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Charlemagne's name shines out over the historical landscape, illuminating the dark ages and anticipating the Renaissance. These two lives provide a fascinating contrast. Einhard, who spent 23 years in Charlemagne's service, chose to approach his Vita Caroli as a public history and, in beautifully expressed language, recounts Charlemagne's personal life and his achievements in warfare, learning, art, building, and in the skillful administration of the state. Notker the monk's De Carolo Mag is a collection of anecdotes rather than a presentation of historical facts, and his main delight seems to stem from the ingenious ways in which Charlemagne subdued proud or corrupt bishops and other men of power. In these stories, which merge into fiction, Charlemagne is already halfway to becoming the legendary figure of the epics in the later middle ages.
EINHARD was born of noble parents in the Main valley around A.D. 770. He was educated at the monastery of Fulda, and was sent in the 790's to the court of Charlemagne. He became a friend of Charlemagne and his family, and was chosen to invite Charlemagne to crown his son as his successor in 813. After Charlemagne's death he was a loyal servant of Louis the Pious, both in Aachen and on his estates at Seligenstadt, where he died in 840. In addition to the Life of Charlemagne, probably written in 826-7, we have letters to and from Einhard, his account of the Translation of the Relics of Marcellinus and Peter (830) and On the Adoration of the Cross. NOTKER BALBULUS ( The Stammerer) was born near the monastery of St Gall, in Switzerland, around 840, and entered the monastery as a boy. He wrote his account of Charlemagne for the Emperor Charles the Fat between 884 and 887. He also composed a book of sequences with music, a Martyrology (897), and poems, letters and charters. He taught at the monastic school until his death in 912.