Monday, 3 February 2014

Was Charlemagne a Mass Murderer?

When he heard of this, the Lord King Charles rushed to the place with all the Franks he could gather on short notice and advanced to where the Aller flows into the Weser. Then all the Saxons came together again, submitted to the authority of the Lord King, and surrendered the evildoers who were chiefly responsible for this revolt to be put to death – four thousand five hundred of them. The sentence was carried out.

This entry for the year 782 in the Royal Frankish Annals is one of the most debated topics of Charlemagne’s reign. Did the ‘Massacre of Verden’ actually happen with 4500 people being killed in a single day? Was the Carolingian ruler (and later Holy Roman Emperor) justified in his actions? Or was this a brutal act of ethnic-cleansing that has left a terrible mark on the man who is credited with re-establishing Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire?

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