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Becoming Charlemagne: Europe, Baghdad, and the Empires of A. D. 800

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2007

    A reviewer

    I've read many books on the Medieval period and Charlemagne in the last two years. This is now one of my favorites. Jeff Sypeck put the events of the period in a context which allows the reader to understand the various political forces competing against one another during that era, and the skill used by King Charles which ultimately led to him being referred to as King Charles the Great or Charlemagne. I had read mentions of Empress Irene of the Byzantine Empire, but her villainy and treachery never really impressed me until reading Sypeck's version. This time it took on the magnitude worthy of Shakespearean tragedies. The lives of Jews during the time of Charlemagne is a topic I had not seen mentioned at any length in the other various books I read, and Sypeck devoted a chapter to discussing how their treatment which by and large are hidden in the historical record. Charlemagne did not persecute Jews as he did those in his realm who worshiped pagan idols. Many Jews were educated, well-traveled, merchants, and officials in the royal courts. One Jew was sent by Charlemagne as an ambassador to Baghdad to speak with the leader of the Muslim empire, Harun al-Rashid. It is the various acts of political gifts from one leader to another 'Harun to Charlemagne' which were then perceived as a political slight by other leaders 'Empress Irene' that I found most fascinating. And then there is the dramatic saga of Pope Leo III and his attempted assassination that underscores the dramatic story of Charlemagne's coronation as Emperor. This isn't dry history with a simple recitation of facts, it is a story of intrigue brought to life. You know that Shakespeare had to base his stories on something.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2006

    Bringing Charlemagne To Life

    What a magnificent book. This is a unique approach looking at the influence Irene's Constantinople, Harun al-Rashid's Baghdad, and King Karl's Europe had on each other, and along with brutal papal Italian politics, led to the crowning of and making of the legend of Charlemagne. This is not a boring tome. In remarkable readable length Jeff Cypeck brings this brief golden age of medieval Europe to life. I would reccommend this book to everyone - you will learn something and you will be entertained.

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