The Carolingian Empire

By Heinrich Fichtenau; Peter Munz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE LAST YEARS OF CHARLES THE GREAT

Charles the Great once dreamt that he was approached by a man who handed him a sword, a present from God. Four words were written on its blade: raht, radoleiba, nasg, enti. Charles recorded the dream that very night 1 and attempted to interpret it the following day. The sword signified the power of dominion; 'now, after the subjection of our enemies there is more abundance than in the days of our fathers. This fact is indicated by the first word, raht. Raht means abundance of all things. The word written in the second place signifies what will, we believe, happen after our death, in the times of our sons: the abundant crops will diminish and some of the newly-conquered nations will rebel. This means radoleiba in everything, a rapid decrease. When the sons die and their sons in turn begin to rule, there will happen what is indicated in the third place, nasg. For they will increase the taxes for the sake of sordid profit.... They will not care with how much confusion and ignominy they collect their wealth.... But that which was written near the point of the sword, enti, means end. It can be understood in two senses either the end of the world or the end of our dynasty....'2

This story was spread by Hrabanus Maurus who alleged that he had heard it from Einhard. Was it, perhaps, invented in the middle of the ninth century when dark shadows were falling over the Carolingian empire and the prevailing mood was very similar to that in the quoted text? Or did Charles who, following tradition, was fond of propounding and solving riddles, think of them even in his dreams? Whatever the answer, it is fairly certain that a prophecy composed after the event would have contained some

____________________
1
People who (like Charles) were unable to write with any degree of accomplishment in the ordinary way, could well have made a few notes on tabulae. As a matter of fact, Einhard's report that Charles was unable to write has been described as a fairy tale. E. Weniger, in: Historische Vierteljahrsschrift, 1935, xxx, p. 486.
2
"Visio Caroli Magni", P. Jaffé, ed., Bibliotheca rerum Germanicarum, iv, pp. 702 sqq.

-177-

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The Carolingian Empire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Abbreviations vi
  • Preface vii
  • Translator's Introduction ix
  • Chapter I - Introduction 1
  • Chapter II - Charles the Great 25
  • Chapter III - The Imperial Title 47
  • Chapter IV - The Court Scholars 79
  • Chapter V - Nobles and Officials 104
  • Chapter VI - The Poor 144
  • Chapter VII - The Last Years of Charles the Great 177
  • Index 189
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