Charlemagne is famous for unifying much of Europe into a single empire. Beginning as the king of the Franks, a tribe of Germanic people, he brought many western European cultures under a central rule, and he pushed the spread of Christianity through these areas.
Charlemagne's rule lasted from 768 A.D. until his death in 814. As his empire expanded throughout this period, he emphasized cultural development in addition to unification. Charlemagne strongly supported the Carolingian Renaissance, which saw a rebirth of intellectualism in Europe.
The spread of Charlemagne's empire required constant military conquests. With each victory, he sought to align his new subjects with the zeitgeist of the rest of his empire. A major thrust of this goal was forced conversion to Christianity. In many cases, those who refused to convert faced death. These conversions allowed Christianity to establish a foothold throughout Europe that remains to the present day.
Charlemagne was well-educated and spoke several languages, including Latin and Greek. As well as being a great military strategist, he was also a skilled diplomat and administrator. He displayed a lifelong dedication to education, including building a school at his palace in Aachen, for which he recruited the best teachers from across his empire. He advocated standardization of writing, which eventually lead to modern European writing systems.
After Charlemagne's death, his empire slowly dissolved as his heirs subdivided it into separate kingdoms. However, his legacy lived on through his desire to unify Western Europe.