Famous Men Of The Middle Ages
By John H. (John Henry) Haaren

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35 chapters

4 hour read

FAMOUS MEN OF THE MIDDLE AGES

10 minute read

By JOHN H. HAAREN, LL.D. District Superintendent of Schools The City of New York and A. B. POLAND, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools Newark N. J....

PREFACE

2 minute read

The study of history, like the study of a landscape, should begin with the most conspicuous features. Not until these have been fixed in memory will the lesser features fall into their appropriate places and assume their right proportions. The famous men of ancient and modern times are the mountain peaks of history. It is logical then that the study of history should begin with the biographies of these men. Not only is it logical; it is also pedagogical. Experience has proven that in order to attract and hold the child's attention each conspicuous feature of history presented to him should have an individual for its center. The child identifies himself with the personage presented. It is not Romulus or Hercules or Cæsar or Alexander that the child has in mind when he reads, but himself, acting under similar conditions. Prominent educators, appreciating these truths, have long recognized the value...

THE GODS OF THE TEUTONS

7 minute read

In the little volume called The Famous Men of Rome you have read about the great empire which the Romans established. Now we come to a time when the power of Rome was broken and tribes of barbarians who lived north of the Danube and the Rhine took possession of lands that had been part of the Roman Empire. These tribes were the Goths, Vandals, Huns, Franks and Anglo-Saxons. From them have come the greatest nations of modern times. All except the Huns belonged to the same race and are known as Teutons. They were war-like, savage and cruel. They spoke the same language—though in different dialects—and worshiped the same gods. Like the old Greeks and Romans they had many gods. Woden, who was also called Odin, was the greatest of all. His name means "mighty warrior," and he was king of all the gods. He rode through the air...

THE NIBELUNGS

8 minute read

I The time came when the people of Western Europe learned to believe in one God and were converted to Christianity, but the old stories about the gods and Valkyries and giants and heroes, who were half gods and half men, were not forgotten. These stories were repeated from father to son for generations, and in the twelfth century a poet, whose name we do not know, wrote them in verse. He called his poem the Nï'bel-ung'en-lied (song of the Nibelungs). It is the great national poem of the Germans. The legends told in it are the basis of Wagner's operas. "Nibelungs" was the name given to some northern dwarfs whose king had once possessed a great treasure of gold and precious stones but had lost it. Whoever got possession of this treasure was followed by a curse. The Nibelungenlied tells the adventures of those who possessed the treasure. II...

ALARIC THE VISIGOTH

6 minute read

KING FROM 394-410 A.D. I Long before the beginning of the period known as the Middle Ages a tribe of barbarians called the Goths lived north of the River Danube in the country which is now known as Roumania. It was then a part of the great Roman Empire, which at that time had two capitals, Constantinople—the new city of Constantine—and Rome. The Goths had come from the shores of the Baltic Sea and settled on this Roman territory, and the Romans had not driven them back. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Va'lens some of the Goths joined a conspiracy against him. Valens punished them for this by crossing the Danube and laying waste their country. At last the Goths had to beg for mercy. The Gothic chief was afraid to set foot on Roman soil, so he and Valens met on their boats in the middle of...

ATTILA THE HUN

6 minute read

KING FROM 434-453 A.D. I The fierce and warlike tribe, called the Huns, who had driven the Goths to seek new homes, came from Asia into Southeastern Europe and took possession of a large territory lying north of the River Danube. During the first half of the fifth century the Huns had a famous king named At'ti-la. He was only twenty-one years old when he became their king. But although he was young, he was very brave and ambitious, and he wanted to be a great and powerful king. Not far from Attila's palace there was a great rocky cave in the mountains. In this cave lived a strange man called the "Hermit of the Rocks." No one knew his real name, or from what country he had come. He was very old, with wrinkled face and long gray hair and beard. Many persons believed that he was a fortune-teller,...

