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Charlemagne And The Avars
by [?]

Striking is the story which the early centuries of modern Europe have to
tell us. After the era of the busy building of empire in which the
sturdy old Romans were the active agents, there came an era of the
overthrow of empire, during which the vast results of centuries of
active civilization seemed about to sink and be lost in the seething
whirlpool of barbarism. The wild hordes of the north of Europe
overflowed the rich cities and smiling plains of the south, and left
ruin where they found wealth and splendor. Later, the half-savage
nomades of eastern Europe and northern Asia–the devastating
Huns–poured out upon the budding kingdoms which had succeeded the
mighty empire of Rome, and threatened to trample under foot all that was
left of the work of long preceding ages. Civilization had swung downward
into barbarism; was barbarism to swing downward into savagery, and man
return to his primitive state?

Against such a conceivable fate of Europe Charlemagne served as a mighty
bulwark, and built by his genius an impermeable wall against the torrent
of savage invasion, saying to its inflowing waves, “Thus far shalt thou
come, and no farther.” Attila, the “Scourge of God,” in the track of
whose horses’ hoofs “no grass could grow,” met his only great defeat at
Chalons-sur-Marne, on the soil of Gaul. He died in Hungary; his hordes
were scattered; Europe again began to breathe. But not long had the Huns
of Attila ceased their devastations when another tribe of Hunnish origin
appeared, and began a like career of ravage and ruin. These called
themselves Avars. Small in numbers at first, they grew by vanquishing
and amalgamating other tribes of Huns until they became the terror and
threatened to become the masters of Europe. Hungary, the centre of
Attila’s great circle of power, was made their place of abode. Here was
the palace and stronghold of their monarchs, the Chagans, and here they
continued a threat to all the surrounding nations, while enjoying the
vast spoils which they had wrung from ruined peoples.

Time passed on; civilization showed feeble signs of recovery; France and
Italy became its abiding-places; but barbarian invasion still threatened
these lands, and no security could be felt while the hordes of the north
and east remained free to move at will. This was the task that
Charlemagne was born to perform. Before his day the Huns of the east,
the Saxons of the north, the Moors of the south kept the growing
civilization of France in constant alarm. After his day aggression by
land was at an end; only by sea could the north invade the south.

The record of the deeds of Charlemagne is a long one. The Saxons were
conquered and incorporated into the kingdom of the Franks. Then
collision with the Avars took place. The story of how Charlemagne dealt
with these savage hordes is one of the most interesting episodes in the
extended tale of his wars, and we therefore select it for our present
theme. The Avars had long been quiet, but now again began to stir,
making two invasions, one of Lombardy, the other of Bavaria. Both were
repelled. Stung by defeat, they raised a greater army than before, and
in 788 crossed the Danube, determined in their savage souls to teach
these proud Franks a lesson, and write on their land in blood the old
story of the prowess and invincibility of the Huns. To their alarm and
astonishment they found themselves not only checked, but utterly routed,
thousands of them being left dead upon the field, and other thousands
swallowed up by the Danube, in their wild effort to swim that swollen