Charlemagne was the Frankish king who conquered most of Europe and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in the year 800. He was also known as Carolus Magnus and Karl der Grosse (Karl the Great). Charlemagne's precise birthplace and date are unknown. Possible places of his birth include Aachen (Aix-La-Chapelle, the location of his court), Gauting in Bavaria (a local legend has it he was born there in a mill) and the outskirts of Lige in Belgium, perhaps Jupille or Herstal. The grandson of Charles Martel and the eldest son of Pepin the Short, Charlemagne and his brother, Carloman, divided the kingdom after Pepin's death in 768; a few years later Carloman died and Charlemagne annexed his portion. During his 43-year reign, Charlemagne proved himself a brilliant military strategist and administrator, promoting art and education while waging war from Saxony to the Mediterranean. Among his many campaigns were: The Lombard War (773-775); the Spanish War (778-801); the conquest of Bavaria (787-788); the conquest of the Avars (791-801); the Byzantine War (802-812); and a thirty-year effort to subdue the Saxons and convert them to Christianity. Known for his piety as well as his brutality (he once beheaded more than 4,000 Saxons in one day), Charlemagne united most of Europe and created a period of relative order during the otherwise tumultuous Middle Ages.
Older biographies often list his birthday as 2 April 742. There is no evidence for the actual day of his birth, and very little as to the year. Recent scholars are more inclined to say he was born in 747 or 748, and there is wide agreement that it was sometime in April.
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