The Franks

The Franks

The Franks were a Germanic tribe that originally lived in Belgium and the Lower Rhine. They were named after the javelin (franca) that they used. The Franks settled in Gaul by the mid-4th century where they established Lutetia Parisiorum (Paris).


The Rise of the Franks, 330-751

We have seen that the Roman empire did not "fall" to murderous hordes of savage barbarians. The invaders who toppled the empire in the West were relatively few in numbers, were Christians who had long contact with the Romans and had become sophisticated and partially Romanized by that contact. The Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, and Vandals actually tried to restore and preserve much of Roman imperial culture and its institutions. But Justinian's reconquest overthrew some of these kingdoms and weakened others. It was the least advanced and Romanized Germanic tribes that formed the foundation of medieval European society, and the most important of these were the Franks.

1. Early history of the Franks

The Franks inhabited the delta lands at the mouths of the Rhine and Scheldt rivers. In about 350, they became Roman federati and were allowed to occupy lands south of the Rhine, in what is now the southern Netherlands and northern Belgium. It would appear that sea level varies over time, and the higher or lower water level has a great effect upon low-lying lands such as those the Franks inhabited. At the height of the Roman empire, the sea-level was low and this particular region was rich in agricultural products and active in trade and commerce between the Romans and the Germanic tribes. As time passed, however, the sea began to encroach, and the area became a great marsh not unlike the bayou country of southwestern Louisiana. Like the Cajuns of that region, the Franks were hunters and trappers and supplied recruits for the Roman armies of the period.

They were not sophisticated or highly organized, like the Ostrogoths or Visigoths. They were still pagan, worshipping generally the same gods as many of the other Germanic tribes -- Thor, god of thunder Wotan, the sky god Tew, the warrior god and so forth. They were grouped in tribes, each ruled by a chieftain selected from a family that claimed to be descended from Wotan. The kings were both rulers and priests, and were also the richest of their tribe. They surrounded themselves with large households, composed of slaves and free retainers.

As the empire weakened, the many small tribes that constituted the Frankish nation began to expand from the marshes that were their home. One group pushed southward along the Scheldt river in what is now northern France and the other reached the same are by expanding from the sea-coast. The latter group, called the "Salian Franks" (from "sal," "salt" or "sea"), eventually came to be regarded as the ancestors of the French nation, and their laws and customs of ("Salic law") were considered as the basis of French law (this will become an important matter later on). In about 430, Franks occupied the rich agricultural territory between Soissons and Cambrai. Soissons was an imperial arms factory manufacturing shields, swords, and spears. The Franks could now equip many more fighting men than previously, and were an important part of the army with which the Roman commander Aetius defeated the Huns at the battle of Chalons in 451. After the murder of Aetius by his enemies in the court at Ravenna in 453, however, the angry Franks threw off their federate status and renounced any allegiance to the empire. In 476, Odovacar, the Germanic commander of the Roman army in Italy, deposed the Western Roman emperor and declared the empire in the West at an end. The Franks were free to pursue their own aims.

In 481, the 15-year old Clovis (the name is a form of "Louis," which became a favorite name of the French royal dynasty) became leader of his small tribe. Since, as we have noted, the chiefs of the Frankish tribes were chosen from a single extended family claiming descent from the god Wotan, Clovis began killing off the other members of his family and so reducing the number of people who could compete with him for authority. Consolidating the other tribes under his leadership in this fashion, in five years, he had united the Franks under his personal rule.

In 486, he attacked the lands of Syagrius, a Roman general holding out in hopes that the Western imperial government would be restored. He defeated Syagrius in a single battle, and moved his capital to the more central and strategic location of the town of Paris.

In 496, he prepared for battle against the Burgundians but found that they had been joined by allies from other German tribes. With the outcome of the battle in doubt, Clovis took an oath to become a Catholic Christian (that is, not an Arian as were the other German leaders) if he were victorious. He won the battle and became the first of the German kings to embrace the Catholic brand of Christianity to which the native Roman population belonged.