GENSERIC THE VANDAL

7 minute read

KING FROM 427-477 A.D. I The Vandals were another wild and fierce tribe that came from the shores of the Baltic and invaded central and southern Europe in the later times of the Roman Empire. In the fifth century some of these people occupied a region in the south of Spain. One of their most celebrated kings was name Gen'ser-ic. He became king in 427, when he was but twenty-one years of age. He was lame in one leg and looked as if he were a very ordinary person. Like most of the Vandals, he was a cruel and cunning man, but he had great ability in many ways. He fought in battles even when a boy and was known far and wide for his bravery and skill as a leader. About the time that Genseric became king, the governor of the Roman province in the north of Africa, on...

THEODORIC THE OSTROGOTH

5 minute read

KING FROM 475-526 A.D. I The Ostrogoths, or East Goths, who had settled in Southern Russia, at length pushed southward and westward to the mouth of the Danube. They were continually invading countries belonging to the Romans and their warlike raids were dreaded by the emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire, who lived at Constantinople. One emperor gave them land and money, and thus stopped their invasions for a time. The most famous of the Ostrogoth kings was The-od'or-ic the Great. He was the son of The-od'e-mir, who was also a king of the Ostrogoths. When Theodoric was eight years old he was sent to Constantinople to be held as a hostage by Leo, the Emperor of the East. In former times, when kings made treaties with one another, it was customary for one to give to the other a pledge or security that he would fulfill the conditions of...

CLOVIS

7 minute read

KING FROM 481-511 A.D. I While the power of the Roman Empire was declining there dwelt on the banks of the River Rhine a number of savage Teuton tribes called Franks. The word Frank means free , and those tribes took pride in being known as Franks or freemen. The Franks occupied the east bank of the Rhine for about two hundred years. Then many of the tribes crossed the river in search of new homes. The region west of the river was at that time called Gaul. Here the Franks established themselves and became a powerful people. From their name the country was afterwards called France . Each tribe of the Franks had its own king. The greatest of all these kings was Chlodwig, or Clovis, as we call him, who became ruler of his tribe in the year 481, just six years after Theodoric became king of the...

JUSTINIAN THE GREAT

7 minute read

EMPEROR FROM 527-565 A.D. I In the time of Clovis the country now called Bulgaria was inhabited by Goths. One day a poor shepherd boy, about sixteen years of age, left his mountain home in that country to go to the city of Constantinople, which was many miles away. The boy had no money to pay the expenses of the journey, but he was determined to go, even though he should have to walk every step of the road and live on fruits that he could gather by the way. He was a bright, clever boy who had spent his life hitherto in a village, but was now eager to go out into the world to seek his fortune. Some years before, this boy's uncle, who was named Justin, had gone to Constantinople and joined the Roman army. He was so brave and so good a soldier that he soon...

MOHAMMED

9 minute read

LIVED FROM 570-632 A.D. I A great number of people in Asia and Africa and much of those in Turkey in Europe profess the Mo-ham'me-dan religion. They are called Mohammedans, Mus'sul-mans or Moslems; and the proper name for their religion is "Islam," which means obedience, or submission. The founder of this religion was a man named Mo-ham'med, or Ma-hom'et. He was born in the year 570, in Mecca, a city of Arabia. His parents were poor people, though, it is said, they were descended from Arabian princes. They died when Mohammed was a child, and his uncle, a kind-hearted man named A'bu-Ta-lïb', took him home and brought him up. When the boy grew old enough he took care of his uncle's sheep and camels. Sometimes he went on journeys with his uncle to different parts of Arabia, to help him in his business as a trader. On these journeys Mohammed...

CHARLES MARTEL, 714-741 A.D. AND PEPIN, 741-768 A.D.

6 minute read

I After the death of Mohammed the Saracens, as Mohammedans are also called, became great warriors. They conquered many countries and established the Mohammedan religion in them. In 711 the Saracens invaded and conquered a great part of Spain and founded a powerful kingdom there, which lasted about seven hundred years. They intended to conquer the land of the Franks next, and then all Europe. They thought it would be easy to conquer the Franks, because the Frankish king at that time was a very weak man. He was one of a number of kings who were called the "Do-nothings." They reigned from about 638 to 751. They spent all their time in amusements and pleasures, leaving the affairs of the government to be managed by persons called mayors of the palace . The mayors of the palace were officers who at first managed the king's household. Afterwards they were...

