Comparison Of Charlemagne And Ganelon In The Song Of Roland

After reading “The Song Of Roland,” and analyzing the policies of Charlemagne, it is clear that they are completely different characters who both had separate ideas of how to stabilize their societies. Charlemagne successfully attempted to stabilize his community through making strong political ties and connections while Ganelon tried to purposely destabilize his community through his negative attitude and actions towards the other characters of the story. 

Charlemagne or Charles the Great, was an emperor who built an empire reaching across France, Germany, and part of Italy in the time period 768-814. Charlemagne became the 'Emperor of the Romans' because Pope Leo III called on him for help against rebellious nobles in Rome. Charlemagne was by no means perfect, he had flaws but, the Pope showed his gratitude by placing a crown on Charlemagne's head proclaiming him Emperor of the Romans. Charlemagne’s crowning by the Pope was significant because it meant that Charlemagne had the full confidence from the Pope that he could restore the Roman Empire with the full blessing of the Church and God. The close connections with the church stabilized his empire because the churches symbolized wealth and security and the positive recognition from the church meant the health of his empire. He was politically driven, and valued his followers and wanted to advance his community. During his time of emperor with each person he conquered he gave them two choices, one to become Christian or two facing death. His harsh ruling and forcing of peoples conversion had a small destabilizing effect on his community. The way he went about forcing Christianity onto the Saxons and giving ultimatums was wrong but, his overall reasoning behind his harsh ways was that he wanted to stabilize his society through faith and unifying the community. Charlemagne was a vigorous, ambitious, ruthless leader who knew exactly what he wanted. He made sure of that his government was efficient and had stability by implementing the missi dominici. The missi dominici were messengers who served as 'eyes and ears' for Charlemagne to report back on any abuses of power. The missi dominici was Charlemagne's way of uniting and stabilizing his Holy Roman Empire because he was able to control and look after all his land without actually being present. The agents would investigate behaviors of royal officials and would constantly be moving places so that no local ties would develop as well as so they were unable to make alliances. Each pair of missi dominici were arranged in a way so that there were always two of them; one person from the Church and one from the laity. Charlemagne made the pairings so one would be from the Church and one from the laity so both people would not argue with each other and each would have different views so they were unbiased.

Charlemagne also unified and stabilized his community through his military accomplishments and his passion for education. Not only did he make important allies but he also invaded the Lombards and Saxony which resulted in him gaining a large portion of territory in Rome. He assembled an army and led them into battle against his enemies and defeated eached one, gaining their land and forming alliances with local leaders increasing the size and power of his Carolingian Kingdom. His military accomplishments stabilized his empire by proving his strength and securing his position as a fit leader. He proved that he had good intentions and cared for the safety of his people and wanted to continue to advance his empire.

Along with advancing his actual empire, Charlemagne wanted to advance his people's knowledge. Charlemagne learned to read Latin and Greek but never got the chance to master writing. He wanted his community to be educated so he ordered churches and monasteries to start schools who were staffed by educated priests and monks to improve education. He was insistent on increasing the amount of writing in the church and government as well as he wanted to have educated clergy who could teach Christian masses. Charlemagne’s passion for learning and wanting to educate his community displays his passion to completely unify his community under religion and education.

In the poem “Song of Roland,” Ganelon was a negative character who caused harm and destabilized his community through his lack of leadership. He always had a negative attitude and as the poem went on it only got worse. Ganelon was very angry at Roland even from the very start because he was jealous of his stepson's accomplishments. His anger got worse and this can be seen when Roland, his stepson, nominated him to be the messenger for the Saracens. Roland only nominated Ganelon because Oliver, one of the councilmen, thought he acted too quickly and was not fit for the job. Roland instead nominated his stepfather Ganelon to be the messenger. When Ganelon heard he was volunteered, he only cared for himself and was furious at this gesture because he felt betrayed and thought that Roland was trying to kill him. Ganelon’s anger got out of hand and he was so upset that he betrayed his own people by plotting against the French by ambushing the rear guard. Ganelon is a hypocrite as he was the one who nominated Roland to be the rearguard. This was significant because Roland was the one leading the rear guard and it showed how easily and willing Ganelon was to kill his stepson. Ganelon’s character destabilized the society because of the way he acted and how quick he was to ask Marsilion to kill Roland without attempting to find any solutions. With every action that Roland took Ganelon constantly undermined him by saying how he was a liar and only in it for the power. Ganelon said, “Believe a fool and you shall rue the day! Don't listen to me, I mean, or to anyone else unless it's to your advantage…Anyone who advises you to reject such an offer Doesn't care, sire, how we die.” This quote shows how Ganelon had no respect for Roland and how he was jealous that Charles was supporting Roland. Ganelon’s jealousy and his own insecurities interfered with his responsibilities of actually being a leader and corrupted him which led to the destabilization of the community.

The destabilization of the community occured when Ganelon failed to be truthful during the battle. When Roland was fighting at the very end, it was clear that he and his army were not going to win. His army was greatly outnumbered by the Saracens and even his best friend Oliver begged him to blow on the oliphant. They desperately needed more troops but Roland was too proud and he was afraid that he would lose his reputation and bring shame on the French if he asked for help. When he finally accepted that his army needed help and he blew the horn it was too late. During the battle, Charles heard Roland’s first horn call and wanted to go help in the battle but Ganelon told Charles it was not Roland calling. Roland blew the horn a second time even though it brought him pain and for the second time Charles heard the sound of the horn. When Charles heard the horn a second time Ganelon assured him that he was old and had bad hearing. Ganelon said, “There's no battle! You're old now, you're grizzled and white-haired...You know Roland's great folly perfectly well… He sounds his horn all day long for a mere hare. He's showing off now before his peers, Ride on! Why are you stopping? The Fatherland is very far ahead of us.” Ganelon went as far as to let Charles know that Roland was prideful and only looking for power. After the third sounding of the horn Charles finally arrived to Roland's aid. When Charles finally came to the scene Roland and his warriors had already been defeated by the Saracens and it was too late. Ganelon was a huge contribution to the destabilization of his community as he continuously undermined Charles and Roland while they were both trying to find solutions. He purposely tried to kill off Roland and in the process killed thousands of warriors who were fighting for him by tricking Charles into believing Roland did not need help. Compared to the policies of charlemagne, it is clear that Ganelon had no interest saving his soldiers or protecting his community where as Charlemagne only wanted to expand his territories to make connections and create a stable world for his people.

In the policies of Charlemagne, stability was successfully reached as he ran a smooth operation. He gained the trust of his people, protected them by means of his army, converted and unified them under on faith as well as educated them by hiring people to teach language and writing. Charlemagne created a successful living environment. 

16 August 2021
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