Daily Archives: April 12, 2021

This sketch was driving me nuts

I drew this sketch for The Die Is Cast Part IV. Pope Leo’s head was too far to the right. It made him look like he had really long arms. So I cut and pasted (the old fashioned way, with a razor blade and a piece of masking tape) his head a bit to the left and it made all the difference. I also redrew Charlemagne’s sleeve so his arm is more foreshortened. I must not have had my wits about me last week.

Here’s the old sketch:

Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, ad 800

How do you run an empire once you have one?

What would you do if a handful of kingdoms—inhabited by tribes who fought with each other a lot—were thrown together and styled “The Holy Roman Empire” and you were put in charge? How would you get the empire up and running? Here are your main problems:

Communication. Each of those tribes is speaking some weird variation of Latin and other languages so they don’t understand each other too well. The economy. There’s been a constant, dreary, never-ending state of war for the past few centuries. Unless they sell swords, it’s been tough for regular shmoes to make a living. Farmers might sell their crops if (apart from the usual worry of late frost or early frost or too much rain or drought) a battalion of soldiers doesn’t march through your field. Banking, finance and the stock market haven’t been invented yet so wealth accumulation isn’t something that most serfs do. Culture. Forget about being a writer or an artist or a musician: those sensitive plants have been drafted into the army. Hardly anybody reads—even Charlemagne has to sound out the letters. Except for a few monks in monasteries, nobody writes. Architecture is mostly about fortifications. There may have been music but nobody wrote down any tunes. So, not much culture. Religion. Not every tribe in the Holy Roman Empire is Christian. Do we force those non-Christians to get with the program?

The Holy Roman Empire is a hot mess. Those countries have been conquered, all right, because Charlemagne came from a family that’s good at commanding a large military. He was great at it. But how was Charlemagne going to run this empire in peacetime?

What would you do?

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.