CHARLEMAGNE

6 minute read

KING FROM 768-814 A.D. I Pepin had two sons Charles and Carloman. After the death of their father they ruled together, but in a few years Carloman died, and then Charles became sole king. This Charles was the most famous of the kings of the Franks. He did so many great and wonderful things that he is called Charlemagne ( shar-le-main' ) which means Charles the Great. He was a great soldier. For thirty years he carried on a war against the Saxons. Finally he conquered them, and their great chief, Wittekind, submitted to him. The Saxons were a people of Germany, who then lived near the land of the Franks. They spoke the same language and were of the same race as the Franks, but had not been civilized by contact with the Romans. They were still pagans, just as the Franks had been before Clovis became a Christian....

HARUN-AL-RASHID

5 minute read

CALIPH FROM 786-809 A.D. I The most celebrated of all Mohammedan caliphs was Harun-al-Rashid, which means, in English, Aaron the Just. Harun is the hero of several of the stories of the "Arabian Nights," a famous book, which perhaps you have read. There are many curious and wonderful tales in it. When Harun was only eighteen years old he showed such courage and skill as a soldier that his father, who was then caliph, allowed him to lead an army against the enemies of the Mohammedans; and he won many great victories. He afterwards commanded an army of ninety-five thousand Arabs and Persians, sent by his father to invade the Eastern Roman Empire, which was then ruled by the Empress Irene ( i-re'ne ). After defeating Irene's famous general, Nicetas ( ni-ce'tas ), Harun marched his army to Chrys-op'o-lis, now Scutari ( skoo'ta-re ), on the Asiatic coast, opposite Constantinople....

EGBERT

4 minute read

KING FROM 802-837 A.D. I Egbert the Saxon lived at the same time as did Harun-al-Rashid and Charlemagne. He was the first king who ruled all England as one kingdom. Long before his birth the people who are known to us as Britons lived there, and they gave to the island the name Britain. But Britain was invaded by the Romans under Julius Cæsar and his successors, and all that part of it which we now call England was added to the Empire of Rome. The Britons were driven into Wales and Cornwall, the western sections of the island. The Romans kept possession of the island for nearly four hundred years. They did not leave it until 410, the year that Alaric sacked the city of Rome. At this time the Roman legions were withdrawn from Britain. Some years before this the Saxons, Angles and Jutes, German tribes, had settled...

ROLLO THE VIKING

7 minute read

DIED 931 A.D. I For more than two hundred years during the Middle Ages the Christian countries of Europe were attacked on the southwest by the Saracens of Spain, and on the northwest by the Norsemen, or Northmen. The Northmen were so called because they came into Middle Europe from the north. Sometimes they were called Vi'kings, or pirates, because they were adventurous sea-robbers who plundered all countries which they could reach by sea. Their ships were long and swift. In the center was placed a single mast, which carried one large sail. For the most part, however, the Norsemen depended on rowing, not on the wind, and sometimes there were twenty rowers in one vessel. The Vikings were a terror to all their neighbors; but the two regions that suffered most from their attacks were the Island of Britain and that part of Charlemagne's empire in which the Franks...

ALFRED THE GREAT

5 minute read

KING FROM 871-901 A.D. I The Danes were neighbors of the Norwegian Vikings, and like them were fond of the sea and piracy. They plundered the English coasts for more than a century; and most of northern and eastern England became for a time a Danish country with Danish kings. What saved the rest of the country to the Saxons was the courage of the great Saxon king, Alfred. Alfred was the son of Ethelwulf, king of the West Saxons. He had a loving mother who brought him up with great care. Up to the age of twelve, it is said, he was not able to read well, in spite of the efforts of his mother and others to teach him. When Alfred was a boy there were no printed books. The wonderful art of printing was not invented until about the year 1440—nearly six hundred years later than Alfred's...

HENRY THE FOWLER

4 minute read

KING FROM 919-936 A.D. I About a hundred years had passed since the death of Charlemagne, and his great empire had fallen to pieces. Seven kings ruled where he had once been sole emperor. West of the Rhine, where the Germans lived, the last descendant of Charlemagne died when he was a mere boy. The German nobles were not willing for any foreign prince to govern them, and yet they saw that they must unite to defend their country against the invasions of the barbarians called Magyars ( ma-järz' ). So they met and elected Conrad, duke of Franconia, to be their king. However, although he became king in name, Conrad never had much power over his nobles. Some of them refused to recognize him as king and his reign was disturbed by quarrels and wars. He died in 919, and on his death-bed he said to his brother, "Henry,...

