The Book of Emperors
A Translation of the Middle High German Kaiserchronik
Publication Year: 2013
The Kaiserchronik (c.1152–1165) is the first verse chronicle to have been written in a language other than Latin. This story recounts the exploits of the Roman, Byzantine, Carolingian, and Holy Roman kings and rulers, from the establishment of Rome to the start of the Second Crusade. As an early example of popular history, it was written for a non-monastic audience who would have preferred to read, or may only have been able to read, in German. As a rhymed chronicle, its combined use of the styles of language found within a vernacular epic and a factual treaty was a German innovation. The Book of Emperors is the first complete translation of the Kaiserchronik from Middle High German to English. It is a rich resource not only for medieval German scholars and students, but also for those working in early cultural studies. It brings together an understanding of the conception of kingship in the German Middle Ages, from the relationship between emperor and king, to the moral, theological, and legal foundations of claims and legitimacy and the medieval epistemological approaches to historiography. This translation includes a substantial introduction that discusses the historical and philological context of the work, as well as the themes of power and kingship. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction that distinguishes historical truths from the epic fiction found within the original text.
Published by: West Virginia University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Table of Contents
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This translation intends to provide a useful source of intellectual his-tory. The Book of Emperors is a primary source without equal for an ac-count of the ideology of the Holy Roman Empire in medieval Germany. Intended to be chanted or read in verse form to an audience without much education, it tells the story of Roman, Byzantine, and German emperors ...
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...t he Book of Emperors is the first history of the Roman Empire of any sort written in the West since antiquity and the first attempt at a world or universal history in any Western vernacular language. It as-sumes that world history funnels naturally enough into Roman history, and it makes no distinction between the ancient Roman Empire that fell in the West in AD 476, the Carolingian Empire inaugurated well over three cen-...
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...edge to a wide audience. The author calls on his hearers to listen closely to his “song,” which will help them to cope knowingly with this world and prepare for the next. At the same time, he condemns the competing secular epics, which offer no such help. To give his words greater authority, he claims to refer to a previously written ...
IRome’s Founding:Gods for Each Day of the Week andthe Bells that Warned of Revolt
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...as reflecting the woefully inadequate religion that Christianity would replace. Medieval Christians did not altogether deny the ex-istence of the deities worshipped by pagans in ancient times, but they reduced them to the status of devils or demons, reserving the term “god” for the one true God. No written sources survive with ...
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...the old Republic’s checks on monarchical power in 27 BC, thus in-augurating the Empire; however, a medieval historian did not feel similarly bound. Finding in ancient chronicles several early mili-Frankish work, on the basis of the 300-years-older Chronicle by succession of emperors with Julius Caesar by the widely available ...
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...called the first Roman emperor since he effectively established his tle “imperator,” governing Roman territories with little challenge some familiar fragments of the Christmas story. “And there went forth from Caesar Augustus a decree that all the world should be taxed.” For him the great peace associated with Augustus paral-...
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Christianity in 312, Christian writers began to treat the past re-lationship of the Roman Empire to their religion much less criti-cally than before. Constantine’s own historian, Eusebius, went to some length to divorce the empire from the Crucifixion of Christ by blaming the Jews almost entirely for it. To the extent that Roman ...
VCaius Caligula(Jovinus Legend)
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Gaius or Caius Caligula (r. 37–41) presided over a short reign increasingly characterized by decadence and a display of arbitrary power, exemplified in his making his horse a consul. He plays no meaningful part in our author’s version of the legend of the un-The story of a hero riding his horse into a fiery hole as a sacri-...
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This story has roots in possibly the oldest surviving novel with in Syria in the early third century. The title reflects the climax rate scenes recognizes his brothers, mother and finally his father monastery libraries with some frequency, and our author appears to have drawn primarily upon the Life but occasionally upon the ...
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Claudius (r. 41–54), Caligula’s successor, enjoyed a certain solidified Roman rule in the southern part of the island. On the making governmental decisions and led a disastrous family life. f austinian became a monk and his wife a nun, leaving Claudius to rule the Empire.betook himself to court, where he became a secret, close friend of the king. ...
