Einhard (also Eginhard or Einhart; c. 770 – March 14, 840) was a Frankish scholar and courtier. Einhard was a dedicated servant of Charlemagne and his son Louis the Pious; his main work is a biography of Charlemagne, the Vita Karoli Magni, "one of the most precious literary bequests of the early Middle Ages."
Einhard was from the eastern German-speaking part of the Frankish Kingdom. Born into a family of relatively low status, his parents sent him to be educated by the monks of Fulda - one of the most impressive centres of learning in the Frank lands - perhaps due to his small stature (Einhard referred to himself as a "tiny manlet") which restricted his riding and sword-fighting ability, Einhard concentrated his energies towards scholarship and especially to the mastering of Latin. Despite such humble origins, he was accepted into the hugely wealthy court of Charlemagne around 791 or 792. Charlemagne actively sought to amass scholarly men around him and established a royal school led by the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin. Einhard evidently was a talented builder and construction manager, because Charlemagne put him in charge of the completion of several palace complexes including Aachen and Ingelheim. Despite the fact that Einhard was on intimate terms with Charlemagne, he never achieved office in his reign. In 814, on Charlemagne's death his son Louis the Pious made Einhard his private secretary. Einhard retired from court during the time of the disputes between Louis and his sons in the spring of 830.
He died at Seligenstadt in 840.
Einhard was married to Imma, of whom (as of most laywomen of the period) little is known. There is a possibility that their marriage bore a son, Vussin. Their marriage also appears to have been exceptionally liberal for the period, with Imma being as active as Einhard, if not more so, in the handling of their property. It is said that in the later years of their marriage Imma and Einhard abstained from sexual relations, choosing instead to focus their attentions on their many religious commitments. Though he was undoubtedly devoted to her, Einhard wrote nothing of his wife until after her death on 13 December 835, when he wrote to a friend that he was reminded of her loss in ‘every day, in every action, in every undertaking, in all the administration of the house and household, in everything needing to be decided upon and sorted out in my religious and earthly responsibilities’.
Einhard made numerous references to himself as a "sinner", a description of himself that shows his Augustinian influenced world view. To assuage such feelings of guilt he erected churches at both of his estates in Michelstadt and Mulinheim. In Michelstadt he also saw fit to build a basilica completed in 827 and then sent a servant, Ratleic, to Rome with an end to find relics for the new building. Once in Rome, Ratleic robbed a catacomb of the bones of the Martyrs Marcellinus and Peter and had them translated to Michelstadt. Once there, the relics made it known they were unhappy with their new tomb and thus had to be moved again to Mulinheim. Once established there, they proved to be miracle workers. Although unsure as to why these saints should choose such a "sinner" as their patron, Einhard nonetheless set about ensuring they continued to receive a resting place fitting of their honour. Between 831 and 834 he founded a Benedictine Monastery and, after the death of his wife, served as its Abbot until his own death in 840.
Local lore from Seligenstadt portrays Einhard as the lover of Emma, one of Charlemagne's daughters, and has the couple elope from court. Charlemagne found them at Seligenstadt (then called Obermühlheim) and forgave them. This account is used to explain the name "Seligenstadt" by folk etymology. Einhard and his wife were originally buried in one sarcophagus in the choir of the church in Seligenstadt, but in 1810 the sarcophagus was presented by the Grand Duke of Hesse to the count of Erbach, who claims descent from Einhard as the husband of Imma, the reputed daughter of Charlemagne. The count put it in the famous chapel of his castle at Erbach in the Odenwald.
The most famous of Einhard's works is his biography of Charlemagne, the Vita Karoli Magni, "The Life of Charlemagne" (c. 817–836), which provides much direct information about Charlemagne's life and character, written sometime between 817 and 830. In composing this he relied heavily upon the Royal Frankish Annals. Einhard's literary model was the classical work of the Roman historian Suetonius, the Lives of the Caesars, though it is important to stress that the work is very much Einhard's own, that is to say he adapts the models and sources for his own purposes. His work was written as a praise of Charlemagne, whom he regarded as a foster-father (nutritor) and to whom he was a debtor "in life and death". The work thus contains an understandable degree of bias, Einhard taking care to exculpate Charlemagne in some matters, not mention others, and to gloss over certain issues which would be of embarrassment to Charlemagne, such as the morality of his daughters; by contrast, other issues are curiously not glossed over, like his concubines.
Einhard is also responsible for three other extant works: a collection of letters, On the Translations and the Miracles of SS. Marcellinus and Petrus, and On the Adoration of the Cross. The latter dates from ca. 830 and was not rediscovered until 1885, when Ernst Dümmler identified a text in a manuscript in Vienna as the missing Libellus de adoranda cruce, which Einhard had dedicated to his pupil Lupus Servatus.
- Hodgkin 222.
- Smith 58.
- From Einhard’s letter of April 836 to Lupus of Ferrieres. Qtd. in Smith 55.
- Smith 60-61.
- Smith 67.
- "Der hessische Spessart" par. 4.
- Schaff par. 164.
- Müller 252.
- "Einhard ca. 770-840" par. 3.
- Levison 271.
- Stofferahn par. 10.
- "Der hessische Spessart" (in German). HR Online. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Dümmler, Ernst (1885). "Ein Nachtrag zu Einhards Werken". Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 11: 231–38. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- "Einhard c. 770-840". Enotes. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Hodgkin, T. (1897). Charles the Great. London: Macmillan.
- Levison, Wilhelm; Wilhelm Wattenbach; Rudolf Buchner (1952). Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen im Mittelalter, Vorzeit und Karolinger: Heft. Die Karolinger vom Anfang des 8. Jahrhunderts bis zum Tode Karis des Grossen (in German). H. Böhlaus Nachfolger. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Müller, Bianca (2009). Persönlichkeit Karl des Großen nach Einhards Vita Karoli Magni. GRIN Verlag. ISBN 978-3-640-47253-6.
- Schaff, Philip. ""Einhard"". History of the Christian Church. IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Smith, Julia (March 2003). "Einhard". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society: 55–77.
- Stofferahn, Steven A. (2010). "Knowledge for Its Own Sake? A Practical Humanist in the Carolingian Age". The Heroic Age 13. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Tischler, Matthias M. (2001) Einharts Vita Karoli. Studien zur Entstehung, Überlieferung und Rezeption (MGH. Schriften 48, I–II), Hanover: Hahn. ISBN 3-7752-5448-X.
- Thorpe, Lewis G.M. (1969). Einhard and Notker the Stammerer: two lives of Charlemagne. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-044213-7. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- Noble, Thomas F.X. (2009). Charlemagne and Louis the Pious: Lives by Einhard, Notker, Ermoldus, Thegan, and the Astronomer. Penn State Press. ISBN 978-0-27-103715-8. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
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- Vita Karoli Magni—Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, Latin text at The Latin Library
- Early Lives of Charlemagne—Einhard's Life of Charlemage and an anonymous monk of St. Gall's Life of Charlemagne. 1922 English translation by Arthur James Grant, London : Chatto & Windus, via Internet Archive.
- Life of Charlemagne—Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, 19th century English translation by Samuel Epes Turner
- Einhard at the Catholic Encyclopedia
- Einhard-Preis Literature prize awarded by the Einhard-Foundation of Seligenstadt to authors for writing an outstanding biography
- Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Latina with analytical indexes