CANUTE THE GREAT

3 minute read

KING FROM 1014-1035 I The Danes, you remember, had the eastern and northern parts of England in the time of Alfred. Alfred's successors drove them farther and farther north, and at length the Danish kingdom in England came to an end for a time. But the Danes in Denmark did not forget that there had been such a kingdom and in the year 1013 Sweyn ( swane ), King of Denmark, invaded England and defeated the Anglo-Saxons. Ethelred, their king, fled to Normandy. Sweyn now called himself the king of England; but in a short time he died and his son Canute succeeded to his throne. Canute was nineteen years old. He had been his father's companion during the war with the Anglo-Saxons, and thus had had a good deal of experience as a soldier. After the death of Sweyn some of the Anglo-Saxons recalled King Ethelred and revolted against...

THE CID

7 minute read

Late one sunny afternoon one and twenty knights were riding along the highway in the northern part of Spain. As they were passing a deep mire they heard cries for help, and turning, saw a poor leper who was sinking in the mud. One of the knights, a handsome young man, was touched by the cries. He dismounted, rescued the poor fellow, took him upon his own horse, and thus the two rode to the inn. The other knights wondered at this. When they reached the inn where they were to stop for the night, they wondered still more, for their companion gave the leper a seat next to himself at the table. After supper the knight shared his own bed with the leper. If the knight had not done this, the leper would have been driven out of the town, with nothing to eat and no place in which...

EDWARD THE CONFESSOR

2 minute read

KING FROM 1042-1066 I The Danish kings who followed Canute were not like him. They were cruel, unjust rulers and all the people of England hated them. So when in the year 1042 the last of them died, Edward, the son of the Saxon Ethelred, was elected king. He is known in history as Edward the Confessor. He was a man of holy life and after his death was made a saint by the Church, with the title of "the Confessor." Though born in England, he passed the greater part of his life in Normandy as an exile from his native land. He was thirty-eight years old when he returned from Normandy to become king. As he had lived so long in Normandy he always seemed more like a Norman than one of English birth. He generally spoke the French language and he chose Normans to fill many of the...

WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR

4 minute read

KING FROM 1066-1087 I On the death of Edward the Confessor the throne of England was claimed by William, Duke of Normandy. When Edward took refuge in Normandy after the Danes conquered England, he stayed at the palace of William. He was very kindly treated there, and William said that Edward had promised in gratitude that William should succeed him as king of England. One day in the year 1066 when William was hunting with a party of his courtiers in the woods near Rouen, a noble came riding rapidly toward him shouting, "Your Highness, a messenger has just arrived from England, bearing the news that King Edward is dead and that Harold, the son of Earl Godwin, has been placed on the English throne." William at once called his nobles together and said to them, "I must have your consent that I enforce my claim to England's throne by...

PETER THE HERMIT

4 minute read

ABOUT 1050-1115 I During the Middle Ages the Christians of Europe used to go to the Holy Land for the purpose of visiting the tomb of Christ and other sacred places. Those who made such a journey were called "pilgrims." Every year thousands of pilgrims—kings, nobles and people of humbler rank—went to the Holy Land. While Jerusalem was in the hands of the Arabian caliphs who reigned at Bagdad, the Christian pilgrims were generally well treated. After about 1070, when the Turks took possession of the city, outrages became so frequent that it seemed as if it would not be safe for Christians to visit the Savior's tomb at all. About the year 1095 there lived at Amiens ( ä-me-an' ) France, a monk named Peter the Hermit. Peter was present at a council of clergy and people held at Clermont in France when his Holiness, Pope Urban II, made...

