(c. 800-844)
   Carolingian count and historian, Nithard was an active figure in the affairs of his day. A lay abbot, grandson of the great king and emperor Charlemagne, and participant in the civil wars between the sons of Louis the Pious, Nithard is best known as the chronicler of the wars of Lothar, Louis the German, and Charles the Bald. His account provides our best account of the wars and important insights into the character of his hero, Charles the Bald, as well as into the nature and ideal of Carolingian kingship.
   Little is known of Nithard's life, other than what he reveals in his work of history, and even the date of his death is uncertain. He is traditionally thought to have died on June 14, 844, in battle against Pippin II of Aquitaine (d. 864), but it has been suggested that he died fighting the Vikings on May 15, 845. In either case, his death occurred in battle, and it followed a life active in public affairs and close to the great powers of the day. He was the son of Charlemagne's daughter Bertha (779/780-after 823) and her lover, the court scholar Angilbert. He was raised at court, where he received an excellent education, as indicated in his observations on the movement of a comet in 841-842 and his ability to quote Scripture and Virgil. Later in life he became a partisan of Charles the Bald and joined the king in the fratricidal struggles of the early 840s. Nithard served as an envoy to Lothar for Charles in 840, seeking unsuccessfully to make peace with the emperor. In 841, he fought on Charles's side in the Battle of Fontenoy, and in 842 Nithard served on a commission to determine the division of the empire between Charles and Louis the German. In 843, in return for his faithful service, Nithard was made lay abbot of St. Riquier by Charles the Bald. He was buried in the monastery after his death in battle in 844 or 845, and was memorialized in an epitaph that celebrates his wisdom and mourns his death and the brevity of his term as abbot.
   Nithard was also the court historian of Charles the Bald, at whose request he wrote his famous work, Four Books of Histories (Historiarum Libri VI). Although clearly partisan, Nithard's work provides the best view of the events of the 830s and 840s. It begins with an introduction to the wars that outlines events from the death of Charlemagne through the death of Louis the Pious. This book describes the civil turmoil in the 830s, which set the stage of the wars of the early 840s, and in it Nithard, as he does throughout the work, sides with Charles and portrays Lothar in the worst possible light. Books two through four describe the wars of Charles, Louis, and Lothar. These books contain valuable information about the partisans in the wars, the various battles, and related material, including two versions of the Oath of Strasbourg (842), one in an early form of Romance, the other in an early form of German. The Histories also contain a sympathetic portrait of Charles the Bald, commentary on ideal Christian kingship, and an eyewitness perspective on the events Nithard describes. Although not elegantly written, the Histories remain compelling reading; Nithard could capture scenes effectively and often wrote passionately. The fourth book, which Nithard wrote reluctantly because of his shame over the course of the civil war, ends rather abruptly; it may have been left unfinished by the author.
   See also
 ♦ Laistner, Max L. W. Thought and Letters in Western Europe, a.d. 500 to 900. 2d ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Nelson, Janet. Charles the Bald. London: Longman, 1992.
 ♦ Scholz, Bernhard Walter, trans. Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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  • Nithard — ca. (800 844), a Frankish historian, was the grandson of Charlemagne, by Bertha, a daughter of the emperor. His father was Angilbert. Contents 1 Life and career 2 Works 3 See also 4 …   Wikipedia

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  • Nithard — Nithard, Sohn des Abtes Angelbert zu St. Riquier u. der Bertha, der Tochter Karls d. Gr., geb. gegen Ende des 8. Jahrh.; er war 841 Karls des Kahlen Gesandter an Lothar, stritt bei Fontenay gegen Lothar u. war 842 unter der Commission, welche das …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

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