Der Barbar Karl der Große

Einen sehr hübschen Artikel über das Verhältnis zwischen den Europäern des Frühmittelalters und den Muslimen in el-Andalus schrieb Kwame Anthony Appiah für die New York Review of Books Nr. 17/08. Vergleicht man den kulturellen Stand der beiden Regionen, fällt das Ergebnis für Karl den Großen nicht sehr schmeichelhaft aus:

      But the empire he created was, as Lewis puts it trenchantly, „religiously intolerant, intellectually impoverished, socially calcified, and economically primitive,“ ruled by a „warrior caste and its clerical enforcers.“ Despite the new currency, the economy was dominated by barter; there were few cities of any size; and wealth was measured in land, peasants, and slaves.


      Charlemagne had no national system of taxation. He lived off plunder and the product of his own estates. What his lords owed him was military service. They were obliged to show up annually in the late spring, armed for a military campaign, in case he thought it necessary. (Very often, he did.) The Franks had once been a relatively free agrarian people; now they were largely a nation of serfs, working alongside slaves—many of them Slavs from Bohemia and the southern shores of the Baltic.


      Charlemagne’s royal hall, in his new capital at Aachen, was built on a fifty-acre complex of buildings, secular and religious, and was the largest stone structure north of the Alps. But it paled in comparison to the architectural majesty of Byzantium or Rome. The King endowed libraries with hundreds of manuscripts, impressive by comparison with anything that had been seen hitherto by the Franks, but pitiful (as Gibbon observed) beside the thousands of documents in the libraries of Italy or Spain.


    […] The fact is that Charlemagne’s empire, impressive as it was, lacked many of the marks of what we think of as civilization: cities, commerce, great libraries, a literate elite. This is especially clear if we compare the world he made with the cultivated society of his new Muslim neighbors.

Anlass des Artikels ist das neue Buch von David Levering Lewis God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Modern Europe, 570–1215.

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