FREDERICK BARBAROSSA

3 minute read

EMPEROR FROM 1152-1190 I Frederick I was one of the most famous of German emperors. He was a tall, stalwart man of majestic appearance. He had a long red beard and so the people called him Barbarossa, or Red-Beard. He came to the throne in 1152. At that time the province of Lombardy in northern Italy was a part of the German empire. In 1158 Milan ( mï-lan' ), the chief city of Lombardy, revolted. Then over the Alps came an army of a hundred thousand German soldiers, with Frederick at their head. After a long siege the city surrendered. But soon it revolted again. The emperor besieged it once more and once more it surrendered. Its fortifications were destroyed and many of its buildings ruined. But even then the spirit of the Lombards was not broken. Milan and the other cities of Lombardy united in a league and defied...

HENRY THE SECOND 1154-1189 AND HIS SONS 1189-1216

8 minute read

I In 1154, while Barbarossa was reigning in Germany, Henry II, one of England's greatest monarchs, came to the throne. Henry was the son of Geoffrey Plan-tag'e-net, Count of Anjou in France, and Matilda, daughter of King Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conqueror. Count Geoffrey used to wear in his hat a sprig of the broom plant, which is called in Latin planta genista . From this he adopted the name Plantagenet, and the kings who descended from him and ruled England for more than three hundred years are called the Plantagenets. Henry II inherited a vast domain in France and managing this in addition England kept him very busy. One who knew him well said, "He never sits down; he is on his feet from morning till night." His chief assistant in the management of public affairs was Thomas Becket, whom he made chancellor of the kingdom....

LOUIS THE NINTH

5 minute read

KING FROM 1226-1270 I After the time of Barbarossa and Richard Cœur de Lion lived another great Crusading king. This was a grandson of Philip II, named Louis IX, who became sovereign of France in 1226. He was then only eleven years old, so for some years his mother ruled the kingdom. A few years after he had begun to reign Louis decided to make his brother Alphonse the governor of a certain part of France. The nobles of the region refused to have Alphonse as governor and invited Henry III of England to help them in a revolt. Henry crossed to France with an army to support the rebellious nobles. He was duke of Aquitaine and Gascony; so that although he was the king in England he had to do homage to the king of France for his possessions in that country, and fight for him if called upon...

ROBERT BRUCE

5 minute read

KING FROM 1306-1329 The most famous king that Scotland ever had was Robert Bruce. He lived in the days when Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III were kings of England. During the reign of Edward I the king of Scotland died and thirteen men claimed the throne. Instead of fighting to decide which of them should be king they asked Edward to settle the question. When he met the Scottish nobles and the rivals, each of whom thought that next day he would be wearing the crown, Edward told them that he would himself be their king. Just then an English army marched up. What could the nobles do but kneel at the feet of Edward and promise to be his vassals? This they did; and so Scotland became a part of Edward's kingdom and Ba'li-ol, one of the rivals who claimed the Scottish throne, was made the vassal...

MARCO POLO

4 minute read

LIVED FROM 1254-1324 I Some years before St. Louis led his last Crusade there was born in Venice a boy named Marco Polo. His father was a wealthy merchant who often went on trading journeys to distant lands. In 1271, when Marco was seventeen years old, he accompanied his father and uncle on a journey through the Holy Land, Persia and Tartary, and at length to the Empire of China—then called Ca-thay'. It took the travelers three years to reach Cathay. The emperor of Cathay was a monarch named Kublai Khan ( koo' bli-kän' ), who lived in Peking. Marco's father and uncle had been in Cathay once before and had entertained Kublai Khan by telling him about the manners and customs of Europe. So when the two Venetian merchants again appeared in Peking, Kublai Khan was glad to see them. He was also greatly pleased with the young Marco,...

EDWARD THE BLACK PRINCE

6 minute read

LIVED FROM 1330-1376 I One of the most famous warriors of the Middle Ages was Edward the Black Prince. He was so called because he wore black armor in battle. The Black Prince was the son of Edward III who reigned over England from 1327 to 1377. He won his fame as a soldier in the wars which his father carried on against France. You remember that the early kings of England, from the time of William the Conqueror, had possessions in France. Henry II, William's grandson, was the duke of Normandy and lord of Brittany and other provinces, and when he married Eleanor of Aquitaine she brought him that province also. Henry's son John lost all the French possessions of the English crown except a part of Aquitaine, and Edward III inherited this. So when Philip of Valois ( val-wah' ) became king of France, about a year after...

