Charlemagne's Early Campaigns (768-777)

A Diplomatic and Military Analysis


Charlemagne's Early Campaigns is the first book-length study of Charlemagne at war and its focus on the period 768-777 makes clear that the topic, for his forty-six year reign, is immense. The neglect of Charlemagne's campaigns and the diplomacy that undergirded them has truncated our understanding of the creation of the Carolingian empire and the great success enjoyed by its leader, who ranks with Frederick the Great and Napoleon among Europe's best.
The critical deployment here of the numerous narrative and documentary sources combined with the systematic use of the immense corpus of archaeological evidence, much of which the result of excavations undertaken since World War II, is applied here, in detail, for the first time in order to broaden our understanding of Charlemagne's military strategy and campaign tactics. Charlemagne and his advisers emerge as very careful planners, with a thorough understanding of Roman military thinking, who were dedicated to the use of overwhelming force in order to win whenever possible without undertaking bloody combat. Charlemagne emerges from this study, to paraphrase a observation attributed to Scipio Africanus, as a military commander and not a warrior.

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Upon receiving his AB degree in History and Classical languages, Professor Bachrach earned his MA and Ph.D. in Medieval History and archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley (1966). A fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, he is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Minnesota. Among his many articles and monographs are Fulk Nerra and Early Carolingian Warfare.
Acknowledgements … ix
List of Abbreviations and Sources … xi
Prefatory Note Regarding Maps … xvii
Map of Charlemagne’s Kingdom and Its Environs ... xix

Introduction … 1
1. Two Kings: Charlemagne and Carloman … 108
2. Italy in Flux: Opportunities and Problems … 139
3. The Saxon War: Phase One … 177
4. The Unwanted War … 246
5. The Siege of Pavia … 310
6. The Fall of Pavia and Its Aftermath … 374
7. The Saxon War: Phase Two … 427
8. The Friuli Diversion … 473
9. The “End” of the Saxon War … 510
10. Integration of the Saxon Territory … 566
Conclusions … 631

Bibliography … 654
Index … 691
All interested in serious military history at all levels, Charlemagne, and medieval history, in general.