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Saint Peter preached God’s word, which angered the emperor greatly. Saint Peter instructed many people so that they turned to God. He would bid the dead arise and lepers be cleansed. His power would let those who lay stricken with gout get up. People learned about Saint Peter and how, if people came where he cast his shadow, they would all be cured of their af-...
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...cause Romans not only to depose the bad king, sending him and his worse son into exile, but to abolish kingship in Rome, after which Rome became a republic (509–27 BC). The taint left by the Tar-quins on kingship made it a virtual act of treason for any man to his life and made Augustus very careful to use a title other than rex ...
XGalba and Piso
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...what you did with your death.” He spurred his horse and gave his avenging anger full rein. Full of rage he rode up to Tarquin. No one became aware of what was happening until he had run him through, so that he never spoke The king fell dead to the ground. His men were all in a state of confu-sion. Even as quickly as they rode over to their lord, no one came close to ...
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...sort—and ended up in virtual exile as Roman governor in Spain. He briefly supported Galba after Nero’s overthrow in 68, but had t hen the reprehensible Otho, whom the hero Vitellus was to slay, took over the Empire. The Book tells us this: he had possession of the Empire but held it just three months before the Romans complained that his rule was a disgrace to them and they wanted him to pay for his ...
151XIIVitellius (Odnatus Legend)
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...commanders of his troops. He put an end to Otho’s rule in Rome, gained support in other parts of the empire, many of Vitellius’ troops deserted to him. After losing two battles and most of his king is an adaptation of the story of Caius Mucius, as recorded the original version, after Rome expelled the Tarquins, King Lars ...
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Tiberius story as leading—together with his son, Titus—the Roman forces that put down the Jewish rebellion in Judea. This account is more or less historically accurate except for timing. The Jewish War and destruction of Jerusalem occurred AD 66–70. Our author moves the events back to the early 30s, portraying them as punish-...
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...with his highest-ranking men. They trampled and captured the men they came to. They struck and brought disgrace to the enemy lands, all of which they burned. Then, full of high and wild spirits, they turned toward the Ro-foot and rode from the city: Owî! How well they received their king! For a fact, I am telling you that King Hylas was thrown into the dungeon. They ...
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Domitian (r. 81–96) presented an image of faulty rulership in contrast with the good model of his brother, Titus. He had a well-deserved reputation for cowardice. When Vespasian was first hailed as emperor in Alexandria, Domitian went into hiding until forces loyal to Vespasian had defeated those of Vitellius. Domitian re-...
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...or. He reversed Domitian’s harsh policies in Italy, recalling men Domitian sent into exile and restoring much of their confiscated property to them. He adopted Trajan as his son and choice to suc-ceed him, thus beginning the century of the “five good emperors” cus Aurelius gave the Roman Empire some of its best years before ...
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...no one wanted to stand in their way. The whole crowd, men and women, looked out for themselves by getting out of the way until the master was told his men to take the mechanism out of the horse and ordered that valu-able creation burnt in the fire, so that its wondrous power has not been rediscovered to this very day; nor has human knowledge been able to find ...
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Marcus Julius Philippus (r. 244–249), came from Bostra in Ara-bia Trachonitis and is often called “Philip the Arab” because of that, although he enlisted in the Roman army at an early age. He rose barked on a campaign against Persia, soldiers loyal to Philip assas-sinated him and hailed Philip as emperor. Five years later a rebel-...
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...that no sort of Christian should judge over the Empire. He ordered his vas-sals to appear before him, and to them he passionately complained about what had happened and commanded them to set up ambushes and lie in wait for Philip at all times. Wherever they heard he might be they were to One day, spies arrived and told Decius that the king was staying at a ...
XXDiocletian and Maximian
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...urrection was not possible, nor that body and soul of the dead would ever Indeed, Christendom suffered great trials and tribulations, until Our Lord opened the wall for his very dear servants. They became living proof Decius had Christendom’s people slain—we can have no idea about the total number—until devils broke up his rule, avenging the sublime mar-...
