History, Frankish Identity and the Framing of Western Ethnicity, 550 - 850 1107032334, 9781107032330

This pioneering study explores early medieval Frankish identity as a window into the formation of a distinct Western con

124 47 30MB

English Pages 528 [530] Year 2015

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

History, Frankish Identity and the Framing of Western Ethnicity, 550 - 850
 1107032334, 9781107032330

Table of contents :
Series information
Title page
Copyright information
Table of contents
List of figures
List of maps
List of tables
Preface and acknowledgements
Reflections on Frankish identity
Identity and processes of identification
Ethnicity and ethnic identity
Late antique and early medieval reflections on ethnic identity and ethnicity
Middle grounds, brokerage and historical writingin late antique gaul
Writing for the future
Part I Communities of the middle ground in sixth-century Gaul
1 Gregory of Tours and his genealogy of pastoral power in late Antique Gaul
1.1 Being Gregory of Tours, I: the cultural broker
1.2 Being Gregory of Tours, II: actor, auctor and auctoritas
1.3 Being Gregory of Tours, III: the historian, the prophet and the business of truth
2 Virtutes sanctorum et strages gentium: ‘The deeds of the saints and the slaughters of the peoples’
3 The dangers of history
3.1 The deconstruction of the Franks
Gregory’s anti-origo
The unimportance of being a Frank: the diversification of the Franci in Gregory’s Histories
Reges and their regnum in Gregory’s Histories
The location of Francia
3.2 History and providence
The regna and the regnum Dei
Gentes and regna
The deconstruction of the Romans
4 Continuities and discontinuities
4.1 Historia multiplex est: histories and myths in late Antique Gaul
4.2 Romans and Trojans in Gaul
4.3 Common Spielräume – Venantius Fortunatus and Gregory of Tours
5 The politics of identity in the Merovingian kingdoms of the sixth century
5.1 The Merovingian kings and the name of the Franks
5.2 Franci et eorum proceres
5.3 Franci et eorum regales
5.4 The coalescence of Frankish identity in the last decades of the sixth century
5.5 In the shadows of empire: post-Roman contentions with the imperial past and presence
Part II Countermyths
6 The persistence of Gregory’s vision of community
6.1 The end of the histories and the anticipation of their future
6.2 The transmission of the Histories in the seventh century: the Merovingian six-book version
6.3 The removal of Gregory’s individuality and the appropriation of his vision
6.4 After the end of ancient Christianity: the reconfiguration of late Antique topographies in the seventh century
7 Iocundus in fabolis et strenuus in consiliis
7.1 Profilers: construing Frankish continuity through universal history
7.2 The compilation of perspectives in the Chronicle of Fredegar
Regions, elites and Frankish consent in the Chronicle of Fredegar
Columbanian networks after Columbanus and the composition of the chronicle
7.3 Fredegar’s Roman fables: storytelling, politics and the integration of a Roman and Frankish past
7.4 Roman models and their reinvention under Chlothar II
7.5 Inundatio gentium: the ethnic rendering of world history
7.6 The role of the Franks in a world divided among gentes
7.7 The transmission of the Ordo singularium gentium in the eighth and ninth centuries
8 Sicut ceterae gentes: ‘Like the other peoples’
8.1 The wild ones go west: a new profile for the Franks
8.2 Alia pro aliis referent: to relate some things for others. historiographical discourse in the...
8.3 Historia in the Liber historiae Francorum: the realisation of the scriptures
8.4 Recordare praeterita et cogita futura: biblical advice and social order from the seventh to the eighth century
8.5 Nutri nunc reliquias Francorum: governmentality and the populus in the seventh and eighth centuries
9 Spielräume of Frankish identity in the long seventh century
Part III A common future
10 Gens Francorum inclita: ‘The illustrious Frankish people’
10.1 The historian as vir inluster: double continuities into a common future
10.2 Una cum consilio et consensu Francorum: the Carolingian viri inlustres as members and rulers...
10.3 Historia vel gesta Francorum:– a shared Frankish history for a common future
The reorganisation of the Ordo singularium gentium in the Historia vel gesta Francorum
The pre-configurations of Carolingian conflict-resolution in the Merovingian past
Auxiliante domino: the Carolingian appropriation of providence
10.4 Impetus Francorum: the Carolingian ­politicisation of ethnic identity
11 Correctio
11.1 … ut in omnibus oboediens et fidelis domno regi Carolo ac genti Francorum: the conjuration...
11.2 The revision of central Frankishness in the Chronicon universale
11.3 Towards the year of the elephant: the Lorsch Annals
12 Before and after 800
12.1 The study of history in the monastery of Lorsch
12.2 But some are more equal than others: the Frankish Empire in the Annals of Metz
12.3 The challenge of equality
12.4 The response of the Chronicon Laurissense breve
12.5 The localisation of the Trojan Franks: the example of the Liber de episcopis Mettensibus
12.6 Nonnulli etiam nobilium in partibus Austriae: the provocation of local Frankishness
12.7 Local Frankishness and Merovingian history
‘Auf den Spuren verlorener Traditionen’: traces of lost traditions
12.8 A Christian history for the Frankish Empire: the Carolingians and Gregory of Tours
12.9 Conclusion
13 Before and after 829
13.1 Correctio and consensus before 829
13.2 The compromise of consensus
13.3 The end of the short history of the Royal Frankish Annals
13.4 Nomen Francorum obscuratum: the crisis of Frankish identity and the beginning of the long history...
13.5 Compilation and convergence: the perspectives of Frankish Identity
Primary sources
Secondary works

Citation preview

HISTORY, FRANKISH IDENTITY AND THE FRAMING OF WESTERN ETHNICITY, 550–850 This pioneering study explores early medieval Frankish identity as a window into the formation of a distinct Western conception of ethnicity. Focusing on the turbulent and varied history of Frankish identity in Merovingian and Carolingian historiography, it offers a new basis for comparing the history of collective and ethnic identity in the Christian West with other contexts, especially the Islamic and Byzantine worlds. The tremendous political success of the Frankish kingdoms provided the medieval West with fundamental political, religious and social structures, including a change from the Roman perspective on ethnicity as the quality of the ‘Other’ to the Carolingian perception that a variety of Christian peoples were chosen by God to reign over the former Roman provinces. Interpreting identity as an open-ended process, Helmut Reimitz explores the role of Frankish identity in the multiple efforts through which societies tried to find order in the rapidly changing post-Roman world. is Professor of History at Princeton University. His previous publications include Cultures in Motion, Vergangenheit und Vergegenwärtigung: Frühes Mittelalter und Europäische Erinnerungskultur, Staat im Frühen Mittelalter and The Construction of Communities in the Early Middle Ages. H EL MU T REI MI T Z

Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought Fourth Series General Editor: ROSAMOND MCKITTERICK Professor of Medieval History, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College

Advisory Editors: CHRISTINE CARPENTER Professor of Medieval English History, University of Cambridge JONATHAN SHEPARD

The series Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought was inaugurated by G. G. Coulton in 1921; Professor Rosamond McKitterick now acts as General Editor of the Fourth Series, with Professor Christine Carpenter and Dr Jonathan Shepard as Advisory Editors. The series brings together outstanding work by medieval scholars over a wide range of human endeavour extending from political economy to the history of ideas. This is book 101 in the series, and a full list of titles in the series can be found at: www.cambridge.org/medievallifeandthought


University Printing House, Cambridge CB 2 8BS , United Kingdom Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107032330 © Helmut Reimitz 2015 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2015 Printed in the United Kingdom by TJ International Ltd. Padstow Cornwall A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data Reimitz, Helmut. History, Frankish identity and the framing of Western ethnicity, 550–850 / Helmut Reimitz (Princeton University). pages  cm. – (Cambridge studies in medieval life and thought. Fourth series ; book 101) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-107-03233-0 (hardback) 1. Franks–Historiography.  2. Franks–Ethnic identity–History.  3. Merovingians– Historiography.  4. Carolingians–Historiography.  5. Ethnicity–Europe–History–To 1500.  6.  Group identity–Europe–History–To 1500.  7.  Christianity–Social aspects–Europe–History–To 1500.  8.  Social change–Europe–History–To 1500.  9.  Europe–Ethnic relations–History.  10.  Europe–Social conditions–To 1492.  I. Title. DC 64.R 45 2015 944′.013–dc23   2014049358 ISBN

978-1-107-03233-0 Hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URL s for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


List of figures List of maps List of tables Preface and acknowledgements

page vii ix x xi

I ntroduc ti on


Part I Communities of the middle ground in sixth-century Gaul 25

1 G reg ory of Tour s and his ge nealog y of pastoral powe r i n late Antique Gaul  2 v i rt u t e s s a n c to ru m e t s t r ag e s g e n t i u m :  ‘T h e de e d s of the saint s and the slaugh te r s of th e people s’: The radical isation of Ch urc h h i story 3 Th e dang e r s of history  4 C onti nuiti e s and discontinuitie s:  R oman and Frank i sh alte rnative s to Gre gory  5 Th e politi c s of ide ntity in the Me rovi ng i an k i ng doms of the sixth ce ntury 

Part II Countermyths: the search for origins in the Merovingian kingdoms

27 44 51 74 98


6 Th e pe r si ste nce of Gre gory’s vision of community: the r é é c r i t u r e and re conf i g urati on of th e h i s to r i e s in the seve nth ce ntury  12 7 7 i o c u n d u s i n fa b o l i s e t s t r e n u u s i n c o n s i l i i s : Roman tri cke ry and F rankish mythmak i ng i n th e C h roni cle of F re de gar 16 6 v

Contents 8



s i c u t c e t e r a e g e n t e s : ‘L ike the oth e r people s’ : The l i b e r h i s to r i a e f r a n c o ru m and th e de f inition of the p o p u l u s i n th e

seve nth and e ighth ce nturie s  s p i e l r äu m e of F rankish ide ntity i n th e long seve nth ce ntury 

Part III A common future: the reforms of Frankish identity under the Carolingians

g e n s f r a n c o ru m i n c l i ta : ‘The

i l lu st ri ou s Frank i sh pe op le ’: T he ce nt ral isati on of Frank i shne s s unde r the ear ly C arol i ng i an s 11 c o r r e c t i o : the re de f inition of c e nt ral Frank i shne s s  12 Be fore and af te r 8 0 0: ce nt ral and local Frank i shne s s in the Carol ing ian wor l d  13 Be fore and af te r 82 9 : the tran sf ormati on of Frank i sh ide ntity f rom the short to th e long h i story of the Royal F rankish A nnal s  C onc lu sion: F rankish ide ntity, We ste rn eth ni c ity Bibliography Index

240 282

293 295 335 36 0 410 444 456 506



1 Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale MS 624 [684], fols. 55v/56r, Merovingian six book version of Gregory of Tours’ Histories (Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale) page 141 2 Paris, BnF lat. 17654, fols. 23v/24r, Merovingian six book version of Gregory of Tours’ Histories (Bibliothèque nationale de France) 143 3 Paris, BnF lat. 17655, fol. 19r, Merovingian six-book version of Gregory of Tours’ Histories, Corbie, c. 700 (Bibliothèque nationale de France) 144 4 Oxford, Bodleian Library Auct. T II 26, fols. 68v/69r, Jerome, Chronicle (image from the facsimile: Fotheringham, The Bodleian manuscript) 219 5 London, BL Add 16974, fol. 60r, Jerome, Chronicle, with spatium historicum (© The British Library Board) 220 6 Oxford, Bodleian Library Auct. T II 26, fols. 136v/137r, Jerome, Chronicle (image from the facsimile: Fotheringham, The Bodleian manuscript) 224 7 Paris, BnF lat. 10910, fols. 30v/31r, beginning of the epitome and reworking of Jerome’s Chronicle in the oldest extant manuscript of the Fredegar Chronicle (Bibliothèque nationale de France) 225 8 Vatican, BAV Reg. lat. 213, fol. 139v, Historia vel gesta Francorum, c. 34, colophon of Childebrand and Nibelung (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) 316 9 Vatican, BAV Reg. lat. 213, fol. 1r, Historia vel gesta Francorum, beginning of the chronicle with Quintus Julius Hilarianus (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) 317


List of figures 10 Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek Pal. lat. 864, fol. 2r, beginning of Book I of Gregory’s Histories in the Historia ecclesiastica of Lorsch (Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg) 11 Paris, BnF lat. 5596, fol. 14r, beginning of the Liber historiae Francorum (Bibliothèque nationale de France) 12 Paris, BnF lat. 5596, fol. 59r, marginal notes to the Liber historiae Francorum (Bibliothèque nationale de France) 13 Paris, BnF lat. 10911, fols. 46v/47r, a page from a Carolingian history book from the second quarter of the ninth century ( Liber historiae Francorum, Historia vel gesta Francorum to the death of Charles Martel (= Continuationes Fredegarii, chs. 11–24), Annales regni Francorum ) (Bibliothèque nationale de France) 14 Simplified scheme of the transmissions of Gregory’s Histories, the Fredegar Chronicle, the Liber historiae Francorum and the Historia vel gesta Francorum (continuations of the Chronicle of Fredegar) until c. 1000


366 397 399




1 Gaul, c. 500 (from P. Halsall, Barbarian migrations, p. 289) page 16 2 The Merovingian world in the seventh century (from Fouracre (ed.), The new Cambridge medieval history, vol. I , pp. 194–5) 178 3 The Frankish kingdoms in the time of Charles Martel (from McKitterick (ed.), The new Cambridge medieval history, vol. II , p. 95) 241 4 The Frankish kingdoms, 751–68 (from McKitterick (ed.), The new Cambridge medieval history, vol. II , p. 95) 297 5 Charlemagne’s empire, c. 800 (from De Jong, The penitential state, p. xvi) 356 6 Charlemagne’s empire in the divisio regnorum of 806 (from McKitterick, Charlemagne. The formation of a European identity, p. 97) 376 7 A map of the Netherlands in the Carolingian period with the names that appear in the laws of the people living along the Amor (Lex Francorum Chamavorum) (from Kees Nieuwenhuisen, Ewa ad Amorem (www.keesn.nl/ewaadamorem/)) 379 8 Charlemagne’s movements in 800 (from McKitterick, Charlemagne.The formation of a European identity, p. 183) 415 9 The Carolingian Empire in the divisio imperii of 817 (from McKitterick, The new Cambridge medieval history, vol. II , p. 114) 424



1 Selected chapters in the Merovingian six-book version 2 Comparison of the oldest extant version of the Fredegar Chronicle with its reworking in the Historia vel gesta Francorum


page 145



The work on this book started in Vienna, where Herwig Wolfram, more than 30  years ago, finished the first edition of his study on the Goths which he himself called a Entwurf einer historischen Ethnographie, an outline of, or even an experiment in, historical ethnography.With this book, Wolfram started a time of intensive and lively experimentation and debate on the question of the salience of ethnic identity for social and political integration in the late and post-Roman world. In the decades since the first publication of the book his outline and his impulses have been further developed and were also changed in many ways by scholars from not only Vienna but also from many other places; new tools were developed and applied, reflections on the terminology, the inclusion of hitherto neglected evidence such as the rich body of patristic works and sermons, or the rich and varied manuscript transmission of many works written in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. In Wolfram’s own Vienna, it was above all Walter Pohl who – in close co-operation with Wolfram – based the research on new theoretical foundations by analysing ethnic identity as a discourse (in the sense of Michel Foucault). The multiple determination of ethnicity, which had formed Wolfram’s implicit starting point, was thereby turned into the object of historical study. Pohl thus analysed the cultural practices and performances and the political conditions within which the meaning of ethnic identity must necessarily be continually renegotiated. His suggestions were crucial for the development of a comparative perspective on ethnic identity and ethnicity and to explore ethnic identity as one form of social identity among others. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the ongoing work and experiments in historicising ethnic identity and ethnicity in late Roman and post-Roman West culminated in a five-year project on ‘Ethnic Identities in Early Medieval Europe’ (2005–10) funded by the Wittgenstein prize of the Austrian Science Fund (Fonds zur Förderung xi

Preface and acknowledgements der wissenschaftlichen Forschung), which Walter Pohl received in 2004. It was during this project that my own Entwurf of a history of Frankish identity in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages started to take shape. I  could not have been luckier. Not only have I  profited directly and individually from the scholarly wisdom, the openness and generosity of my two teachers, Walter Pohl and Herwig Wolfram, who have continued to give invaluable advice and guidance also after my move to the USA and have both read various drafts of the manuscript, but the combination of their respective styles and temperaments also created a unique learning culture that motivated many people to join in the scholarly experiments in late Antique and early medieval history in Vienna. They inspired lively discussions and debate with and among younger generations of scholars from Vienna at the Institut für Mittelalterforschung of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung. My debt for the inspiration and help that I received from my friends and colleagues working in the Viennese workshops, including Richard Corradini, Max Diesenberger, Nicola Edelmann, Clemens Gantner, Karl Giesriegl, Cinzia Grifoni, Gerda Heydemann, Marianne Pollheimer, Roland Steinacher, Vladmira Stipkova, Veronika Wieser and Bernhard Zeller, goes far beyond this book. This is also true for many colleagues and friends from other places than Vienna whom I  have had the privilege and pleasure to meet. Stefan Esders, Andreas Fischer, David Ganz, Patrick Geary, Eric Goldberg,Yitzhak Hen, Michael Maas, Janet Nelson, Pavlína Rychterová, Karl Ubl and Ian Wood have all read drafts of the manuscript or parts of it and have generously continued to educate me, have given invaluable advice and comments and have also shared their unpublished work with me. For many conversations and the exchange of ideas, insights, published and unpublished, I am also greatly indebted to Julia Becker, Kate Cooper, Jennifer Davis, Albrecht Diem, Guy Halsall,Wolfgang Haubrichs, Martin Heinzelmann, Damien Kempf, Conrad Leyser, Régine LeJan, Simon MacLean and Julia Smith. While many of the conversations that helped shaping this book took place in Vienna, the book itself was written in Princeton, where I have had the privilege of becoming part of quite a different but equally inspiring and invigorating learning culture. The lively scholarly exchange in the History Department, in programmes such as the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, the Program in Hellenic Studies, the Committee for the Study of Late Antiquity or the Institute for Advanced Study, has been and still continues to be a constant source of inspiration, motivation and experimentation with new perspectives and tools. It was one of the particular excitements of writing this book to see how the project changed and received new directions in the process xii

Preface and acknowledgements of writing it in this wonderfully stimulating environment. For the present book I  should like to thank in particular Jeremy Adelman, Betsy Brown, Nicola Di Cosmo, Tony Grafton, Emmanuel Kreike, Michael Laffan, Nino Luraghi, Bhavani Raman, Dan Rodgers, Brent Shaw and in particular my late Antique and medieval colleagues and friends at the History Department, John Haldon and William Jordan, for their suggestions, feedback and advice. Peter Brown read several drafts of the manuscript, and returned them to me with numerous comments, copy-edits and invaluable suggestions. With his characteristic generosity he took even more time to discuss them with me in many conversations from which I have learned more than I can say. Jamie Kreiner has worked on this book with me for several years. Not only did she share her stimulating insights on Merovingian history and hagiography with me while we both studied, taught and were taught at Princeton, she also improved the whole book by revising my style in English, which she continued to do even after she started to teach at the University of Georgia. I cannot thank her enough for the help and inspiration she provided. Rosamond McKitterick not only supported this book through her scholarship and friendship over many years, she also supported its publication in the Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought series and read the manuscript several times. I have benefited enormously from her critical comments and suggestions as well as her editorial advice.The great skills, generosity and good nature of Liz Friend-Smith and Rosalyn Scott of Cambridge University Press made the publishing process a truly enjoyable stage. I am equally grateful for the great care and dedication of my copyeditors, Jenny Slater and Christopher Feeney and my indexer Katherine Harper. Last but by no means least, I  would like to thank my daughters, Clara-Maria and Agnes. They read the manuscript several times, checking spelling, quotations and bibliography. Their suggestions, corrections and improvements to this book made me a lucky author and a very proud father. I have received generous financial support for the work underlying this book from the History Department at Princeton University, in the form of the award of two honorific fellowships and the Harold Willis Dodds Presidential University Preceptorship (2011–14), the Institut für Mittelalterforschung of the Austrian Academy in Vienna, the Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung, the Wittgensteinprojekt on ‘Ethnic Identities in Early Medieval Europe’ funded by the Austrian Science Fund (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung), the European Research Council Programme HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) through the project on ‘Cultural Memory and the Resources of the Past, 400–1000’, the Spezialforschungsbereich xiii


Preface and acknowledgements Visions of Community at the University of Vienna and the Advanced Grant of the European Research Council, ‘Social Cohesion, Identity and Religion in Europe (400–1200)’ awarded to Walter Pohl. Without the support of these institutions and programmes and the generosity of the people behind them, it would not have been possible to finish this book.



This book explores the history of Frankish identity in the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms from the sixth to the middle of the ninth centuries  – the period in which these kingdoms came to be seen as the Frankish kingdoms. Their rise to become one of the most important and enduring successor states of the Western Roman Empire started with Clovis I, the son of Childeric I, one of the client kings of Rome in its last days. But soon Rome was not there to have clients. At the end of his life in 511, Clovis found himself ruling over most of the former Roman provinces of Gaul. His descendants, the legendary Merovingian kings, established themselves as one of the longest-ruling royal families of the early medieval period, controlling roughly the territory of modern France, including some regions along the Rhine that are now part of Germany. Their rule ended only when members of the Carolingian family replaced them as kings around the middle of the eighth century. Among other strategies, the new kings legitimated their usurpation with intensified military expansion. Under Charlemagne (768–814) their kingdom comprised most of western and central Europe, and modern France and Germany were the core regions of what was to become the first medieval Christian empire in the West in the year 800. The Carolingian renovation of the Roman Empire was in many ways an experimental process. The creation of new imperial structures was built as much on the remaining resources of the late Roman Empire as on the experiences and experiments of post-Roman societies to reconfigure these resources in a new world. In this way, the Carolingian world became one of the most important filters and transmitters of the social, religious and political syntheses by which post-Roman societies attempted to reorganise the diverse social and political frameworks inherited from the late Roman West. This perspective on the history of the post-Roman West defines the chronological boundaries of the book. It does not want to describe the end 1

Introduction of a process in which Frankish identity established itself in its ‘true’ form in the middle of the ninth century. Experimentation in linking the name of the Franks to a common history and meaning started as an open-ended process and never resulted in the establishment of a single dominant conception of Frankish identity in the Merovingian and Carolingian period. The rich transmission of texts that were written and copied in the early medieval Frankish kingdoms has bequeathed us a particularly rich and varied body of sources in which older models, myths, fables and (hi)stories were rewritten, expanded and adapted in order to articulate new conceptions of Frankish identity.Yet, different as they were, the efforts of Merovingian and Carolingian scribes and scholars contributed to the long-lasting success of the Frankish name by continually investing Frankish identity with new meaning and social prestige. Such reflections not only established a wide and various repertoire to imagine the social and political horizons of communities that were identified as Franks, they were also connected to reflections about the imagination of the larger social whole to which these Frankish communities belonged. They were part of a process in which the inhabitants of the regions that were increasingly called Europe came to imagine the world as one divided among peoples chosen by God to rule over the former Roman provinces. What we observe in this process is not the formation of Ethnicity with a capital E, but the formation of a specific social imagination of the world as one divided among Christian peoples which we might call a Western ethnicity. In this book we shall explore the formation of this Western form of ethnicity and its dynamic relationship with the history of Frankish identity until the middle of the ninth century, when a common understanding regarding the imagination of the social world as a world divided among peoples started to slide more firmly into place. R e f le ctions on F rankish i de ntity This book will thus explore the history of Frankish identity as part of ongoing social and political experiments and as a tool of orientation in the quickly and constantly changing late Antique and early medieval West. It will offer a history that goes ‘beyond groupism’, as Roger Brubaker has called the ‘tendency to take discrete, sharply differentiated, internally homogeneous and externally bounded groups as ‘basic constituents of social life … and fundamental units of social analysis’.1 The book is thus not a history of the Franks. It is a history of how people Brubaker, Ethnicity without groups, p. 164; see also the discussion in Rebillard, Christians and their many identities, p. 5. 1


Introduction in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages used and shaped images and imaginations of Frankish identity in their efforts to make sense of their social world, and a history that reveals how early medieval people reflected on questions about who the Franks had been, what they had become and what they should be. For a long time, and even until now, many scholars have assumed that members of a Dark Age society rarely worried about such abstract questions. As a result, modern historical scholarship largely took Frankish identity for granted.And yet, the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms have left us an impressive variety of meanings and interpretations for the name of the Franks. The Merovingian kings legitimated themselves as reges Francorum, but the name turns up as a description for particular regions or groups within the realms of these kings too. Merovingian and Carolingian historians continued the debates about the etymology of the name of the Franks that had already started in the time of the Roman Empire.2 They also had different views on the origins of the Franks. In the various Frankish law books, the name of the Franks affirms that different Franks in different regions claimed an elevated social and legal status in contrast to other social groupings, including new Franks. The name was used to legitimate the political claims of different elites and their position in the regnum. It was, however, also linked to Christian visions of community, to assert that a Christendom defined as Frankish took precedence over other Christendoms.3 Some studies do indeed discuss the ambiguity of the name of the Franks, which is documented in the extant sources, especially from the seventh century onwards.4 This ambiguity, however, has rarely been explored as a sign of deeper reflections about Frankish identity in the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms. Most scholars seem to have trusted that the Franks themselves would have known who they were. We shall see in the course of this book that Merovingian and Carolingian contemporaries were not so sure. A closer look at the history of the use of the Frankish name in the extant evidence from late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages reveals that Frankish identity was a complex phenomenon – for the inhabitants of the Frankish kingdoms themselves as well as for outsiders. What constituted being a Frank was See Nonn, Die Franken, pp. 12–15; Reimitz, ‘Franks’, with further references. 3 See P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 13–29 and 355–79, for barbarian, Roman and Christian identities, pp. xxvi–xli. 4 Recent discussions include, Goetz, ‘Gens, kings and kingdoms’; Goetz, ‘Zur Wandlung’; Goetz, ‘Gentes in Wahrnehmung’; I. Wood,‘Defining the Franks’; Pohl,‘Zur Bedeutung’; Nelson,‘Frankish identities’; McKitterrick, Charlemagne, pp. 266–78; Garipzanov, Symbolic language, pp. 231–318; and still Ewig, ‘Volkstum’; Ewig, ‘Beobachtungen’; D. Frye, ‘Gallia, patria, Francia’. 2


Introduction not only much debated but also fiercely contested in different regions and social milieux. In these ongoing debates, the importance and meaning of Frankish identity changed in many different ways. Most importantly, a gradual but nevertheless fundamental change occurred in these centuries as to how the larger social world was to be imagined to which these visions of Frankish communities had to be connected. In the Roman Empire, the collective identification of a gens, such as that of the Franks, Saxons or Alamans, was understood primarily as a quality of the ‘other’.5 The Roman imagination had organised the world into a powerful dichotomy of the civilised Roman world and the opposite, barbarian world of the gentes. By the ninth century, however, this perspective had fundamentally changed. Now the Carolingian Empire itself had become inhabited and ruled by gentes, such as the Franks, Saxons and Alamans. They saw their own world as divided among peoples that God had chosen to rule over the former Roman provinces. The many different interventions and reflections about the meaning and role of Frankish identity from the sixth to the ninth century will help us to explore this process. But the history of Frankish identity will not only be used as a window into this process. We shall also see that the different reflections and interventions about the meaning and conception of Frankish identity played an influential role in the specific shape that the social imagination took when thinking of a world divided among peoples. The formation of such a conception of ethnicity was as much the result of a specific historical process as the formation of a discourse on Frankish identity. Both would be further transformed and developed for many centuries to come. I de ntity and p roce s se s of i de nti f i cati on These introductory remarks give an impression of the approach to identity and ethnicity I shall be taking in this book. It might be helpful, however, to make plain some of the methodological foundations I am using to explore identity and ethnicity in the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms.6 In building upon recent sociological and anthropological research, I  understand ‘identity’ as a ‘toolkit’. This toolkit can be used to develop a dense array of strategies involving 5 See Maas, ‘Barbarians’, with further references. 6 The approach has been developed in the course of the Wittgenstein project on ‘Ethnic Identities in the Early Middle Ages’ (2005–10) funded by the Austrian FWF (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung).The results of the collaboration are published in two companion volumes edited by Pohl and Heydemann: Strategies of identification and post-Roman transitions.


Introduction groups, individuals and their interrelationships.7 From such a perspective, ‘Frankish identity’ did not simply exist. It was a constant process of identifications and imaginations of who the Franks were. They had to be created and constantly re-created in a circuit of communication between an individual’s identification with a group (whether accepted by the group or not), the identification of the group as such or through its representatives and identifications of that group in the perceptions of outsiders.8 In such a view, we not only have to explore the formation of identity as an intrinsically relational phenomenon, but also have to let go of the romantic idea that we might be able to find more stable notions of identity behind extant articulations, or even instrumentalisations, of identification in our sources. As Stuart Hall observed on the ‘structure of identification’: The story of identity is a cover story. A cover story for making you think you have stayed in the same place though with another bit of your mind you do know that you have moved on. What we have learned about the structure of the way in which we identify suggests that identification is not one thing, one moment … It is something that happens over time, is never absolutely stable, that is subject to the play of history and the play of difference.9

It is the aim of this book to explore what happened ‘over time’ in regard to Frankish identity. We shall thus explore the circuits of communication in which the meaning of Frankish identity was constantly created and re-created in identifications that built on imaginations of a Frankish past and its extension to the future. As we shall see these imaginations never built on the reality of core Frankish identity. They were ‘situational constructs’, which does not mean that they were just random appropriations of a name for a social group and its history.10 Such situational constructs take place in heavily contested social contexts. Through them people are able to create a ‘gap between the past and the future’ which in turn allows them to distinguish between reality and possibility.11 The realisation of an identity in processes of identification always goes beyond the experience of groupness and beyond what people perceive as real.