In 507, he was asked by the Eastern emperor to drive the Visigoths from Gaul. In the campaign of 507-508, he defeated the Visigoths and drove them from their capital at Toulouse into Spain. He seized control of southern France, although Theodoric, king of Italy, intervened to make sure that he did not gain control of any lands along the Mediterranean coast and so have access to the sea. Theodoric feared an alliance between the Catholic Franks and Eastern empire against his Arian regime.

In 510, Clovis attacked and defeated the Allemanni, who lived along the northern Rhine and added parts of Germany to his lands. He died in 511, and the Frankish kingdom was divided among his four sons. (The royal descendants of Clovis are known as the Merovingian dynasty, named after Clovis' grandfather, Merovech).

Map of the Mediterranean world in 600 AD

3. Gavelkind and Civil War

The only governmental institution was the chieftainship or kingship, and the Merovingians based their power upon lands -- towns and villages -- that they considered to be their own personal property. They and their followers lived on the produce of these lands, and the royal household travelled from royal estate to royal estate since no single estate produced enough to supply the royal household for more than a few days and nights. The staff who provided for the household also had to manage the estates that supplied them with food, clothing, horses, and other necessities. These household servants -- the mayor of the palace (who directed all household operations), seneschal, tallator, pincerna, mareschal, condestable, botellarius, etc. -- thus became ministers of the realm (note that the word "minister" means, among other things, "servant"). In time, the posts of many of these servants grew into the functions of important French royal officials. The rest of the Merovingian's kingdom was left under local strong men (or women) paying tribute and military aid when the king required them to do so, and later by counts and dukes appointed by the king.

Law was customary and based upon kinship and feuds. There was no concept of the responsibilities of the state.

It is important to remember that the power of the Frankish kings was based largely upon the estates that were their personal possession. Consequently, the Merovingian kings passed them on in accordance with traditional customs of inheritance. Gavelkind, or the division of property equally among the children of the deceased property owner, was the traditional principle of inheritance among the Franks, and so the royal lands, as well as the royal title -- which was also considered a personal possession, were divided among the sons of a dead ruler. There was competition among the heirs to gain a greater share of the patrimony, and a rivalry arose between Neustria, Austrasia, and Aquitaine -- the three regions into which the realm was often split to be passed on to the heirs. There were constant civil wars and shifting alliances, but the Merovingian dynasty ruled for about three hundred years, and the Franks remained the strongest power in western Europe for much longer. How was this possible?.

4. Bases of Frankish strength

A. The Franks expanded, rather than migrating, into the empire. Their numbers were constantly increased by men and women from the old heartland of Frankish lands. They advanced relatively slowly and were never in a position to be threatened, as the Vandals and other tribes had been, by the great numbers of their Roman subjects.

B. They were protected by geography from the Muslims and eastern Romans. Neither the Muslims nor the Byzantines attempted to extend their power to the Frankish homeland far to the north.

C. Their opponents were generally weak or distracted. Neither Syagrius nor the Allemanni were particularly powerful, and the Visigoths and Burgundians were troubled by the unrest of their subjects, who welcome the Catholic Franks and worked against their Arian masters.

D. Their government was primitive

1. They did not try to preserve Roman institutions or the Roman system of taxation. One of the major reasons for the "fall" of the Roman empire in the West had been the general unwillingness to support a government that levied heavy and unfair taxes, and whose institutions were mostly corrupt and ineffective. The Roman empire was being rejected, and the Vandals, Ostrogoths, and others were weakened by trying to maintain unpopular Roman institutions. The Franks avoided this.

2. They allowed a form of local autonomy to any place where it worked. There are time when decentralization is more effective than centralization, and this was one of those times. The Franks allowed responsible and responsive governments to exercise authority at the local level. This also provided a way for talented and effective local rulers to join the ranks of the Frankish "aristocracy."

3. They were pragmatic about things. Rather than chasing vague ambitions of imperial power, the Frankish kings were generally content to enjoy the fruits of their own estates and levy tribute upon others. Their governmental institutions were too crude to be repressive.

E. They enjoyed the support of the Church.

1. They were not divided from the local population by religious differences. The mass of their subjects were less concerned with whether their rulers were good Christians than with whether they were the right variety of Christian.