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Lucius Septimius Severus (r. 193–211) was one of the more effec-tive “soldier-emperors.” He introduced roughly a century of fairly tween the death of Commodus in 192 and Diocletian’s assumption of the imperial title in 284. In order to gain full power, he waged war against his rival, Albinus. Against him in 197 near Lyons, he ...
XXIIHelvius (Helius) Pertinax
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...battle by death or any other earthly cause. They also did not want to leave their lords there. They sought vainly to bring their wounded lords away The day began to sink, and the Romans began to show desperation. They were badly beaten. Volkwin, the flagbearer, became aware of this, and he began to point his flag in the direction of King Severus. Those hard-...
XXIIIHelius Adrianus (Hadrian)
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...king caught him around the chest and squeezed him so hard that blood spurted out from his eyes. He raised him high in the air and, with a mighty swing, sent him crashing to the ground, where he lay dead, which made Julian had a brother, who secretly sent for his men. Very soon five thousand of them and more answered his call. The king knew nothing ...
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...h elius Adrianus then judged over the Roman dominions. Jeru-salem, that city of marvels, was lying wasted and empty. The heathens had destroyed it, tearing down every bit of its walls. King Cos-dras was responsible for that, but Eraclius was to take vengeance upon King Helius Adrianus had plans for Jerusalem. He had begun to love that city, and he restored it with magnificent buildings that may be admired ...
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...ans, including Orosius (VII, 25), as a rival, would-be emperor, who gathered forces together in Alexandria during Diocletian’s reign. These references put him in the last part of the third century or the first years of the fourth. Diocletian besieged Alexandria for eight months before taking it and killing Achilleus, who is not recorded ...
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...emperor with his father, Valerian, beginning in 255. But when Va-lerian was taken prisoner by Shapur of Persia in 260, Gallienus did nothing to get him back and seemed quite content to rule as sole emperor. Shapur was reported to have killed Valerian, stuffed his skin, and displayed it in a temple. While Gallienus had shown ...
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...raised up the ark—and I know that they all confirmed they had never seen such a strange form of vengeance, which they denounced as diabolical. They all agreed that this vengeance must come from the king, who would now be visited by evil himself—he deserved to die a bitter death. All of them swore they would make this happen, since so many of their kinsmen now ...
XXVIIIConstantine I, “the Great”
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The fame of Constantine I (r. 312–337) rests largely on his role as the first emperor—rather than the semi-legendary figure of Philip—to espouse Christianity. After winning a key battle in 312 with a monotheistic symbol painted on the shields of his soldiers against a rival for imperial power, he introduced toleration of ...
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...like emperor, although it is easy to see why he became a quasi-em-stantine’s gradual conversion to Christianity from generic mono-theism, but he did not baptize him. Like many Christians of his day, Constantine chose to wait until he sensed approaching death before being baptized, so that all his significant sins would be absolved in ...
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...the poor soul who was the first to begin this song. Saint Sylvester, that holy man, is standing by him full of grace ante tronum dei [before the throne of God] and may he help all those who listen to it politely, both the living and the dead. Let God the good show them his grace, here for the body, there tate,” was a nephew of Constantine I, “the Great.” After Con-...
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Heraclius (r. as Eastern emperor 610–642) led a successful re-bellion against the usurper, Phocas, and was proclaimed emperor in 610. He defeated the Persian armies, which, after conquering 619 to 626 most of his military operations were conducted against ever, he returned to the conflict with Persia and personally led his ...
XXXIINarcissus(Legend of the Two Theodorics)
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...followed by her trials, tribulations, and eventual vindication, emerges in a large number of stories that reached medieval Europe in various adaptations, probably from an Indian original. In Europe it quickly acquired a Christian context. The version probably used by our author was contained in a collection of miracle stories origi-...