For a comprehensive discussion see Pohl, ‘Introduction. Strategies of identification’ with references to the social and anthropological approaches and literature. 8 See Pohl, ‘Introduction. Strategies of identification’, p.  6; and Pohl, ‘Christian and barbarian identities’, p. 8. 9 Hall, ‘Ethnicity: identity and difference’, p. 344. 10 See Geary, ‘Ethnic identity’. 11 Ahrendt, Between past and future; and Wagner, ‘Fest-Stellungen’, pp. 70–2. 7


Introduction E thnicity and ethnic i de ntity In order to explore the formation and transformation of Frankish identity as an open-ended historical process, we shall also have to extend the approach to ethnicity. This is particularly important for research on early medieval identities. For a long time, early medieval ‘tribes’ were seen as the direct ancestors of the European nations.12 Nationalist concepts and claims of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were projected back onto early medieval collectives such as the Franks, Angles, Saxons, Suevians, Thuringians and so on, in such a way that the history of late Antique and early medieval gentes was constructed as the start of modern nations, such as the French, English, German and so on. The assumption was that an inborn essence in all of these peoples was what made their success and persistence possible. Because of their great political success, the Franks were even taken as evidence of the triumph of the nation over the supra national civilisation of the Roman Empire.Their history represented the ascent of the Germanic people in the former provinces of the Western Empire, who imposed more and more of their ‘Germanic’ mentality, traditions and institutions on the population of these provinces. The Gentilismus – the pride in being gentes – of the conquering peoples was considered to be a stronger mode of thought than was the Roman imperial consciousness of the provincials.13 During the last few decades, such tendencies of earlier historians have been thoroughly deconstructed.14 This process went hand in hand with the fundamental revision of the dramatic image of the ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. As more recent works have shown, the ‘Fall of Rome’ was not a melodramatic ‘clash of cultures’ but rather ‘a long-term process of transformation, accentuated not by one fatal blow to classical civilisation, but as a multitude of transitions that eventually created rather different societies’.15 The changing meaning of ethnic identity has to be understood as part of this process. It was the result of 12 Geary, Myth of nations, pp.  15–40; and now the comprehensive study of the historiography in I. Wood, The modern origins. 13 Wenskus, Stammesbildung, p. 2: ‘Der Gentilismus der landnehmenden Stämme war als politische Denkform stärker als das römische Reichsbewußtsein der Provinzialen.’ See the discussion of Wenskus in Pohl, ‘Tradition’; Pohl, ‘Ethnicity’; and now Pohl, ‘Von der Ethnogenese’. 14 Geary, Myth of nations; Goffart, Narrators; Pohl, ‘Modern uses’. 15 Pohl, ‘Christian and barbarian identities’; P.  Brown, The rise of Western Christendom (with the new introduction to the third edition of 2013); the impulses of the research programme of the European Science Foundation in the 1990s on ‘The Transformation of the Roman World’ played an important role; for recent overviews inspired by it, see Pohl, Die Völkerwanderung; Smith, Europe after Rome; Halsall, Barbarian migrations; Wickham, Inheritance of Rome; for a revival of the catastrophist perspective, see Ward-Perkins, The fall of Rome; the barbarian invasions are also seen as the main factor by Heather, Fall of the Roman Empire; and Heather, Empires and barbarians.


Introduction these transformations, not a precondition of them. Understanding these changes, however, requires extending the historical approach to identities as open and dynamic processes – to what Rogers Brubaker has called ethnic ‘common sense’16 or what we might also call ‘ethnic discourse’ (in the sense of Michel Foucault).17 In order to do this, I suggest distinguishing between ethnic identity and ethnicity. Building on the definition suggested by Brubaker, I will explore ethnicity as a way of observing the social world as a world divided among ‘distinctive and analogous groups that are perceived as naturally constituted’.18 Such a definition is not only a more flexible one, allowing for the study of different ways to perceive and order the social world as a world divided among distinctive and analogous groups, it might also help to explore ethnic identity and ethnicity as different ways to observe them. In this regard it might be helpful to combine Brubaker’s definition of ethnicity with the distinction between different forms of observation that has been developed by Nicklas Luhmann: the difference between observations of the first and second order.19 Whereas first-order observations are operations in which things are observed and differentiated, second-order observations are observations of those (first-order) observations. First-order observations create differences without considering the difference itself: the differentiated subjects that result from the observation are assumed to be definitive, without reflecting on the criteria for the distinction in the first place. Luhmann’s goal was above all to develop a theory to understand the complexity of modern society. The adoption of his ideas, however, may well help to explore the complexities of ancient and medieval societies as well.20 In taking stock of his ideas we might understand ethnicity as a conceptualisation of the world in a second-order observation. An ethnic identity is consequently a collective identity that such forms of observation observe – that is observed as belonging to a world divided among ‘distinctive and analogous groups’. The distinction between ethnic identity and ethnicity might help us explore both aspects of ethnic processes – the imagination of the Franks as a gens or populus, as well as the imagination of the larger social whole to which gentes and populi were connected – and most importantly to 16 Brubaker, Ethnicity without groups, p. 9. 17 Pohl, ‘Introduction. Strategies of identification’, pp. 21–4. 18 See Brubaker, Ethnicity without groups, pp. 7–20. 19 See Luhmann, ‘Deconstruction’; Luhmann, Art as a social system. Here and at other places where Luhmann discusses first- and second-order observations, he refers to the work of von Foerster; see his Observing systems. 20 For a more comprehensive discussion of the problems and opportunities applying Luhmann’s ideas to the study of late Antique and early medieval societies, see Heydemann and Reimitz, ‘History as reflection’.


Introduction study how the dynamic relationship between these two forms of observations shaped and reshaped both. Such a conceptualisation of ethnic identity and ethnicity as interdependent historical processes is not only crucial to explore how they were both subject to the play of history and difference in the early medieval West. It will also help us to define them more precisely in their respective historical contexts, which will allow us to differentiate ethnic identity from other visions of Frankish communities that connected the name to other or even alternative macro-social mappings. This in turn will enable us to understand how observations of Frankish communities as an ethnic identity were shaped by the interplay, coexistence and competition with other forms of social identities, such as Christian, civic, regional or military identity.21 To illustrate this methodological outline, let us look briefly at some early medieval perceptions, observations and imaginations of social groups and the larger social whole to which they belonged. Late Antique and early me dieval re f le c ti on s on ethnic ide ntity and eth ni c ity At the beginning of the tenth century, the former abbot of Prüm and current abbot of St Martin in Trier, Regino of Prüm saw the world as a world of nations whose populations were differentiated by descent, customs, language and law.22 In a recent and perceptive discussion, Matthew Innes has placed Regino’s anthropological observations in their context.23 Regino made these remarks in a dedicatory letter to Archbishop Hatto of Mainz, to accompany his comprehensive collection of canon law, Libri duo de synodalibus causis et disciplinis ecclesiasticis. Regino saw the social order of the world divided among peoples ‘as an analogy for difference in custom of the universal church’.24 This example shows not only that the early Middle Ages thought about the world in this way, it also helps illustrate how much conceptions of ethnicity were shaped by their interplay with other macro-social mappings. And it shows too how such social imaginations were used as tools to order and form one’s actual social world. After all, Regino used his conception of ethnicity to accommodate difference in a populus Christianus whose members as Christians

Pohl, ‘Introduction. Strategies of identification’, p. 19. 22 Nec non et illud sciendum, quod sicut diversae nationes populorum inter se discrepant genere, moribus, linguis, legibus, ita sancta universalis ecclesia toto orbe terrarium diffusa, quamvis in unitate fidei coniungatur tamen consuetudinibus ecclesiasticis ab invicem differt (Regino of Prüm, Libri duo, p. 22). For Regino see now the introduction by MacLean to the translation of his Chronicle, History and politics. 23 Innes, ‘Historical writing’.   24  Innes, ‘Historical writing’, p. 312. 21


Introduction were supposed to be all alike. ‘Identity’, as Walter Pohl observed, ‘is never only identical’.25 I hope to have shown by the end of this book the extent to which this observation of Walter Pohl’s applies to the formation of an early medieval Western conception of ethnicity in the centuries before Regino.We will also have seen that Regino built on a world view that had only slid more firmly into place about a hundred years before he wrote. The catalogue he uses to describe this world of peoples calls to mind modern attempts to define ethnicity, which draws our attention to how much modern scholarship of ethnicity is a product of its own European history. That goes past the scope of this book, however, which focuses on the period before Regino was born. I do hope, however, that this history of Frankish identity and the study of the formation of  Western conception of ethnicity in the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms up to the mid-ninth century may help develop a couple of new starting points when it comes to posing such questions to later periods of European history. It is in any case important for the subject of this book to maintain that the social imaginations of the world such as Regino’s – that is the imagination of the world as a world divided among peoples – was minted and continually re-minted by specific cultural and political contexts. These developments are possibly even easier to detect in texts that originated in the centuries before Regino. As we shall see in the course of this book, Regino was building on a consensus about this social imagination that should be seen as the result of a longer process in the Frankish world. Consequently, the reflections about this order of the world that we have from earlier centuries can better convey how open the questions were about what a gens, natio or populus was, and what kind of order these concepts should be associated with in the post-Roman world. A good example of this comes from the Etymologiae sive origines, the project that Isidore of Seville worked on in the early decades of the seventh century. This was a twenty-volume encyclopaedia that Isidore compiled out of all the works that were available to him, and in it he used separate entries to explain the origins – and hence the meaning – of significant terms.26 In his definition of gens, Isidore did not use a catalogue of criteria like those that Regino would use 300 years later. Instead Isidore emphasised the structural aspects of ethnicity.27

25 Pohl, ‘Introduction. Strategies of identification’, p. 36. 26 Isidore, Etymologiae, ed. and trans. Barney et al.; Henderson, The medieval world of Isidore of Seville. 27 See for the passage Pohl, ‘Introduction. Strategies of identification’, p. 21, who also discusses the biblical background of Isidore’s reflections.


Introduction A gens is a number of people sharing a single origin or distinguished from another natio in accordance with its own grouping as the ones of Greece or Asia Minor … The word gens is also so called on account of the generations of families, that is, from begetting, just as the word natio derives from being born.28

It seems that early medieval intellectuals did not need twenty-first-century sociologists and anthropologists to tell them that ethnicity was a ‘relational mode of social organisation, in which a society comprises a number of distinctive and analogous groups that are perceived as naturally constituted’.29 The backdrop for this affinity seems to be that Isidore was trying to find a way to call prevailing conceptions of ethnicity into question. It was a matter of finding new ways to define the social imagination of a gens, to emancipate it from the Roman world order to which the concept had previously been tied. In his Etymologies, Isidore not only restored the ‘monumental fabric of the ancients’, as his pupil Braulio of Saragossa would write in praise of his master,30 he also adapted it to a world that was ruled by the kings of the gens Gothorum.The kings of this gens had only recently converted to Catholic Christianity, and Isidore provided them and others in the kingdom with ‘all they needed to know’.31 When Isidore enumerated the peoples of the world in his reflection on the gentes, the Romans were one of them.32 Isidore’s encyclopaedic work was not the only one to rearrange the world. As Jamie Wood has recently shown, such a reorganisation also played a great part in his historical works, in which Isidore promoted the gens Gothorum as the legitimate successors of the Romans in Spain.33 For Isidore it was not the social and political integration of the gens Gothorum that concerned him most. He was, as Peter Brown observed, among the most enthusiastic episcopal advisers of the Visigothic kings, who ‘wished to create a new common social and political vision of their own true Christian commonwealth in thinly disguised competition with the “kingdom of the Greeks” – the self-styled “Holy Commonwealth” of East Rome’.34 In this context, the redefinition of ethnicity helped accommodate the autonomy of the various and increasingly confident Gens est multitudo ab uno principio orta, sive ab alia natione secundum propriam collectionem distincta, ut Graeciae, Asiae … Gens autem appellata propter generationes familiarum, id est a gignendo, sicut natio a nascendo. Isidore, Etymologiae IX , 2, ed. Lindsay, the English translation follows Barney et al., p. 192. 29 See above, n. 18. 30 Braulio of Saragossa, Renotatio librorum domini Isidori; for the translation, see P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 364 and 366. 31 P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, p. 365; on the highly heterogenous population of late Antique and ‘little Romes’ in Spain see Martin, La géographie. 32 Isidore, Etymologiae IX , pp. 2 and 84. 33 J. Wood, Politics of identity; J. Wood, ‘Religiones and gentes’. 34 P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, p. 366 28


Introduction post-Roman societies in the former Western Roman provinces.35 We shall see that this function of ethnicity played an important role for the history of Frankish identity in the early medieval period too. Mi ddle g rounds, b roke rage and histori cal writi ng in late Antique  Gaul We will trace the changing roles and meaning of Frankish identity in the transformation of the Roman world above all in historiographical texts. The reason for this choice is not that history and ethnic identity share some essential connection. As I mentioned earlier, I follow rather the approaches of those such as Walter Pohl and Rogers Brubaker in defining ethnicity as an imagination of the social world as divided among ‘distinctive and analogous groups that are perceived as naturally constituted’.36 The historical significance of a collective identity is as much ‘subject to the play of history and the play of difference’ as identities themselves.37 The question of the meaning of shared origins and histories for the construction of identity has to be examined on a much broader chronological and geographical scale than this book provides.38 The late Antique and early medieval authors whom this book will discuss, however, seemed to have assumed that a community’s sense of identity depended largely on efforts to convince itself and others of a shared past.39 This is exactly what seems to have prompted some authors – such as Isidore of Seville – to rearrange the accounts of older chronicles and adapt them to changing political and social frameworks.40 Like Isidore, other historians of the post-Roman world decided not simply to continue certain older works, such as Jerome’s Christian world chronicle or late Antique ecclesiastical histories. They instead chose to rewrite them substantially, in order to provide an up-to-date prehistory For ‘Encyclopedias and autonomy in seventh-century Europe’, see P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 364–8; for the enormous success of Isidore’s historiographical and encyclopaedic works see Chiesa, ‘Isidorus Hispalensis’; Isidore, Etymologies, trans. Barney et al., pp. 23–6; Bischoff, ‘Die europäische Verbreitung’; Mommsen, Chronica minora II , pp. 391–423. 36 See above, pp. 6–7. 37 Hall, ‘Ethnicity: identity and difference’, p. 344. 38 This question will be explored in a larger cooperation of historians and anthropologists in the SFB Project ‘Visions of Community. Comparative Approaches to Ethnicity, Religion and Empire in Christianity, Islam and Buddhism (400–1600 CE )’ (VISCOM) at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (directed by Walter Pohl) with colleagues working in the Classics Department and the Department of History at Princeton University; for a useful overview, see Oxford history of historical writing (2011–12). 39 P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, p. xxxviii. 40 See above, p. 10, with nn. 33 and 34. 35


Introduction for a post-Roman society.41 The transformation of the Roman world had opened up new perspectives: in appropriating and reinventing the historiographical resources of the Roman world, early medieval historians transformed the larger social wholes of late Antiquity in their histories. As a comparison of the different historiographical projects in the Frankish kingdoms will show, these histories were not only in direct competition with the Roman models they were adapting. The perspectives they developed for the future of their respective societies were also competing with each other. In this respect, the stakes were not limited merely to the question of whether or not a specific identity should have an important place in history. The arguments of the texts were also connected to differing conceptions of the larger social world in which a collective identity made sense and could be presented as being of great or little importance for the integration of society. It is above all this creation and re-creation of the larger social whole that I should like to investigate in the histories that were written in the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms. I shall begin with the Histories of Gregory of Tours, our first comprehensive history of post-Roman Gaul. In recent decades it has finally become commonplace that the brilliant beginnings of Merovingian historiography were not written as a History of the Franks.42 The vision of community that Gregory formulated for his society in the Histories was much more inspired by the will to establish a Christian ‘order of things’ in the history of Gaul. A number of studies have also shown that Gregory wrote from a late Antique perspective and that he stood much closer to social and literary traditions of the fifth and sixth centuries than to those of the generations to follow.43 It was, however, precisely in the Frankish kingdoms of the subsequent centuries where his Histories were enormously successful and influential. Soon after he died (most likely in 594) it became the reference work for the history of Gaul under Merovingian rule. No alternative history from the sixth century has come down to us, and all subsequent historians of Frankish history worked with or against Gregory’s historiographical legacy.44 Even texts that created very different visions of community had to refer to Gregory’s historiographical 41 McKitterick, Perceptions; McKitterick, History and memory; J. Wood, Politics of identity; see the contributions in Delyannis (ed.), Historiography; for the late Roman and post-Roman period see the excellent recent overview by Croke, ‘Historiography’; and Lifshitz, ‘Vicissitudes’. 42 Goffart, Narrators, pp. 112–234, see Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 5, for Goffart’s intervention as ‘a real breakthrough in the research on Gregory’ (together with the work of Kathleen Mitchell). 43 See now P.  Brown, Through the eye, pp.  491–8; P.  Brown, ‘Gregory of Tours’; Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 7–35. 44 For the short chronicle of Marius of Avenches, a continuation of the Christian world chronicle of Jerome, see I. Wood, ‘ “Chain of chronicles” ’; and Favrod, La chronique.


Introduction authority and develop and continue their competing conceptions out of his Histories. How later historians – not just authors of new works but also the compilers and copyists of his text – adapted Gregory’s conceptions of history and identity will be one of the main themes of this book. The history of Gregory of Tours will also help set the scene for the post-Roman world of the Merovingian kingdoms. As we know from his Histories, which deal for the most part with the time of Gregory’s episcopacy from 573 to 594, Gregory was deeply involved in the social and political fabric of his time, and his account was not an impartial or neutral representation. In fact, Gregory has become famous in the last few decades for his idiosyncrasies,45 but we shall also see that they were well entrenched in the society for which he wrote. The Histories will thus be our starting point for exploring the social realities and changes to which Gregory responded with his vision of the past. It might therefore be helpful for the readers of this book to make a few introductory remarks about the late Antique history of Gaul and the regnum in which Gregory wrote his Histories. Gregory, like Isidore of Seville, did not treat the end of the Roman Empire as a catastrophe. In contrast to Isidore, however, to whom the end of the Roman rule over the Western provinces was important, Gregory did not represent the end of Rome as any particular caesura in his Histories. The Histories barely mention the ‘barbarian migrations’. Instead Gregory describes fifth-century Gaul as a world in which barbarians and Romans were not so different from each other. The Gallic emperor Avitus (d. 456/7) treated the wives of his senators as autocratically and barbarically as his contemporary, the Frankish king and Roman commander Childeric (d. 481/2) treated the daughters of the Franks.46 Both the Roman emperor and the barbarian king assaulted these women because they were in thrall to luxuria. Nor do barbarian and Roman commanders, such as the Roman magister militum Syagrius, seem very different, compared with Adovacrius, whom Gregory mentions as a leader of a Saxon group, or the comes Paul.47 This was also true of the ways they achieved their respective victories. There is a strong resemblance between Aetius, the Roman magister militum of the West who successfully defended Gaul against the Huns, and Clovis, who eventually brought almost all of Gaul under his rule. They are all essentially presented as ‘late Roman warlords’.48 45 For overviews see the introduction to Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 3–6; and the bibliography of the second edition of Goffart, Narrators, pp. xx–xxvi. 46 DLH II , 11–12, pp. 60–2.   47  DLH II , 18–20, pp. 65–6. 48 MacGeorge, Late Roman warlords; Halsall, Barbarian migrations, pp. 236–55, 303–8.


Introduction As selective and manipulative as Gregory may have been at times,49 his representation of the situation in the fifth century seems to convey a thoroughly realistic picture. It is at the same time a revealing picture of how false the notion is of a melodramatic clash of cultures between Romans and barbarians which is the result of a strangely contradictory collaboration between nationalist historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the authors and ideologues of the Roman Empire. If for different reasons, they both constructed sharp boundaries between a Roman civilisation and the barbarian-Germanic world. John Drinkwater has recently emphasised the great importance of the ‘Germanic bogeyman’ to late Roman politics for legitimating the reorganisation of Roman government and administration in the fourth century. The constant promotion of the ‘Germanic threat’ played a crucial part in presenting the emperors and imperial elites as defenders of their civilisation, and it justified ‘the imperial administrative structure in the West and the taxation that was necessary to sustain it’.50 In reality, however, this ‘absolute’ frontier between Roman civilisation and the barbarian world was much more permeable.What we observe in the northwestern periphery of the Roman Empire is the development of a large frontier zone, where the supposedly barbarian ‘others’ were in fact well accustomed to Roman politics and life.51 By the fifth century, in fact, they had long been part of late Roman politics. From the fourth century on, there is ample evidence that barbarian groups were federates of the Roman Empire, as auxiliary troops or even regular units of the Roman army – not least Frankish groups, who had been settled as farmers in northern Gaul. Particularly in Gaul we find ‘barbarians’ and, increasingly in the second half of the fourth century, Franks serving in the highest offices of the Roman army.52 In the process, these regions turned into what Richard White has called a ‘ “Middle Ground,’’a place in between: in between cultures, peoples and in between empires and the nonstate world of villages’.53 As White has shown, these middle grounds are particularly dynamic zones of interaction and invention of social and cultural syntheses.

49 See, for instance I. Wood, Gregory. 50 Drinkwater, Alamanni, p.  179; see also Halsall, Barbarian migrations, pp.  50–9; and Pohl, Die Germanen, pp. 30–9. 51 P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 48–52; Whittaker, Rome and its frontiers; see the contributions of J. Arce and P. Heather in Pohl, Wood and Reimitz (eds.), Transformation of frontiers. 52 Halsall, Barbarian migrations, pp. 138–61, Pohl, Die Völkerwanderung, pp. 165–76. 53 White, The middle ground, p. x; for the use of the concept in this context see already P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 48–52.


Introduction On the middle ground diverse peoples adjust their difference through what amounts to a process of creative, often expedient, misunderstandings. People try to persuade others who are different from themselves by appealing to what they perceive to be the values and practices of those others. They often misinterpret and distort both the values and the practices of those they deal with, but from these misunderstandings arise new meanings and through them new practices – the shared meanings and practices of the middle ground.54

In Gaul, the meanings and practices of the Middle Ground became particularly important in the fifth century. It was in the course of the fifth century that we observe what has recently been called the ‘Destruction of Central Romanness’, the end of the ability of the Roman state to ‘maintain its supra-regional political structure’ over the different provinces and their local and regional elites.55 However, as Peter Brown has emphasised, the destruction of ‘central Romanness’ did not lead to a victory of the barbarians. In most provinces, it signalled a victory of ‘local Romanness’: Somehow a tacit deal between barbarians and local Romans was struck in the course of the fifth century. It was a deal based on innumerable ‘historic acts’ of symbiosis, collaboration, even of cultural treason … The empire was not so much destroyed as eroded and finally rendered unnecessary by a score of little Romes rooted in more restricted areas of control.56

The process is particularly well documented in Gaul. It was precisely in the Gallic provinces where a series of power blocs developed in which ‘late Roman warlords’ established new ‘little Romes’ in collaboration with local Romans. Gaul is divided into three parts, Caesar remarked in his commentary on his Gallic war.57 Just over five centuries later, after the deposition of the last Western Roman emperor in 476, Gaul was divided among many more power blocs. The Aquitanian provinces in modern southern France were ruled by Visigothic kings, and the Burgundian king Gundobad governed the region along the Rhône river. North of the Loire, the magister militum Syagrius commanded a regnum around Soissons. In the northeast, some territories were controlled by kings whom our sources identified as Frankish, Clovis and his father Childeric among them (see Map 1).58 For some of the Roman elites in the region, this development was a true loss of opportunities. A famous example is Sidonius Apollinaris, 54 White, The middle ground, p. x. 55 Heather, Fall of the Roman Empire, pp. 432–43. 56 P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, p. xxvi. 57 Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres: G. Julius Caesar, De bello Gallico I , 1. 58 Halsall, Barbarian migrations, pp. 303–10.



Map 1  Gaul, c. 500 (from P. Halsall, Barbarian migrations, p. 289)

the son-in-law of the emperor Avitus, the prefect of Rome, and eventually the bishop of his hometown of Clermont in southern Gaul.59 By the time Sidonius died between 480 and 490, it had become clear that many members of the local and regional elites of Gaul were more than

 Harries, Sidonius Apollinaris.



Introduction willing to create new local or regional Romannesses in cooperation with the ‘barbarian’ rulers. In the sixth century we find Sidonius’ descendants among them.60 It was not only secular bureaucrats, courtiers and military personnel who reorganised the political and social structures in the post-Roman world in cooperation with the new rulers. As Peter Brown has made plain in his recent study on ‘Wealth, the fall of Rome, and the making of Christianity in the West’, the leaders and members of Christian communities were also an important factor in the end of ‘central Romanness’ and its replacement by ‘little Romes’.61 Many of them came to see the ‘fall of Rome’ as an augmentation of opportunities to concretise their respective Christian visions in a new society. Among them were also some of Gregory of  Tours’ ancestors, such as Nicetius, who was the comes of Autun and later bishop of Langres, Gallus of Lyons or Eufronius of  Tours, all of whom Gregory presents in his Histories as influential figures in the formation of their own ‘true Christian commonwealth’ in the Merovingian kingdom.62 The members of the intellectual and cultural elite who ‘opted for local leaders, local armies, and local systems of patronage’ played a crucial role in re-creating the social and political frameworks of the late Roman world.63 In drawing on their Roman-Christian education, they helped develop concepts that integrated old and new social structures. The son-in-law of Emperor Avitus, Sidonius Apollinaris, obviously felt more committed to a central Romanness.64 However, the letters he exchanged with members of the Roman elite who were collaborating with the new rulers show how important their role was in the formation of new social and political structures. So we learn that one of Sidonius’ friends was apparently involved in new legislative groundwork happening at the Burgundian court.65 Sidonius even attested that he was the ‘Solon’ of the Burgundians. Likewise Syagrius, who was the great-grandson of a consul, became so fluent in Burgundian that according to Sidonius, the barbarians were afraid of speaking some barbarism in front of him.66 Sidonius’ letters are not the only sources that show the co-operation of local and regional 60 P. Brown, Through the eye, pp. 392–407; P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. xxiv–xxix. 61 For ‘little Romes’, see P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, p. xxvii 62 cf., n. 34. 63 I.Wood, ‘The governing class’; Hen, Roman barbarians; the quotation is from P. Brown, Through the eye, p. 394. 64 P. Brown, Through the eye, pp. 400–12; Reimitz, ‘Historian as cultural broker’, pp. 77–9. 65 I. Wood, ‘The governing class’, p. 14. 66 Sidonius Appolinaris, Letters V, 5.


Introduction elites. From the fifth to the seventh century we have ample evidence of figures like Syagrius.67 We see them acting as political advisers, in high military and political offices and as bishops at the courts of the new rulers of the successor states of the Roman Empire in the West. They negotiated contracts among different populations, cities and political leaders. They influenced the proceedings of Church councils, helped draft new legal frameworks and wrote speeches for the new rulers. They also composed histories.68 The engagement of Roman regional elites in the political and social reconfiguration of the Roman world resembles the work of people whom modern anthropologists and ethno-historians have called cultural brokers – that is, cultural intermediaries, who ‘stand guard over the crucial junctures of synapses of relationships’, which connect different social groups or systems to a larger whole.They are often products of the Middle Ground or figures who deliberately try to position themselves in spaces ‘in between’.   As simultaneous members of two or more intera­ct­ ing networks (kin groups, political factions, communities or other formal or informal coalitions), brokers provide modes of communication between a community and the outside world. Their intermediate position allows brokers to promise more than they can deliver. This in turn creates room for manoeuvre, which allows skilful mediators to promote the aims of one group while protecting the interests of another – and thus to become nearly indispensable to all sides.69 The concept of a cultural broker has played an important role in modern anthropology. It was introduced by Eric Wolf more than half a century ago and was further developed by Clifford Geertz only a few years later in his study on the changing role of cultural brokers in post-revolutionary Indonesia.70 Not least through the influential work of Clifford Geertz himself, who used the concept to challenge the concept of culture as a stable, self-contained and self-perpetuating system, the concept of ‘cultural brokerage’ as an analytical tool in anthropological and historical research has changed considerably since then. Its further development has contributed substantially to the critique of essentialist notions of culture and identity in a number of different social contexts.71 67 I. Wood, ‘The governing class’; for Gaul, the works of Ralph Mathisen have provided us with ample evidence: Mathisen, Roman aristocrats; Mathisen, People, Mathisen and Shanzer (eds.), Society and culture; Mathisen, Ruricius of Limoges; for lawyers see Liebs, Römische Jurisprudenz; for the seventh century, see Hen, Roman barbarians, pp. 94–123. 68 For some examples see Reimitz, ‘Historian as cultural broker’. 69 Richter, ‘Cultural brokers’, p. 41. 70 E. Wolf, ‘Aspects of group relations’; Geertz, ‘The Javanese Kijaji’. 71 See the overview in Hinderaker, ‘Translation and cultural brokerage’.


Introduction Recent studies on (cultural) brokerage have demonstrated that the work of these brokers can never be understood as a mediation between cultural systems that are clearly distinguishable and fixed. Rather, it has to be seen as a creative performance in social contexts that are characterised by a complicated interplay between different social groups and identities that fuel the brokers’ actions and form the basis of their social prestige. Difference is the brokers’ stock in trade, but integration is what they offer. As recent studies on cultural and political brokerage have demonstrated, one of cultural brokers’ most important strategies is linking ‘the complicated interplays of local and extra-local influences’ to a larger social whole that could be shared by all of the different (real or imagined) social groups involved.72 In taking stock of these approaches I  will explore the work of late Antique and early medieval historians in the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms in terms of (cultural) brokerage. This may help us move on to a new way of looking at the role of historical texts when we study identities in the early Middle Ages. Up to this point, the question has mostly been discussed in rather straightforward terms. Did historiography have any impact on ethnic, political or religious identities at all? And if so, which identity did a particular work construct? On the whole, recent historical, textual and literary critique has been increasingly sceptical towards the value of historiographical sources when it comes to offering an adequate reflection of ‘real’ communities (because the texts were too biased) and to measuring the impact they may have had in creating or promoting identities (because the audience and influence of the texts is only rarely attested).73 However, most historical texts did not construct a single identity. They balanced a whole range of possible identifications. Their narratives develop several options and explore their opportunities and limitations. They did not do this to promote the position or political tradition of any one single group that was politically or socially relevant. The most successful historians in the post-Roman kingdoms positioned themselves in the space ‘in between’ (or sometimes above) different elites, groups, regional and local frameworks. Their task was to integrate the relevant social and political identities of their time into a historical framework – a Richter, ‘Cultural brokers’; Hinderaker, ‘Translation and cultural brokerage’, esp. pp. 359–66. 73 See the remarks of Lifshitz, ‘Vicissitudes’, but see also the forthcoming volumes of a larger project on the relations of historical writing and the construction of identity: W. Pohl and V. Wieser (eds.) Historiographies of identity 1: Historiographies as reflection about community: Ancient and Christian models; G.  Heydemann and H.  Reimitz (eds.), Historiographies of identity 2:  Post-Roman multiplicity and new political identities; R. Kramer, H. Reimitz and G. Ward, Historiographies of identity 3: Carolingian convergence and its later uses. 72


Introduction common past – that all of the different (real or imagined) relevant social groups involved could share. As I have already briefly mentioned, the formation of the post-Roman kingdoms was a time that both demanded as well as allowed for intensified social experimentation. However, this experimentation took place within specific historical circumstances that defined changing limits and opportunities for the delicate balancing acts of (cultural) brokers. The study of their role in this process and its comparison with the works of historians will help us explore these opportunities and limits  – the Spielräume – for the creation of new political, social and cultural syntheses in late and post-Roman Gaul. This in turn will allow us to explore the literary and social Spielräume of the politics of identity in the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms. Looking at how late Antique and early medieval historians tried to balance a whole range of possible identifications will also allow us to study how their work reacted to other possible identifications.They were part of a polyphonic discussion, and although most of those voices were lost, they can be reconstructed to a point through our texts’ reactions to them. The historical reconfiguration of the social world in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages was an ongoing conversation with the past, the present and the future. Writing f or the  f uture The impressive statement with which Gregory of Tours concluded his ten books of histories shows how much early medieval historians thought about the future of their texts. After a comprehensive list of the bishops of Tours, he ended his work with a dramatic appeal. By the coming of ‘our Lord Jesus Christ and Judgement Day’, he called on his successors ‘never to cause these books to be destroyed or rewritten, selecting some passages and omitting others, but let them all continue in your time complete and undiminished as they were left by us’.74 We shall see in this book how the fate of the work exceeded even his worst expectations. Soon after Gregory’s death, Merovingian historians updated his Histories to fit the new political and social circumstances of the seventh century. They left off the last four books and treated the first six exactly as Gregory suspected they might:  they included some chapters and omitted others. As the unusually high number of extant manuscripts from the Merovingian period suggests, it was this version Gregory, Historiae below, ch. 6. 74


31, p.  536; for the passage, see Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp.  94–101; and


Introduction that circulated most widely in the Merovingian kingdoms of the seventh century. It was also this version that later Merovingian historians such as the compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle and the author of the Liber historiae Francorum, used to rework to establish different visions of Frankish history. In doing so they built on the authority that Gregory’s narrative had apparently developed; yet at the same time they were also able to use the relatively broad Spielräume that his text offered in order to construct Frankish identity. It was precisely because Gregory had not written a history of the Franks that his narrative was all the easier to link to different conceptions of Frankish identity. Both these Merovingian texts, each of which reworked the six-book version of Gregory, not only developed an alternative to Gregory’s view of Frankish history and identity. Their views also stood in competition with each other, and that competition reflects a lively debate about the definition and role of Frankish identity. As a result, Gregory’s Histories paradoxically stand at the start of the formation of a discourse about Frankish identity in historiographical texts of the Merovingian and Carolingian period. Merovingian and Carolingian historians have bequeathed us a particularly rich and varied body of sources for studying the formation of such a discourse. The historians of the Merovingian and Carolingian period carefully researched earlier histories, integrated older accounts into their own narratives and continued them. In doing so they adapted the works of earlier historians to new horizons in a constantly and quickly changing world. Following these works from the context in which they were written into the future for which they were written will help us to explore them not as simple reflections of different concepts of Frankish identity, but rather as histories that constituted and promoted identities in their attempts to offer perspectives for the future. What is particularly exciting about these historiographical reconfigurations in the Merovingian and Carolingian period is that the relative abundance of manuscripts allows us to extend this approach to the anonymous compilers and copyists of historical works.75 They too 75 Such an approach has of course been strongly influenced by the pioneer of the study of Carolingian literacy R. McKitterick, see her Carolingians and the written word, or more recently her History and memory and Perceptions of the past. For the Viennese workshop, where I  have had the privilege of working and developing my approaches, see Pohl, Werkstätte der Erinnerung; Pohl, ‘History in fragments’. These approaches to the early medieval transmission of histories and hagiographies in the early Middle Ages owe a lot to Brigitte Resl (Liverpool), who taught until the beginning of the twenty-first century in Vienna; see, for instance, her ‘Ein Passauer Historikerstreit’ and ‘Vom Nutzen des Abschreibens’; and to the inspiration provided by P. Geary, see his Phantoms of remembrance. Models and techniques for the detailed study of the interplays of textual, codicological and paleographical traces have also been developed by Winfried Stelzer in his work on Austrian historiography in the high Middle Ages; see for instance, Stelzer, ‘Studien zur österreichischen Historiographie; Stelzer, ‘Die Melker Fragmente’.


