Mayke de Jong
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Book 1
in Confronting crisis in the Carolingian empire
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The first book of the Epitaphium covers the period from Wala’s youth at Charlemagne’s court until the years 822–5 when the great man, by then known as ‘Arsenius’, served as deputy to Louis’ son Lothar, who was king of Italy and was crowned emperor in Rome in 823. In 814 Wala, banished from Louis’ court, had retreated to Corbie, yet in 821 he and his half-brother Adalhard, abbot of Corbie, had been reconciled with the Emperor Louis. About all this, the first book is almost entirely silent. The main theme of a lively dialogue among three monks, with some additional interlocutors, is the deep grief about Wala’s recent death. We get brief hints to all this political trouble, but most of this is obfuscated by deft literary tactics, in which citations from Terence play a central part. The first book is a masterpiece of allusion, and also gives an indication of the intended audience: not just the monks of Corbie, but also a literate Carolingian leadership impressed by Radbert’s brilliance, and perhaps persuaded to look differently at Wala/Arsenius, who had died in 836 in Italy. Shortly thereafter Radbert embarked on this first book.

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Confronting crisis in the Carolingian empire

Paschasius Radbertus' funeral oration for Wala of Corbie


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