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The king was much taken aback by this, but he wanted to be true to his royal words, since he had spoken them to the assembled princes earlier. “I will do what I have promised to do,” he said, “although it is the most dif-“My heart hurts me the same way,” the lady said to him. “Portio mea sit in terra viventium [Let my portion be in the land of the living].” God’s ...
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Then the fabled Justinian, Roman judge, increased his abilities and his successes until he was very mighty indeed. He had such willing support from all his men that no one could resist his authority. He also became quite good at playing the lyre and added many other achievements to his But, finally, it happened that King Justinian seduced a lady and se-...
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Emperor Theodosius began to chant Te deum laudamus [“We praise you, Lord].” They sang and gave praise with hearts and mouths. Praise and joy abounded there. They said that no one can survive without God. This is an example of why you should always sing and read about the miracles that God himself wrought in answer to the emperor’s prayers. That is what Da-...
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...time, Saint Laurence turned over and welcomed his equal—Christendom rejoiced at that—and he edged over in a way to make room for Saint Ste-phen. Be assured that all righteous souls will follow him. His power and and never let a day go by without visiting these lords of his. He entrusted his soul to them and had a grave made for himself in the cathedral, say-...
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Although our author calls the next emperor “Constantius,” it is clear that he has in mind Constantine VI, nominal ruler of the East-ern Empire (780–97), whose mother, Irene, did most of the decision-making for him. The name “Herena” is probably a fusion of Irene and Helena, Constantine the Great’s mother. Hoping to rule in his own ...
XXXVIIICharles I, “the Great”
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...peror (800-814), figures very prominently in both French and Ger-man medieval history and legends. Familiar to the English-speak-son, Charles the Bald, is the official French King Charles I. The German-speaking world calls him Karl I. He is the founder of the lemagne as Roman emperor meant a transfer of imperial authority ...
XXXIXLouis I, “the Pious”
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...called “the Pious” because of his theological interests, liberality to the church and moral strictness, banishing even his sisters for sex-ual misconduct. Twice he sent his second wife, Judith, to a convent for infidelity. In 813, at his father’s bidding, he crowned himself joint emperor, and, when Charlemagne died the following year, he ...
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...to speak, a mature man known for his virtues or who had displayed noble conduct in his youth. Older men were expected to display honor and virtue; young men to maintain good behavior. Thus the two ages of man made In King Louis’s time Christendom rejoiced far and wide; indeed the ruler busied himself looking for what deeds of honor he might perform in ...
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...invaders began ravaging the land with fire. The king commanded greater forces as he rode into the city of Regensburg, where he revealed his might. The Bavarians sustained great damage from Lothair’s men as they de-stroyed towers and other fortifications. Margrave Herman ordered the castle moat-ditch filled in; following judgment by all the Bavarians, he was ...
XLIICharles III, “the Fat”
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The lords lodged a complaint with Pope Adrian against King Louis, saying that it was his fault that the Empire was torn apart and destruction wrought upon Christendom. He never wanted to hold court, and they could Pope Adrian settled the conflict by directing Louis to judge again according to the Imperial Law of Charles [the Great], which was being ...
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...being coated with wax]. There was singing and reading aloud. Everyone They ignited the tunic in front and back, right and left, even at her hands and feet, and within a short period of time the tunic completely burned off her and melted wax ran down onto the floor stones. The lady was completely innocent, and everyone there said, “Deo gracias! [Thanks ...
XLIVLouis III, “the Child”
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...result of this crime. Emperor Arnulf destroyed him with everything that When Emperor Arnulf learned what a true stalwart of God the good Saint Emmeran was, he loved him more and more. He built him the best cathedral that he could in the city of Regensburg and willed money from his own inheritance to it. The Book tells us truly that he had the Empire for ...
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...its name.2 Many a fine hero lay fallen there; so many Christians fell in battle they could not be counted. Duke Burchart was slain along with his men who lay there beside him. The Christians struggled until nightfall, but the Louis ruled the Empire, the Book tells us for a fact, exactly twelve years. Then he fell out of a tower. Everything that happens is still God’s will....