Introduction adapted their ‘originals’ through sometimes inconspicuous alterations, omissions or additions, and they arranged them with other texts to create larger history books to compile new histories for the future. The continuing work of cultural recovery can be particularly well studied in the rich transmission from the Carolingian period. The Carolingian historiographical workshops not only rearranged new versions of older histories, continued them and developed their own distinct historical perspectives, such as annalistic writings, but they also used old and new texts as building blocks for bigger historiographical compendia, constituting an ever-growing body of histories to reshape the past for the present. In this book we shall thus also look beyond modern editions to the rich and varied manuscript transmission, whose singularity enables us to examine the diverse futures that the texts’ different conceptions of (Frankish) history and collective identity engendered. This approach will not only help us read the old manuscripts as new texts and thereby broaden and differentiate our source base, but it will also be crucial in reconstructing the role of texts in social communication about identity and community. The variety of subtle differences in the extant texts and compilations show that these manuscripts were not isolated products of a Dark Age but the ‘fruit of urgent and intelligent debates which linked the last days of Rome in an almost continuous conversation’ with the Carolingian Empire.76 The study of the reception and transmission of the extant texts will thus help us evaluate the impact of historical narratives and the successive identifications they supported, and to trace that impact of their negotiations over the role and function of Frankish identity on the formation of ethnic repertoires in the early medieval world. The work of the copyists and compilers will also show us how early medieval historians worked with as much care in researching different versions of older sources and histories as they did in drafting new texts. To take just one example from the transmission of Gregory’s Histories, Gregory ostensibly was unable to find any reliable sources for the early history of the Frankish kings in Gaul. He learnt a lot about the history of the Franks, for example, from the Roman historian Sulpicius Alexander. But according to Gregory, Sulpicius Alexander does not discuss their kings. Nam cum multa de eis Sulpicius Alexander narret historia non tamen regum primum eorum ullatinus nominat. (While the History of Sulpicius Alexander tells us a lot about them [the Franks] he fails to provide any name for their first king at all.)77 P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, p. xxix. 77 Gregory, Historiae II , 9, p. 52; for a longer discussion of the passage, see ch.3. 76


Introduction The Merovingian compilers who produced a six-book version of Gregory’s Histories transmit a slightly different version of this sentence. Non tamen regem primum eorum ualentinus nominat. This may have been a simple scribal error. But it could also be understood as ‘Among the many things that the history of Sulpicius Alexander tells us, it does not mention their first king Valentinus.’ This spot at least struck the Carolingian compilers of Gregory’s work who compiled their own version of the Histories in the monastery of Saint-Hubert in the Ardennes in the middle of the ninth century.78 As part of that project they worked with different versions of the text (an abbreviated one and a complete one), so they had both versions of this passage about the first kings of the Franks. In their new version of Gregory’s Histories these Carolingian editors initially opted for the reading ullatinus. But they later corrected the choice and improved their earlier reading to ualentinus.79 The work of the historical compilers at Saint-Hubert on Gregory’s Histories documents not only the care with which early medieval historians and historical compilers wrote new histories or new versions of older histories, it also shows the tension involved in this work, between the need or the desire to adapt these works to new horizons on the one hand and the efforts to maintain the authenticity and the authority of older narratives on the other. Investigating what were sometimes very subtle changes therefore provides important insights into the methods and strategies that would have been used in the original composition of these histories, too. The extent to which my view of the historical texts has been shaped by working on the manuscript transmissions will become clearer in the course of this book. The Carolingian period in particular has left a rich and multifaceted manuscript tradition that offers us insights into the historiographical workshops of the early Middle Ages at very close range. Examining it will help us understand how closely the preservation, research, reworking and rearranging of old texts was tied to efforts to order and make sense of a world that was changing rapidly. Including the manuscript tradition in this study is important for another reason, too. Early medieval historians were concerned about the future of their texts. But they were not thinking of how they would be reconstructed in modern editions, as part of great undertakings like the Patrologia Latina, the Monumenta Germaniae Historica or the Corpus Christianorum. If we want to understand their work, we have to think 78 Namur, Bibl. Munic. 11; Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, p. 288, with further references; see also Krusch, ‘Handschriftlichen Grundlagen. Die Handschrift von Namur’. 79 Namur, Bibl. Munic. 11, fol. 85v; for a more comprehensive discussion of this edition of Gregory of  Tours’ Histories see Reimitz, ‘Early medieval history’.


Introduction beyond how their works were reconstructed in modern editions, as helpful and necessary as those are. The knowledge and picture of the past that early medieval historians had was framed in terms of schedae and codices. Although we have become accustomed to seeing such schedae and codices as iterations and variations of the same historical works, it was through these sources that historians passed on their conceptions of identity and history to later generations. Consequently, the 300 years that this study covers are not only a crucial period for historicising identity in the post-Roman West, but these centuries are also crucial for our understanding of the changing balance of continuities and discontinuities in regard to the writing of history. This period thus provides us also with some important starting points for the historicisation of historical writing, or – drawing on the inspiration of Jamie Kreiner – for the study of a ‘social history’ of historiography in the early medieval West.80

 Kreiner, Social life.




Communities of the middle ground in sixth-century Gaul

Chapter 1


1.1  Bei ng Gre gory of   Tour s, I: the c ultural   b roke r Cultural brokers and the middle ground, which I discussed at the end of the Introduction, were not only an important factor in the development of the social and political structures of the late and post-Roman world in the fifth and early sixth century, but they also still played an important role in the Merovingian regnum at the end of the sixth century – the time when Gregory of Tours wrote our only comprehensive history of sixth-century Gaul. Much of the evidence for earlier cultural brokerage in fact comes from his ten books of Histories. But Gregory has also provided us with ample evidence for the continuing importance of mediation between the different social, political and cultural horizons of the Merovingian kingdoms. Six of his ten books, more than two-thirds of Gregory’s historical work, concern his own time as bishop of Tours from 573 to 591. Gregory was more than a reporter of events. As bishop of Tours and a custodian of one of Gaul’s most prestigious cult sites, he was tightly woven into the contemporary political and social fabric.1 Nor does he keep quiet about this. On the contrary: from the beginning of the fifth of his ten books, his voice in the text is not only that of an author, but also of himself as the bishop of Tours, as a significant figure within his own story. As we shall see, Gregory carefully laid the ground for his appearance in his Histories through the preceding four books by weaving a complex web of chronologies and genealogies into his text. He also highlighted the caesura at the end of Book IV for less careful readers. A  general chronological framework, based on the reckoning of time since the I.Wood, ‘Individuality’, p. 29; Heinzelmann, Gregor von Tours, pp. 78–135; Breukelaar, Historiography, pp.  25–70; Goffart, Narrators, pp.  112–234; see the bibliography in Murray, Gregory of  Tours, pp. xxix–xli; for the composition of Gregory’s Histories, Murray, ‘Chronology and composition’. 1


Communities of the middle ground beginning of the world, runs throughout the ten books; for this Gregory explicitly refers to Jerome, Orosius and Victorius at the beginning of his work.2 Gregory’s first book, starting with a short summary of biblical history from the creation of the world onwards, ends with St Martin’s arrival in Gaul, his episcopate in Tours and his death: From the passion of our lord until the death of Saint Martin four hundred and twelve years passed. 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 Saint Martin.3

In Book II the Frankish kings enter history, and after the establishment of their rule across the former Gaulish provinces under their first Christian king Clovis, the Merovingian rulers too become integrated into the chronological order as important landmarks. At the end of the second book, Gregory gives us Clovis’ regnal years and counts the years from Martin’s to Clovis’ death in 511.4 He takes up this timeline again at the end of the third book by counting the years from Clovis’ death to that of his grandson Theudebert I in 547.5 At the end of Book IV, he continues this chronological framework to the death of another grandson of Clovis, Sigibert I in 575. But here the dating of Sigibert’s death is followed by another computation of the world from its beginning, in which Gregory recapitulates all his computational reference points to 575 once more.6 This signals a true caesura in Gregory’s work. A  new chronological rhythm begins in Book V: whereas in his first four books Gregory (by his own calculation) covered a period of 5,774 years, the following six books deal with events totalling only fifteen or sixteen years.7 The caesura marks not only a different chronological and narrative rhythm, but also the beginning of Gregory’s episcopate (which actually started in 573). Interestingly, the start of the episcopate itself is not mentioned at all, neither in one of the last chapters of Book IV, where it would have fitted chronologically, nor at the beginning of Book V, where it would have belonged thematically.8 Without any comment on his appointment or ordination, Gregory suddenly appears as bishop of  Tours in his own narrative as an acting and speaking figure. In his article on Gregory’s preface to Book V, Guy Halsall has recently presented very 2 DLH I , praef., p. 5; for Gregory’s dating and chronology, see Breukelaar, Historiography, pp. 142–85; Sonntag, Studien zur Bewertung von Zahlenangaben; on the relationship of historiographical and computational traditions from late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages see Corradini, ZeitNetzWerk, I. 3 DLH I , 48, p. 34, trans. Thorpe, p. 99. 4 DLH II , 43, p. 93.   5  DLH III , 37, p. 133. 6 DLH IV , 51, pp. 189–90.   7  See Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 108–15. 8 See Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 38–40; and I. Wood, ‘The secret histories’, p. 270; Wood, Gregory, pp. 10–13.


Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power good arguments that Gregory might even have used one of his sermons to introduce this part of his narrative.9 This would certainly fit well with Gregory’s literary strategies in the following six books, where the bishop of Tours used his double role as author and actor to legitimate the position he claims for himself as one of the most eminent spiritual authorities in the Merovingian kingdoms. From this point on, we see Gregory the bishop manoeuvering again and again between conflicting interests, different social and cultural backgrounds, institutional frameworks or local and supra-local horizons. As bishop of  Tours, for example, Gregory had to defend the city against what in his eyes were unjustified tax collections under royal officials. According to Gregory, Tours had been exempt from taxation since the time of Chlothar I, who had given this privilege to the Turonici because of his reverence for St Martin.10 As Stefan Esders has shown, such tax exemptions were actually the results of negotiations between cities and the Merovingian kings. The privilege would be granted in exchange for a voluntary oath of fealty from the city’s populus, which provided the basis for the new kings’ legal, fiscal and military authority.11 From Clovis’ days onwards, the alliance with the Catholic Church played an important role in establishing the legal basis of Merovingian rule in southern Gaul.12 With its prestige Tours might well have held a particularly good position in such negotiations.13 But as Gregory’s account shows, the ruler’s ‘love of St Martin’ had to be renewed by successive generations of kings,14 and the bishops of  Tours sometimes needed to remind the kings and their officials of the practical consequences of that love, namely tax exemption. Gregory was more than a mediator between the people of the civitas and the representatives of the regnum. He was also involved in finding solutions to local conflicts, such as the famous conflicts between the citizens of Tours: Sichar and Chramnesind. According to Gregory, the conflict that erupted between the two ‘citizens of Tours’ dragged more and more people into it, until a iudicium civium sought to end the spiral of violence by arranging for fines to be paid. Here Gregory is obviously referring to the regulations of the late and post-Roman leges, whose 9 Halsall, ‘The preface to Book V ’, pp. 297–317. DLH IX , 30, pp. 448–9. 11 Esders, ‘Rechtliche Grundlagen’; Esders, ‘Sacramentum fidelitatis’; see also Brown, ‘Gregory of  Tours’, p. 11, with n. 32. 12 See I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 104–8. 13 See I. Wood,’ Topographies’. 14 Sed protinus epistulam cum auctoritate miserunt, ne populus Toronicus pro reverentia sancti Martini discriberetur (DLH IX , 30, p. 449). 10


Communities of the middle ground differentiated catalogues of fines were supposed to halt a spiral of revenge and violence of just this sort.15 Nevertheless, the conflict broke out again. It seems that up to that point, Gregory had been involved in the trials for resolution. As we know from Gregory himself, he was quite active in finding a compromise. As Chramnesind had refused to accept a previous offer of compensation, he had to forfeit half of this compensation. This judgment of the court was, as Gregory comments, ‘actually against the laws, in an attempt to persuade them to make peace’. Additionally Gregory himself helped out with Church money to pay for the other half of the compensation which had to be paid by Sichar. Gregory concluded the chapter and indeed the whole book with the expectation that these measures would terminate the conflict conclusively.16 Gregory was by no means a distanced observer or an accidental problem-solver in such cases.17 As bishop of  Tours, he must have spent a considerable portion of his time manoeuvering between different versions of truth and justice and trying to resolve them.18 This becomes apparent, for instance, in Gregory’s accounts about his own conflicts in Tours with Pelagius, who was not only a notorious villain but also a comes stabuli, a commander of the keepers of the horses belonging to the fisc. According to Gregory, Pelagius constantly abused his position to steal from the church of St Martin, and even to kill some of its dependants.19 Consequently, Gregory excommunicated Pelagius, not – as he adds in a comment – to take revenge, but rather to correct him. We may assume with Stefan Esders that this was Gregory’s attempt to trigger a lawsuit that would ultimately result in compensation for the damages.20 Pelagius, however, responded to the excommunication by resorting to the legal institution of the oath of purgation, and he showed up with twelve oath-helpers (compurgatores) to purify himself. In doing so, the question of his guilt was shifted to another system for establishing the truth. The oath-helpers were not witnesses to the most probable and accurate reconstruction of the facts. They swore individually that they believed the defendant’s oath was true and correct. Thus Pelagius wanted to avoid a trial in the ‘Roman’ style in which facts and proofs would have been the basis of the hearing. Instead he tried to have his case dealt with by the increasingly important new ‘Frankish’ style of the oath of purgation 15 See Pohl, Völkerwanderung, p.  65; see in general Wormald, ‘The Leges barbarorum’, pp.  21–54; Siems, ‘Die Entwicklung’, pp. 245–85. 16 DLH VII , 47, pp. 366–8: Et sic altercation terminum fecit; but see for the continuation of the conflict DLH IX , 19, pp. 432–4. 17 See C. Müller, ‘Kurialen und Bischof ’, pp. 304–41. 18 See P. Brown, ‘Gregory of Tours’, pp. 24–7; Liebs, ‘Konflikte’. 19 DLH VIII , 40, pp. 406–7. 20 Esders, ‘Der Reinigungseid’, pp. 55–77.


Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power where he could exploit his social weight in the negotiations.21 And he succeeded. As Gregory tells us, he had not initially wanted to allow such a ‘perjury’ (as he saw it) to be carried out. Pressured by the population of  Tours, he eventually had to consent. But he could at least be conscious of his responsibility as the caretaker of the souls of his community and prevent the perjury of the twelve oath-helpers: Gregory sent them away and received the oath from Pelagius alone. In Gregory’s account, that decision of his had saved their lives. Pelagius died in the summer from a burning fever, which Gregory saw as proof of the virtus beatae Mariae, in whose church Pelagius had committed the perjury. The conflict with Pelagius is just one of many examples where we see Gregory involved in the conflicts of his time. But as with his case against Pelagius, it is not only Gregory the actor who is doing the negotiating. He also continues these negotiations as author, in which he mediates his perspective on the concrete debates at hand by narrating them in his Histories; in doing so, he also passes these negotiations on to posterity – as debates about the validity and hierarchies of different systems of belief and truth in his society. As author he envisions a different time frame for his comments as against his actions. If we aim to understand the ambitions underlying Gregory’s activities as a broker, however, we must bear in mind that Gregory was by no means the undisputed episcopal and religious authority that he appears to be in his Histories. It may well be that we still overestimate the importance of  Tours as a religious centre in the Merovingian kingdom before his episcopate, and underestimate how much Gregory’s promotion had contributed to its prominence.22 Emphasising Tours’ unrivalled spiritual position in his Histories was surely part of his own legitimation as an important religious authority, which he rooted in the spiritual influence that his family was supposed to have exercised in the Christianisation of Gaul.23 But that had been in the past. Gregory’s family may indeed have been one of the influential senatorial families of southern Gaul in the sixth century. We hear of four of his relatives who had been bishops before Gregory himself became bishop in 573.24 During Gregory’s episcopacy, 21 The oath of purgation should not be understood as an old Germanic legal institution. It existed in Roman law as a measure complementary to the evidence-based procedure. In the post-Roman kingdom of the Merovingians the oath of purgation, however, became increasingly important as an alternative rather than a complementary measure. See Esders, ‘Der Reinigungseid’, pp. 58–62. 22 See I. Wood, ‘Topographies’, pp. 137–41. 23 See below, pp. 34–38. 24 Gallus of Clermont, d. 551; Tetricus of Langres, d. 572; Nicetius of Lyons, d. 573, Eufronius of  Tours, d. 573; another member of the family, Silvester, was designated as bishop of Langres, but was killed before his consecration in 572, see Heinzelmann, Gregor von Tours, pp. 10–21.


Communities of the middle ground however, the only member of the family we know about besides Gregory himself is a relative with the name Gundulf who served as dux of King Childebert II.25 If we compare Gregory with his episcopal ancestors, it seems that he felt it necessary to build up some additional social and spiritual capital to maintain the status that members of his family had held in the generations before Gregory. To maintain that status was a challenge that Gregory attempted to manage by positioning himself as a cultural broker. As a descendant of one of the prominent senatorial families of Roman Gaul, he could offer the Merovingian kings the sort of alliance that a cultural broker could offer. To the kings who constantly competed for influence in the culturally and economically rich areas of the south, Gregory could contribute his family’s prestigious social and spiritual networks.26 In turn, the Merovingian kings would support Gregory as bishop of Tours, an office that was based on royal support and was crucial to maintaining his own position as a member of the senatorial elite. 1.2  Being Gre gory of   Tour s, I I :  ac to r , and au c to r i ta s

au c to r

Establishing and maintaining this position must have been much more difficult than Gregory allows us to recognise in his text, which is usually the only source we have for the events it reports.27 Especially in his account of his time as bishop of Tours, there are signs that Gregory was acting in the middle ground of different cultural, political and religious traditions, and also in the zone created by the ongoing power struggles between the constantly competing cast of Merovingian kings.28 In 561, when Chlothar I died, his sons divided the Merovingian kingdom among themselves. This itself was a cause for conflict. But only six years later, one of the brothers, Charibert, died; from that point on, the competition between the three remaining brothers led to frequent military and political confrontations, which involved constantly shifting alliances between kings and political elites. The proceedings of the Church councils also document the nervous atmosphere of the period.29 For Gregory, the bella civilia, as he called them,30 were certainly among the most miserable aspects of life in the Merovingian kingdoms. As the keeper of the Heinzelmann, Gregor von Tours, pp. 19–20; and below, Chapter 3. 26 Moore, A sacred kingdom, pp. 102–12; Mathisen, Roman aristocrats, pp. 132–9; see Halsall, Barbarian migrations, pp. 355–7, for a slightly earlier time. 27 I. Wood, Gregory, pp. i–iv; and I. Wood, ‘Constructing cults’, pp. 155–87. 28 I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp.  88–101; see now Esders, ‘Gallic politics’; Widdowson, ‘Merovingian partitions’; and still Ewig, ‘Die fränkischen Teilungen’, pp. 114–71. 29 See Reimitz, ‘Contradictory stereotypes’.   30  DLH IV , 50, p. 187. 25


Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power prestigious shrine of St Martin, he was in a highly exposed position. He was caught in a number of mutally contradictory interdependent relationships, which inevitably drew him into the conflicts between the kings and their elites. When Gregory was elected bishop, the city of Tours belonged to the eastern kingdom of Sigibert I, along with the see of Reims. Gregory and many other important members of his family had good connections to the court of Sigibert, not least Gregory’s predecessor in Tours, Eufronius.31 Gregory might even have been consecrated a priest in Reims. He was certainly elected bishop there. On that occasion, Gregory may have taken his oath of fealty to Sigibert, and possibly also to Sigibert’s successor, Childebert II.32 But as bishop of Tours Gregory claimed a superior position to a number of bishops who were subject to Sigibert’s brother Chilperic. The situation became even more complicated after Sigibert’s death in 575, when Chilperic seized the opportunity to take control of  Tours, which should have passed to Sigibert’s son Childebert II.33 Much to Gregory’s chagrin, Tours belonged from that point forward to the kingdom of Chilperic, who needed to assert his power against the elites who had supported his brother Sigibert. For Martin Heinzelmann, this is the decisive reason why Gregory passes over the circumstances of his episcopal elevation in Reims in silence, which happened at a time of intense disagreements between the two kings. The death of Sigibert shortly thereafter had not only strengthened Chilperic’s position but also that of every group in Gregory’s bishopric and archdiocese who had formed an alliance with the king of the western regnum.34 In this situation, Gregory might have preferred to conceal his close connections to the kingdom of Reims, to which Gregory owed his episcopate. Ian Wood, on the other hand, saw Gregory’s silence as an indication that his episcopal election had taken place counter to canonical prescription.35 According to the resolutions of the Merovingian synods, Gregory’s election should have been made through the ecclesiastical community in Tours, or at least with its consent.36 These two explanations for Gregory’s silence are by no means mutually exclusive. At the very least, both point to Gregory’s difficulties in asserting himself and holding his ground in the first years of his episcopate. It is in precisely this context that we also explicitly hear Gregory’s voice as bishop of Tours for the first time in his Histories. We hear it already in the fourth chapter of the fifth book: soon after Sigibert’s death, 31 32 I. Wood, Gregory, p. 12.    Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 38–9. 33 I. Wood, Gregory, pp. 12–13; Heinzelmann, Gregor von Tours, pp. 38–41. 34 See below, p. 182.   35  I. Wood, Gregory, p. 13. 36 See C. Müller, ‘Kurialen und Bischof ’, pp. 257–303.


Communities of the middle ground Roccolenus went on Chilperic’s orders to the region of Tours, along with the Caenomannici (the people of Le Mans), and he took possession of it for Chilperic. At the same time, he demanded that Gregory hand over the dux Guntram Boso, who as a loyal follower of Sigibert and Brunhild had fought against Chilperic’s rule. In his reply, the bishop of  Tours sharply rebuked Roccolenus as well as his king: ‘As soon as I heard this I sent a deputation to Roccolen to say that what he demanded had never been done down all the centuries from ancient times.’37 He would never allow Martin’s church to be profaned in this way. With a quiet threat, Gregory ended his message to Chilperic’s henchman, Roccolenus, and the king who gave him such an order, had better fear the holiness of Martin, through whom only the day before cripples had been healed. Roccolenus nevertheless ignored the warning. When he began to rob and destroy the property of the Church of Tours, in order to force Gregory to hand Guntram Boso over, Gregory’s prophecy came true. Roccolenus fell sick with jaundice, and even his own repentance, which he demonstrated in a procession to Martin’s main church in Tours, could not save him from death.38 Already in the first chapters of the books about his time as bishop of  Tours, Gregory defines his role as an actor in his Histories. As the successor and representative of St Martin in Tours, he presents himself as the defender and watchman not only of his own church, but of the whole Church of Gaul. Through the interplay of commenting author and acting bishop, Gregory establishes in the Histories his own spiritual authority as the spokesman of St Martin. But as we have seen, his position as bishop of Tours was, particularly in the first years of his episcopate, much more vulnerable than the stories at the beginning of Book V have it appear. Thus we might understand the writing of the Histories itself as a medium that promoted Gregory as the legitimate successor of St Martin (and of his own episcopal ancestors) in Tours. This is also evident in the literary strategies with which Gregory had prepared his appearance in the preceding four books of the Histories. As Ian Wood has shown, in the first four books of the text, the bishop of Tours carefully worked to legitimise and secure his own position through references to his family’s connections and history.39 How carefully Gregory wove the history of his family into his Histories can best be illustrated by a brief look at the text’s different chronological 37 DLH V , 4, p. 199, trans. Thorpe, p. 258. 38 DLH V , 4, pp. 199–200. 39 DLH V , 49, pp. 258–63; I. Wood, ‘Individuality’, p. 32, with n. 18; van Dam, Saints, pp. 52–67; see also Heinzelmann, ‘ “Adel” ’, pp. 216–56.


Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power grids. We have already briefly discussed the broader chronological framework that Gregory used, namely the years of the world in the tradition of Christian world chronicles, the life of Martin, the regnal years of kings and the obvious caesura of the computation of the years of the world at the end of Book IV .40 Another chronological strand, which Gregory works more subtly into the first books, also comes to an end with Book IV . Gregory’s own appearance at the beginning of Book V ends the line of bishops of Tours,41 which – together with the succession of the bishops of his hometown Clermont – runs unbroken throughout Books I to IV .42 Gregory, however, very obviously has the two episcopal time series precede and predate the royal chronology.They begin during the reign of Emperor Decius, when septem viri were sent to Gaul to preach: Catianus to Tours,Trophimus to Arles, Paulus to Narbonne, Saturninus to Toulouse, Dionysius to Paris, Stremonius to Clermont and Martialis to Limoges. These saintly men and their successors spread Christianity in Galliis per omnibus; building on their foundations, Gregory proceeds to compose a spiritual genealogy of Christian Gaul, a place of cults and bishoprics, strongly moulded by the members and spiritual traditions of his own social and familial network in southern Gaul. In mapping out this spiritual topography in his stories, he particularly focuses on the achievements of saintly bishops who belonged to his own family, such as Gallus of Clermont, Gregory of Langres, Tetricus of Langres, Nicetius of Lyons or Eufronius, his own predecessor as bishop of Tours.43 But only the bishops of Tours and Clermont are integrated in continuous lines of bishops from the septem viri up to Gregory’s own time. The episcopal genealogies therefore not only introduce parallel chronologies for the reckoning of time; they also provide timelines running towards their fulfilment in Gregory’s episcopate.44 To be sure, the reconstruction of Gregory’s genealogical connections depends on a careful gathering of clues dispersed throughout the writer’s works. To put it in the words of Ian Wood: We know which of Gregory’s heroes was a relative because we can turn to one of any number of modern reconstructions of the bishop’s genealogy: early medieval readers faced with manuscripts of individual works would have had no such aids.45

See above, pp. 27–29.   41  I. Wood, Gregory, pp. 10–12. 42 See the appendix on the ‘Avernan and Turonian corpus’ in Breukelaar, Historiography, pp. 350–6. 43 See I.  Wood, ‘Topographies’; P.  Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp.  154–64; P.  Brown, ‘Relics’, pp. 222–50. 44 See Breukelaar, Historiography, pp. 350–6. 45 I. Wood, ‘Individuality’, p. 40. 40


Communities of the middle ground Gregory does indeed define his position far less in relation to his mundane kin than he places himself in a spiritual genealogy involving the promotion of specific saintly bishops’ cults and the sites connected to them. That many of these saints were members of his own family or that many of these cults had already been encouraged by Gregory’s pious ancestors is often merely implied. It is striking, however, that it is above all in stories describing Gregory in difficult situations, when their author more explicitly links the spiritual network in which he positions himself as an actor with that of his family. One of them is chapter V .5, which follows the chapter discussed above in which Gregory first appears as a writing and speaking figure in his text. In this chapter, Gregory reacts to a charge made by Bishop Felix of Nantes. Felix had accused Gregory’s brother, Peter, of having killed Sylvester, the appointed bishop of Langres, in order to become Tetricus’ successor himself.That may have been why Peter too was killed. In documenting his reply to Felix, Gregory quoted himself again, as he had done in the previous chapter. Gregory had written in a letter to the bishop that he, Gregory, was glad that Felix did not wind up as bishop of Marseilles. If he did, Felix’s foul mouth would buy up a whole boatload of papyrus to write libels against him and his desire to drag honest people into the mud would have no limits.46 We also hear in this chapter that Felix only uttered this accusation to weaken Gregory’s position, as the bishop of Nantes was hoping that this would support efforts at appropriating a villa of the Church of Tours for himself.47 It seems that particularly in the first years of his episcopate, Gregory regarded Felix’s accusations against him and his family as real threat.48 In his Histories, he responds with a comprehensive justification of his brother, employing not only his double act as author and character, but also his distinguished and sacred genealogy. At exactly this point, Gregory comments that his brother Peter was buried next to Gregory of Langres, their great-grandfather (proavus noster):49 this is the key passage for our reconstruction of Gregory’s family.50 In the absence of this remark, it would be impossible for us to identify Gregory’s mother, with the Armentaria, whom Gregory mentions in his Vita patrum as a grandchild of his saintly ancestor Gregory.51 Nor would we be able to deduce that Gregory’s predecessor as bishop of Tours, the sanctus Eufronius mentioned in the 46 DLH V , 5, p. 200. 47 See, however, Gregory’s positive view in his Liber in gloria confessorum, 77, p. 344; and below, p. 132. 48 I. Wood, ‘Individuality’, p. 41.   49  DLH V , 5, p. 147. 50 I. Wood, ‘Individuality’, pp. 40–2. 51 Gregory, Liber vitae patrum VII , 2, p. 238.


Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power Histories, was – as another grandchild of the saint – also Gregory’s relative.52 Connecting the information provided in these two chapters not only adds another saint to a family tree already heavily laden with holy ancestors. It also shows that the remark about Eufronius descending from a magna generatio, which Gregory puts in the mouth of King Chlothar I himself, also refers to the family of the author of the Histories.53 The chapter not only provides us with essential information for the reconstruction of Gregory’s family. We can also learn from it how closely the protagonists of the story saw literary and political strategies related to each other. From Gregory’s sarcasm in his response to Felix, we can assume that Felix had circulated his accusations in writing. And as Gregory’s conclusion about the real intentions of Felix shows, these writings could be regarded as part of Felix’s strategies to weaken Gregory’s position in order to obtain the villa of the Church of Tours. The story reveals how closely connected the distribution and writing of histories was to the political struggles of the time, and it therefore displays the motives and contexts of Gregory’s own writing.To put it in the words of Peter Brown: ‘In the stories recounted in Gregory’s History we not only hear the voice of the master. We catch the tones of the governing class going about its business in a distinctive way.’54 The particular lure of interpreting Gregory’s text is that we can often only decipher this business and its backgrounds between the lines. In the history of the conflict with Felix of Nantes, for example, there is no explicit reference to the difficulties that Gregory had at this time as bishop in Tours. Gregory uses his text above all to publicise his interpretation of the events surrounding the deaths of Sylvester and Peter. At the same time, however, he takes the opportunity to intertwine his subtly-woven spiritual genealogy of Gaul with the history of his family, and in doing so legitimates his position as St Martin’s successor. Gregory builds upon these connections yet again at the end of the fifth book. This time we hear from Gregory himself that he – through no fault of his own, of course – had found himself in an extremely difficult situation. It had been claimed that Gregory had spread rumours that Chilperic’s wife, Queen Fredegund, had committed adultery with Bishop Bertram of Bordeaux.55 The king began a formal inquiry into the matter, and in 580 Gregory had to defend himself at a synod at DLH IV , 15, p. 147. 53 Prima haec est et magna generatio. Fiat voluntas Dei et beati Martini, electio compleatur (That is one of the noblest and most distinghuished families in the land. Let’s God will be done and that of Saint Martin) (DLH IV , 15, p. 147, trans. Thorpe, p. 210). 54 P. Brown, ‘Gregory of Tours’, p. 19. 55 DLH V , 47, p. 257; I. Wood, ‘The secret histories’, pp. 257–9. 52


Communities of the middle ground Berny-Rivière. The accusations obviously caused him genuine difficulties at Tours.56 Apparently, the priest Riculf, who together with Count Leudast had made the allegations against Gregory, even succeeded in taking control of the Church of Tours during the bishop’s absence.57 In his Historiae, Gregory again took the opportunity provided by his account of the crisis to defend himself vigorously and at length. It might well have been that Gregory had been reconciled with Chilperic in advance of the synod, and that he imbues the events at Berny-Rivière with climactic significance for dramatic effect at the end of the fifth book.58 It was the moment to build on what he had prepared throughout the first four of the ten books and finally developed in Book V : his spiritual authority as bishop of Tours. Since first appearing as bishop, he had already evoked this spiritual authority several times in the narrative of Book V , not least in earlier encounters with Chilperic.59 But apart from the elaborate character assassination of his enemies, Gregory introduces a number of other elements into the story to help bolster his position. He includes consolatory quotations from the Bible, mentions the liberation of one of his supporters through the intervention of saints Médard and Martin, mentions his own vigils at Médard’s shrine (who was Chilperic’s favourite saint) and also records that Chilperic’s daughter Rigunth fasted in sympathy for him.60 Furthermore, Gregory fell back once again on the pre-eminence and tradition of his family, here particularly in the context of his legitimacy as bishop of Tours. Gregory writes that after his acquittal at Berny-Rivière, he returned to Tours to find an ecclesia conturbata. The priest Riculf had taken over the bishopric through bribes and threats. As Gregory tells us, to legitimate his putsch Riculf had also presented himself as a real citizen and lover of his hometown Tours in defeating the enemies (inimici) and in finally ousting the populus Avernus, the people from the town of Clermont.61 This was clearly directed against Gregory and his family, who came from Clermont, and it prompted Gregory the author to comment: ‘The poor fool seems not to have realised that apart from five, all the other bishops who held their appointment in the see of Tours were blood relations of my family.’62 56 I. Wood, ‘Individuality’, p. 44; Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 46–8. 57 DLH V , 49, pp. 258–9.   58  I. Wood, Gregory, pp. 11–12. 59 Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 41–2. 60 I. Wood, Gregory, p. 15. 61 Recognoscite dominum vestrum, qui victoriam de inimicis obtinuit, cuius ingenium Turonicam urbem ab Arvernis populis emundavit (DLH V , 49, p. 262). 62 Ignorans miser, quod praeter quinque episcopos reliqui omnes, qui sacerdotium Turonicum susceperunt, parentum nostrorum prosapiae sunt coniuncti (DLH V , 49, p. 262).


Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power As in the stories about the argument over the death of his brother, it is also evident in the chapters about the trial against Gregory how closely his literary strategies were connected to concrete social conflicts that Gregory had dealt with as bishop of Tours. As in Felix’s case, it was a matter of making the message public.The entire proceedings against Gregory revolved around the question of who said, heard and repeated what. And it also served just as much to convince the public to stake a claim in the bishop of Tours – both through Riculf ’s speeches or Gregory’s answer to them in his Histories. Again the story allows us to observe the trickery and political manoeuvering of the elites in the Merovingian kingdoms ‘going about its business in its own distinctive way’. Gregory’s business as a bishop, as well as an historian, was a business of truth shaped by its competition and coexistence with different belief systems. As we have seen it was at the same time very often a business of truth ‘in a most down to earth manner’.63 It was the truth brought forward to defend him, the bishop of Tours, against unjustified accusations. But it was also the truth he had to find as a mediator between different social and political contexts, as in his defence of the tax exemption for Tours, or in the trial to end the spiral of violence between the citizens of Tours. In the case of Pelagius, Gregory even had to deal with different ways to find the truth. In both roles, as bishop and as historian, Gregory had to negotiate the social frameworks that existed for establishing truth in society. 1.3  Bei ng Gre gory of Tour s, III: th e h i stori an, th e prophet and the busine s s of   t ruth Gregory’s responsibility in regard to shared rules for establishing truth appears in Gregory’s numerous confrontations with his bête noire, King Chilperic. These accounts show not only how Gregory related his conflicts to debates about the social order and different truths, but they also give us a striking impression of how wide the Spielräume for such negotiations about the social and political structures of the Merovingian regnum still were at the end of the sixth century. In 577, two years after the death of Sigibert I, who had been the Austrasian king and Gregory’s patron, his half-brother Chilperic summoned a council in Paris of all the bishops of his kingdom, Gregory among them. The council should discuss the case of Bishop Praetextatus of Rouen, whom Chilperic had accused of high treason. The king was obliged to assemble the audientia sacerdotalis because he could condemn the bishop of Rouen only with the other bishops’ agreement.64 The 63 P. Brown, ‘Gregory of Tours’, p. 24.   64  DLH V , 18, p. 216.


Communities of the middle ground pretext of the council leads us again into the ongoing power struggles between the Merovingian kings  – and Gregory seems to have been deeply involved in them. In this case, Gregory tells us that after Sigibert’s death at the end of the fourth book (which occurred in 575), Brunhild, Sigibert’s widow, tried to secure her position as queen of the eastern kingdom by building an alliance with one of Chilperic’s sons, Merovech. After the death of Sigibert, Chilperic had Brunhild sent to Rouen, where Praetextatus was bishop. At the same time, he sent his son Merovech with an army to Poitiers. Merovech, however, spent Easter with Gregory in Tours, a city that Chilperic wanted to incorporate into his kingdom, even though it belonged to the kingdom of Sigibert and Brunhild. In Tours, Merovech’s plans began to divert considerably from those of his father. He went to Rouen, where he formed an alliance with his aunt Brunhild, and she took him as her husband. The marriage was performed by the local bishop, Praetexatus, who was also Merovech’s godfather. Chilperic did succeed shortly thereafter in taking Merovech captive and exiling him to a monastery. Merovech had planted enough seeds of opposition against Chilperic, not least within the territory of the recently dead Sigibert, to activate serious resistance to the king, and soon escaped to Austrasia.65 Only slowly, beginning in 577, did Chilperic get Merovech’s rebellion under control. He received indirect support for this from his other brother Guntram, the king of the Merovingian kingdom of Burgundy. In that year, Guntram, who had no sons of his own, adopted the still-underage son of Brunhild, Childebert (II), and thereby legitimated the boy’s succession to the realm of his father, as well as the regency of his mother Brunhild. Merovech found himself to be clearly politically isolated. He ended up in the Champagne, where he had looked in vain for support, when he was killed at his own behest by one of his men.66 In the same chapter that Gregory ends with the death of Merovech, he also gives a detailed report of Chilperic’s trial against Bishop Praetextatus, who had married Merovech to the widow of his uncle Sigibert in 575.67 Chilperic appears to have been well prepared for the trial. As Karl Ubl has shown, this political context is probably also reflected in the additions to one of the Lex Salica redactions. The text was expanded from its exemplar through (among other things) regulations on incest, which included the addition of a prohibition regarding See Kasten, Königssöhne, pp. 45–9; Jussen, Patenschaft, pp. 177–98. 66 DLH V , 18, pp. 223–5. 67 Esders, Römische Rechtstradition; Jussen, Patenschaft, pp. 177–98; but cf. Buc, Dangers, pp. 88–106. 65


Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power a man and the wife of a dead uncle.68 At the same time, Chilperic was also able to build on the Church’s regulations of incest. These were straightforwardly articulated in councils in the decade before the trial  – 567 in Tours and 573 in Paris  – as particularly pressing demands.69 The policy on incest in the council of Tours is transmitted as the longest canon in Merovingian conciliar history. The incest regulations of older councils were repeated and summarised. As the bishops announced in their preamble to the canon: the compendium should be distributed and read out to the people as a whole.70 Chilperic also refers to these ecclesiastical regulations in Gregory’s account of the trial. The king opened the proceedings by accusing the bishop not only of high treason, but also of violating the laws of the Church: What was in your mind, bishop, when you married my enemy Merovech, who should have been my son, to his own aunt, the uncle’s widow? Surely you know what the canons of the church have prescribed for such a case?71

But Gregory portrays the proceedings against Praetextatus as a true show trial. False witnesses appeared and presented fake evidence. Most of the bishops were either bribed or intimidated by the king, or both. This perspective becomes particularly obvious in Gregory’s account after the king leaves the room and the bishops begin to discuss the case among themselves. Here Gregory the actor enters the stage of his text again, and he admonishes the bishops in a dramatic sermon: Audite me, o sacerdotes Domini, qui in unum collecti estis.72 The bishops should be aware of their responsibility. It was not the king’s task to tell them what was right or wrong; that was their duty. In his address Gregory attempts to convince his episcopal colleagues with examples from history. Rulers such as Maximus, who had acted against the advice of St Martin, or more recently, Clovis’ son and successor Chlodomer (d. 523/4), who had refused to take the advice of the abbot Avitus, both lost their empires and their lives through the iudicium of the rex aeternus.73 When Chilperic hears of this, he has Gregory summoned before him. In the arguments that follow it becomes clear how much such conflicts formed and re-formed the social orders and hierarchies that underlay them. Chilperic begins the discussion by accusing Gregory of denying him, the king, justice (iustitia) by protecting Praetextatus. Gregory replies Ubl, Inzestverbot, pp. 176–9.   69 Ubl, Inzestverbot, pp. 157–67. 70 Concilium Turonense, ed. Maassen, p. 131. 71 DLH V , 18, p. 217, trans. Thorpe, p. 275. 72 DLH V , 18, p. 217. 73 DLH V , 18, p. 218, trans.Thorpe, p. 277. Compare the histories of Maximus and St Martin in I , 43, p. 28, and Chlodomer and Avitus, III , 6, pp. 102–3. 68


Communities of the middle ground that the king has the power to correct anyone who strays from the path of iustitia. But who, asks Gregory, is supposed to correct the king when he himself acts against justice? Chilperic reacts angrily to this fundamental question, and he subverts it by challenging Gregory’s own sense of iustitia: ‘With all I have found justice and with you only I cannot find it.’74 If not even the king could find justice, what chance did the common people have? Chilperic threatens to turn Gregory’s own bishopric against him by advertising his unjust behaviour to the populus of Tours. At the threat of political agitation, Gregory tries to bring the argument to a close. Quid plura? There was no more to say. He points out only that the king has access to the leges and canones, which he ought to know well, for they warn that he will be judged by the iudicium Dei if he does not heed their commandments. This was a proposal that seems to have satisfied Chilperic. He invites the bishop to dine with him, but Gregory refuses to accept, unless the king swears to behave according to the leges and canones. Chilperic does swear, and Gregory presents this resolution to his readers as his own victory. This did not help the bishop of Rouen, who according to Gregory was innocent. Gregory  – who might well have been involved himself in plotting Merovech’s and Brunhild’s alliance  – explains that it was a trick alone that made it possible to sentence the falsely accused Praetextatus. A few bishops on Chilperic’s side manage to convince the bishop of Rouen that the best solution for him would be to admit his guilt publicly; this would guarantee him the king’s pardon. Praetextatus takes their advice and confesses. But instead of forgiving him, Chilperic has a liber canonum brought out, which Gregory says had a ‘new quire’ attached to it – a novus quaternio, habens canones quasi apostolicus. Among these canons was the assertion that ‘a bishop convicted of murder, adultery or perjury shall be expelled from his bishopric’.75 On the basis of these ‘pseudo-canons’(or so Gregory figured), Praetextatus is eventually deposed and exiled. Gregory protests against the conviction, at least in his text, which he insists was not based on valid ecclesiastical law. This story gives us a wonderful glimpse of what Peter Brown has described as a world ‘where one can never be too careful’.76 But it also demonstrates how open the negotiations about the social and political structures of the Merovingian regnum still were at the end of the sixth century. Gregory discusses with Chilperic two different understandings of iustitia. Chilperic wanted to find justice with somebody. In his view, justice was consensual and malleable. It was based on mutual loyalties, DLH V , 18, p. 219.   75  DLH V , 18, pp. 222–3. 76 P. Brown, ‘Gregory of Tours’, p. 20. 74


Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power agreements and consent. Chilperic had found this kind of justice with everybody – cum omnibus – but not with Gregory, who promoted a different idea of justice. The iustitia that the bishop of Tours stood for was not a malleable parameter but an absolute truth. Consent could only come from the shared efforts of society’s members to establish just practices in the Merovingian kingdom which aligned with eternal justice. To be sure, one could never be certain about this truth, this eternal justice, and Gregory was not claiming to be certain. But one could at least build on the holy traditions and wisdom of the Christian Church, and seek to explore the truth through history. In his sermon at the beginning of Praetextatus’ trial, Gregory exhorted his fellow bishops to take into account the exempla of history. The ‘history’ he referred to was not only the past of Emperor Maximus and St Martin but also the more recent past of Chilperic’s uncle Chlodomer and the abbot Avitus. ‘Do you not know what has happened lately?’ Gregory had already portrayed Chlodomer’s history at length in one of the previous books.77 And in referring to it in his sermon, Gregory became part of the same story:  Martin of Tours, Emperor Maximus, King Chlodomer, Avitus, Chilperic and Gregory became part of a history in which Gregory the shaping author constantly delineated the Spielräume in which Gregory the bishop promoted a radical Christian vision of the world. This vision should link the different realities to a ‘larger social whole’ to be shared by all of the (real or imagined) social groups in the Merovingian regnum.78 This larger social whole, however, was greater than the Merovingian regnum. Neither Gregory nor Chilperic was able to comprehend its full reality. Gregory tried to emphasise that one had to accept its existence and should strive to understand its meaning for the communities in the kingdom. In his Histories Gregory offered in his different personas, as actor, auctor and auctoritas, his expertise in the business of truth to explore the reality of the regnum Dei. In order to fulfil his pastoral duty, however, he needed the cooperation of his audience. In his conflict with Chilperic, Gregory tried in vain to convince the king of the reality of the iudicium Dei. Gregory lost the case of Praetextatus. But Chilperic lost his soul. If one continues to read the Histories one hears that after Chilperic had died, Gregory as well as Chilperic’s brother King Guntram learned in a vision that Chilperic had to burn in hell for his crimes.79 DLH III , 6, pp. 102–3.   78  Cf. above, p. 19 with n. 72. 79 DLH VIII , 5, p. 374. 77


Chapter 2

V IRTU T ES S ANC TO RU M ET STR AGES G E N T IU M: ‘T H E DE E DS OF THE SAI N TS AND T H E S L AU G H T E R S OF THE P EO P LES’ The radicalisation of Church history Gregory’s historiographical framework for his social vision built on the model of late Antique Church history as it had been developed by Eusebius of Caesarea during the reign of Constantine I. In the preface to his work Eusebius himself had claimed to have been the first to undertake such a project.1 In his history, also narrated in ten books, he tried to prove that the Christian Church had always existed, long before the coming of Christ and before the integration of Christianity and empire in his time.2 Eusebius’ own days, which he treated from Books VII to X, had seen the Christianisation of the Roman Empire, which Eusebius saw as the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham.3 Although Eusebius lived until 339/40, his history ends in 324 after the triumphal victory of the first Christian Emperor Constantine over his enemies, and the start of his unrivalled support for the Christian Church. Eusebius carefully put together his sources  – acts of the martyrs, official documents, sermons – to support this history.4 As Gregory would later do, Eusebius also has his own say in his history, as a character in his text.5 The parallels to Gregory’s Histories are obvious. Before Gregory appears as an acting and speaking figure in Book V, his preface outlines the project’s objectives in terms similar to those of his Greek predecessor.6 Gregory also expressly refers to Eusebius as his source for the infamous death of Arius.7 But this passage plainly shows that Gregory was working not with the Greek original but with the Latin translation and continuation of the text 1 Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica I , 1, pp. 6–8. 2 See now Kelly, ‘The shape of the past’; H. Maier, ‘Dominion’; and the classic study by Momigliano, ‘The origins’. 3 H. Maier, ‘Dominion’, pp. 161–4.   4  See Momigliano, ‘The origins’. 5 See the sermon of Eusebius in his Historia ecclesiastica X , 4, pp. 862–83. 6 Halsall, ‘The preface to Book V ’, pp. 316–17. 7 DLH IX , 15, p.  430. Another reference to Arius without mentioning the source is in DLH II , 23, p. 68.


The radicalisation of church history that Rufinus of Aquileia composed at the beginning of the fifth century.8 The passage to which Gregory refers is actually an addition to Eusebius’ text that Rufinus made.9 In his translation, Rufinus changed the text of Eusebius substantially.10 This is particularly evident in Eusebius’ last two books, which Rufinus shortened drastically and regrouped, and to which he added two new books (X and XI) as his own continuation. This is where Gregory read that Arius had met a death ‘worthy of his foul and blasphemous mind’.11 The historiographical project that Gregory was mapping out, however, was quite different from that of both Eusebius and Rufinus. Although they did so in different ways, both ecclesiastical histories were related to the political and social structures of the Roman Empire. Gregory did not want to develop his history on those grounds. His Histories presented a ragbag of stories about the deeds and virtues of the saints, and the struggles of peoples: mixte confusequae tam virtutes sanctorum et strages gentium memoramus.12 At no place did Gregory use the historical or ideological framework of the Roman Empire to give order and orientation in his narrative of confusion. As Kathleen Mitchell observed, ‘Were Gregory the only source of evidence about the ancient past, the reader would note assorted rulers and peoples but would have come away with no substantive information about them or their history.’13 In most of the narrative of Book I, which ends with the death of St Martin (AD 397), the history of Roman emperors mainly serves as a pale background for the history of the martyrs, saints and doctors of the Christian Church, above all in Gaul. Consequently, the period of Roman rule does not receive a particularly good press in most of Gregory’s first two books. Sentences such as ‘Domitian was the second after Nero to vent his rage upon the Christians’ or ‘Trajan was the third emperor after Nero to persecute the Christians’14 introduce the chapters, which then turn to focus on the histories of the martyrs whom they persecuted. Gregory lays particular emphasis on histories of martyrdom in southern Gaul, which he again interlaces with his own family history. He mentions Vettius Epagathus, one of the famous martyrs of Lyons popularised through Eusebius’ ecclesiastical history, as the first to win the crown of martyrdom in Lyons. Two chapters later, See Humphries, ‘Rufinus’s Eusebius’, pp. 143–64; McKitterick, History and memory, pp. 226–34; see also still the study by Thélamon, Païens. 9 On Gregory’s sources see DLH, pp. xix–xx. 10 See Humphries, ‘Rufinus’s Eusebius’. 11 [I]ta tali in loco dignam mortem blasphemae et foetidae mentis exsolvit (Rufinus, Historia ecclesiastica X , 14, p. 979). 12 DLH II , praef., p. 36.  13  See Mitchell, ‘Marking the bounds’, p. 296. 14 DLH I , 27, p. 21. 8


Communities of the middle ground Gregory recounts the story of his ancestor Leocadius, who, although still a pagan, donated his house in Bourges to found a church and then converted to Christianity. Gregory mentions that Leocadius was not only the leading senator of Gaul in his time but also a descendant of the first martyr of Lyons,Vettius Epagathus.15 In between these two chapters, Gregory recounts the story of the origins of Christian Gaul, which began with the septem viri sent to spread Christianity through what Gregory calls Galliae. From Gregory’s first telling of that story onwards, Galliae (with one exception always in the plural) functions as a spiritual topography delimiting the Christendom that Gregory sought to outline in his Histories. In this section between the martyrdoms at Lyons and Leocadius’ conversion, the septem viri and their successors lay the foundations of Galliae. They went to cities where only a ‘few believed’: ‘But these were ordained as priests, were taught how to chant psalms, and they were given instructions in building churches, and how they ought to worship the Almighty God.’16 The spiritual topography of Galliae, which Gregory develops from its Christian origins and genealogy, defines from this point on the successes and failures of social and political structures in his Histories. The implementation and success of these structures depend on the efforts to build on the Christian foundations of Galliae, and to preserve and expand them. This much is clear when Gregory describes the establishment of Frankish rule in Gaul. It is the decision of the Merovingian king Clovis to convert to the Christendom of Gregory that enables the establishment of his rule per totas Galliae and which provides the foundations for the future of this regnum. Gregory stages this decision of Clovis as an important turning point for Frankish history in Galliae. He spends a long time narrating the vain attempts of Clovis’ Christian wife, the Burgundian princess Chrodechild, to convert her husband. But at last, when a huge battle against the Alamans already seemed lost, Clovis remembers Chrodechild’s admonitions. With tears in his eyes he turns to the god of his wife, and he promises to convert, if victory might yet be granted him. At once the tide turns, and the Alamans flee. After his triumph and the subjugation of the Alamans, Clovis keeps his promise. The king is first instructed in Christian teaching and then baptised by Bishop Remigius of Reims17: 15 DLH I , 31, p. 24   16  DLH I , 31, p. 24, trans. Thorpe, pp. 87–8. 17 On the dating of Clovis’ conversion, see I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 43–9; see also Spencer, ‘Dating the baptism of Clovis’; Shanzer, ‘Dating the baptism of Clovis’; cf. however now Becher, Chlodwig, pp. 174–203, who thinks that Gregory presented the events to the best of his knowledge.


The radicalisation of church history The public squares were draped with coloured cloths … God filled the hearts of all present with such grace that they imagined themselves to have been transported to some perfumed paradise. King Clovis asked that he might be baptised by the bishop. Like a new Constantine he stepped forward to the baptismal pool, ready to wash away the sores of leprosy and to be cleansed from the sordid stains which he had borne so long.18

The conversion of Clovis is the key to his later success in Gregory’s Histories. In portraying Clovis as the new Constantine, however, Gregory also makes clear that he is writing a new Church history. Although Eusebius comprehensively dealt with the story of Constantine’s conversion, Gregory does not build on the ‘first Church historian’ in this passage. Instead, he reaches back to a theme in the Actus Sylvestri, in which Constantine was punished with leprosy for killing Christians, and only after being baptised by Pope Sylvester was he finally freed from the disease.19 Eusebius’ triumphalism is plainly muffled here. For Gregory, Clovis’ baptism does not initiate the fulfilment of Gregory’s Histories in Clovis’ regnum, but rather the ‘struggle which according to the apostle is being waged deep inside the man’.20 The devil never sleeps.21 A common future does not automatically proceed from a common past. It is built through continual decisions in favour of the Christian morality that Gregory outlines in his narratives. For Gregory developed a historical drama which amounted to a continual definition of identity. Nobody was free of flaws, not even King Guntram, whom Gregory compared to a sacerdos domini; nobody was altogether lost, not even King Chilperic, the Herod and Nero of Gregory’s time;22 everyone made mistakes, including Gregory himself.23 The decisive criterion for Gregory’s Christian vision of community was not a one-off decision. It was a continual striving towards the morals and values of his Christendom.24 DLH II , 31, p. 77, trans. Thorpe, p. 144. 19 See Canella, Gli Actus Silvestri; and Pohlkamp, ‘Textfassungen’, but see also Fowden, ‘The last days’. 20 DLH V , praef., p. 194, trans. Thorpe, p. 254 (slightly altered). Si tibi, o rex, bellum civili delectat, ilut quod apostolus in hominem agi meminit exerce, ut spiritus concupiscat adversus carnem et vitia virtutibus caedant. 21 P. Brown, ‘Gregory of Tours’, pp. 15–16. 22 DLH IX , 21, p. 441; VI , 46, pp. 180–3. For the different characterisations of Guntram and Chilperic in Gregory compare: Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 48–51 and 60–75; I. Wood, Gregory, pp. 17–18 and 47–8; and Halsall, ‘Nero and Herod?’. 23 DLH VII , 47, pp. 366–8, where Gregory thought that the conflict of the citizens of Tours Sichar and Chramnesind had been solved (Et sic altercatio terminum fecit) but the conflict went on, as Gregory himself tells us later in IX , 19, pp. 432–4. 24 For Gregory’s spirituality see P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 154–65; and P. Brown, ‘Gregory of Tours’; on the eschatological perspective of the Historiae, see Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp.  153–72; see also Leyser, ‘Divine power’; for the relations of writing and authority in late Antiquity, Leyser, Authority. 18


Communities of the middle ground This was constant work with an uncertain outcome, to which all members of Christian society were asked to contribute after Clovis’ conversion and the establishment of his regnum per totas Gallias.25 After his conversion, the Merovingian kings and their potentes were also asked to contribute to the effort. The saints of Gaul offered an orientation for that: each had laid the foundations of Christendom in Gaul, including the septem viri and their immediate successors. But the models of ‘more recent’ saints in particular, who had lived closer in time and social circumstance to Gregory, offered spiritual guidance in day-to-day affairs. One such saint was Gallus, who was bishop of Clermont from 525 to 551. Gregory, who had been born in 538, grew up in Clermont and received his early education during this time.26 In his Histories, Gregory described some decades later how Gallus successfully protected his populus from the plague, which raged through the Auvergne in the middle of the century.27 To protect his people, Gallus not only prayed day and night; he also ‘instigated rogations, for which all journeyed on foot in the middle of Lent to the church of St Julian the martyr, singing psalms as they went’. But this practice did not cease after the immediate danger was over. Rogations were still held in the days when Gregory was bishop of Tours.28 Particularly after the establishment of the regnum, Gregory introduces us to a world defined by its religious habits, which as Peter Brown has observed, focused on the notion of reverentia, on a reverential attention to the saints. This attention was often directed to major urban shrines including that of St Martin in Tours, ‘but it was also brought to bear at any number of places and in all kinds of situations’, such as, for example, Julian’s church in Brioude. ‘Reverentia created “habits of the heart”. It assumed that the saints were still active and present on earth and that good and bad fortune depended on the manner in which they were treated by their worshippers.’29 We even see the saints themselves attentive to how the memory of their achievements would be kept after their death. In this respect, Nicetius of Lyons seems to have been a particularly energetic defender of the reverentia that people owed to him. He was bishop of Lyons, where Gregory had also spent some time as a young cleric.30 According to Gregory, Nicetius had been a saintly workaholic. He gave alms freely and worked very hard on the erection of churches, the building of houses, the sowing of fields 25 DLH III , praef., p. 97: regnum suum per totas Gallias dilatavit. 26 Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 12–13.   27  DLH IV, 5, p. 138. 28 See Gregory, Liber de virtutibus Sancti Juliani 24–25, pp. 124–5. 29 P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, p. 154. 30 Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 21


The radicalisation of church history and the planting of his vines. And he did all this without ever being distracted from prayer.31 After Nicetius died, his successor Priscus, along with his family and his clergy, were not willing to show him the reverence he deserved. When they started to persecute many of those who had belonged to Nicetius’ familia, to dishonour his memory and even to destroy his buildings, Nicetius intervened. He appeared in a dream to a man who belonged to the familia of the new bishop and ordered him to tell Priscus to stop his blasphemous behaviour. The man delegated the task to a deacon, who happened to be a friend of the bishop’s household. The deacon, too, was reluctant to deliver Nicetius’ message. Consequently, the enraged Nicetius appeared again, this time to the deacon, and took him to task. The impulsive saint began to punch the deacon’s throat with his fist, so that the next day the deacon, his throat painfully swollen, hurried to do what he had been told. Nevertheless, Priscus did not take his warnings (via Nicetius) seriously. This was probably because, according to Gregory’s report, he had already been punished with stupidity through divina maiestas and the virtus sancti viri.32 It may come as no surprise that the two saints whose memories were so vigorously preserved in Gregory’s Histories were ancestors of the author.33 As we have seen, it was only later, in Book V, where Gregory makes these links explicit. In the first four books they were – however important and effective – only two among many of an ever-growing society of saints and saintlike figures.34 In their stories, successes and conflicts, Gregory defined the spiritual traditions of his Christendom, on which the successful social and political integration of his society depended.These holy men, martyrs and bishops had created the spiritual topography of Gaul long before the social and political structures of the Merovingian regnum were developed. In the Histories, these figures were Gregory’s predecessors. They were cultural brokers who advised the kings and their potentes on how to establish political frameworks guided by Christian morality. Just like Nicetius and Gallus, they worked in these roles past the time of their worldly lives, into Gregory’s day. Clovis, for instance, relied on the help of St Martin in his campaign against the Visigoths. When his troops were in Aquitaine, he energetically tried to prevent them from offending the saint by plundering his church’s estates.35 In their stories, successes and conflicts Gregory defined the spiritual traditions of his Christendom on which the success of the social DLH IV , 36, pp. 168–7, trans. Thorpe, pp. 230–1. 32 DLH IV , 36, p. 169.   33 Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 11–22. 34 P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 161–4; P. Brown, ‘Relics’; see also van Dam, Saints. 35 DLH II , 37, pp. 85–8. 31


Communities of the middle ground and political integration of his society depended. As we saw earlier, the Frankish king Chlodomer died because he did not listen to the advice of the abbot Avitus, a story that Gregory recounts in Book III and refers to again later in Book V.36 In Gregory’s ten books, the political and social frameworks evolve from the spiritual foundations of Gaul, not vice versa as one could have understood it in the Church history of Eusebius. The focus in Gregory’s new Church history lay, from the very beginning, in the efficacy of a power that Michel Foucault defined many centuries later as ‘pastoral power’, ‘a power that guides towards an end and functions as an intermediary towards this end. It is therefore a power with a purpose for those on whom it is exercised, and not a purpose for some kind of superior unit like the city, territory, state, or sovereign.’37 In his new study, Peter Brown has examined how this new form of power, which established itself in the process of Christianisation, began to shape the economic, social and political structures in sixth-century Gaul.38 This new form of power was to become an influential factor in the social and political configuration of the medieval West. When Gregory was writing, however, this was still a very recent development, and it was much less grounded in the history of Gaul than it may look in hindsight. Hence Gregory became its historian.39 One motive in doing so was obviously to demonstrate the important role and meaning of this power in the history of his Christendom. Another was to define its basic contours, strongly moulded by the saintly members and spiritual traditions of Gregory’s own familial network in southern Gaul. Both strategies were important to establish Gregory’s historical truth. They were also important for defining how truth could be found in the future. An important aspect of the interplay between author, actor and authority in Gregory’s Histories was that it established a position for Gregory to negotiate, in his many and highly varied case histories, how pastoral power should and could guide his society ‘towards an end and function as an intermediary towards this end’.40 See above, p. 43.   37 Foucault, Security, pp. 115–90. 38 See the discussion of pastoral power in P. Brown, Through the eye, pp. 503–5. 39 For Gregory as a ‘child of new age’, see P. Brown, Through the eye, p. 498; see also his comments on the ‘end of ancient Christianity’, pp. 514–17. 40 P. Brown, ‘From amator patriae’, p. 105. 36


Chapter 3


As we have seen in the two preceding chapters, history was for Gregory a ‘medium rather than a goal’.1 Gregory’s goal was to study the reality and potency of pastoral power in the past, present and future of Gaul. In his manifold and highly varied case histories, he explored the perspectives and opportunities available to Merovingian society, should its members seriously direct themselves towards a Christian vision of community. At the same time Gregory used the writing of history to legitimate himself as an actor, author and authority. He grounded this legitimation in his membership in a family whose members had shouldered the responsibility of guiding their societies for many generations. Through their histories, Gregory defined his identity, in addition to defining the morals and values of Christendom that were supposed to guide society. His family was the only context in which Gregory allowed a social position to be grounded in history. Even in the case of Gregory’s real rex primus – Clovis, the first Christian king of the Franks – the future did not automatically proceed from the past.2 This was also true for the successors of Clovis and St Martin. Guntram the sacerdos domini could go wrong and his evil brother Chilperic had good moments too. Even Gregory himself could err.3 Again and again we find contradictions and incoherences that are usually taken as evidence that Gregory had been working continuously on his Histories even before he became bishop of Tours, and was unable to erase or reconcile all of them by the final revision he made to the text at the end of his life.4 This may well have been the case in some instances. On the other hand, we should not confuse Gregory’s interests 1 Goffart, Narrators, pp. 16–19. 2 For Clovis as Gregory’s rex primus, see Ewig, Die Merowinger, pp.  18–30; see now also Becher, Chlodwig, pp. 235–64. 3 See above, p. 47. 4 On different views of the composition of the Histories, see Murray, ‘Chronology and composition’.


Communities of the middle ground in the coherence of his historical narrative with those of modern historians. For Gregory, history not only provided a means to establish his identity and define a spiritual-religious topography for Gaul.As we shall see, he also used the potential of historical discontinuities to underline the precedence of his own vision of community in the history of Galliae. The efforts and energy with which Gregory promoted this particular vision in his hagiographical and historical writing have been discussed in a number of excellent studies. Yet relatively little attention has been paid to the similarly energetic efforts that Gregory devoted in his Histories to challenging alternative visions of community. 3.1 The de const ruction of

THE   F rank s

As we have seen in the preceding pages Gregory was well aware of history’s potential for constructing identities. But he was also aware of its dangers.The historiographical medium confronted Gregory not only with the opportunity to promote his vision of community but also with a fundamental problem. In writing a new Church history, he offered a powerful social framework for a number of differing social groupings. In this respect he also had to deal with the history of these social groupings, inevitably furnishing them also with a historical profile and identity. But Gregory did not want to provide contemporary individuals and groups with a past that could legitimate their positions as independent from his history of pastoral power. He therefore worked constantly to counteract that danger of history. His aim was to destabilise social roles and identities that might emerge as alternative resources of identification in (his) history. Gregory’s anti-origo This becomes particularly obvious when Gregory discusses the role of the Franks in the history of Galliae. The Franks do not appear as historical players until the second book, after Gregory has already laid out the foundation of his spiritual topography of Gaul. Towards the end of the first book, a new luminosity enlightens Gaul with the appearance of Martin – nostrum lumen.5 The first chapter of the second book continues with Martin’s successor Brictius, then turns to the strages gentium. In the the preface to the second book Gregory had prepared the reader for the fact that he would now focus on the confused history of the deeds and virtues of the saints, and the struggles of peoples.6 Indeed, the preceding chapters deal with the history of the Vandal kingdom in Africa, ruled by 5 DLH I, 39, p. 27.   6  DLH II, praef., p. 36.


The dangers of history Arian kings, followed by the history of the Goths and the persecution of Christians under Athanaric in the fourth century. Then Gregory returns to the history of Gaul with the assault on the provinces of Gaul by the Huns under Attila.7 Attila appears as the scourge of God, and even the prayers of bishops such as Aravatius of Tongres cannot avert God’s punishment for the sins of the people. Only St Stephen manages to convince the apostles Peter and Paul that his sanctuary in Metz should be spared.8 Gregory also uses the Hunnic assault as a pretext for recounting the story of Aetius, the magister militum of the west, whom other chronicles of the sixth century regarded as the last hope of the Western Empire.9 In Gregory’s text, however, Aetius is successful only because of the prayers and support of Bishop Anianus of Metz. Through his alliance with the bishop and the saints, Aetius manages to ward off the Huns. For Gregory, it was not only Aetius’ successful fight against the Huns that made him a defender of Gaul. The crafty general also manages to get rid of the Visigothic and Frankish troops, which he himself had summoned to Gaul to fight against Attila’s confederation. What emerges is a very favourable portrait, which Gregory bases on a long quotation from the lost history of Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus, concluding the passage with haec supradictus historiograffus de Aetio narrat.10 Aetius’ skills, wisdom, character, success and popularity were, however, also the cause of his downfall too:  as Gregory goes on to tell us, it was the young Roman emperor Valentinian (III) himself who killed the defender of Gaul, out of fear that Aetius would usurp the imperial throne. The next chapter finally introduces the Franks as historical players, who had so far appeared only as a passing reference to the history of Aetius. Gregory takes up the theme of the historiograffi which he introduced in the preceding chapters to begin a survey of sources about the early history of the Franks and their kings. In order to be sure that his readers understood the bottom line, he summed up the results of this survey in the very first sentence of the chapter: ‘As regards the first kings of the Franks, many people are unaware who their first king was’.11 From the outset, Gregory announces that the history of the Frankish kings was a problem, a conclusion he proceeds to illustrate with long citations from older historical works. That extensive compilation results in what is by far the longest chapter of the second book, and it serves to underscore Gregory’s point that the DLH II, 2–5, pp. 39–47.   8  DLH II, 6, pp. 47–8. See for instance Marcellinus Comes, Chronicon, p. 22; for Aetius see Stickler, Aetius, esp. pp. 1–3; on Gregory’s portrayal see particularly Halsall, Barbarian migrations, pp. 242–56. 10 DLH II, 8, p. 52. 11 De Francorum vero regibus, quis fuerit primus, a multis ignoratur (DLH II, 9, p. 52, trans. Murray, p. 3). 7 9


Communities of the middle ground question of the earliest Frankish kings cannot even be answered with the help of these historici. Gregory collects different passages which mention Franci as enemies or allies of the Romans, even as officers of the Roman army, but none of these mentions the names of the Franks’ kings. Gregory begins the whole survey with the now lost history of Sulpicius Alexander, which provides a great deal of information of the Franks, and yet ‘it still does not name their first king, but rather says that they had duces’. However, it was worth relating what he had said of them, comments Gregory. For when Sulpicius says that Maximus, losing all hope of empire, remained within Aquileia, he adds, ‘At that time the Franks burst into the province of Germany under Genobaud, Marchomir and Sunno, their duces.’ Gregory surveyed other material from Sulpicius’ history for selective excerpting and commentary. He had found mention of Marchomir and Sunno again in Sulpicius’ fourth book, this time as regales. This prompted him to comment:  ‘But when he calls them regales, we do not know whether they were kings or held the regnum in place of kings.’12 Gregory moves from Sulpicius to quote long passages from Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus (whom he had already used in his chapter on Aetius), and he ends with a quotation from Orosius. He then summarises again the results of his research: ‘This is the information that the above mentioned historians have left us regarding the Franks, without naming their kings.’13 Gregory concludes the chapter with a short paragraph on what he had heard. Many claimed (tradunt enim multi) that the Franks had supposedly left Pannonia, crossed the Rhine and then elected long-haired kings from their first and foremost family.14 But these reports, which Gregory cites from oral sources, actually correlate strikingly well with his failed search for the earliest Frankish kings.To a certain extent, they provide an answer to the question of origins: only in Gaul did the Franks have kings for the first time. Only then could they be located in time and space.There were only isolated and discordant reports for the earlier period; from that time, the history of the Franks must remain unclear and uncertain. Gregory, whom older historical studies described as a ‘history painter’ on account of the liveliness of his narratives,15 writes with striking sobriety in this chapter. It is one of the very few lengthy passages throughout 12 Cum autem eos regales vocet, nescimus, utrum reges fuerint, an in vices tenuerunt regnum (DLH II, 9, p. 54). 13 Hanc nobis notitiam de Francis memorati historici reliquere, regibus non nominates (DLH II, 9, p. 57, trans. Murray, p. 3). 14 DLH II, 9, p. 57. 15 For Gregory as a ‘history painter’ (Historienmaler) see the introduction to the German translation by Rudolf Buchner: Gregor von Tours, Zehn Bücher Geschichten, vol. I, p. xx.); or Wattenbach, Levison and Löwe, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, vol. I, p.  105 on the ‘Anschaulichkeit seiner Darstellung’.


The dangers of history the ten books which Gregory does not construct as a narrative. His discussion of the sources, however, certainly appears to follow the structure of an origo, as Eugen Ewig rightly observed: In subject and in structure, the ninth chapter of the second book of Gregory’s Historiae reflects the kernel of the Trojan myth: the question of the primus rex, the report of a migration of the Franks from Pannonia to the Rhine, the discussion of the early Frankish constitution.16

It is striking that Gregory’s discussion of his sources raises some of the questions that were often addressed in other early medieval origin myths.17 But this was precisely the narrative that Gregory did not want to offer. Instead he drew together sources upon which an origo would have depended, but in comparing and analysing these different historical authorities, he demonstrated that such a myth had no basis. At the same time, Gregory denies the Franks any access to Christian resources of salvation before their contact with Gregory’s Christianity and the Church of Gaul. In the chapter immediately following his lengthy discussion about the impossibility of writing a Frankish history before the Franks’ arrival in Gaul, Gregory also discusses their paganism. He introduces nearly every paragraph in this chapter with the lament that the Franks had no prophets and teachers like the people of Israel had, and that they could not receive God’s words as the chosen people had through Moses, Habakkuk and David. ‘If only their ears had heard the word which the Lord thundered forth through David saying: For all the gods of the nations [dii gentium] are idols, but the Lord made the heavens’ (Psalms 95:5).18 Gregory ends the chapter with the words: ‘At first the Frankish people [generatio Francorum]– knew nothing of all of this. But they learned it later, as the following historia relates.’19 First Gregory tells us the history of the Franks in Gaul before they converted to Christianity. At that time their kingdoms were established in a world of kingdoms (one of which Gregory identified as the one ruled by the rex Romanorum Syagrius),20 which were as volatile as they were vulnerable. Such regna could vanish swiftly, as did Syagrius’ kingdom, or even more dramatically, like that of the Arian Vandals. Already at the beginning of the second book, before his discussion of the early Frankish kings, Gregory had summed up in two chapters the sad history Ewig, ‘Trojamythos’, p. 10 (my translation); see also Ewig, ‘Zum Geschichtsbild’. 17 See Wolfram, Gotische Studien, pp. 207–24; and more briefly Wolfram, ‘Origo gentis’, pp. 175–7. 18 DLH II, 10, p. 59. 19 Haec autem generatio Francorum non intellexit primum; intellexerunt autem postea, sicut sequens historia narrat (DLH II, 10, p. 60). 20 DLH II, 27, p. 71. 16


Communities of the middle ground and dramatic end of the Vandal kingdom, where Gregory places unusual stress on the ethnic denominator of the Arian regnum Wandalorum.21 What gave the regnum Francorum a future was Clovis’ pivotal decision to convert to Catholicism. Other Frankish regna, in contrast, vanish. It is actually the newly Christianised Clovis himself who kills the other Frankish kings, some of them close relatives, in order (as Gregory states) to bring them under his rule.22 The Histories clearly argue that it was not the mutual bonds of Frankish identity but rather the conversion to Gregory’s Christendom which secured the providential mission of Clovis’ regnum. Gregory also makes this explicit after Clovis’ death. In summing up Clovis’ victories and successes, Gregory states that while the enemies of the king had lost their regna, patriae, populi and – even worse – their souls, Clovis the confessor had extended his regnum per totas Gallias and his life to an eternal existence in the regnum Dei.23 On Clovis’ way to salvation, however, the Franks drop away as a sharply defined group in the earthly regnum. Whereas Franks appear as a collective in Gregory’s narrative when he describes the establishment of their kingdoms, he avoids ascribing agency to them after Clovis’ conversion. Already in the account of Clovis’ baptism, Gregory avoids addressing the populus that was baptised with the king as ‘Franks’. Instead he mentions only the 3,000 members of the army who participated: de exercito vero eius baptizati sunt amplius tria milia.24 The number is interesting in this context. Three thousand men seems to have been the standard size of a Roman legion in the fourth century, and it is also attested for barbarian army units in the fifth. Moreover, it is also the number of people that, according to Acts, the apostles baptised at Pentecost; and a baptised group of 3,000 also appears in the Actus Sylvestri, a text that Gregory used for his depiction of Clovis’ baptism.25 Gregory’s reluctance to mention the name of the Franks in this context may also have inspired him to resort to a somewhat antiquated ethnic terminology in the famous sentence he puts in the mouth of the new Sylvester  – Remigius of Reims  – during the baptism, who addresses Clovis as Sigamber.26 In the chapters that follow, Gregory does not once use the name of the Franks to describe Clovis’ rule. When at war, Clovis does not lead the Franks but rather his own exercitus, with whom he fights and defeats, DLH II, 2–3, pp. 39–45, ending with the sentence: Et sic regnum decidit Wandalorum (p. 45). 22 DLH II, 40–2, pp. 89–93.   23  DLH III, praef., p. 97. 24 DLH II, 31, p. 77. 25 See Wolfram, Gotische Studien, p. 86, n. 104, who includes the reference to Acts 2:41; for the Actus Sylvestri see above, p. 47. 26 Mitis depone colla, Sigamber; adora quod incendisti, incende quod adorasti (DLH II, 31, p. 77). 21


The dangers of history above all, Arian kings.27 Franci hardly appear at all, and even where they do appear, they do not represent the community ruled by Clovis. After Clovis’ conversion, his troops are described as Franci only when they fight for the Burgundian king Godegisel. Clovis had supported Godegisel against his brother Gundobad, but when Gundobad recollected his troops and defeated Godegisel, he also captured the Franci, qui apud Godegiselo erant and sent them into exile to the Visigothic king Alaric.28 Franci are also mentioned as groups ruled by other kings. The people of Ragnachar, who betrayed their king and turned him over to Clovis, are called Franci. Ragnachar is put to death, but Clovis betrays the king’s Frankish betrayers in turn.29 In the last chapters of the second book, Gregory recounts how Clovis disposed of one Frankish king after another, taking over their rule. But they do not come together in a unified regnum Francorum.They become part of Clovis’ regnum, which he extends over all of Gaul – regnum suum per totas Gallias dilatavit.30 At the beginning of the third book, Gregory repeats that phrase, underlining that it was the regnum that Clovis obtained as a confessor and defender of true Christianity. Clovis, who confessed it, crushed the heretics by its aid and extended his rule over all of Gaul: regnum suum per totas Gallias dilatavit.31 The unimportance of being a Frank: the diversification of the Franci in Gregory’s Histories As Martin Heinzelmann has observed, from the third book onwards the name of the Franks appears only forty-four times in Gregory’s narrative (which is about the same number for Gregory’s use of the Frankish name in the second book).32 In not one of these instances do the Franks represent the whole political or social framework of the Merovingian regnum.33 For the majority of occurrences, Franci describes individuals and groups in that regnum. At the same time, considering the small number of times they appear, one finds them in very different social contexts and roles. In the earlier books, it is their military role that is most emphasised. But already in the accounts about Clovis after his conversion, Gregory does not use the name of the Franks in a way that would accentuate community between Franks and their kings. 27 See DLH II, 32 and 37, pp. 78–81, 85–8. 28 DLH II, 32, p. 81   29  DLH II, 42, p. 92. 30 Interfectisque et aliis multis regibus vel parentibus suis primis, de quibus zelum habebat, ne ei regnum auferrent, regnum suum per totas Gallias dilatavit (DLH II, 42, p. 93). 31 DLH III, praef., p. 97. 32 Heinzelmann, ‘Die Franken’, pp.  342–3; James, ‘Gregory’, pp.  51–66; and Ewig, ‘Volkstum’, pp. 233–8. 33 See Goetz, ‘Gens’; Goetz, ‘Zur Wandlung’.


Communities of the middle ground In several of the stories where we encounter Franci, they are in conflict or disagreement with the Merovingian kings. So the Franci grumble about Theuderic (d. 533)  when he does not want to march with his half-brother against the Burgundians and consequently denies his troops the possibility of a good plunder.34 Franks forced Theuderic’s son Theudebert (d. 547)  to disown his Roman wife Deoteria, so that he could proceed with an arranged marriage to the Lombard princess Walderada.35 After Theudebert’s death, the Franci also pursued his Roman adviser Parthenius, who had levied taxes when the king was still alive. Franci even created difficulties for the powerful Chlothar I in his campaign against the Saxons: they were strongly opposed to the negotiations for peace that Chlothar was conducting with the Saxons, and they forced Chlothar into a battle that ended with a shattering defeat.36 The Franci also appear in the above-mentioned trial against Bishop Praetextatus of Rouen. Here King Chilperic had to bar a multitudo Francorum, which tried to break into the church, from threatening the bishop’s life.37 The meliores Franci required the vigilance of Fredegund, too: the queen had to ensure that at the wedding celebration of her daughter Rigunth, they did not carry off the royal treasure reserved for the bride.38 The few stories that do involve the Franks show how they play influential roles in certain contexts.They also demonstrate that the Merovingian kings were well advised to counterbalance their influence with other groups in their armies. Most importantly they also show that in the Histories, the Franks were no more closely connected to the crown than were other influential groups in the regnum. The members of their elite had to negotiate their interests and defend their privileges, just like elites of other regions and populations in the regnum. In Gregory’s time, one did not have to be a Frank to be part of the exercitus.39 In the early 580s, Guntram summoned a large army to fight against the usurper Gundovald. Gundovald was claiming to be a Merovingian, and he had found support and recently established his rule in Aquitaine.40 Even beyond Guntram’s court, people may have suspected the Byzantine Empire was backing Gundovald, who had indeed spent some time there. Guntram’s followers therefore justified the king’s campaign against Gundovald as a defence of the regnum Francorum against an outsider – quis extraneorum.41 We do not hear of Franks in the army; the only groups that Gregory names explicitly are the Aurelianenses and the Biturgi, the people of Orleans 34 DLH III, 11, p. 107.   35  DLH III, 27, p. 124. 36 DLH IV, 14, p. 146.   37  DLH V, 18, p. 217. 38 DLH VI, 45, p. 318.   39  See Esders, ‘Rechtliche Grundlagen’. 40 For Gundovald see below, p. 60.   41  DLH VII, 27, p. 345.


The dangers of history and Bourges. Later, Gregory recounts another campaign of Guntram, this time against the Goths. The king had found it unacceptable that the frontiers of the horrible Goths (terminus horrendorum Gothorum) extended into Galliis.The whole army of the kingdom was summoned (omnis exercitus regni sui) including the gentes who lived beyond the Rhône, Saône and Seine. Together with the Burgundiones, Byturgi, Sanctonici, Petrocorici, Ecolesenses – the Burgundians, the people from Bourges, Saintes, Périgieux, Angoulême – they marched to Spain. As Gregory tells us, however, the army was more successful in plundering their own country than they were against the Goths.42 One could probably also imagine that the same was true of the exercitus Francorum, which Gregory even describes as nostri. He does so in the context of the army’s crushing defeat at the hands of the Lombards, of which Gregory reports: Sed nostris valde caesis … (One could hardly remember a defeat of an exercitus Francorum like it).43 Just as the Franci become a part of the exercitus Francorum in these descriptions, in other references they are a social group among others that becomes part of the regnum Francorum. Gregory names them as constituting part of the inhabitants of a city,44 like the Franks of Tournai,45 parallel to other ethnically labelled groups such as the Saxons of Bayeux.46 In other cases they are singled out as individual Franks who make journeys together with members of the senatorial class.47 We also learn of the Franks of Tournai that it was the mos Francorum to stay seated and keep drinking past the end of a meal.48 Chilperic’s widow Fredegund actually exploited this mos in order to get rid of unpleasant Franci: after she invited them to a meal, she waited until the Franks and their retinues were completely drunk, so that they could be killed easily. Fredegund also had a Frank killed in Rouen. He had belonged to the group of seniores Franci who were extremely disconcerted by the death of the city’s bishop, and he had wanted to initiate proceedings against the queen, who shared responsibility for the bishop’s death.49 In only twenty-one places, in which after the end of the second book we read about the Franci as agents,50 does Gregory describe a differentiated social diversity of Frankish citizens and groups in the Merovingian regnum. He no more sketches out a history of Frankish identity in his 42 DLH VIII, 30, p. 393.   43  DLH IX, 25, p. 445. 44 DLH VIII, 30, pp. 393–4.   45  DLH X, 27, p. 519. 46 DLH V, 26, p. 232; X, 9, p. 491. 47 DLH IV, 40, p. 172; X, 2, p. 482. 48 DLH X, 27, p. 520.   49  DLH VIII, 31, pp. 398–9. 50 If we include the second book after Gregory’s discussion on the impossibility of finding reliable sources on the history of the early Frankish kings, this number would go up by only eight references.


Communities of the middle ground own time than he had for the establishment of the Merovingian kingdom. Accordingly, Gregory is also very careful in the few instances when he does link the name of the Franks to the larger social whole of the regnum. Reges and their regnum in Gregory’s Histories In Gregory’s Histories, reges Francorum appear equally rarely. If they do, however, they do not conjure up the kings’ community with the Franks. One telling example is the occurrence of the term in the context of the usurpation of Gundovald: claiming to be a member of the Merovingian family, Gundovald tried to validate his claims against two generations of Merovingian kings.51 He had been able to achieve a partial victory for a time, but eventually his relatives cut the hair he had grown long (as befits a Merovingian), and thereby rejected his royal claims. But Gundovald still succeeded in finding support in southern Gaul, and for a short while he established his rule in Aquitaine. His self-confidence at the time was pronounced; he told Bishop Magnus of Toulouse that he planned to make Paris the seat of his rule. But the bishop was hardly convinced. He remarked sarcastically that there must not really be any of the stirps regum Francorum left, if Gundovald was able to be making such plans and claims.52 Another passage focuses again on Merovingian identity, rather than on a collective Frankish identity in the Merovingian regnum. Shortly before his downfall and death, Gundovald’s rivals accused him of being an impostor. The reges Francorum kept cutting his hair, which he would have needed to grow long in order to demonstrate his Merovingian identity. But even with long hair, Gregory makes clear, that Gundovald’s claim would have been illegitimate.53 After all, Gundovald used to be called Ballomeris by the incolae Galliarum; and in reality, when Chlothar I was king, Gundovald was someone whose job it was to paint the floors and walls of sheds.54 The Frankish expression Ballomeris means ‘a man famous for his malevolence’, and it is quite possible that Gregory intended a pun on the Frankish word mer(j)e – famous – which occupies a prominent place in the name of the Merovingian family.55 However, Gregory 51 Bachrach, Anatomy; I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 93–8; see also the comments in Diesenberger and Reimitz, ‘Zwischen Vergangenheit und Zukunft’, pp. 232–6, with further literature. 52 DLH VII, 27, p. 346. 53 For the ambiguities in Gregory’s view of Gundovald’s claims to be a Merovingian, see I. Wood, Gregory, pp. 50f. 54 DLH VII, 36, p. 357; Fredegar, Chronicae III, 2, p. 93. 55 See Haubrichs, ‘Identität und Name’, pp. 85–106; on the term Ballomer, p. 91; see the suggestions of Widdowson, ‘Gundowald, Ballomer’.


The dangers of history himself did not use the name ‘Merovingian’ for the royal family; our oldest extant source to do so is the seventh-century Fredegar Chronicle.56 Of the five times in his Histories when Gregory links the name of the Franks to the regnum as political and social framework, two appear in conjunction with the Gundovald affair. One of Gundovald’s supporters, Bishop Theodorus of Marseilles, was accused by King Guntram himself of admitting a homo extraneus in Galliis who wanted to bring the regnum Francorum under Byzantine rule. Gregory partly takes up this wording again in the sceptical Bishop Magnulf of Toulouse, who compares Gundovald to another earlier usurper, Sigulf, whose destiny had shown that no foreigner – ne quis extraneorum – should dare to violate the regnum Francorum.57 Apart from these two passages, which Gregory probably used to express his loyalty to Guntram during one of the big disturbances of the king’s reign, there are only three other passages in the Histories that employ the phrase regnum Francorum. The first comes as late as Book IV, when Gregory mentions the death of the dux Buccelenus, who according to Gregory had conquered all of Italy – totam Italiam in Francorum regno redigisset.58 The potential for positive identification that this passage offers is also present in the last occurrence of regnum Francorum. Gregory puts this phrase in the mouth of Guntram on the occasion of the birth of a new Merovingian. This was the birth of Theudebert, the son of Childebert II, who ruled the eastern kingdom of Reims/Metz. Guntram, who had no sons of his own, had adopted Childebert some years earlier and designated him as his successor. One can better understand the joy that the birth of a new Merovingian brought when one considers that at the time of Theudebert’s birth in 586, the dynastic continuity of the Merovingians was hardly assured.59 Guntram himself had no surviving sons. Childebert II was the only surviving son of Guntram’s brother Sigibert (d. 575). Their other brother, Chilperic, had only one son remaining, who was, furthermore, born only four months before his father’s death in 584. According to Gregory, it took Guntram a while to acknowledge this son –later Chlothar II – as his nephew, and he had not yet done so by the time Theudebert was born.60 Gregory describes the relief and concern of a nearly sixty-year-old Guntram by having him say that through the baby Theudebert, God by the 56 CF III, 2, p. 93, cf. below, pp. 170–71. 57 DLH VII, 27, p. 345.   58  DLH IV, 9, p. 140. 59 Ewig, ‘Die Namengebung’; for Theudebert, see p. 205. 60 According to DLH X, 28, pp. 520–1, Guntram officially acknowledged Chlothar only in 591; see Offergeld, Reges pueri, pp. 216–25; see also Jussen, Patenschaft, pp. 79–85.


Communities of the middle ground loving kindess of his divine majesty ‘will exalt the regnum Francorum, if only his father will live for him and he will live for his father’.61 Gregory could have completely shared Guntram’s relief. He might well have seen the principatus regni, which as the ranking Merovingian Guntram exercised over the kingdom,62 open up attractive political perspectives. The excellent contacts that existed between the bishop and his family members, elites and rulers of the kingdom of Reims/Metz had presented Gregory with endless difficulties when Chilperic was alive; but now they were a great advantage. In the last four books of the Histories, we see Gregory closely bound up in the political project of the unification of both kingdoms.63 The birth of Childebert’s first son had kept alive the hope for dynastic continuity in the regnum Francorum, which was an important element in this project’s blueprint. Otherwise, in only two examples after the time of the first Christian king Clovis does the name and the rule of the Franks carry a sense of social integration. It is above all the bishops in southern Gaul, who lived under the rule of the Arian Visigoths, whom Gregory singles out as some among many who wished to have the Franks as their lords: Multi iam tunc ex Galleis habere Francos dominos summo desiderio cupiebant.64 The location of Francia Even after Clovis establishes his rule per totas Gallias at the end of the second book,65 the fundamental term of political and social geography of the Merovingian regnum remains Galliae, the same term with which Gregory had developed his spiritual topography. As we have seen, it was to Galliae that the septem viri were sent to preach. It was in Gallia that the light of St Martin began to shine.66 But pestilence and famine could also ravage per totas Gallias.67 Just as the Huns under Attila invaded Galliae, the Avars (also called Huns) attack Galliae about a hundred years later, shortly after Sigibert I’s accession in 561.68 Be they Danes, Lombards or Visigoths, it is Galliae they attack, or the termini Galliarum they invade.69 The son of Chilperic I, Clovis, believes that the regnum will now fall to him alone after his brothers’ deaths, and that one day he will be ruler of 61 DLH VIII, 37, p. 405, trans. Thorpe, 470. 62 See DLH VII, 13, p. 372.   63  Reimitz, ‘Social networks’, p. 57. 64 DLH II, 35 and 36, p. 84; III, 10–11, 13 and 16, pp. 106–8, 109, 116–17; and X, 31, p. 531, referring back to the time of Bishop Volusianus, who was bishop of Tours before Clovis conquered Aquitaine. 65 See above, pp. 56–57.   66  DLH I, 39, p. 27. 67 DLH V, 34, p. 238;VII, 45, p. 365. 68 See DLH II, 5–7, pp. 46–48 (Huns); IV, 23 and 29, pp. 155, 161 (Avars). 69 See DLH III, 3, p. 99 (Danes); IV, 43 and 44, pp. 175, 178 (Lombards);VIII, 38, p. 405 (Visigoths).


The dangers of history universae Galliae.70 Even the usurper Gundovald had claimed that he had obtained omnis principatus Galliarum.71 But this Gaul is a land without Gauls.The term Galli is not used once in Gregory’s Histories to name the inhabitants of Galliae. In sharp contrast to the predominant presence of Galliae in Gregory’s text, the term Francia appears very rarely, and most of the time in a very specific sense. Two of these occur in the ninth chapter of the second book, during Gregory’s inconclusive search through passages of the history of Sulpicius Alexander for the names of early Frankish kings:  in both cases, Roman troops had to cross the Rhine to attack their enemies in Francia/Frantia.72 Sulpicius Alexander’s work is unfortunately extant only in Gregory’s excerpts. We know that the Roman historian lived and wrote towards the end of the fourth century, a period that shared Sulpicius’ sense of Francia as a geopolitical space. In the Vita Hilarionis, for example, Jerome commented on the origins of a Roman officer of Frankish descent, who undertook a long journey to ask St Hilarion for help. Jerome explained that the officer came from a small but powerful land which lay between the Saxons and the Alemans; formerly known to historians as Germania, it was now called Francia.73 At other points in his Histories Gregory seems to build upon such notions of what Francia was. We can see this if we compare Gregory with the seventh-century Fredegar Chronicle, whose compilers used Gregory’s text for parts of their narrative. Twice in the fourth book of Gregory’s Histories, the term Francia denotes a comparably small territory. In one instance, it appears in an account of the Saxons ravaging Francia as far as the city of Deutz, which lies on the east bank of the Rhine.74 The second comes two chapters earlier in a passage that reports Chlothar I’s inheritance of the regnum Franciae from his great-nephew Theudebald, who had ruled the eastern kingdom until 555: Igitur Chlothacharius post mortem Theodovaldi cum regno Franciae suscepisset.75 70 Ecce, mortuos fratres meus, ad me restitit omne regnum; mihi universae Galliae subicientur, imperiumque universum mihi fata largita sunt! ( DLH V, 39, p. 246). 71 DLH VIII, 2, p. 372; for Gregory’s use of the term Galliae, e.g.: DLH II, 32, p. 24, line 21; p. 25, line 3; I, 39, p. 27, line 15 (Martin); II, 2, p. 39, line 1; II, 5, p. 46, line 12; II, 9, p. 56, line 14; III, praef., p. 97, line 4; IV, 23, p. 155, line 8; IV, 44, p. 178, line 15;V, 34, p. 239, line 1;V, 39, p. 246;VII, 45, p. 365, line 8; X, 24, p. 516, line 4. Gregory uses Gallia in the singular only once in his text, when he first mentions Martin (I, 29, p. 27, line 14.) and two other times in his quotations from Sulpicius Alexander and Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus (II, 9, p. 54, line 18; p. 55, line 16). 72 DLH II, 9, p. 53 and p. 55. 73 Jerome, Vita Hilarionis, c. 13, p. 102; on the date and context of the Vita Hilarionis see Harvey, ‘Jerome’. 74 DLH IV, 16, p. 150. 75 Igitur Chlothacharius post mortem Theodovaldi cum regno Franciae suscepisset (DLH IV, 14, p. 145).


Communities of the middle ground For the seventh-century compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle, who used Gregory’s text to write a new history for the Frankish kingdoms, this use of Francia seems to have been too narrow. As we shall see in Part II, the compilers of this chronicle worked hard to give Frankish identity a more important role in the rewriting of Gregory’s Histories. But in this passage, they simply skipped the name entirely: Ipsoque anno Theodebaldus obiit, regnumque eius Chlotharius accepit.76 The Fredegar chroniclers may have been drawing upon alternative concepts of Francia that were already present in the later sixth century: their usage shows that Gregory’s use of Francia in a limited and narrow sense seems not to have been the only definition available. There is even evidence for this in the text of the Histories itself, which occurs in Gregory’s fifth and final use of Francia. Following the model of Eusebius, Gregory incorporated documents into his narrative history. One of these was the treaty of Andelot that Guntram and Childebert drew up in 587.77 The treaty aimed to settle all the conflicts and contestations that had arisen between the two kingdoms over the last few decades of struggle between the Merovingian kings. Gregory might well have been involved in the negotiations, which would explain why he had access to an exemplar of the treaty to copy into his Histories.78 Among the issues that the document addressed were the cities of Bordeaux, Limoges, Cahors, Bearn and Cieutat, which the text reports have been given ‘to the Visigothic princess Galswinth, on the occasion of her move to Francia to marry Chilperic’.79 Chilperic was the king of Soissons, in the northwestern region of the Merovingian kingdoms, whereas the cities that Galswinth received were all in the south. Thus, in this instance the term can hardly be understood in the narrower sense of the four other passages, which denote a region of varying extension in the northeastern periphery of the Merovingian kingdoms. In Gregory’s inclusion of the official document of the treaty of Andelot, we have one of the very rare examples where he allowed an alternative language to describe the political geography of the regnum. As concerns the term Francia, however, this is his only compromise. We might compare them with the rare instances where Gregory linked his vision to a regnum Francorum, most noticeably when he articulated King Guntram’s Fredegar, Chronicae III, 50, p. 106. 77 On Church history in late Antiquity see above, p. 44 with n. 2. 78 I. Wood, ‘The governing class’, pp. 11–22. 79 De civitatibus vero, hoc est Burdegala, Lemovecas, Cadurcus, Benarno et Begorra, quae Gailesuinda, germana domnae Brunichilde, tam in dote quam in morganegyba, hoc est matutinale donum, in Francia veniens certum est adquisisse (DLH IX, 20, p. 437). 76


The dangers of history and his own hope for the future of the Austrasian royal family.80 The common grounds were the shared hopes for the political stability of the regnum.81 But in Gregory’s views the future of this regnum was not linked to the name of the Franks. It was grounded in Gregory’s Christian vision of community. Just as Gregory merges individual Franks and groups of Franks into this vision, the few instances of a regnum Francorum in the Histories situate all the regna of the past and present, particularly the regnum where Gregory lived, in the ‘gap between the past and the future’, between the world they lived in and the world they hoped for.82 3.2  History and p rovide nc e The regna and the regnum Dei How Gregory motivated his audience to imagine the political framework of the Merovingian regnum in a transitional space between social experience and eternal salvation is evident in the most striking example of his use of regnum Francorum, at the beginning of Book V. The preface to this book introduces the narrative where Gregory first appears as an acting and speaking figure in his text. In the very first sentence, Gregory addresses the gens and regnum Francorum: ‘I am weary of calling to mind the details of the civil wars that mightily plague the gens and regnum Francorum.’ He intertwines well-known biblical citations and equally familiar experiences of the present with eschatological imagery, in a drastic effort to bring the woeful situation of the kingdom before the public’s eyes: ‘We now seem to see the moment draw near which our Lord foretold as the real beginning of our sorrows: “The father shall rise up against the son, and the son against the father; brother shall rise up against brother, and kinsman against kinsman” ’ (Matthew 24:8). Gregory then addresses the kings directly:  ‘If only you o reges had occupied yourselves with wars like those in which your ancestors larded the ground with their sweat!’ From this follows a detailed and forceful admonition to keep the peace, without which the kings could not receive God’s favour. What is your object? What do you seek? What have you not got in plenty? In your homes there are luxuries in abundance. In your storehouses wine, grain and oil abound; gold and silver are piled up in your treasuries. But one thing you lack: without peace, you have not the grace of God.83

See above, p. 61.   81  See Esders, ‘Gallic politics’. 82 Cf. above, p. 5.   83  DLH  V, prologue. 80


Communities of the middle ground As briefly mentioned above, it might well be that this preface was a version of a sermon that Gregory had possibly delivered at Easter in 576 in a difficult time for the bishop: Sigibert I, Gregory’s royal patron, had just died.84 Cut off from the support of the Austrasian king, Gregory was left vulnerable to Chilperic’s repeated attempts to annex Tours to his kingdom. Before Sigibert’s death, one of Chilperic’s sons, Theudebert, had also died in these disputes. He had perished in a battle against Sigibert’s duces Guntram Boso and Godegisel, who after the death of their own king were taking sanctuary in Gregory’s Tours.85 Eastertime also found Chilperic’s surviving son, Merovech, in Tours; it was from there that Merovech escaped to Rouen in order to marry his uncle Sigibert’s widow, Brunhild, and to ally against his father.86 As Guy Halsall observed, in this specific context, the message of the preface makes particular sense. ‘Two Merovingians had been killed; the civil wars were indeed wiping out the people and kings of the Franks and the quote from Matthew was especially meaningful in the situation of Easter 576.’87 In this situation, Gregory made an obvious effort – through the direct address to the kings, through ‘stylistic devices’ and through the careful arrangment of biblical citations and eschatological associations – to convince his public that as bishop of Tours, he was an arbiter of peace and not a broker for a particular political faction.88 Evoking the name of the Franks in the opening section might well have been part of Gregory’s strategy to underline his position as a mediator between the different groups. The bishop of Tours also links the regnum Francorum in the ‘sermon’ with his Christian vision of community. Though he first invokes the military model of Clovis, the magnus et egregius pugnator of Book II,89 he develops his speech into an exhortation to the reges of his time, urging them to fight the real battle of the body and soul. Beware then of discord, beware then of civil wars which are destroying you and your people … If internal war pleases you o rex turn your attention to the struggle which according to the apostle is waged deep inside every man: so that your spirit may lust against the flesh and your vices be overcome by your virtues.90

See Halsall, ‘The preface to Book V’. 85 I. Wood, Gregory, pp. 12–13; Halsall, ‘The preface to Book V’, p. 310. 86 Cf. above, pp. 40–41.   87  Halsall, ‘The preface to Book V’, p. 311. 88 Halsall, ‘The preface to Book V’, pp. 297–302, on stylistic devices; Bonnet, Le latin, pp. 699–750; and cf. now Hilchenbach, Das vierte Buch, pp. 207–474 and p. 613. 89 DLH II, 12, p. 62.  90  DLH V, praef., p. 193, trans. Thorpe, p. 254. 84


The dangers of history In the preface to the fifth book, Gregory not only presents himself in between different factions and competing kingdoms; he also moves the regnum Francorum to a middle ground between the earthly and eternal regnum. This tension creates the framework for the larger social whole in which the regnum Francorum and indeed any regnum achieves its meaning in Gregory’s Histories. We have already seen how Gregory employed this tension in the case of Praetextatus – a conflict that originated in precisely the context in which the preface was set, and an account that possibly also originated as a sermon. In his altercation with Chilperic about the different meanings of justice, Gregory admonished Chilperic that he had to justify his iudicium before God. ‘You have the laws and the canons. You must study them diligently. If you do not carry out what they say, you will soon have to realise that the judgement of God hangs over you [noveris, tibi Dei iudicium imminere].’91 As Peter Brown has observed, this kind of iustitia ‘was what was worth dying for’. The regnum should not be the battlefield for petty earthly disputes among the kings and their elites. It should be the field for the ‘conflict of body and soul, which was the most bitter, the most irresolvable and most honourable blood feud of all’.92 The tension between divine and earthly rule is also at play in Gregory’s use of the term regnum throughout the Histories. In fact, it is the continuation of the Praetextatus story where Gregory addresses this tension explicitly. After Chilperic’s death in 584, Praetextatus managed to re-establish himself as bishop of Rouen. In one of the few stories in which Franks appear in Gregory’s text, we hear that Praetextatus was respected and well liked by the meliores Franci of Rouen. He was, however, less well liked by Fredegund, Chilperic’s widow. Already in his account of the trial in Paris, Gregory had accused the queen of pulling the strings in the bishop’s persecution.93 The hostilities between Praetextatus and Fredegund continued after Chilperic’s death. During a visit to Rouen, the queen threatens to send the bishop into exile again.The bishop, however, remained unperturbed: in exile and out of exile, he had always been and would always be a bishop. Fredegund, on the other hand, would surely not keep her potentia regalis. He, Praetextatus, with God’s grace would advance from exile to His regnum, but Fredegund would go from this regnum directly to hell.94 This tension is sustained throughout the ten books. The few places in which Gregory uses regnum Francorum stand in marked contrast to the DLH V, 18, p. 220, trans. Thorpe, p. 278. 92 P. Brown, ‘Gregory of Tours’, p. 14. 93 DLH V, 18, p. 220.   94  DLH VIII, 31, p. 397. 91


Communities of the middle ground 185 places in which he leaves the meaning of regnum wide open.95 From the first book onwards, Gregory carefully builds up the tension between the earthly regna and the regnum caeleste. It begins with tight and carefully selected examples from Old Testament history.96 From the history of the regnum Israheliticum97 he mentions the regnum Salomonis, or Roboae.98 Of course the regnum of King Ninus should not be left out, since (as Gregory explains) that was when Abraham lived, id est Abraham initium fidei nostrae.99 In order not to give the impression that he was only interested in reporting on the gentes Hebreae, he also briefly enumerates reliqua regna which existed in the time of the Israelites – tempore Israhelitarum.100 The chapter on Jesus Christ, who preached penance, bestowed the grace of baptism and promised the caeleste regnum to all peoples – cuncti gentes – forms a sharp caesura in this respect.101 From then on, regnum in the rest of the first book almost always signifies the heavenly regnum alone.102 The sole exception is the regnum of Constantine I, which can hardly be seen as an imagination of the heavenly regnum; Gregory reports that Constantine had his son and his wife killed out of fear that they could rob him of his rule (regnum eius).103 The connection between the earthly with the heavenly regnum does not stand out clearly in the Histories  – that was an ongoing project. Gregory’s regnum remained in the space in between human endeavours and the divine plan, semantically open-ended. So Gregory frequently employs the names of reigning kings to define a regnum more precisely – just as Constantine sought to conserve regnum eius, Clovis extended regnum suum per totas Gallias – or the bishop of Tours orders regna politically and geographically by recourse to Roman geographical terminology.104 Except for the few aforementioned places where Gregory connects the concept of regnum to the name of the Franks, there are only two additional moments after the end of the second book in which Gregory defines regna through a collective identity. In the first, he localises the city of Agde as (still) being in the regnum Gothorum; in the second, he tells of the three kings of the Thuringians, who divided the regnum gentis illius

I have not included the passages where regnum appears as part of a dating clause. For the version Gregory used see the comments of Bonnet, Le latin, pp. 54–62. 97 DLH I, capit., p. 2.   98  DLH I, 13 and 14, p. 14. 99 DLH I, 7, p. 9.   100  DLH I, 17, p. 16. 101 DLH I, 20, p. 17; see Heinzelmann, ‘Die Psalmen’. 102 DLH I, 25, p. 19, line 3 (regnum Dei); I, 31, p. 24, line 8 (regnum Dei); I, 33, p. 25, line 12 (regna caelorum). 103 DLH I, 36, p. 27. 104 For example, DLH III, 5, p. 101, and III, p. 126 (Italia under the rule of Theoderic); III, 1, p. 97 (Hispania); II, 3, p. 40 (Africa); Goetz, ‘Gens’; Pohl, ‘Gregory’. 95



The dangers of history between them.105 But like their earthly regna these gentes would eventually become part of a larger social whole that Gregory imagined as a world shaped by divisions along the lines of Christianity and paganism, orthodoxy and heresy. Gentes and regna As in the case of the Thuringians, collectives labelled as gentes do appear in Gregory’s text. But they appear only in the second book as main agents of history and their role changes dramatically from the end of this book onwards.106 Gregory subjects the term gens itself to this transformative process. In particular, starting with the end of Book II, Gregory explores the playing field of the meaning of gens. Gentes appear as subject to a regnum, as in gentes ultra Rhenum, who were an important military power base of the eastern Merovingian kings who ruled in Reims and Metz.107 Gentes can be other peoples, too; the Lombards are called a gens several times.108 Gregory also uses the term to denote a family or familial network not least that of the Merovingian kings.109 As we have seen, gentes could also be contingents of an army, which alongside Burgundians and Saxons consisted of Byturgi, Sanctonici or Petrocorici – the people from cities such as Bourges, Saintes or Périgueux.110 In Gregory’s Christendom, these various forms of gentes do not structure the history of the regnum. Instead they merge into its perspective for a common future. Gregory had already primed this process in the first book of the Histories. He begins with the Old Testament’s representation of history, and yet he orientates this in selections from the Chronicle of Eusebius/ Jerome. These selections synoptically juxtapose biblical history with the histories of other regna.111 At the same time that Gregory borrows liberally from his sources, he cites them verbatim only some of the time.112 He treats the history of the world from Adam to Moses in only a few chapters. When he reaches the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, however, he grants the crossing of the Red Sea a longer chapter in his retelling.

DLH III, 4, p.  99:  Porro tunc apud Thoringus tres fratres regnum gentis illius retinebant; VI, 2, p. 266: Agathae urbem, quae in Gothorum regno sita est. 106 For the regna of gentes in Gaul before the baptism of Clovis in the Histories, see above, pp. 52–3. 107 See Ewig, ‘Die fränkischen Teilungen’, pp. 166–71. 108 For example, DLH VI, 6, pp. 272f.; IX, 25, p. 444; IX, 29, p. 447; IX, 3, p. 483; see Pohl, ‘Gregory’. 109 See Guntram’s reproach to Berthram of Bordeaux: ‘Gratias’, inquid [Guntram, HR], ‘agimus, quod sic custodisti fidem generationi tuae. Scire enim te oportuerat, dilectissime pater, quod parens eras nobis ex matre nostra, et super gentem tuam non debueras inducere pestem extraneam’ (DLH VIII , 2, p. 372). 110 DLH VIII, 30, p. 393; cf. above, p. 59. 111 See above, pp. 55–56.   112  See Krusch, in DLH, pp. xix–xx. 105


Communities of the middle ground Many historians had already commented on this episode, and Gregory too chose to include a few remarks on the location of the place and on the crossing – transitus – itself. He comprehensively described the details of an account that was very important to him, for he saw it as the archetype of Christian baptism – tipum nostri baptismatis.113 He enters into a short exegetical treatment in response to the widely shared understanding that the tribes – tribus – of Israel had gone through the Red Sea in separate groups, and that the sea had opened up more pathways to accommodate them. Gregory rejected this interpretation. When the Israelites undertook their transitus through the Red Sea, the division of the tribus did not play any part. In the end, Gregory cites the Apostle Paul, who forcefully emphasised that all were baptised beneath the cloud: Omnes patres nostri sub nube fuerunt et omnes in Moysen baptizati sunt in nube et in mare.114 Such differences played no role in baptism. They dissolved – as they did at the end of the second book, when, after the baptism of Clovis and the 3,000 de exercitu suo, the different individuals and groups called Franci merged into the spiritual and social texture of Gallia(e). This was not only true for the Franks, however, but also for other groups in the regnum. Parallel to the Franks, other gentes such as the Alamans, Thuringians, Burgundians and even the Saxons appear in the Histories, and the regnum similarly absorbs them.115 It seems that Gregory did not find it necessary to work as hard as he had in the case of the Franci to argue against a privileged role for the identities of these other groups. The deconstruction of the Romans It is only in the case of Roman identity that we can observe similar efforts of Gregory to deconstruct Frankish identity. At the beginning of his history, Gregory explicitly refers to the Chronicle of Eusebius and Jerome as a chronological model.116 In certain places Gregory actually also takes passages from his source and his ordered list of Roman rulers, albeit very selectively. The only Roman king he mentions in the first book is Servius, which he does to show that he knows to account for groups other than the gens Hebreae. But his remark on Romanorum sextus Servius is all he includes of early Roman history.117 Right after this he mentions Julius Caesar, the first Roman ruler qui tutius imperii obtenuit DLH I, 10, pp. 11–13; p. 13. 114 DLH I, 10, p. 13. 115 See Krutzler, ‘Die Wahrnehmung’, pp. 510–12. 116 De subpotatione vero huius mundi evidenter chronicae Eusebii Caesariensis episcopi ac Hieronimi presbiteri prolocuntur et rationem de omni annorum serie pandunt (DLH I, praef., p. 5). 117 DLH I, 17, p. 16. 113


The dangers of history monarchiam, and his successor Augustus. Gregory reports that not only was Jesus Christ born during the reign of Augustus; it was also the time when Lyons was founded – the city whose name was later made famous through the blood of martyrs – quae postea, inlustrata martyrum sanguine, nobilissima nuncupatur.118 Gregory’s featured list of Roman emperors is extremely incomplete, and it hardly serves as a chronological framework for apostolic and martyrial history in Gaul.119 In many places, his adapted dating system highlights his alternative historical focus. Gregory does not count the succession of emperors since Caesar and Augustus, but he does count the succession of persecutors of the Church: Trajan, for example, was the third since Nero to order the persecution of Christians.120 After Trajan, only Gallienus, Diocletian and Constantine are mentioned as rulers of the imperium Romanum. Besides in the context of these dates, Gregory also uses the name of the Romans to put the bishops of the city of Rome in chronological order.121 Only one mention of the Romani in the first book deals with them directly. In the battle of Adrianople, after the Romans suffered a catastrophic defeat against the Goths, Emperor Valens had forced monks to fight in the war. The Jerome Chronicle extensively recounts the circumstances which culminated in this event. But here Gregory conspicuously stresses the agency of the Romani. In Jerome, it was the legiones Romanae who had been wiped out by the Goths.122 Gregory, however, adds the name of the Romans to Jerome’s text twice: Post haec bellum saevissimum in Thracias Romani gessire, in quo tanta stragis fuit, ut Romani, amisso equorum praesidio, pedebus fugirent.123 In the second book, the Romani are localised above all in Gaul. With the appearance of the Franci in the ninth chapter of this book, Gregory gives a short overview of the political and ethnic geography of the Gaul they had entered. After the Franks settled along the Rhine, the Romani became their neighbours and lived in the territories up to the Loire.124 From that point in time, they appear as allies or opponents of the Franks in Gaul:  under the magister militum Aegidius ex Romanus,125 Romani and Franci fought together against the Saxones. When Clovis’ father Childeric – cum esset nimia in luxuria – was driven out by the Franks for 118 DLH I, 18, p. 17.   119  DLH I, 25, p. 20; I, 30, pp. 22–3. 120 DLH I, 27, p. 21.   121  See Krutzler, ‘Die Wahrnehmung’, p. 515. 122 Lacrimabile bellum in Thracia, in quo deserente equitum praesidio Romanae legiones a Gothis cinctae usque ad internecionem caesae sunt (Jerome, Chronicon, p. 249). 123 DLH I, 41, p. 28. 124 In his autem partibus, id est ad meridianam plagam habitabant Romani usque Ligerem fluvium (DLH II, 9, p. 58). 125 DLH II, 11, p. 61.


Communities of the middle ground having raped their daughters, Aegidius even ruled for a short while over the Franks.126 In Gregory’s text, Aegidius’ appointment as magister militum follows the brief account of Emperor Avitus, whose short reign from 455 to 456 was founded on his power base in Gaul.127 A little over a hundred years before Gregory, the chronicler Hydatius had sketched a largely positive picture of the Gallic Augustus as a capable and accomplished ruler.128 It is entirely possible that Hydatius, who was a bishop in northern Spain, fixed on Avitus a hope for greater political stability in the region where he lived. But Gregory represents the Gallic emperor less favourably. Avitus, a senator from Gregory’s hometown of Clermont, had through excessive ambition claimed to control the imperium Romanum. In any case, the senators soon overthrew him, when he started to act luxuriosae. Gregory does not tell us what kind of luxuria Avitus liked. But the seventh-century chronicler Fredegar added to Gregory’s epitome a story with some graphic jokes about Avitus abusing the senators’ wives.129 Even in Gregory’s text, the parallels between Clovis’ father Childeric, who was likewise deposed by the Franks because of his luxuria, are striking. One important difference, however, was that Childeric managed to return, whereas Gregory states that Avitus was succeeded by Emperor Martianus, and in Gaul Aegidius ex Romanus took over as magister militum. Gregory, furthermore, calls Aegidius’ son rex Romanorum, who rules over one of the regna in Gaul before Clovis extended his rule per totas Gallias. From that point on, the Romani are completely absorbed into Gregory’s regnum. After the end of the second book, the name disappears from Gregory’s Histories. Linked to the Roman past of Gaul, and appearing beyond the end of the second book, is the identity of the senatores. Gregory often uses the term for members of the upper class in southern Gaul.130 Their culture and education make them particularly well suited for episcopal office.131 Not surprisingly, Gregory portrays his own family as members of this class.132 Even here in the history of the senatores, we can observe how Gregory deconstructs the dangers of a common past to serve his DLH II, 12, pp. 61–2; see Jarnut, ‘Gregor’; and Halsall, ‘Childeric’s grave’. 127 DLH II, 11, pp. 60–1; see Halsall, Barbarian migrations, pp. 257–62. 128 Hydatius, Chronicon, pp. 105–9; for Hydatius’ perspective see below, p. 229, with n. 256. 129 CF III, 7 and 10, pp. 94, 95. 130 Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 8–11. 131 DLH VI, 9, p. 279. 132 See for instance on his own predecssor as bishop of Tours: Eufronius presbiter ordinatus, ex genere illo, quod superius senatores nuncupavimus (DLH X, 31, p. 534.); see Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 7–11; but see the actual statistics in Patzold, ‘Zur Sozialstruktur’, who shows that Gregory overemphasises his own social background as qualification for an episcopal career. 126


The dangers of history Christian vision. Gregory does not let his readers forget that like the Franks, the senatores had a pagan past, too. Just as with Childeric’s and Avitus’ luxuria, the Histories depict the pagan past of the Franks and of the senatores with striking terminological similarities. Gregory’s chapter on the paganism of the Franks, which immediately follows his inconclusive search for the early Frankish kings, starts with the sentence: Sed haec generatio fanaticis semper cultibus visa est obsequium prabuisse (The Franks of that time, however, paid service to pagan cults).133 This was something that the Franci of that time shared with the senatores of earlier times. For when the septem viri had arrived in Gaul, Gregory tells us that the senatores were likewise committed to paganism: Senatores vero vel reliqui meliores loci [Bourges: HR] fanaticis erant tunc cultibus obligati (The senators and the other nobles of that place were still committed to pagan cults).134 In Gregory’s representation, members of the senatorial class had much better credentials for taking on important social and political roles. But their background alone did not legitimate an elevated position. As one could see from the example of Gregory’s compatriot, Emperor Avitus – cives Avernus and unus ex senatoribus  – not all senators were equally equipped to act responsibly for their communities. The legitimacy of their position was based, as it was for all others, on taking responsibility for the Christian community and on the vision of a common future. 133 DLH II, 10, p. 58.   134  DLH I, 31, p. 24.


Chapter 4

C ON T INU IT IE S A ND DIS CO N TI NUI TI ES Roman and Frankish alternatives to Gregory



in late Antique  Gaul

and myth s

In order to deconstruct the legitimating role of collective identities in the making of post-Roman Gaul, Gregory did not have to read postmodern textual criticism. Historical discontinuities were a part of the fundamental reconfiguration of the Roman world from the fourth century onwards. They were well documented and even articulated in some of the sources that Gregory used. In the preface to his translation and continuation of Eusebius’ world chronicle, Jerome  – one of the most influential historians of late Antiquity – addressed the problems that these discontinuities posed for the creation of a more or less coherent historical account. Historia multiplex est, wrote the Church Father with a sigh.1 This was the text that Gregory cited as his model for the chronological framework of world history. Jerome specified that one of his main problems was the strange and foreign names of the barbarians, which he had to translate in his edition and continuation of the Greek chronicle. This must have indeed been a difficult task. Just like a modern editor of ancient and medieval texts, Jerome faced a parade of similar names scattered throughout the chronicle, and in most cases he had no recourse to longer accounts that would have helped him identify them.2 To be sure, the identification and continuity of these names for barbarian peoples was not the main problem for a man who had taken on the task of writing the first Christian world chronicle in Latin.3 But after events such as the devastating defeat Jerome, Chronicon, praef., p. 5. 2 [Q]‌uod historia multiplex est habens Barbara nomina, res incognitas Latinis, numeros inextricabiles, virgulas rebus pariter ac numeris intertextas, ut paene difficilius sit legendi ordinem discere quam ad lectionis notitiam pervenire (Jerome, Chronicon, praef., p. 5). 3 For Jerome’s chronicle and its adoption for the Latin world, seeVessey,‘Reinventing history’; McKitterick, ‘Transformations’; Burgess and Kulikowsi, Mosaics, pp. 184–7, McMahon, ‘Polemics in translation’. 1


Continuities and discontinuities at Adrianople and later the sack of Rome, the question of the role of the barbarian peoples in God’s plan became more pressing for Christian writers.4 This can be observed particularly well in continuations of Jerome’s Chronicle, which had ended in the year 378 with the battle of Adrianople. From the fifth century onwards, later Christian scholars and historians continued the text.5 It seems that for many of them, the chronicle provided a medium to continue Roman history at a time when the political framework of the Roman Empire was fading. Some continuators even wrote under the rule of kings who were increasingly called rulers and kings of peoples, such as the Vandals, Ostrogoths, Visigoths and Franks. Not surprisingly, the chroniclers increasingly reflected on the history of the gentes and on their place in history, and they ascribed agency to these peoples in their texts: the Goths, the Franks, the Vandals waged war, made peace or elevated a king. In chronicles and histories written towards the end of the fifth and sixth centuries – such as the Chronicle of Hydatius, or the sixth-century authors John of Biclaro and Marius of Avenches – Gothi, Franci and Suevi received an ever-stronger profile as the agents and subjects of history.6 But taken together, the histories of the gentes remained a rather inconsistent and sometimes contradictory phenomenon in the chronicles, and it seems that Gregory of   Tours built on those inconsistences to stress the discontinuities of such collective identities. As we have seen, he actually describes a reversal of the gentes’ importance as the agents of history; whereas in the second book, with the Franks’ arrival in the western provinces, Gregory describes a world of gentes and regna in Galliae and its periphery, they vanish or become assimilated in the Christian regnum in the later points of the narrative.7 The contrast to other texts becomes particularly evident when we look at contemporary chronicles such as John of Biclaro, the Chronica Caesaraugustana and Marius of Avenches, and compare their reports on the history of Gaul after the establishment of Clovis’ regnum per totas Gallias. We find many instances in which Gregory describes the deeds and wars of the Merovingian kings without mentioning the name of the Franks, and yet the corresponding entries in other chronicles do ascribe agency to the Franks. To give just one example: whereas Gregory’s text See Pohl, ‘Introduction. Ethnicity, religion and empire’; Corradini, ‘Die Ankunft der Zukunft’; Maas, ‘Ethnicity’; Maas, ‘ “Delivered from their ancient customs” ’; and see the literature on chronicles, n.5. 5 See Croke, Count Marcellinus, pp.  145–69 and 23–6; Muhlberger, The fifth-century chroniclers; McKitterick, Perceptions, pp. 7–22; and Burgess and Kulikowski, Mosaics. 6 See below, n.8.   7  See above, pp. 68–70. 4


Communities of the middle ground documents that Childebert I and his brother Chlothar I invaded Hispania and attacked the city of Caesaraugusta cum exercitu, the Chronicle of Caesaraugusta reports that the city was besieged by the reges Francorum.8 Gregory’s account contrasts not only with sources written in other kingdoms, but also with texts written in Gaul, including the Life of Caesarius of Arles (written c. 550)9 and the chronicle of Marius of Avenches, who died soon after Gregory in 596.10 In particular, in his account of the conquest of the Burgundian kingdom (to which Avenches had belonged) by the sons of Clovis, Marius stresses in his chronicle their identity as reges Francorum.11 To be sure, at the end of the sixth century the varied accounts about the Franks in late Antique chronicles did not automatically amount to a history of the Franks. This also creates considerable problems for modern historical research in writing a single Frankish history, a problem that is often solved with the help of defining the Franks as a Stammesschwarm.12 But as we saw in the Introduction, gifted cultural brokers two generations before Gregory were able to combine scattered and contradictory pieces of information to create a historical narrative that integrated the groups of the post-Roman kingdom into the history of the late and post-Roman world. In order to convince their readers that the Gothic past always belonged to the same world as Rome, Cassiodorus and Jordanes had grazed the rich meadows of classical geography and ethnography to integrate the long past of Amal and Gothic history with that of the Romans.13 The contrast with Gregory of Tours, who wrote only two generations after Cassiodorus and one after Jordanes, could not be greater. As we have seen, the bishop of Tours was by no means interested in gathering ‘into one garland, as it were, flower buds that had previously been scattered throughout the fields of literature’ to write a history of the Cf. Chronicle of Caesaraugusta a 541, ed. Mommsen, p.  223, with DLH III , 29, p.  125; other examples: Chronicle of Caesaraugusta, p. 223, with DLH II , 37, p. 87; Johannes of Biclaro, a. 585, p. 217, with DLH VIII , 30, p. 396; Johannes of Biclaro, a. 587, p. 218, with DLH VIII , 45, p. 411; Johannes of Biclaro, a. 589, p. 218, with DLH IX , 31, p. 450; Chronica Gallica a. 511, p. 665, with DLH II , 37, p. 88. 9 See Vitae Caesarii I , 28, p. 467, with DLH II , 37, p. 85. 10 Favrod, La chronique. 11 Marius, Chronica a. 523, p. 235: Hoc consule Sigimundus rex Burgundionum a Burgundionibus Francis traditus est in Francia in habitu monachale perductus …, with DLH III , 6, p.  102; Marius, Chronica a. 534, p. 235: reges Francorum Childebertus, Chlotarius et Theudebertus Burgundiam obtinuerunt, with DLH III , 11; Marius, Chronica a. 539, p. 235: Theudebertus rex Francorum, with DLH III , 32, p. 128. 12 See Nonn, Die Franken, pp. 15–19; cf. however, Pohl, Die Germanen, pp. 108–13; Halsall, Barbarian migrations, pp. 121–5. 13 Cassiodorus, Variae 9, 25, 4–5, pp.  291f.; see Reimitz ‘The historian’, pp.  79–81, with further literature. 8


Continuities and discontinuities Franks.14 But we also have to admit that Gregory’s emphasis on the discontinuities of a Frankish past in the late Roman world was also well grounded in the difficulties and multiplicities of the historical evidence of his time. In comparison to the repertoires for a history of the Goths in the sixth century, the meadows of Frankish history were surely less rich. After all, various Gothic groups were some of the most prominent and discussed barbarian allies and enemies of Rome from the fourth century onwards. In the aftermath of the Goths’ victory over the Roman army in the battle of Adrianople, Christian writers even identified them with the apocalyptic peoples Gog and Magog.15 And the initial integration of Gothic groups into the Roman Empire after Adrianople inspired Roman authors to reflect on the question of whether and how barbarians could truly become part of the empire.16 By contrast, although Frankish groups increasingly show up in the course of the third and fourth centuries either as enemies or allies of the Roman Empire, they never achieve comparable prominence in the sources. They appear as pirates, barbarian soldiers-turned-farmers in the provinces along the lower Rhine, high military officers of the Roman army, reliable federates or prestigious enemies of the empire.17 In the fourth century, the name was used as an umbrella term to describe various gentes along the northern Rhine frontier. In this respect, the name of the Franks (together with that of the Alamans) filled the same function in Roman politics, history and ethnography as the name of the Germani had during the time of the Principate.18 This parallel surely enhanced the prestige of the name, and the increasing prestige helped to establish the Frankish name as an attractive focus for integration.19 In the second half of the fourth century many ‘Franks’ made careers in the Roman army. Sources for the second half of the fourth century speak of some of the highest military leaders of the West – including Merobaudes, Bauto, Richomer and most famously Arbogast – as being of Frankish descent.20 As we have seen, a high-ranking military officer of Frankish descent even made it into the hagiography of Jerome.21 The Roman officer’s golden hair and beauty revealed his country of For this formulation used by Cassiodorus in the speech he wrote for Athalaric see Cassiodorus, Variae 9, 25, 5, p. 292. 15 See Christensen, Cassiodorus, pp. 230–49; García, ‘Godos y getas’; Wolfram, Goten, pp. 39–40. 16 See Cameron and Long, Barbarians, pp. 301–33; Heather, Goths, pp. 71–81; see in general Mathisen and Shanzer, Barbarians; and still valuable Ladner, ‘On Roman attitudes’, for the Goths, pp. 19–24. 17 See Ewig, ‘Die Franken’; Ewig, ‘Probleme’; Nonn, Die Franken, pp. 36–67. 18 See Pohl, Die Germanen, pp. 93–115. 19 Pohl, Die Völkerwanderung, pp. 154–75. 20 Ewig, ‘Die Franken’, pp. 139–45; see Demandt, ‘Magister militum’. 21 See above, p. 63. 14


Communities of the middle ground origin; coming from the land formerly known to historians as Germania, but now called Francia, he undertook the long journey from the northern provinces to seek the help of St Hilarion in Gaza.22 Shortly after 400, however, the sources offer barely any names for Franks or their kings.A good example is the famous battle of 451 between the Western alliance, organised and led by Aetius, the Roman magister militum of the Western Empire, and the Hunnic confederation under Attila.Whereas some of the chronicles do mention the names of kings of Aetius’ allies, in particular those of the Visigoths, no extant source gives us the names of the Frankish kings, who also fought with Aetius against the Huns.23 This is especially striking because one of our sources, written by the Byzantine historian Priscus shortly after the events, tells us that Frankish conflicts over royal succession had provided the pretext for Attila’s campaign.24 Further, when Priscus reports that he has even met one of the Frankish king’s two competing sons in Rome, he does not provide the ruler’s name. About a hundred years later, when Jordanes rewrote Cassiodorus’ history, we see him using Priscus’ account. Though the Merovingian kingdoms were at the time doubtless the most powerful political entity in the West, the Getica has nothing to add about the Franks and their kings. Jordanes’ main focus is the role of the Goths and their heroic defence of the Roman Empire, together with Aetius, the last hope of the West.25 The Getica skips the Frankish pretext for the battle. In his account of how Aetius tricked his allies to get rid of the troops he had summoned to Gaul, Jordanes mentions only the Visigoths under King Theoderic and his son Thorismund.26 Perhaps even if he had wanted to include the names of the rulers of Aetius’ Frankish allies, Jordanes might have faced the same situation as Gregory of Tours. They were difficult to find. In fact, among all the extant sources up to the end of the sixth century, we do not have any names for Frankish kings that Gregory of Tours does not mention himself.27 It is also from the time of Jordanes that we have evidence of efforts to put together the somewhat dispersed and discordant accounts of different Frankish groups, individuals and kings into a more coherent history of the establishment of Frankish rule. About two decades before Gregory Jerome, Vita Hilarionis, c. 13, p. 102. 23 Ewig, ‘Die Franken’, p. 153.   24 Priscus, Fragmenta 20, 3, p. 306. 25 On Jordanes’ account of the battle at the Catalaunian fields see Christensen, Cassiodorus, pp. 323–41; for Aetius, see above, p. 53 with n.9. 26 Jordanes, De origine actibusque Getarum 219–224, pp. 90–2. 27 See Ewig, ‘Die Franken’, pp. 140, 151–2; an exception could be the catalogue of Merovingian kings transmitted in a manuscript of the ninth century, see below, p. 83. 22


Continuities and discontinuities became bishop of Tours, the Byzantine historian Procopius presented a much less disintegrated account of Frankish history in the provinces of Gaul and Germany. Procopius first mentions the Franks in his book on the war between the Byzantine Empire and the Vandals in Africa, where he regards them as the new Germans.28 He deals with them at greater length in his books on Justinian’s Gothic wars, which offered the Merovingian kings a welcome opportunity to extend their dominion further south at the Goths’ expense. Both the Byzantines and the Goths sought to win over the Merovingians as allies, or in any case to keep them from intervening in the war on their opponents’ side.29 In order to prepare his accounts of the Byzantine armies’ and commanders’ dealings with the Franks, Procopius includes a longer section on their history, starting with an excursus on the geography of Gaul and Germany. He follows the Rhine – one of the territory’s famous landmarks – to its estuary and to a region of ‘many lakes’.This was the land ‘where the Germans lived of old, a barbarous nation, not of much consequence in the beginning, who are now called Franks’.30 The western neighbours of the Germans/Franks were, according to Procopius, the Arborychi, by which he might have meant the Aremoricans.31 At the time of the Visigothic settlement and conquest of Gaul and Spain, the ‘Arborychi’ had become soldiers in Roman employ, and in due course the Germans/Franks started to attack their lands. But the Arborychi proved their valour and loyalty to the Romans and shewed themselves brave men in this war, and since the Germans were not able to overcome them by force, they wished to win them over and make the two peoples kin by intermarriage. This suggestion the Arborychi received not at all unwillingly; for both, as it happened, were Christians. And in this way they were united into one people, and came to have great power … Now other Roman soldiers, also, had been stationed at the frontiers of Gaul to serve as guards. And these soldiers, having no means of returning to Rome, and at the same time being unwilling to yield to their enemy who were Arians, gave themselves, together with their military standards and the land which they had long been guarding for the Romans, to the Arborychi and Germans; and they handed down to their offspring all the customs of their fathers, which were thus preserved and this people has held them in sufficient reverence to guard them even up to my time. For even at the present day they are clearly recognized as belonging to the legions to which they were assigned when they served in ancient times, and 28 Procopius, Wars III , 3, 1, vol. II , p. 23. 29 I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 51–4; Wolfram, Goten, p. 315. 30 Procopius, Wars V , 12, 7, vol. III , p. 119. 31 For Procopius’ perspective and the sources that might have influenced it see I. Wood, Merovingian North Sea; Thompson, ‘Procopius’.


Communities of the middle ground they always carry their own standards when they enter battle, and always follow the customs of their fathers. And they preserve the dress of the Romans in every particular, even as regards their shoes.32

As Averil Cameron showed some time ago, Procopius – who accompanied the Byzantine commander Belisarius on his campaigns – seems to have put together an interesting mix of information for his image of the Franks.33 The influence of older stereotypes of Roman ethnography is clearly visible. But Procopius had more recent sources, too, some of which may well have been western and Frankish.34 The negotiations of embassies and the flux of information about the different groups involved in the conflicts of the Gothic wars are well documented elsewhere in Procopius’ history.35 Whatever these sources may have been, Procopius put together what amounted to a highly negative image of the Franks. The Roman element in their political synthesis did not change the fact that in his histories, he characterises the Franks as true barbarians.36 Later, however, the efforts of Frankish self-promotion seem to have been more successful. About two decades after Procopius wrote, his continuator Agathias presented a much more favourable portrayal of the Franks.Though he knew his Procopius well, he departed from his predecessor in many respects. Like Procopius, he saw the Franks as the people who in ancient times were called Germans and who in Agathias’ time ruled over most of Gaul. Agathias does not mention the Germano-Roman synthesis but instead focuses on the city of Marseilles: ‘Once a Greek city it has now become barbarian in character, having abandoned its ancestral constitution and embraced the ways of its conquerors.’ But these barbarians were not true barbarians as Procopius had seen them, for Marseilles seemed to Agathias ‘even now in no way inferior to the excellence of its original inhabitants’.37 This is how Agathias began his much-discussed excursus on the Franks, which Averil Cameron masterfully analysed some time ago.38 As far as Agathias was concerned, the Franks had the same religion and laws as Byzantium, and they had sophisticated institutions and practices for conflict resolutions. Apart from their outward appearance, the Franks were very much just like the Romans of Agathias’ time or even represented Procopius, Wars V , 12, 16–19, pp. 121–2. 33 Cameron, Procopius, pp. 211–12, 214–15. 34 See Thompson, ‘Procopius’.   35 Beisel, Studien, pp. 97–128. 36 But see Cameron, Procopius, p.  212, for different images and function of the accounts on the Franks. 37 Agathias, Histories I , 2, trans. Frendo, p. 10. 38 Cameron, ‘Agathias’. 32


Continuities and discontinuities how the Romans ought to be. Because the people were as law-abiding as they were patriotic, and ‘their kings as peaceful and ready to yield’, they were able to ‘keep their power secure and their laws unbroken’.39 Agathias then introduces a series of details and stories about the history of the Merovingians and their kingdoms, which, as Cameron showed in her investigation, were probably not drawn from written sources. He contributed some interesting details about the long hair of the Merovingian kings, their traditions of succession, the kinship ties of the last few royal generations and the weaponry and combat techniques of their soldiers.40 Cameron linked Agathias’ refined interests to the intensified diplomatic contacts between Byzantium and the Merovingian kingdoms that Gregory of Tours documented in the last decades of the sixth century.41 In his study on diplomacy and ethnography, Michael Maas has widened and differentiated some interesting facets of this picture. He sees both representations of the Franks above all as being linked to different arenas for the encounter between different peoples and groups.42 Procopius, on the one hand, constructed his description more from elements in the diplomatic arena, which from a Byzantine perspective insisted on the subordination of ‘barbarian’ rulers in the West. Agathias, on the other hand, clearly moved the issues of Christianity and orthodoxy to the foreground in his representation, which provided more room for common ground. As is apparent in other contexts such as in the transfer and exchange of relics and cults, this latter arena seems to have become increasingly prominent in the Franks’ dealings with Byzantium in the course of the sixth century.43 In connection with such questions, the Franks seem to have found it increasingly important to obtain somewhat more accurate information and to present a more precise picture of the Byzantine side. But such diplomatic inquiries could have also offered Merovingian envoys a new stage for representing themselves as good Christians and as peer successors to Roman rule and culture in Gaul. Texts which attest to an interest in fitting the Franks into a collective Christian world also moved from Byzantium to the West. In an Alexandrinian world chronicle, or so-called Excerpta latina barbari, as Justus Scaliger called the rough Latin translation of a compiled Greek 39 Agathias, Histories I , 2, trans. Frendo, p. 11. 40 Agathias, Histories II , 3, trans. Frendo, p. 11; II , 5, p. 12, but compare Bachrach, ‘Procopius’. 41 Cameron, ‘Agathias’, pp. 136–9; see now Esders, ‘ “Avenger” ’; Moorehead, ‘Western approaches’, pp.  214–20; McCormick, ‘Byzantium’s role’; and still Goubert, Byzance avant l’Islam, vol. II, Byzance et les Francs; and Beisel, Studien, pp. 127–8. 42 Maas, ‘Hostiles’; I would like to thank Michael Maas for many fascinating discussions and his generosity sharing his ideas and unpublished work with me. 43 Esders, ‘Avenger’.


Communities of the middle ground world chronicle, a Francus was even integrated into the genealogy of the kings of Alba Longa, the mythical kings who ruled Latium between Aeneas and the foundation of Rome. The name crops up in two places in the chronicle, twice identifying a Frank as the fifth in the line of Aeneas’ descendants.44 The chronicle consists mainly of genealogical, ethnographical and geographical lists with a strong emphasis on oriental peoples, which were eventually conquered by Alexander the Great. In the chronicle, Alexander is the God-sent liberator of the world; he liberates not only the eastern world from all enemies but also the western world, thereby uniting what was to become the Roman Empire, and eventually Christendom.45 In a recent article Benjamin Garstad has suggested that this chronicle was compiled in Byzantium in the 530s as a gift for King Theudebert I.46 According to Garstad, the text was presented to the Frankish court in order to persuade Theudebert to enter into an alliance with Justinian against the Goths. The text, however, gives no hint for such a contextualisation; and the extant manuscript, which was written in the second half of the eighth century, offers no further clues.47 As Garstad himself admits, the period of Theudebert’s rule, which lasted from 533 to 547, together with the fact that Theudebert’s policy soon destroyed Byzantine hopes for an alliance with the king, provides a very narrow time frame for such compositional efforts.48 It seems to me more probable that the chronicle was written somewhat later than the 530s. Garstad sees the stress on the role of the empire in preserving and defending the orthodox Christian faith as a special feature of the chronicle. This commonality is also an important feature of the image correction that Agathias undertook against Procopius.49 It is thus more likely that the historiographical exchange between Byzantium and the Merovingian kingdoms took place in the context of the intensified diplomatic contacts between Byzantium and the Merovingian kingdoms in the last decades of the sixth century, as discussed above. Another text that probably originated in Byzantium by the sixth century is a ‘table of nations’, in which the different gentes are listed as the Excerpta Latina Barbari, ed. Schöne, pp.  177–239; see now Garstad, ‘Barbarian interest’; and An Alexandrinian World Chronicle, ed. and trans. Garstad. 45 An Alexandrinian World Chronicle, 8.4–5, ed. Garstad, pp. 214–17; or 32b–34a, ed. Schöne, pp. 208–10. 46 Garstad, ‘Barbarian interest’, pp. 27–35. 47 Paris, BN lat. 4884; second half of the eighth century, northern France, most likely Corbie, CLA V , no. 560. 48 Garstad, ‘Barbarian interest’, p. 26.   49  See above, p. 80. 44


Continuities and discontinuities progeny of the sons of Mannus – Ermino, Inguo and Istio. In this table, Romans and Franks alike appear as descendants of Istio.50 The manuscript tradition of this text is also not traceable before the Carolingian period, and one cannot say precisely when the text reached the West.51 In any case, it is conspicuous that in the two extant manuscript attestations, which were copied and transmitted in the Carolingian kingdoms, the genealogy was placed between two king catalogues, one of Roman kings in Gaul and one of Frankish kings.52 The catalogue of Roman kings begins with the primus rex Romanorum Allanus/Alaneus and ends three kings later with Syagrius, after which the table of peoples follows.53 After that, both manuscripts feature different catalogues of Frankish kings. Even so, both catalogues are among the very few sources that transmit the names of Frankish kings who are not named in Gregory of Tours’ work or in any other extant sources from the early medieval period. In the older manuscript, the list continues to Dagobert I (d. 629),54 whereas in the younger manuscript a different catalogue enumerated the kings down to the last Merovingian king, Childeric III, who was deposesd by the Carolingians around the middle of the eighth century.55 Clearly both manuscripts were shaped by reflections on how to define the relations of Frankish and Roman history in the Carolingian period. It is tempting, however, to see the text that appears in the Carolingian manuscripts as an appropriation and continuation of older efforts, already evident centuries earlier, to synthesise a Roman, Gallic and Frankish past. 4.2  Romans and Trojans i n   G aul Such interest in finding ways to define a common world and history for the successors of the Roman Empire in the East and the West might well have intensified during the time of Gregory of Tours.56 The assimilation Goffart, ‘Supposedly “Frankish” table of nations’. 51 Goffart, ‘Supposedly “Frankish” table of nations’; for the transmission of the text in Italy see Pohl, Werkstätte der Erinnerung, s.v. ‘Genealogia gentium’; see also Stoffella, ‘Tuscans as gens?’. 52 St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek 732, early ninth century (see the description and digital facsimile www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/description/csg/0732); and Paris, BN 4628A; see Mordek, Bibliotheca capitularium, pp. 488–501; Goffart, ‘Supposedly “Frankish” table of nations’, pp. 100–2. 53 For an edition see Catalogi regum Francorum praetermissi, ed. Krusch, p. 851; and Goffart,‘Supposedly “Frankish” table of nations’, pp. 110–12. For the oldest manuscript cf below, pp. 216–17. 54 See the edition Catalogi regum Francorum praetermissi, ed. Krusch, p. 851. 55 The two lists are very different. See Catalogi regum Francorum praetermissi, ed. Krusch, pp. 851, 854–5. 56 Esders, ‘Avenger’; Widdowson, ‘Merovingian partitions’. 50


Communities of the middle ground of Frankish and Roman history in Gaul did not depend on the transfer of particular stories or ethnographic knowledge between Byzantium and Gaul. Such stories already had a long history in the centuries before the last decades of the sixth century. Ammianus Marcellinus gives the most impressive example of this, in his excursus on the geography and ethnography of Gaul. The Roman officer, who in the mid fourth century had accompanied Emperor Julian on his campaigns, not least to Gaul, started writing his Res gestae at the end of his military career. In the years 390/1 he read from his Histories to an interested Roman audience. At that point, he had certainly finished the fifteenth book, which included his excursus on Gaul and which begins with a citation from Virgil.57 In the historical and ethnographic literature, Ammianus wrote, the Gauls had long been neglected, but eventually Timagenes undertook an investigation of their origins in his history of Alexander the Great, which he did in Greek, with Greek carefulness.58 In Gaul, Ammianus continued, they say that some people – aiunt quidam paucos – are descended from the Trojans.59 Ammianus did not necessarily have to have read Timagenes for this information. Virgilian motifs and myths are indeed well documented in different literary and political contexts in Gaul, for instance in the works of Ammianus’ contemporary Ausonius,60 or in the century before them, as part of the rhetoric of the usurper Carausius.61 Carausius issued coins with the Virgilian tag expectate veni to legitimate his usurpation in northern Gaul. In his efforts to maintain the support of the army, which consisted mainly of barbarian troops and the population of the Roman provinces of northern Gaul, he overtly employed the Roman myths as a bonding function.62 Communities in Gaul seem to have used Virgilian myth to link themselves to a Roman past before and after Ammianus’ time.63 Lucan reports that the Averni claimed to be Roman relatives and of Trojan descent from the reign of Emperor Nero onwards.64 In the later fifth century, we even hear from Sidonius Apollinaris that on a lake near his country villa in the Auvergne, games were held that re-enacted the 57 Seyfarth, ‘Einleitung’, in Ammianus Marcellinus, Res gestae p.  26; Matthews, Roman empire, pp. 8–9 (for a slightly earlier date for Ammianus’ lectures), pp. 17–27 (on the composition of the text). 58 Ammianus Marcellinus, Res gestae XV , 9, 2, vol. I , p. 142. 59 Ammianus Marcellinus, Res gestae XV , 9, 5, vol. I , p. 142. 60 See Mathisen, ‘Peregrini, barbari and cives Romani’; and N. Davis, ‘Cupid at the ivory gates’. 61 See Krutzler, ‘Fremdwahrnehmungen’, pp. 110, 156–9; Barlow, ‘Gregory’. 62 See Barlow, ‘Gregory’, pp. 88–9. 63 See Mitthof, ‘Zur Neustiftung’, with further references. 64 See Barlow, ‘Gregory’, pp. 87–8; though Lucan did not seem to approve of this claim, see Lucan, Bellum civile I , 427–28: Arvernique ausi Latio se fingere, fratres sanguine ab Iliaco populi; for the Aeduan appropriation in Eunomius of Autun in the late third century, Panegyrici Latini 9, ed. Mynors et al.


Continuities and discontinuities contest of Drepanum in Virgil’s Aeneid.65 It was also barbarian newcomers to Gaul who used the Trojan myth as a vehicle for their integration into the empire. Ammianus reports that the Burgundians also claimed to be of the same descent as the Romans.66 We might assume with Ian Wood that in the second half of the fourth century, when officers of Frankish descent rose to the highest ranks in the Roman army, similar claims became popular among Frankish groups or elites in Gaul, too.67 A lot of attention has also been devoted in early medieval research to the Trojan myth in Gaul. In picking up this particular thread in the search for the origins of the Franks, it produced the dominant origin story for Frankish and, later, medieval French historiography.68 But the Frankish Trojan saga was first transmitted only in the seventh century, in the historical writings of the Merovingian period.69 Thus the early medieval perspective often reduces the disparate ancient and late Antique evidence for the circulation of stories of Trojan descent in Gaul only to fragments of the later Frankish origin myth.70 It is thus easy to overlook the many varieties of the myth and the differences of its appropriation and that it was only one option among others in the search for origins in late Antique Gaul.71 Already shortly before 400, Ammianus mentioned several and sometimes even controversial opinions about the origins of the people living in Gaul. Some said (so Ammianus reports) that the Gauls had always lived in that land and they were first called Celts, then later they were called Galatae after the name of a popular king and his mother, a name still applied to them in Greek in Ammianus’ time. According to Ammianus, the Druids confirmed these views of the Gauls. But they also said that some of them had migrated from areas beyond the Rhine because they had been driven out of their homeland on account of frequent warfare or natural disasters. Ammianus then mentions that some residents of Gaul even claimed to have descended from the Trojans. Others claimed – and Ammianus himself had seen this on many inscriptions – to have been descendants of Heracles. Finally, he comes to the founding of the city of Marseilles by immigrants from Phocaea, who settled successfully and went on to found many more cities.72 At this point, Ammianus decides 65 Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters II , 2, 19, vol. I , p. 435. 66 Prima quod iam inde temporibus priscis subolem se esse Romanam Burgundii sciunt (Ammianus Marcellinus, Res gestae XXVIII , 5, 11, ed. Seyfarth, p. 132). 67 I. Wood, ‘Defining the Franks’. 68 See Contamine, ‘Trojanerabstammung’, col. 1041; K. Wolf, Troja; Graus, ‘Troja’, pp. 25–43. 69 See below. ch.7   70  A good example is Anton, ‘Origo gentis’. 71 See now Woolf, Tales. 72 Ammianus Marcellinus, Res gestae XV , 9, 3–7, ed. Seyfarth, p. 142.


Communities of the middle ground not to continue his presentation of the various versions of the origins of the Gaulish people, since he does not want to bore his audience – sed declinanda varietas saepe satiati coniuncta.73 Ammianus gives us a vivid impression of the variety of opportunities and experiments in the search for the origins of communities in late Antique Gaul. But after Ammianus, too, generations up to the time of Gregory of Tours did not tire of using the available cultural resources to link themselves, or other communities in Gaul, to a wider world of myth and history.74 And Gregory of Tours still knew his Virgil well.75 In one place in the Histories he even compared the Arverni – the citizens of his hometown of Clermont – with the Trojan heroes. This may echo a passage in the letters of Sidonius Apollinaris, written about a century earlier, where Sidonius had drawn the same comparison in the context of a fight between the people of Clermont and the Visigoths.76 But Gregory, who seems to have known Sidonius’ letters, uses the motif to report a devastating defeat of the troops from Clermont: like the Trojans in the river Simois, the Arverni perished in the Rhône.Those who survived returned to their patria, Clermont, ‘stripped of all their equipment, deprived of their horses and thoroughly ashamed of themselves’.77 The subtle association of losers in history fits well with Gregory’s overall strategy to avoid stabilising collective identities too strongly in his Histories. But it also shows that Gregory not only knew his Virgil; he was also aware of its appropriation by some communities in the Merovingian kingdom.78 Some time ago, Jonathan Barlow suggested that Gregory of Tours must also have known a Frankish version of the Trojan origin myth.This might well have been the case.Yet there is no reason to assume that one well-established version of the narrative dominated the search for origins in the Frankish kingdoms. As we shall see in the next chapter, the texts of the seventh and early eighth centuries, in which Merovingian historians portrayed the Franks as descendants of the Trojan heroes, actual transmitted substantially different versions of this origin myth.79 We may assume that these versions built upon the older efforts at integration that went back at least to the fourth century, when Ammianus wrote his Ammianus Marcellinus, Res gestae XV , 9, 7, ed. Seyfarth, p. 142. 74 I. Wood, ‘Defining the Franks’, pp. 49–50. 75 Meyers, ‘Les citations’, pp. 67–90. 76 Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters VII , 7, 2, vol. II , pp.  324–6:  Facta est servitus nostra pretium securitatis alienae; Arvernorum, pro dolor, servitus, qui si prisca replicarentur, audebant se quondam fratres Latio dicere et sanguine ab Iliaco populus computare. 77 [N]‌udati a rebus, ab equitibus distituti, non sine grande contumelia ( DLH IV , 30, p. 163). 78 For the Averni and the Auvergne in Gregory of Tours see I. Wood, ‘Defining the Franks’, p. 53; Charbonnier, ‘L’Auvergne’. 79 See chs. 7 and 8. 73


Continuities and discontinuities Histories80 – a time when many different groups labelled as Franks operated in Gaul or along the periphery of Gaul81 – which further multiplies the variety of experiments made over time to integrate the histories of these groups with Roman myths and history. If Gregory was familiar with stories about the Trojan origins of the Franks, it is very likely that he would have known various versions of it, just as he was aware of the similar claims that groups such as the Clermont citizenry made, or of other origin myths and stories that circulated in Gaul. As we have seen, Gregory was prepared to bore his audience with a varietas of sources which all showed that it was impossible to find conclusive information about the origins of the Franks and their kings. At the point when they first appear as historical players, Gregory obviously anticipated questions regarding their origin and history before their integration into the Roman world.82 But even here it does not seem like he is arguing against one particularly well-established narrative. Instead, he drew together the disparate sources upon which such a narrative would have depended. We have also seen that this lengthy anti-origo was also part of an overall strategy in the Histories to avoid the stabilisation of any collective identity independent from the Christian genealogy of Gaul – a move as wary of the Roman past, or of the history of the senatorial class, as it was of Frankish history. We should not understand Gregory’s approach to Frankish history as the indifference of a Gallo-Roman aristocrat towards the Franks, as has often been claimed.83 The emphasis on the discontinuity of Frankish and Roman history in particular was a deliberate strategy to establish the continuity of Christianity in Gaul as the determining factor in the history and future of the kingdom. Gregory’s radical Christian view of the past may well represent a historical vision that was quite different from how many of his contemporaries thought about their histories. But it was also very successful in the generations to follow.84 However idiosyncratic one may regard Gregory’s text as being, the widespread reception and constant work of subsequent historical adjustment shows that Gregory’s literary strategies were well understood in the society for which he wrote. To create his visions, he was obviously quite successful in using the available literary and social Spielräume of his times.

80 See I. Wood, ‘Defining the Franks’; Barlow, ‘Gregory’, though he seems to me to focus on the ‘genealogy’ of one narrative. 81 See above, p. 77 with nn. 17 and 18.   82  See above, pp. 52–5. 83 A recent example is Plassmann, Origo gentis, pp. 116–90. 84 See below, pp. 133–6, 282–90.