2. The Church provided them with the skilled personnel they needed. The Franks could call upon the clergy for administrative services whenever they needed and, when they began to expand into non-Christian lands, church missionaries worked with the Frankish kings in pacifying and educating these new subjects.

By the 600's, the Church had seen the disappearance of the Roman governmental structure of which it had been a part. The Church then began entering into a similar relationship with the Franks. The Frankish state was in fact an alliance among many different elements, and the Church was one of the most important of these.

Lynn Harry Nelson
Emeritus Professor of
Medieval History
The University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas


Charlemagne and the Carolingian dynasty

Charlemagne and his successors also patronized a vast project that they and their clerical advisers called correctio—restoring the fragmented western European world to an earlier idealized condition. During the Carolingian Renaissance, as it is called by modern scholars, Frankish rulers supported monastic studies and manuscript production, attempted to standardize monastic practice and rules of life, insisted on high moral and educational standards for clergy, adopted and disseminated standard versions of canon law and the liturgy, and maintained a regular network of communications throughout their dominions.

Charlemagne drew heavily on most of the kingdoms of Christian Europe, even those he conquered, for many of his advisers. Ireland sent Dicuil the geographer. The kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, drawn close to Rome and the Franks during the 8th century, produced the widely circulated works of Bede and the ecclesiastical reformer Boniface. Also from England was the scholar Alcuin, a product of the great school at York, who served as Charlemagne’s chief adviser on ecclesiastical and other matters until becoming abbot of the monastery of St. Martin of Tours. Charlemagne’s relations with the kingdoms in England remained cordial, and his political and intellectual reforms in turn shaped the development of a unified English monarchy and culture under Alfred (reigned 871–899) and his successors in the 9th and 10th centuries.

Although the Visigothic kingdom fell to Arab and Berber armies in 711, the small Christian principalities in the north of the Iberian Peninsula held out. They too produced remarkable scholars, some of whom were eventually judged to hold heretical beliefs. The Christological theology of adoptionism, which held that Christ in his humanity is the adopted son of God, greatly troubled the Carolingian court and generated a substantial literature on both sides before the belief was declared heterodox. But Iberia also produced scholars for Charlemagne’s service, particularly Theodulf of Orleans, one of the emperor’s most influential advisers.

The kingdom of the Lombards, established in northern and central Italy in the later 6th century, was originally Arian but converted to Catholic Christianity in the 7th century. Nevertheless, Lombard opposition to Byzantine forces in northern Italy and Lombard pressure on the bishops of Rome led a number of 8th-century popes to call on the assistance of the Carolingians. Pippin invaded Italy twice in the 750s, and in 774 Charlemagne conquered the Lombard kingdom and assumed its crown. Among the Lombards who migrated for a time to Charlemagne’s court were the grammarian Peter of Pisa and the historian Paul the Deacon.

From 778 to 803 Charlemagne not only stabilized his rule in Frankland and Italy but also conquered and converted the Saxons and established frontier commands, or marches, at the most vulnerable edges of his territories. He built a residence for himself and his court at Aachen, which was called “a second Rome.” He remained on excellent terms with the bishops of Rome, Adrian I (reigned 772–795) and Leo III (reigned 795–816). Scholars began to call Charlemagne “the father of Europe” and “the lighthouse of Europe.” Although the lands under his rule were often referred to as “the kingdom of Europe,” contemporaries recognized them as forming an empire, much of which extended well beyond the imperial frontiers of Rome. Because of its use in reference to the empire, the old geographical term Europe came to be invested with a political and cultural meaning that it did not have in Greco-Roman antiquity.

In 800 Charlemagne extracted Leo III from severe political difficulties in Rome (Leo had been violently attacked by relatives of the former pope and accused of various crimes). On Christmas Day of that year Leo crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans, a title that Charlemagne’s successors also adopted. Although the title gave Charlemagne no resources that he did not already possess, it did not please all his subjects, and it greatly displeased the Byzantines. But it survived the Frankish monarchy and remained the most respected title of a lay ruler in Europe until the Holy Roman Empire, as it was known from the mid-12th century, was abolished by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, a little more than 1,000 years after Charlemagne was crowned. Historians still debate whether the coronation of 800 indicated a backward-looking last manifestation of the older world of late antiquity or a new organization of the elements of what later became Europe.

Charlemagne’s kingdoms, but not the imperial title, were divided after the death of his son Louis I (the Pious) in 840 into the regions of West Francia, the Middle Kingdom, and East Francia. The last of these regions gradually assumed control over the Middle Kingdom north of the Alps. In addition, an independent kingdom of Italy survived into the late 10th century. The imperial title went to one of the rulers of these kingdoms, usually the one who could best protect Rome, until it briefly ceased to be used in the early 10th century.


3 Charlemagne and the Carolingian Dynasty

The Franks continued to expand their territory through Western and Central Europe until their influence reached its height under Charles the Great. Also known as Charlemagne, he was King of the Franks between 768 and 814 and a member of the Carolingian dynasty. Charlemagne's alliance with the Roman Catholic Church was formalized in the year 800, when he was crowned Emperor by the pope. By the time of his death, Charlemagne's empire encompassed present-day France, Germany and northern Italy. However, after the empire was divided among his sons, the power and influence of the Franks gradually declined. By the year 987, the Carolingian dynasty -- and the dominant position of the Franks in European affairs -- had come to an end.


The History of the Franks Background

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Written by people who wish to remain anonymous

The History of the Franks is a comprehensive guide to the spread of Frankish culture throughout and up to the sixth century C.E. A large topic of the history is the Christianization of Western Europe, which was perhaps the largest event taking place at the time. Although historians find the book very useful to piece together basic information about what was happening in the timeline of Gregory of Tours, skeptics say that the book was written to please patrons, and is therefore unreliable.

Born around 538, Gregory of Tours was historian and Bishop of Tours, located in Gaul, which is modern day France. Before Gregory, the area he ruled was simply dubbed Gaul by the Romans. Through his writing, Gregory helped to let people recognize the rich nature of Frankish culture. His most famous work is History of the Franks.

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About this page

APA citation. Kurth, G. (1909). The Franks. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06238a.htm

MLA citation. Kurth, Godefroid. "The Franks." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06238a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael C. Tinkler.


It was under Clovis that the Frankish Kingdom of Francia emerges as a force. Much of his earlier success appear to be connected to an event in 496 in which the Franks converted to the Roman Catholic version of Christianity, rather than the Arianism favored by other Germanic leaders. As such, the Roman religious establishment was less inclined to resist the Frankish takeover, thus making it easier for Clovis to conquer all of Gaul with the exception of Provence. Unfortunately in 511 Clovis was no more, and the kingdom was divided by his son into the Kingdoms of Reims, Orleans, Paris and Soissons. Not until 613 would Francia be reunited as a single entity.

Mayors of the Palace
Pepin of Heristhal
Charles Martel
Pepin the Short
Kings
Pepin the Short
Charlemagne


The History of the Franks

“A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad”.

I got this while studying something that had nothing to do with the Franks, in London. I&aposd travel back in the evening and would often stop in a pub off Villiers Street (view spoiler) [ named after George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham from The Three Musketeers (hide spoiler)] a curious place partly under the station - it had an extension on the other side of the street, if I was clever enough I could arrive after the vari “A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad”.

I got this while studying something that had nothing to do with the Franks, in London. I'd travel back in the evening and would often stop in a pub off Villiers Street (view spoiler) [ named after George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham from The Three Musketeers (hide spoiler)] a curious place partly under the station - it had an extension on the other side of the street, if I was clever enough I could arrive after the various city types had gone home, drink a pint, and read a bit of Gregory of Tours before catching a train from Charing Cross back into Kent.

As a Gallio-Roman the ghost of that Bishop of Tours would probably have preferred wine to be drunk in his memory as I read of the plotting, scheming and infighting of the long-haired Kings of France. Possibly that might have aided my recall. Beer addled, my abiding memory is of how the monarchical legitimacy bestowed by having long hair worked to the advantage of the quarrelling kings since any potential rival claimant would have to hide themselves for long enough for their hair to grow before being able to declare themselves King while enemies could be disposed of by giving them a vicious and unrelenting haircut.

This is probably a sign that I'm overdue for a reread, one of the curiosities is that most of us, in or out of pubs or other drinking places if asked would be absolutely certain that there was no Roman empire and therefore no Romans in central France in the sixth century. Gregory would have been certain of the opposite, he was a Roman, his family were Romans, his friends were Romans, they just had to live in this strange world of the Franks, observing the actions of the vengeful Saints, whose slumbers in their tombs one should never, ever disturb. . more

Histoire des Francs
By Grégoire de Tours (538-594)

The 5th and 6th Century was the darkest of the dark middle ages in the land of Gaul.
The Roman Empire was crumbling, and the void after the Roman Rule gave place for invading barbarian populations from the east and north.

Vandals, Aleman’s, Goths, Saxons, Thuringia’s, Huns and others raided the cities and their surrounding countries brutally and violently, killing or enslaving the populations, burning homes and churches and stealing and robbing anyt Histoire des Francs
By Grégoire de Tours (538-594)

The 5th and 6th Century was the darkest of the dark middle ages in the land of Gaul.
The Roman Empire was crumbling, and the void after the Roman Rule gave place for invading barbarian populations from the east and north.

Vandals, Aleman’s, Goths, Saxons, Thuringia’s, Huns and others raided the cities and their surrounding countries brutally and violently, killing or enslaving the populations, burning homes and churches and stealing and robbing anything they could get hold of.

One of these roaming populations were the Francs.

Gregory of Tours was a Catholic bishop who recorded the historical events as he saw them as an eyewitness. These reports are the only remaining writings from the period.
He wrote in the Latin language which was also his native tongue.

He lived at the time of the Christening and (self) crowning of CLOVIS, the first Franc King who had succeeded to submit almost all the French Cities to his rule.

He was simply the most ruthless of all the warriors he had killed all the rival kings and even sons and other close family members as soon as he saw them dangerous to his tyrannic dominance.

After his death, his sons, grandsons and descendants continued in the same way and established over time what has become France today.

Bishop Gregory objectively describes the ambiguous implication of the Christian religion in bringing these barbaric rulers to accept the Christian way of legislation and to live by its rules.

This was an almost impossible task and cost countless innocent lives and turned hundreds if not thousands, religious men and women into martyrs.

It seems today surprising that so many miracles had been attributed to Gods Will and intervention
It must also seem to have been a necessity to produce some pretended, if not always tangible proof of Gods Power to convince such a brutal, ruthless population to turn to a more civilized way of interaction and social behaviour.

In the first chapters, the book appears to be excessively bent on religious history and matters, but as from chapter five, actual historical events appear and follow page after page in a rapid manner. Battles, fights, murders, intrigues, betrayals, tortures, rape and incest are the ordinary every day in those times.

Historical reality proves to be well beyond anything a modern author of fiction could imagine.
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Nothing like a little primary source material from the early Middle Ages to liven up your reading. It&aposs all here--a doubting priest quoting Scripture against the resurrection of the dead, a queen trying to choke her arrogant daughter by closing a jewel chest on her neck, wicked nuns allying with cutthroats and dragging their abbess through the street, saints who work miracles of healing but also punish with painful deaths those who rob their churches, a deacon who longs to emulate Simon Stylites Nothing like a little primary source material from the early Middle Ages to liven up your reading. It's all here--a doubting priest quoting Scripture against the resurrection of the dead, a queen trying to choke her arrogant daughter by closing a jewel chest on her neck, wicked nuns allying with cutthroats and dragging their abbess through the street, saints who work miracles of healing but also punish with painful deaths those who rob their churches, a deacon who longs to emulate Simon Stylites in a climate that's unfortunately a bit cold for the whole sitting-outside-on-a-pillar thing, and a Frankish king who really thinks he can make the church accept Arianism.

A fascinating picture of a time infused with expectancy for the supernatural, with sincere piety and extraordinary mercy mixed up with brutality (sometimes in the same person), as seen through the eyes of a humble bishop of Tours. . more

This is not yet French but Merovingian history, a barbarian state, post-Roman, violent, and one that fits closely to a description of a “failed state” but which somehow survived 250 years. The author, bishop of Tours, has a pessimistic view of Clovis, and the decline of his sons and grandsons who succeed him. His history deals with the sixth Century.

By the middle of this extraordinary history I decided to leave it at that because it’s such a tour de force to continue but nevertheless the ending This is not yet French but Merovingian history, a barbarian state, post-Roman, violent, and one that fits closely to a description of a “failed state” but which somehow survived 250 years. The author, bishop of Tours, has a pessimistic view of Clovis, and the decline of his sons and grandsons who succeed him. His history deals with the sixth Century.

By the middle of this extraordinary history I decided to leave it at that because it’s such a tour de force to continue but nevertheless the ending of Book V got so full of exotic tales that I would not believe them if I wasn’t reading history by a respectable author that I decided to continue reading.
It’s the major original written record of the sixth Century Merovingian history but it’s simply very difficult for an average amateur history reader myself. It’s a curious history because the facts are extraordinary. We are told at the end of Book I “Here ends the first book, which covers five thousand, five hundred and ninety-six years from the beginning of the world down to the death of Martin.” Later on we hear that “From the Passion of the Lord until the death of Saint Martin four hundred and twelve years passed. (p. 99) There is no chronological data at the end Books II and III but at the end of Book IV there is lots of it: “From the death of Theudebert to the death of Sigebert were twenty nine years. This makes five thousand, seven hundred and twenty-four years in all . (p. 249) There is much more at the end of the tenth Book. The dates don’t add up. A footnote on p. 604 explains that all the figures were given in roman numerals which are often miscopied by scribers.
That is not the more troubling part of this writing. Gregory has a habit of breaking off a story in the middle by saying he will continue it later which maybe a hundred pages further that we will hardly connect to the beginning, such as in the history of two wicked bishops Salonius and Sagittarius. He describes their ignominious carousing and suddenly writes “In the end the wrath of God descended on their heads but about this I will tell you later on.” (p. 287). This is continued on pages 421 to 424.

I sampled a random selection of some forty pages counting a few of the bizarre events in this random selection and found between pages 338 and 381:

Tortures: (6) pages 338, 363, 365, 366, 380, 381
Murders, executions, martyrdom: (11) pages 341, 344, 345, 348, 349, 360, 367, 370, 378, 379
Miracles: (3) pages 339, 346, 352, 353
Loss of lives in battles: (6) 344, 346, 348, 349, 360, 361

This is by no means a section of this history thick with such acts. The 600 plus pages is replete with them. These are barbarians to whom killing their family means little. The motivation is usually power. They kill even children who may become contenders when they grow. A king often kills his wife to take other wives. Queen Clotilde orders killing her grandchildren instead of just humiliating them by cutting their hair.

Plunder is the most common reward of warfare. King Clothar is wary of fighting well equipped Saxons but his army threatens to kill him if they don’t fight them. Assassinations and attempts are quite frequent. Torture is frequent and inventive. Late sixth Century has two competing queens Fredegunde whose list of conniving viciousness is too long to count. She has queen Brunhild captured by her son and torn apart by horses.

Hilaire Belloc made a proper comment about the Merovingians as: “that vast valley of dead men crowned.” Danton: a study (1899) . more

Gregory of Tours "History of the Franks" begins and ends with a chronology of the world starting with the birth of Adam and finishing n 591 when Gregory (installed as Bishop of Tours for 18 years) concludes his history with the sentence: "That makes 5814 years since the beginning of time."

The purpose of reading this book is to into the medieval mind. One discovers that the Middle Ages arrived in France much ahead of anywhere else in the Roman Empire. Procopius&apos (500-570) writes his history of th Gregory of Tours "History of the Franks" begins and ends with a chronology of the world starting with the birth of Adam and finishing n 591 when Gregory (installed as Bishop of Tours for 18 years) concludes his history with the sentence: "That makes 5814 years since the beginning of time."

The purpose of reading this book is to into the medieval mind. One discovers that the Middle Ages arrived in France much ahead of anywhere else in the Roman Empire. Procopius' (500-570) writes his history of the reign of Justinian the Great in the style of classical Greece. One could even say the same of Anna Comnena (1083-1153) whose "Alexiad" (the history of her father Alexis 1st of Byzantium) is still written in the manner of classical antiquity. It appears to be the French who led us into the Dark Ages.

"L'Histoire des francs" de Grégoire de Tours commence et finit la chronologie du monde. L'An zéro est marqué par la création du monde et la naissance d'Adam. Le tout se termine en 591 quand Grégoire installe comme (évêque de Tours depuis 573) complète sa chronique des rois de francs. La dernière phrase du dernier des livres de l'œuvre est "Ca fait cinq mille cent quatorze ans."

On lit ce livre afin de rentrer profondément dans l'esprit de l'homme médiéval. On constate que le Moyen Âge s'installe en France bien avant l'Est de l'Empire. Procope (500-570) un contemporain de Grégoire de Tours écrit l'histoire de la règne de Justin le Grand (1527-1565) dans le style de l'antiquité classique. Plus que cinq cents ans plus tard, Anna Comnène (1083-1153) écrit " L’Alexiade" une chronique de père, l’empereur Alexis Ier Comnène de Byzance dans le même style de l'antiquité classique. Il faut reconnaitre que les francais étaient le pionniers de la pensée médiévale.
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Thorpe&aposs translation is infamously (and sometimes humorously) tinted (tainted?) with an air of British pretension and distaste. Just put your pinky out when you read the footnotes. It&aposs the only easily accessible complete translation of Gregory, though (CURSED BE UNTO HE WHO PRINTS ONLY SELECTIONS OF MY WORK notwithstanding). I read the Thorpe with the Latin original up on my laptop and compared anything that seemed sketchy. My Latin isn&apost great anymore, but some of Thorpe&aposs interpretations vis- Thorpe's translation is infamously (and sometimes humorously) tinted (tainted?) with an air of British pretension and distaste. Just put your pinky out when you read the footnotes. It's the only easily accessible complete translation of Gregory, though (CURSED BE UNTO HE WHO PRINTS ONLY SELECTIONS OF MY WORK notwithstanding). I read the Thorpe with the Latin original up on my laptop and compared anything that seemed sketchy. My Latin isn't great anymore, but some of Thorpe's interpretations vis-a-vis Gregory's plainish Latin were pretty hyperbolic.

I could write a whole big thing about Gregory's view of history (oh, wait, I *have*), but I won't here. Dude was pretty seriously worried that it was / just about to be the end days. If he wore a t-shirt, it would say, "Ask me about the inherent cruelty of women." You can read his Histories -- and this thing should actually be called Ten Books of History -- for all kinds of things: the plague, astronomical events, fratricide, evil stepmothers, intestinal prolapse, the social and physical effects of alcoholism, miracles .
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History

The original proximity of the Salian Franks to the sea is confirmed in the earliest historical records. Around 286, Roman military commander Carausio was charged with defending the coast of the Straits of Dover against Saxon and Frankish pirates. This changed when the Saxons led them south into Roman territory.

Among others, its history is confirmed by Amiano Marcelino and Zósimo, who described their migrations toward the south of the Netherlands and Belgium. They initially crossed the Rhine during Roman revolts and subsequent Germanic penetration in AD 260. Once the peace was restored, the Emperor of the Romans Constantius Chlorus allowed the Franks to settle in the year 297 AD among the Batavos, where they soon dominated the island region bumping into the Rhine delta. It is not known whether the people were obliged to serve the Roman army like the Batavians before them, or if for them the territory next to the Black Sea was determined, for thus the origins of the maritime Franks whose history had been written during the reign of Emperor Probo (276-282), are not clear.

One story tells of a very large group of Franks that decided to steal some Roman ships, reaching their homes in the Rhine, passing through Greece, Sicily and Gibraltar, causing disorder along the way. The Franks stopped being associated with the sea when other Germanic tribes, probably Saxons, pushed them towards the south.

The Salians received protection from the Romans and in turn were recruited by Constantius Galo – along with the other inhabitants of the island. However, this did not prevent the attack of the Germanic tribes to the north, especially of the Camavos. Their settlement within the Roman territory was rejected by the future Roman emperor Julian the Apostate who later attacked them. The Salians surrendered to him in 358, accepting the Roman terms.

A particular Salian family arose in Frankish history at the beginning of the fifth century at the appropriate time to become Merovingians – Salian kings of the Merovingian dynasty – named after the mythical Meroveus, the father of Childeric, whose birth was attributed to supernatural elements. From the decade of 420 onwards, led by a certain Clodius, they expanded their territory to the Somme in the north of France. They formed a kingdom in that area with the Belgian city of Tournai becoming the center of their dominions. This kingdom was extended later by Childeric I and especially by Clovis I, that gained control of the Roman Gaul.

In 451, Flavius Aetius, de facto ruler of the Roman Empire of the West, summoned his Germanic allies to the Roman soil to help him fight an invasion of the Huns of Attila. The Salian Franks fought together in the battle of the Catalaunian Fields, in a temporary alliance with Romans and Visigoths, which actually ended the Huns threat to Western Europe.

Clovis, king of the Salian Franks, became the absolute ruler of a Germanic kingdom of mixed Roman-Germanic peoples in 486. He consolidated his rule with victories and dominance over the Gallo-Romans and all other Frankish tribes, later establishing his capital in Paris. After overcoming the Visigoths and the Alamanians, their sons pushed the Visigoths to the Iberian Peninsula and dominated the Burgundians, the Alamanians and the Thuringians.

After 250 years of this dynasty, marked by mutually destructive fights, a gradual decline occurred and their Merovingian society was taken by the Carolingians. They also came from a region to the north near the Maas River, in what is now Belgium and the South of the Netherlands.

In Gaul, a merger of Roman and Germanic societies was taking place. With the Merovingian dynasty, the Franks began to adopt Christianity, from the baptism of Clovis I in 496, an event that formed alliance between the Frankish kingdom and the Roman Catholic Church. The Goths and Lombards adopted Arianism, the Salians adopted Catholic Christianity.

Ammianus Marcellinus, History of the Later Roman Empire.

Chisholm, Hugh (1910). Franks, In The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information

Musset, Lucien: The Germanic Invasions: The Making of Europe, Ad 400-600

Orrin W. Robinson, Old English and its closest Relatives – A Study of the Earliest Germanic Languages.

Perry, Walter Copland (1857). The Franks, from Their First Appearance in History to the Death of King Pepin


The History of the Franks Summary & Study Guide Description

The History of the Franks Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours.

This work was written by a high class man during the transition from what is presently perceived to be "the ancient world" into the earliest forms of the modern world. The individual was a successful military man who later turned his talents to both religion and politics as a Bishop. The Bishop of Tours is presently deeply appreciated for writing on the history of the day, which no one else seems to have done. As a consequence, his work is part of what contemporary people have available to them to learn about the author's day and age. This work has been carefully compiled and modified by a professional editorial staff. The book is presented in a straightforward manner with an Introduction at the front. One main feature is that this is a portal through which knowledge that had not previously been available in English has become so. The author wrote the book while serving in the office of Bishop of Tours. Editors explain that this was a highly-sought-after position and that familial pride and tradition had something to do with the quality of the joy he experienced in this career role.

The open use of and reference to divine powers is commonplace within the context of this book. An early note refers to an incident involving the bishop submitting himself to a hostage position and Christian relics used in rites to provide extra protection from harm. Readers can spend a moment facing the intensity of emotions that might be involved in this type of political situation. The author was both a Roman and a Christian, clearly showing contemporary readers of how this denomination known as "Roman Catholicism" came to be and what it was like at first. While St. Augustine was one of the first to be both Roman and Christian, Gregory of Tours was able to work with centuries of practice when he served Rome first as a soldier and later as a Bishop of Christ.

Gregory of Tours, provides readers with a good account of what the main features of both politics and religion were during his time as bishop. He covers what appears to be more than the duration of his own life but does not delve too deeply into the history before his own life, summing this up in the first book. The final addition to the book is an account of some miracles. The author has succeeded in his duty to serve as a main author for the Gaulish and Frankish territories. These lands are presently viewed as substantial portions of Continental Europe, from Belgium and Germany in the North to Italy in the South. The work was written during the Roman era but more towards Rome's decline.


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