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Charlemagne’s day. Henry himself had been an adversary of Con-rad I, who surprised the other princes by asking that Henry be his successor because of his talents and the possibility of uniting Saxon interests with those of other Germans. His interest in falconry led to his being called Henry the Fowler. Contrary to our author’s ac-...
XLVIIOtto I, “the Great”
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Henry I’s son Otto succeeded in putting together the strongest Eu-ropean empire since that of Charlemagne. Often the German Empire of the Middle Ages is dated from his accession as emperor in 962. Born in 912, Otto was elected German king in 936 and made a seri-ous attempt to keep the duchies under his control. Saxony, Lorraine, ...
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Very early one morning the bishop sang a mass, and the king took up his own flag. He charged the heathens with daring beyond measure, for God himself was with him. The king displayed his brave determination until, out of that massive horde of heathens, only seven were left.Christendom then rejoiced, comforted in its suffering and well re-...
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When they arrived back on land and the pope discovered what had hap-pened, he complained to the Senate that the king had been betrayed—the oaths of loyalty had been badly kept. Young people joined older ones in demanding that those who had sold out the king should be killed, as the There were twenty of them who had sold out the king, although they ...
LHenry II, “Saint Henry”
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...crime against him according to the laws of God while he was lying in his bed. It was the worst of crimes for King Otto—they martyred him to death. In the God then avenged his stalwart. King Otto led an expedition into Wendish territory and laid waste the land with fire and sword. It is a fact that he held the Empire for exactly eighteen years and four months. Then ...
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...sins, and the crooked in body and those who are lame are healed. Saint According to most accounts he wanted peaceful relations with the his forces were defeated by those of Stephen. The Liutzen were a loose federation of Slavic tribes frequently at war with the Empire.t he princes of the Empire mourned Henry with great devotion. They met in council and elected one Conrad. Then many great ...
LIIHenry III, “the Black,”also “the Good”
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...worthiest among them to take back home with them as hostages. Then they set fire to the castle. King Conrad exacted vengeance for this. Our Lord gave him the power to do so. He rode to the Liutzen, where he wrought great destruction on those heathens. Most of them were killed. He released the Christians captured by the heathens and took them back with him. The ...
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...man emperors, in considerable part because he personified secular claims against the reform attempts of Gregory VII, particularly in the dispute over whether kings or emperors could appoint bishops bishop Anno of Cologne—the subject of the Annolied—kidnapped affairs for the papacy, at first supported Anno, but then competed ...
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...generally supported by bishops whom he had appointed, his rebel-bishops as such to their church or “spiritual” offices, as long as church officials did not object to the German ruler giving them their “regalian rights” (secular jurisdiction over their dioceses) as t he bishops then sent messages from land to land. They hated what they were faced with and did not want to submit to the young king ...
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Lothair II (r. as German king 1125–1137 and as emperor 1133–1137) along with his father had supported Henry V against Henry ter died, and he was elected the next German king. In the struggle become the Guelph-Ghibelline conflict, Lothair sided with the Welf faction, which enjoyed the support of the papal party most of the ...
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Conrad III (r. as German counter-king 1127–1135 and as German king 1137–1152) was the first German ruler of the Hohenstaufen king in opposition to Lothair II in 1127. He and his brother Freder-ick fought Lothair off and on, but, in 1135, he submitted to Lothair, again elected Conrad king, this time not in opposition to any other ...
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About the Author
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...h enry A. Myers is Professor Emeritus of History at James Madison University. Dr. Myers earned the B.A. from Swarthmore College, the M.A. from Boston University, and the Ph.D. from Brandeis University. He also studied at the Free University of Berlin and the Institut for Öster-reiche Geschichtsforschung. Dr. Myers taught at JMU for 42 years in global and intellectual history. His published books include Medieval Kingship ...
Page Count: 411
Publication Year: 2013
Edition: 1st ed.
Series Title: WV MEDIEVEAL EUROPEAN STUDIES
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth