November 25, 2004. <http://campus.northpark.edu/history/WebChron/WestEurope/Franks.CP.html>
Nosotro, Rit. Attila the Hun, Scourge of God. 11/08/2004. hyperhistory.net.
December 3, 2004
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