Page images
PDF
EPUB

took the western kingdoms of Neustria and Aquitaine, with the Spanish March and western Burgundy, for his kinsman Pippin was abandoned to his mercy by the emperor, and the lands south of the Loire, as well as those north, were put into his share of the empire. Two of these realms, those of Charles and Lewis, roughly corresponded to national unities. The eastern kingdom comprised all the Teutonic districts of the empire, except Austrasia. The western, formed by the union of Neustria and Aquitaine, was the first foreshadowing of the modern kingdom of France, comprising as it did the bulk of the Romance districts of the empire, where the Teutonic element had always been small, and was of late growing less and less prominent. But Lothair's kingdom was an unnatural and unwieldy aggregation of districts connected neither by blood, by language, nor by historical ties. Its shape seems to have been determined merely by the wish to give the emperor both the imperial cities—Rome and Aachen—together with a strip of soil conveniently connecting them. The Teutonic Austrasians, the Romance-speaking Burgundians, and the Italian Lombards were in no wise fitted for union with each other, and were certain to drift apart, alike from geographical and from national reasons. They only adhered to each other for one man's life, and fell asunder the moment that he died. For the future we shall find the wide realm of Charles the Great constantly tending to minute sub-division. The connection between east and west, north and south, grows constantly less, and ere long we shall be compelled to tell of the fortunes of the different fractions of the empire in separate chapters, since the central cord of connection formed by the kingly power has finally snapped. But as long as the generation of the sons of Lewis the Pious survives, there is still a certain interdependence between the history of the Eastern and Western Franks, and it is not till the deposition of Charles the Fat, in 887, that the elements of dissolution finally triumph, and all ideas of the reunion of the empire are finally discredited. In 843 commences the tripartite government of Lothair the emperor, and his two brothers, whom we may for the future style by their well-known names of Lewis the German and Charles the Bald, though the latter style can hardly yet have been appropriate to the Neustrian king, who had only just celebrated his twenty-first birthday. His elder brothers were now much older men, Lothair having attained his forty-fourth and Lewis his thirty-eighth year. Both of them had now growing sons whom they were ere long to take as colleagues in part of their realm. The period from the Peace of Verdun, in 843, down to the deposition of Charles the Fat, in 887, is the most chaotic and perplexing portion of the history of Europe with which we have to deal. For the fortunes of the various fractions of the rhegrandsen, Frankish empire are bound up with the fortunes grandsons of Lewis to of the members of a much-ramified royal house Pious. in which—with a lamentable want of originality —the same four names are continually recurring. We have hitherto been confronted only with the three brothers— Lothair, Lewis, and Charles. Now each of these brothers had three sons, and with a perversity which the reader and the writer of history must alike deplore, each christened his boys after their uncles. Lothair's three sons were Lewis, Charles, and Lothair; Lewis named his offspring Lewis, Charles, and Carloman; and Charles, when at a later date he became a father, followed the evil example by christening his children Lewis, Charles, and Carloman also. The genealogical table must be kept carefully before us, lest from the similarity of names we confuse the imperial, the German, and the Neustrian houses of the Karlings. The dates of the reigns of the three contentious brothers were, for Lothair 843-855, for Lewis 843-876, for Charles 843877. When they had settled down after the Peace of Verdun, they found two problems before them. The first was that of

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][graphic]

keeping the peace with each other, in spite of all the grudges which the events of the last fifteen years had raised between them. The second was that of defending Western Christendom from the assaults from without, which were daily growing more and more dangerous. The Danes, whose first ravages we have related under the reign of Lewis the Pious, were now becoming no longer a mere pest to the coastland, but a serious danger to the whole empire. The Saracens were commencing a series of daring piratical descents on Provence and Italy. The Slavs beyond the Elbe were gradually throwing off their allegiance to the empire, and recommencing the raids on Germany, from which they had been stayed by Charles the Great. For ten years (843-53) the three kings succeeded—contrary to all expectation—in keeping the peace with each other. But in spite of their temporary freedom from civil strife, they did not succeed in defending their realms with success from the outer barbarian. As the chronicler observed, “the slaughter of Fontenay seemed not only to have thinned the ranks of the Frankish host, but to have robbed them of their ancient invincibility in war.’ The only one of the three kings who showed the slightest power to defend his borders was Lewis the German: his two brothers suffered one continual series of checks and disasters. The main problem which now confronted the Frankish rulers was the necessity for dealing firmly with the invasion of the Scandinavian pirates. The peoples on both shores of the Cattegat had now thrown themselves heart and soul into the occupation of harrying the lands of their southern neighbours. They were a group of kindred tribes, some of whom dwelt in Jutland and the Danish isles, others on the southern and south-eastern shore of the Scandinavian peninsula, others along the fiords which face the German Ocean. Western Christendom often styled them indiscriminately by the name of Danes, though in truth the Danes were only the most southern of the four races which

The Vikings.

joined in the invasions. A better common appellation was that of Northmen, which would include the Swede, the Goth and the Norwegian as well as the Danish dwellers in Jutland and Zealand. From time immemorial the dwellers on the Cattegat and the southern Baltic had been a sea-faring race. Tacitus, in the second century of our era, speaks of Scandinavia as powerful by its fleets. The Jutes and Angles who joined in the conquest of Britain had sprung from these seas. The Danes had been addicted to piracy from the earliest times. Far back in the sixth century, we have heard of Viking chiefs, like king Hygelac whom Theudebert the Frank slew," as occasionally descending on the Austrasian and Frisian shores. But it was not till the end of the eighth century that western Europe began to be seriously troubled by the Northmen. The cause of the sudden increase of activity among races who had so long spared the feeble realm of the later Merovings is difficult to ascertain. Perhaps their constant wars with the Saxons, tribes as fierce and untameable as themselves, had kept them quiet. But it is certain that down to the time of Charles the Great they were mainly expending their energy on wars with each other, and were seldom heard of in the North Sea or the British Channel till the Frankish empire with its wealth, its commerce, and its Christian propaganda came up to meet them by subduing the Saxon and Frisian, and stretching forth its boundary to the Eider. It was just after Charles the Great had conquered Saxony that the Vikings began to make themselves felt. The earliest trace of them in western waters was a petty raid on the English town of Wareham in 789. Within a few years, however, the scope of their expeditions enlarged; in 793 they sacked the great Northumbrian monastery of Lindisfarn; in 795 they are heard of in Ireland for the first time. In 799 they early viking began their assaults on the Frankish empire by raids. a transient raid on Aquitaine. From this time forward * See page 113.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »