Charles Martel

Frankish military and political leader (c. 688–741)

Charles Martel (c. 688 – 22 October 741) was a Frankish political and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of the Franks from 718 until his death.

Quotes about Charles Martel edit

  • It was Charles Martel who had crushed the despots who were claiming dominion for themselves throughout the whole land of the Franks. It was he, too, who had conquered the Saracens, when they were striving to occupy Gaul, in two battles, one in Aquitaine, near the city of Poitiers, and the other by the River Berre, near Narbonne. In this way he compelled them to withdraw to Spain.
    • Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne (c. 817–833), quoted in Einhard and Notker the Stammerer, Two Lives of Charlemagne, trans. Lewis Thorpe (1969), p. 56
  • The Frankish power, it must be remembered, was under Charles Martel at the height of its greatness as a purely Frankish power. It was, in everything but formal titles, fully the peer of the Empire. And the personal glory of Charles stood above that of any living man in Christendom. He had beaten back the Mussulmans in the West, as the Emperor Leo had beaten them back in the East. The deliverer of the Church in Gaul was the founder of the Church in Germany. If the Lombard threatened, if the Emperor could or would give no help, the Frankish Mayor undoubtedly could give it effectually if he would. But the personal character and position of Charles must be taken into account. His reign—one cannot help calling it so—had been full of battles, full of victories. But he was not an adventurous or aggressive ruler. His object, whether for his own house or for the kingdom, was to keep what was in possession, to win back what had been lost, but to seek for nothing more.
    • Edward Augustus Freeman, 'The Patriciate of Pippin', The English Historical Review, Vol. 4, No. 16 (October 1889), p. 692
  • A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland: the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.
    From such calamities was Christendom delivered by the genius and fortune of one man. Charles, the illegitimate son of the elder Pepin, was content with the titles of mayor or duke of the Franks, but he deserved to become the father of a line of kings. In a laborious administration of twenty-four years, he restored and supported the dignity of the throne, and the rebels of Germany and Gaul were successively crushed by the activity of a warrior, who, in the same campaign, could display his banner on the Elbe, the Rhône, and the shores of the ocean.
  • The figure of Charles Martel was destined to occupy an important place in the epic poetry of France. His splendid victory over the Saracens at Poitiers was doubtless made the subject of many contemporary songs, and its memory may perhaps still be traced in some of the incidents of the Song of Roland. But it is interesting to note that certain traditions which in the later French epic are attached to Martel's more illustrious grandson, must have originally related to the victor of Poitiers himself, in whose history they have their only actual counterpart. This substitution of a later and more celebrated hero in the place of one more remote, has already been indicated as a common phenomenon in the development of epic poetry. But the confusion of these two heroes in the tradition is of later generations becomes still more intelligible if we remember that the fathers of both bore the name of Pepin, and that they themselves were known generally to their contemporaries by the simple name of Charles. Of those epic poems which form what has been called the Charlemagne Cycle, two at least—those which claim to relate the birth and the youthful exploits of the great emperor—formed originally a part of the poetic tradition which had Charles Martel for its hero, while a large number of isolated episodes in other poems point to the same process of epic substitution.
    • Frederic Spencer, 'The Poetry of the Franks', Modern Language Notes, Vol. 5, No. 8 (December 1890), pp. 456-457

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