WILLIAM TELL AND ARNOLD VON WINKELRIED

5 minute read

I Far up among the Alps, in the very heart of Switzerland, are three districts, or cantons, as they are called, which are known as the Forest Cantons and are famous in the world's history. About two thousand years ago the Romans found in these cantons a hardy race of mountaineers, who, although poor, were free men and proud of their independence. They became the friends and allies of Rome, and the cantons were for many years a part of the Roman Empire, but the people always had the right to elect their own officers and to govern themselves. When Goths and the Vandals and the Huns from beyond the Rhine and the Danube overran the Roman Empire, these three cantons were not disturbed. The land was too poor and rocky to attract men who were fighting for possession of the rich plains and valleys of Europe, and so it...

TAMERLANE

3 minute read

LIVED FROM 1333-1405 I Tamerlane was the son of the chief of a Mongolian tribe in Central Asia. His real name was Timour, but as he was lamed in battle when a youth he was generally called Timour the Lame, and this name was gradually changed to Tamerlane. He was born in 1333, so that he lived in the time of the English king, Edward III, when the Black Prince was winning his victories over the French. He was a descendant of a celebrated Tatar soldier, Genghis ( jen'ghis ) Khan, who conquered Persia, China, and other countries of Asia. When twenty-four years old Tamerlane became the head of his tribe, and in a few years he made himself the leader of the whole Mongolian race. He was a tall, stern-looking man, of great strength, and, although lame in his right leg, could ride a spirited horse at full gallop...

HENRY V

5 minute read

KING FROM 1413-1422 I Of all the kings that England ever had Henry V was perhaps the greatest favorite among the people. They liked him because he was handsome and brave and, above all, because he conquered France. In his youth, Prince Hal, as the people called him, had a number of merry companions who sometimes got themselves into trouble by their pranks. Once one of them was arrested and brought before the chief justice of the kingdom. Prince Hal was not pleased because sentence was given against his companion and he drew his sword, threatening the judge. Upon this the judge bravely ordered the prince to be arrested and put into prison. Prince Hal submitted to his punishment with good grace and his father is reported to have said, "Happy is the monarch who has so just a judge, and a son so willing to obey the law." One...

JOAN OF ARC

6 minute read

LIVED FROM 1412-1431 I In the long wars between the French and English not even the Black Prince or King Henry V gained such fame as did a young French peasant girl, Joan of Arc. She was born in the little village of Domremy ( dom-re-me' ). Her father had often told her of the sad condition of France—how the country was largely in the possession of England, and how the French king did not dare to be crowned. And so the thought came to be ever in her mind, "How I pity my country!" She brooded over the matter so much that by and by she began to have visions of angels and heard strange voices, which said to her, "Joan, you can deliver the land from the English. Go to the relief of King Charles." At last these strange visions and voices made the young girl believe that...

GUTENBERG

5 minute read

LIVED FROM 1400-1468 I While Joan of Arc was busy rescuing France from the English, another wonderful worker was busy in Germany. This was John Gutenberg, who was born in Mainz. The Germans—and most other people—think that he was the inventor of the art of printing with movable types. And so in the cities of Dresden and Mainz his countrymen have put up statues in his memory. Gutenberg's father was a man of good family. Very likely the boy was taught to read. But the books from which he learned were not like ours; they were written by hand. A better name for them than books is "manuscripts," which means hand-writings . While Gutenberg was growing up a new way of making books came into use, which was a great deal better than copying by hand. It was what is called block-printing. The printer first cut a block of hard...

WARWICK THE KINGMAKER

8 minute read

LIVED FROM 1428-1471 I The earl of Warwick, known as the "kingmaker," was the most famous man in England for many years after the death of Henry V. He lived in a great castle with two towers higher than most church spires. It is one of the handsomest dwellings in the world and is visited every year by thousands of people. The kingmaker had a guard of six hundred men. At his house in London meals were served to so many people that six fat oxen were eaten at breakfast alone. He had a hundred and ten estates in different parts of England and no less than 30,000 persons were fed daily at his board. He owned the whole city of Worcester, and besides this and three islands, Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney, so famed in our time for their cattle, belonged to him. He had a cousin of whom he...