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Charlemagne’s Establishment of Missi Messengers Case Study


De Litteris Colendis and General Capitulary of the Missi are the documents that demonstrate Charlemagne’s concern with spreading education and establishing Missi’s institution, royal messengers, who had to supervise various parts of the kingdom. As shown in the lecture, both these activities aimed to help Charlemagne establish and maintain his rule by ensuring his legitimacy in every part of his kingdom, which relates his strategy to that of other ancient rulers with several distinctions. For example, in De Litteris Colendis, it is evident that education is Charlemagne’s concern, but the reasons for this interest are quite complex. They do not seem to be limited to promoting instruction for the sake of enlightening the population and nurturing talent; they instead appear to be related to religious propaganda.

Indeed, Charlemagne explicitly states that his people should “study earnestly so that you may be able more easily and more correctly to penetrate the mysteries of the divine Scriptures.” Crone mentions that religion has an enormous legitimization power, which is usually quite popular among large populations due to its ability to explain life. Charlemagne was not the first person to use this legitimization to demonstrate his right to rule, exemplified by the rulers previously discussed in the course. However, his attention to education implies that he was more resourceful than his predecessors in achieving this aim. Given that Charlemagne also made attempts at reforming the church (as stated in the lecture), this education could also be aimed at ensuring that the people were exposed to these reforms faster and more efficiently.

As for Missi Dominici, which is translated in the lecture as the “messengers of the lord,” they were noble people engaged in multiple supervision activities in various parts of the kingdom. From General Capitulary of the Missi, it follows that they were expected to provide the “necessary care and discipline” that the “emperor” could not “give to all individually.” This care included paying attention to injustice and other complaints of the population. The Missi had the power to attempt to resolve on their own or in cooperation with local authorities. If they found that they could not do so, they were expected to report to the emperor. Charlemagne also specifically pointed out that he did not want his Missi to get involved in corruption: “The straight path of justice shall not be impeded by anyone on account of flattery or gifts from anyone, or on account of any relationship, or from fear of the powerful.” In other words, Missi were supposed to be loyal servants capable of extending Charlemagne’s power to every part of the kingdom.

It should be pointed out that Charlemagne demonstrated the qualities of a thoughtful and responsible ruler since he appeared to be concerned with caring about the needs of the population; for example, the General Capitulary of the Missi contains remarks about the protection of vulnerable groups like widows and orphans. This point is not precisely in line with Crone’s description of preindustrial politics as the “politics of the elite.” However, Crone also mentions that individual attempts at social justice (predominantly the protection of free people from direct abuse) were not wholly uncommon. As pointed out in the lecture, Charlemagne did pay increased attention to the elite. I also agree with Student A in the idea that the previously discussed societies and rulers, including those of Athens and Rome, rarely paid as much attention to education and social justice as Charlemagne did. Similarly, I agree with Student B that Charlemagne’s educational and religious concerns were connected to the need to unite the country and people. As a result, it can be suggested that Charlemagne’s plan of establishing education and the Missi institution promised multiple benefits for the society, the kingdom, and the ruler.

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1. IvyPanda. "Charlemagne's Establishment of Missi Messengers." November 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/charlemagnes-establishment-of-missi-messengers/.


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IvyPanda. 2020. "Charlemagne's Establishment of Missi Messengers." November 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/charlemagnes-establishment-of-missi-messengers/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Charlemagne's Establishment of Missi Messengers'. 3 November.

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