Communities of the middle ground 4.3  C ommon

SPIELRÄUME  – Ve nanti u s F ortunatu s and Gre gory of  Tour s

In regard to the available literary and social Spielräume of Gregory it may be helpful to look at how his contemporary and friend, the poet Venantius Fortunatus, used these rooms for manoeuvre in his political panegyrics for many of the kings and nobles of the Merovingian kingdoms with whom Gregory also dealt.85 Gregory himself was an addressee of some poems of Venantius, who became Gregory’s friend and later an episcopal colleague in Poitiers. As it happens, it is one of Venantius’ poems that informs us that the royal couple Sigibert and Brunhild had supported Gregory’s accession to the see of Tours, which Gregory passed over in silence.86 Venantius’ works help complement Gregory’s silences in other contexts, too.87 Venantius was born in Venetia near Treviso (modern Veneto) between 530 and 540 and acquired his literary and rhetorical skills in Ravenna.88 In 566, he made his meteoric entry into Merovingian high society at the court of King Sigibert I, on the occasion of Sigibert’s marriage to the daughter of the Visigothic king Athanagild.89 The marriage was an important part of Sigibert’s attempt to put himself in a superior position to his brothers, Charibert, Chilperic and Guntram.90 In his Histories, Gregory  – the protégé of Sigibert and Brunhild as bishop of Tours  – would contrast Sigibert’s choice with those of his brothers, who ‘were taking wives who were completely unworthy of them and were so far degrading themselves as to marry their own servants’.91 A  poet like Venantius, on the other hand, was more than welcome to underline further the ‘international’ dimension of Sigibert’s alliance, both through his own presence and with his poetry. The king even sent one of his men to accompany Venantius and to ease his journey into Gaul.92 Venantius was also well prepared, and he came with a splendid celebratory poem to Metz, where Sigibert had assembled the seniores of the kingdom, ordered

 George, Venantius Fortunatus. Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. V , 3, ed. Leo, pp. 106–7; on Gregory’s silence about his accession as bishop of Tours see above, p. 33 87 See I. Wood, ‘The secret histories’. 88 George, Venantius Fortunatus, p. 19. 89 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VI , 1, ed. Leo, pp. 124–9. 90 See Esders, ‘Gallic politics’; Widdowson, ‘Merovingian partitions’; I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 56–8. 91 DLH IV , 27, p. 160, trans. Thorpe, p. 221. 92 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. X , 16, 1, ed. Leo, p. 249, George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp. 24–7; see also Venantius Fortunatus, Poems to Friends, trans. Pucci, pp. xx–xxi. 85



Continuities and discontinuities the preparation of a banquet and married Brunhild cum inminsa laetitia atque iocunditate.93 As complementary as the evidence from Gregory and Venantius may seem, their literary strategies to establish their position in Merovingian society were very different. Venantius had to meet the expectations of a rhetor in the best Roman tradition and did his best to do so. The epithalamium for Sigibert and Brunhild is full of allusions and quotations referring to classical myths and Roman imperial grandeur. He makes his bow to the assembled duces and proceres who have come to celebrate the Caesareum iugum.94 He compares Sigibert not only to Caesar, but also to Mars and Achilles.Venantius calls him rector tot gentibus who holds sway over the cardo occiduus, the Western hemisphere, and his marriage to Brunhild is the union of two regna – that is, Germania and Hispania. More subtly, Venantius also compares the marriage to the union of Aeneas and Lavinia, though this is only one among many quotations from the Aeneid.95 Granted, Christian morals and ideals are present throughout Venantius’ laudation,96 but there is no sign of Gregory’s anxiety to ensure a dominant place alongside Roman history and myth. To be sure, the panegyrical genre allowed for and even demanded finding ways for such a juxtaposition at the end of the sixth century. Yet Venantius’ literary choices were not only a combination of older rhetorical models and contexts. He also developed new forms and strategies of praise, forging ‘a new kind of praise poetry well suited to the conditions of reception in Merovingian Gaul’.97 The development of his own idiom gave him the flexibility he needed to adapt the Roman rhetorical tradition to a post-Roman context. The adaptation of Roman tradition for present circumstances is a theme that appears again and again in Venantius’ panegyrics. In many of his poems, we see him promoting the literary and cultural ideals of romanitas as one of the most important resources for the social integration of the Merovingian kingdoms. The language of Roman myth, geography and history provided the resources to link diverse social, cultural and political groups to a common world. In comparing the union of Hispania and Germania with Aeneas’ marriage to Lavinia, Venantius adopted Virgilian myth for his cultural brokerage. Unlike Gregory, however, the poet did not position himself in the role of mediator between different social and DLH IV , 27, p. 160. 94 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VI , 1, ed. Leo, p. 124; see George, Venantius Fortunatus, p. 25, n. 5. 95 Documented by George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp. 25–31. 96 See George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp. 40–5. 97 Roberts, Humblest sparrow, pp. 38, 53–60; see also Reydellet, La royauté, pp. 297–344, who also emphasises the innovative aspects of Venantius’ political panegyric, p. 305. 93


Communities of the middle ground cultural contexts. Instead he suggested that the governing class of the Merovingian kingdoms – the kings themselves or their political elites – should take on this role. This is especially clear in the poem that Venantius wrote soon after Sigibert’s marriage for the king’s brother Charibert, who ruled Paris until his death in 567. In it, he compared Charibert to an interesting mix of biblical and Roman rulers. The king embodies David’s clemency, Solomon’s wisdom and the dutifulness of Emperor Trajan.98 Throughout the four parts of the world, quadripertitae partes mundi, ‘he lays the seeds of praise which faith brings to fruit’.99 Though the pietas of the king plays an important role,100 equally important are Roman traditions of rhetoric, law and eloquence. Publica iura gubernans, King Charibert brings back the joys of old in present times.101 For this, the barbaries applauds him on the one side, and Romania on the other. In various tongues a single acclamation resounds to him, diversis linguis laus sonat una viri:102 Charibert understands them all, and his love of peace is supported by his eloquence in the different languages. Although he was descended from the illustrious Sicambrian people – clara de gente Sigamber – the Latin language flourished in Charibert. But the king’s eloquence also extended to his own language. ‘How great must you be in learned speech in your own language [qualis es in propria docto sermone loquella] when you overcome us Romans in eloquio?’103 The adoption of Roman eloquence and education is one of the king’s key virtues in keeping peace with foreign powers104 and justice within the kingdom. In a poem for the third royal brother, Chilperic, which he wrote more than a decade later,Venantius exhibits for a brief moment his own multilingual abilities, although he hides behind a fictional interpreter in doing so. If an interpreter, says Venantius, had been at hand, the king’s name would have been rendered as adiutor fortis.105 The poem was delivered as a formal panegyric at the synod of Benry Rivière in 580, where Gregory of Tours had to defend himself against the accusation of high treason.106

Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VI , 2, ed. Leo, pp. 131–4. Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VI , 2, 5, ed. Leo, p. 131, trans. George, p. 34. 100 For the importance of pietas in the poem see George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp. 45–6. 101 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VI , 2, 19, ed. Leo, p. 131, trans. George, p. 34. 102 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VI , 2, 7–8, ed. Leo, p. 131, trans. George, p. 34 103 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VI , 2, 97–100, ed. Leo, p. 133. 104 Hinc quotiens felix legatio denique pergi, ingreditur caute quam tua lingua regit (Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VI , 2, 75–6, ed. Leo, p. 133.) 105 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IX , 1, ed. Leo, p. 201; see Haubrichs, ‘Identität und Name’, pp. 88. 106 See above, pp. 37–8. 98



Continuities and discontinuities Venantius, with his close ties to Gregory and his family, had written the poem in support of Gregory.107 Venantius starts his panegyric by inviting the assembled bishops to join him in praising the noble king.108 In the context of the trial against Gregory,Venantius stressed the king’s sense of justice above all. Compared to his other panegyrics for Merovingian kings, Venantius here resorts to motifs and names from Roman history and mythology decidedly less frequently. But also in this poem, Chilperic’s key virtue is his eloquence and education, which enables him to integrate the different interests and groups in his regnum. Like his ancestors, Chilperic was renowned in war and hailed as a victor, giving protection far and wide.109 But he had even increased the virtues and honours that he had inherited through his wisdom, which he had acquired through his enthusiasm for learning. His courage recalled that of his father, Chlothar I, and his eloquence that of his uncle Childebert, but he surpassed omne genus in his studium doctrinae.110 Chilperic’s admirable justice was in turn based on his education and eloquence, and it established his authority over the different groups and peoples of his kingdom. Through his superior learning and intelligence, he mastered those who were under his rule, and he understood their ‘different languages without the aid of an interpreter’ so that ‘a single tongue echoes back many languages’.111 Venantius did not emphasise the great potential of the Roman virtues of eloquence and education for the social and political integration of the kingdom only in his poetry for kings. In a number of poems for members of the governing class,Venantius constructed a similar relationship between eloquence, education and political success. In his poems for Lupus, the first of which he composed for the occasion of Lupus’ appointment as dux of the Champagne, Venantius even compares the dedicatee with Scipio, Cato and Pompey.112 With Lupus as dux, Rome has returned. Just as he stresses in the poems for kings, and with similar motifs, Venantius attributes Lupus’ political success as the leader of 107 George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp.  54–7; Halsall, ‘Nero and Herod?’, pp.  340–1; I.  Wood, ‘The secret histories’, pp. 257–8;Wood, Gregory, pp. 15–17, 48–51; Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 41–51; see also above, p. 38. 108 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IX , 1, ed. Leo, p. 201; for the relations of Venantius and Gregory and members of his family, see George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp. 124–31. 109 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IX , 1, 71–2, ed. Leo, p. 202. 110 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IX , 1, 100–5, ed. Leo, p. 204. 111 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IX , 1, 91–4, ed. Leo, p. 203; I have slightly changed George’s translation, who gives linguae generum as ‘languages of the nations’ (George, Venantius Fortunatus, p. 78). Quid? Quoscumque etiam regni dicione gubernas, doctior ingenio vincis et ore loquax, discernens varias sub nullo interprete voces, et generum linguas unica lingua refert. 112 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 7, 1–5, ed. Leo, p. 159.


Communities of the middle ground the army, as judge or as ambassador to his eloquence and education.113 Among all his virtues, it is Lupus’ eloquence that is of the greatest benefit to the people.114 In a second poem to Lupus, Venantius elaborates even more on the relationship between education and integration: Let the Romans applaud you, the barbarian with the lute, the Greek with epic lyric, the Briton with the crowd. Let these tell of you as brave, those as mighty in justice; let the one declare you as fleet-footed in fight, the other as swift in learning.115

Venantius also emphasised Lupus’ descent from a stirps Romana as part of his praise; but he also mentions the cultivation of eloquence in a poem for Bodegisel, whom Venantius clearly did not regard as belonging to the stirps Romana,116 even though he had married into one of the senatorial families of Gaul.117 Bodegisel was dux of Provence and rector in Marseilles under Sigibert I until 565, and possibly later again under Childebert II.118 Venantius wrote the poem in 566 and underlines Bodegisel’s acceptance and success in Marseilles: Massalia and Germania were in competition to praise him, one demanding to have him, the other to have him back.119 Again, it was education and eloquence that were crucial to his popularity and success as the keeper of peace and justice. Because he kept the patrias leges in his heart, he could also resolve the most complicated situations, and through his great talent for eloquence he distributed divitiae piae.120 Like Bodegisel, Chrodinus is another dedicatee of a poem byVenantius, and appears in Gregory’s Histories as a man with a Germanic name and an influential position at the Austrasian court.121 Gregory devotes a short chapter to him in the sixth book, where he praises his piety and generosity.122 These attributes are accentuated in Venantius’ poem, too.123 But Venantius also stresses Chrodinus’ popularity in different regions and among different groups within the Merovingian kingdom. Likewise, the Italian and German lands applaud him. Chrodinus, whom all the populi praised, was as committed to the gentes as he was esteemed by the 113 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 7, 25–35, 45–50, ed. Leo, pp. 159–60. 114 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 7, 13, ed. Leo, p. 159: sed facunda magis plebe tua munera prosunt. 115 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 8, 61–4, ed. Leo, pp. 162–3. 116 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 5, 21–4, ed. Leo, p. 157. 117 Grahn-Hoek, ‘Gundulfus subregulus’; on Bodegisel, pp. 25–30. 118 Ebling, Prospographie, pp. 61–2. 119 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 5, 21f., ed. Leo, p. 157. 120 Ingenio torrente loquax de fonte salubri, divitiasque pias ore fluente rigas (Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 5, 31–2, ed. Leo, p. 157). 121 Selle-Hosbach, Prosopographie, pp. 71–2. 122 DLH VI , 20, pp. 152–3. 123 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IX , 16, ed. Leo, pp. 219–20, lines 9–13.


Continuities and discontinuities Romani.124 This poem is shorter than the ones for Bodegisel and Lupus, and it is also distinctly more restrained than an encomium in its rhetorical form. Furthermore, it does not emphasise romanitas as a foundation of Chrodinus’ success and popularity; on the contrary, it is his generosity and his felicitous dealings with others which lay that groundwork. That Venantius did not simply apply a single rhetorical stencil to all his poems, but instead chose different styles and motifs for each person, is also evident in his poem for Conda.125 Conda had been in the service of the kings at Reims since Theuderic I and eventually became a conviva regis of Sigibert I. Venantius highlighted in particular his loyalty and his skills in financial and military matters. The poem emphasizes Conda as the founder rather than the product of a noble line, which Judith George interprets as a ‘neat reversal of the topic in presumably apposite compliment to a self-made man’.126 Compared to the other poems we have already seen, the poem for the domesticus Conda is quite different in many respects. It is not interested in the subject of group integration, and as George observed it ‘shows hardly a trace of literary, ecclesiastical or visual imagery and allusion’.127 George suggested that the poem’s tone may have reflected Conda’s actual character or career, although she also thought it possible that the public image of a king, duke or bishop carried different expectations from that of an administrator, who might have been recognised only by his practical achievements.128 In any case, the poetic contrasts draw attention to Venantius’ careful coordination of rhetorical figures and motifs with the expectations and horizons of his dedicatees.129 In studying the form of his poems it is also possible to examine the literary and social Spielräume to which Venantius could apply them, and to compare them with what emerges in Gregory’s Histories. As different as the strategies of both authors were, they also raise some interesting parallels that can help define the literary and social Spielräume of both authors more precisely. The first parallel is in the very sparing use of the name of the Franks. In all his poems,Venantius only uses it three times. It appears in an obscure passage in Venantius’ De excidio Thoringiae, which is written as a letter of Radegund to her cousin Amalafred.130 In the concluding remarks the 124 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IX , 16, ed. Leo, p. 219, line 5 and p. 220, lines 19-20: Itala terra tibi, pariter Germania plaudunt … gentibus adstrictus, Romanis carus haberis, felix qui populis semper in ore manes. 125 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 16, ed. Leo, pp. 170–2. 126 Venantius Fortunatus, Personal and political poems, trans. George, p. 65, n. 43. 127 George, Venantius Fortunatus, p. 83. 128 George, Venantius Fortunatus, p. 83. 129 See the discussion of ‘other poems’ in George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp. 62–84. 130 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm., Appendix I , ed. Leo, p. 27.


Communities of the middle ground former queen asks her cousin to recommmend her to the reges Francorum. After the defeat of the Thuringians by the Merovingian kings Amalafred had gone to Byzantium, where he fought in the army of the emperor. Thus the request of Radegund to Amalafred to recommend her to the reges Francorum is strange. A recommendation to the emperor would have made more sense.131 The second time the Frankish name occurs in a poem of Venantius to Sigimund, a military commander in the army of King Sigibert I, which was probably written in the contexts of the conflicts with the Lombards in 573 to 575.132 Venantius asks Sigimund, who was probably on campaign in Italy, to defend ‘what belongs to the Franks’, to send a message about his well-being.133 Interestingly, however, Sigimund seems to have been a mercenary from Saxony who had made his career in Sigibert’s army.134 The third use of the name of the Franks in Venantius’ poems appears in the epitaph of Chlodobert, the oldest son of Chilperic I and Fredegund. As we know from Gregory of Tours, Chlodobert and his younger brother Dagobert had died as little boys in 580 as victims of the plague.135 The death of their sons must have been a heavy blow for Chilperic and even more so for Fredegund. Two of Chilperic’s sons from his previous wife, Audovera, named Theudebert and Merovech, had already died in the mid 570s. For Fredegund, the claims of the sole surviving son of Chilperic and Audovera – that after his brothers’ deaths, he would become ruler of universae Galliae – sounded like a threat.136 The epitaph that Venantius wrote for the oldest son of the royal couple thus expresses hope for the father, the fatherland and the Franks that had been lost with Chlodobert’s death.137 The parallels here to Guntram’s joy at the birth of a son to Childebert II in Gregory’s Histories are obvious.138 Just as in the Histories, where Gregory has Guntram say that if the little boy survives, he ‘will exalt the regnum Francorum’, in Venantius’ poem it is Chilperic and Fredegund who speak in the epitaph that they must have themselves commissioned.139 131 Meyer, Der Gelegenheitsdichter, pp.  131–4, though Meyer’s emendation with reges Graecorum (p. 134) is not convincing. 132 Pucci, Poems to friends, p. 61; see Reydellet, Venance Fortunat, Poèmes, vol. II , p. 118, n. 108. 133 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 20, 9–10, p. 174. 134 See Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 10, 5, ed. Leo, p. 164; see Reydellet, Venance Fortunat, Poèmes, vol. II , p. 118, n. 108. 135 DLH V , 34, pp. 238–41; for the plague see also v, 39, p. 41 and VI , 14, pp. 245–6, 248, 284. 136 DLH V , 39, p. 246; see above, p. 61. 137 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IX , 4, 6–10, ed. Leo, p. 210: auxerat et nascens Francica vota puer; quo patris et patria dum spes adolesceret ampla, accelerante die sors inimica tulit. 138 DLH VIII , 37, p. 405: cf. above, pp. 61–2. 139 For the process of writing and commissioning epitaphs see Handley, Death, society and culture, pp. 23–34.


Continuities and discontinuities The use of the name of the Franks in the context of dynastic continuity is conspicuous. It seems that both Gregory and Venantius shared the royal family’s concern about the future of the dynasty in hopes of political continuity and stability. It is more striking, however, that the word Franci does not otherwise appear in Venantius Fortunatus’ political panegyrics.This is all the more surprising because Venantius describes totally different cultural and historical identities in the Merovingian kingdom using the language of Roman ethnography, in order to highlight the balance between them.Their integration is presented as a particular political achievement. In no place in Venantius’ poems, however, does the Franks’ name, history or culture take a central role in the social and political integration of the Merovingian kingdoms.140 Venantius could easily have found opportunities to do this, especially in his royal panegyrics. Time and time again he refers to the ancestral glory of his dedicatees, which renews itself and multiplies in their actions. None of these songs of praise for a glorious history, as with Gregory, looks deep into the past. In Chlodobert’s epitaph, the king’s dead son descends from a celsa propago, which does not reach back further than Clovis  – de proavo veniens Chlodovechi.141 The royal origins of his somewhat earlier deceased brother Dagobert are also described as de gente potenti Chlodovechi belligeri.142 Similarly, the eulogies for the royal brothers Charibert and Chilperic do not look back further into the past.Whereas Venantius refers in many passages in his royal panegyrics to figures of the biblical past or of distant Roman history and myth,143 the figures from the glorious history of the royal brothers’ ancestors are chosen only from relatively recent history. Apart from Clovis (d. 511),144 Venantius names only the pious, mild and wise Childebert (d. 558)145 and the courageous Chlothar (d. 561).146 With noticeably less profile and more distance he mentions Theuderic I (d. 533), Theudebert I (d. 547) and Theudebald (d. 555).147 Compare Venantius Fortunatus’ prose work, where he links (in only a few instances) the name of the Franks to the social and political framework of the Merovingian regnum, e.g.: Vita Sanctae Radegundis II , 4, p. 38; XXVII , 64, p. 45. 141 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IV , 4, 5, ed. Leo, p. 210. 142 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IV , 5, 5, ed. Leo, p. 211. 143 See above, p. 89. 144 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. X , 17, 24, ed. Leo, p. 250 (Childebert II’s ancestry). 145 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. II , 10, 17, ed. Leo, p. 40; VI , 2, 13 and 23, ed. Leo, p. 131 (for Sigibert); and VI , 6, 9, ed. Leo, p. 147 (for Ultrogotha). 146 Venantius Forunatus, Carm. VII , 16, 33, ed. Leo, p. 171; IX , 1, 13, 40, 74, 103, ed. Leo, pp. 206–8 (for Chilperic); IX , 4, 6, ed. Leo, p. 210 (epitaph for Chlodobert); X , 17, 22, ed. Leo p. 250 (Childebert II’s ancestry). 147 Theuderich: Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. IV , 4, 16, ed. Leo, p. 81; IV , 25, 9, ed. Leo, p. 94; VI , 3, 4, ed. Leo, p. 134; VII , 16, 17, ed. Leo, p. 171; Theudebert:  VI , 1, 77, ed. Leo, p. 126 (for Sigibert); VII , 16, 19, ed. Leo, p. 171; II , 11, 15, ed. Leo, p. 15; Theudebald: VII , 16, 27, ed. Leo, p. 171; on the 140


Communities of the middle ground The restrained use of the name of the Franks in Venantius’ political panegyric, as well as the avoidance of looking into a distant Frankish past, bears striking resemblance to the historical work of his friend Gregory of Tours. In Gregory’s case, however, avoiding a sharp profile for the Franks in the past and present was part of his overall strategy to ground the development of the social and political structures of the Merovingian regnum in the genealogy of Christendom in Gaul. Here Gregory was well aware that he was the first post-Roman ecclesiastical historian in the West who had to write history anew, from the very beginning. In doing so, he expected contradiction and competition with his historical vision from other approaches to the history of people in late Antique Gaul. Different as Gregory’s agenda was from those reflected in Venantius’ poetry, he was using the same Spielräume. As the number of literary motifs and allusions inVenantius’ work attests, these Spielräume were a direct consequence of the sheer variety of possibilities; just as in Gregory of Tours, the poems of Venantius Fortunatus do not feature one dominant narrative, but rather open possibilities for structuring the associations between persons or groups and different histories and myths. In Venantius’ poems, more clearly than with Gregory, these rooms for manoeuvre do not work against the prevailing political discourse. It is ultimately highly unlikely that Venantius wrote against the expectations and wishes of the royal court in his political panegyric. In any case,Venantius seems to have assumed that neither a special stress on the name of the Franks, nor the staging of a glorious shared history of the Frankish kings that reached deep into the past, were something that was particularly desired. The comparison of Gregory and Venantius thus reveals negative and positive blueprints for literary Spielräume, which may well reflect the Spielräume that were generally available in the Merovingian kingdoms, and which enabled the coexistence of different social identities. A Merovingian king whose position was equidistant from all social and ethnic groups appears to have conformed to the expectations that Gallic elites held already in the time of Clovis.148 Shortly after Clovis’ baptism, Remigius of Reims wrote the king a letter of consolation on the death of his sister Albofledis. In it he also admonished Clovis as caput populorum to govern the regnum with care and intelligence.149 Clovis seems to have kingdom of Theuderic, who was Clovis’ son from a wife he had before Chrodechilde, see Becher, ‘Dynastie, Thronfolge und Staatsverständnis’, p. 186; I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 55–63; and Ewig, ‘Die fränkischen Teilungen’, pp. 114–35. 148 See I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 55–70; Esders, ‘Nordwestgallien’; Dick, ‘Childerich und Chlodwig’, pp. 376–81. 149 Epistulae Austrasicae 1 , ed. Gundlach, p. 112.


Continuities and discontinuities announced his baptism widely, since he received letters from beyond his regnum congratulating him on his decision. From the Burgundian kingdom we know of one letter written by Avitus of Vienne, surely the most influential bishop in Gundobad’s realm. Avitus expressed his delight in Clovis’ conversion to Catholic Christianity, but he also took the opportunity to advise the princeps gentium that he should show equal justice towards all the different individuals and groups of the regnum.150 As we have seen, Venantius’ poems for Clovis’ grandsons echo this advice in many ways. Venantius, the kings and their political elites alike regarded the equidistance of the king to all groups, and the successful mediation of the different groups in the regnum, as the foundation of just rule, peacekeeping and stability in the Merovingian realm. Avitus, Epistulae, 46, ed. Peiper, pp. 75–7; see comm. and trans. Shanzer and Wood, Avitus of Vienne, pp. 362–9. 150


Chapter 5


5.1  T he Me roving ian kings and th e nam e of the  F ranks The Merovingian kings seem to have been wise enough to take the advice of their bishops and poets from early on. The surviving seal ring of Clovis’ father Childeric, who governed a territory in the northwest of Gaul, reads Childerici regis without the ethnic denominator Francorum.1 It is generally assumed that Childeric’s successors used the title rex Francorum in their official documents.2 But the oldest extant documents transmitting this title date only from the last decades of the sixth century.3 Before that, most of the extant documents do not show a consistent use of a title that emphasised the king as rex Francorum. The first surviving official document of a Merovingian king, a letter of Clovis to the bishops written in 507 to win their support, begins Dominis sanctis et apostolica sede dignissimis episcopis Chlodovechus rex. The letter is preserved in a Merovingian manuscript dating to around 600, in which it is placed before the canons of the first council of Orleans, 1 See Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 109. For Childeric’s grave, see Lebecq, ‘The two faces of Childeric’; see Halsall, ‘Childeric’s grave’; Dick, ‘Childerich und Chlodwig’. 2 See Schneider, ‘König’; for the Merovingian charters see now Urkunden der Merowinger, p. xxii; for the capitularies Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 116–17. 3 The oldest are the Edict of Guntram of 585; Guntchramni regis edictum (585) ed. Boretius, p.  11:  Gunthramnus rex Francorum omnibus pontificibus ac universis sacerdotibus et cunctis iudicibus in regione nostra constitutis; and the Decretio Childeberti, ed. Boretius, p. 15. See the arguments of Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, pp. 88–108, who dates the Praeceptio Chlotharii to the reign of Chlothar II. On the Merovingian capitularies see the discussion below, pp.102–3, on the praeceptio, p.102, n.34. There is epigraphic documentation of a Gildebertus rex Francorum from Saint-Germain-dePrés, linked to Childebert I (d. 558); see Handley, Death, society and culture, p. 46. It is, however, rather a scratch than an inscription (for an image see CAG 75, p. 359.). Together with the G for the grapheme Ch in the name of Childebertus, which is attested only in a manuscript from the tenth century with a version of De virtutibus S. Martini, Codex 2, Paris, BN lat. 2205, the scratch seems unlikely to be a contemporary inscription on the sarcophagus of the founder of the church. I should like to thank Wolfgang Haubrichs for his as ever generous linguistic expertise in this matter, including the information about the manuscript from the tenth century.


Politics of identity which Clovis had convened in 511 and was the first general synod of the Merovingian kingdom.4 The only surviving source that dubs Clovis rex Francorum is the Variae of Cassiodorus, the collection of official documents that Cassiodorus wrote on behalf of Ostrogothic kings, above all Theodoric. As Herwig Wolfram has shown, Theodoric himself never used a title with an ethnic denominator, but only had himself referred to as rex or patricius.5 It is therefore highly likely that in entitling Clovis rex Francorum, Cassiodorus wanted to express the king’s subordination to the rule of Theodoric, the Western patricius and ruler of Italy. But it is just as likely that Clovis did not accept Theodoric’s claim. In his own regnum, the bishops that Clovis gathered at Orleans in 511 described their king as ecclesiae catholicae filius Chlodovechus gloriosissimus rex in their published resolutions (which they had to show to Clovis).6 And in the letters that Remigius and Avitus wrote to Clovis, they spoke of the king not as rex Francorum but instead used the title rex without an ethnic denominator, which suited the letters’ exhortations.7 The oldest authentic charter of a Merovingian king surviving in an interpolated copy today was issued by Theudebert II, the son of Childebert II, in 596;8 and the oldest original, a document of Chlothar II, comes from the seventh century, employ both the intitulatio rex Francorum.9 The use of rex Francorum in the documents forged in the name of their royal predecessors, which mostly originate from much later periods, does not help to clarify when the title was generally used in the charters. But the Formulary of Marculf gives the impression that Merovingian official documents left open the question of which groups in the kingdom were connected to the king’s name.10 In this collection of documentary models, which was probably compiled shortly before 700, the title rex Francorum hardly appears. As was predominantly the case for royal charters, the typical intitulation ille rex was left up to the chanceries for further elaboration.11 One may assume that, given the state of documentary practice around 700, the compiler expected the commonly Paris, BN lat. 12097; for an excellent description and discussion of the manuscript, see Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, pp. 31–55. 5 Wolfram, Intitulatio i, pp. 67–76. 6 Concilium Aurelianense a. 511, proemium, p. 2; Halfond, Archaeology, p. 7; Pontal, Die Synoden, pp. 23–34. 7 Epistulae Austrasicae 1, ed. Gundlach, p. 112: Domino inlustro meritis Chlodoveo regi, Remigius episcopus; and Epistulae Austrasicae 2, ed. Gundlach, p. 113: Domino insigni et meritis magnifico Hlodoveo regi, Remigius Episcopus; Avitus, Epistula 46, ed. Peiper, p. 75: Avitus episcopus Chlodovechus regi. 8 D Merow. 25 (Childebert II, 596), ed. Kölzer, pp. 68–70; cf. the introduction, p. xiii. 9 D Merow. 28 (Chlothar II, 625), ed. Kölzer, pp. 75–7. 10 See Rio, Legal practice, pp. 81–100. 11 For example, Marculf, Form. I , 5, ed. Zeumer, p. 45: Ille rex vero (!) apostolico illo episcopo; I , 11, p. 49: Ille rex omnibus agentibus; I , 26, p. 59: Domino sancto et apostolica sede colendo, domno et in Christo patri illo episcopo ille rex; further examples Marculf, Form. I , 6, 27, 28, 230, 35, 40, pp. 46, 59, 60, 61, 65, 40. 4


Communities of the middle ground transmitted title to be replaced with ille rex Francorum. But it is striking that the title rex Francorum does appear at one point in the Marculf Formulary. Interestingly, it occurs in the formula regarding the manumission of slaves in celebration of the birth of a king’s son12 – an occasion that had also triggered one of the very few times that Gregory mentions the name of the Franks in his Histories, albeit only through the speech of the king himself, illius regis Gunthramni.13 Already in the next formula in the collection, with the formulation ille rex ille comis, the king again appears more in an equidistant position to the different social and ethnic groups of his kingdom.14 This also fits well with the contents of the formula. In it, the royal officials asked for assurance that the general oath of loyalty, which was supposed to be sworn by the entire free population to the king within their districts, was actually administered. As Stefan Esders has shown, this oath was one of the most important legal foundations of royal rule in a post-Roman regnum, and it was an important means by which the entire population committed to the new ruler.15 Accordingly, in connection with the performance of the oath, the formula addresses explicilty the different social and ethnic groups in the regnum. The formula also explicitly insists that the newly appointed royal official was responsible for making sure that omnes pagenses within the administrative district swore the oath – tam Francos, Romanos vel reliqua natione degentibus.16 Another formula for the appointment of a comes, dux or patricius enumerates similar responsibilities: the future official of the king is ordered to govern the ‘pagus in such a way as to keep the complete fidelity to our rule, and all the people living there, Franci, Romani, Burgundiones vel reliquae nationes will live and be disciplined by your rule and government’.17 Assigning the individual and often highly generalised pieces of the Marculf collection a concrete context is only possible in exceptional cases. The above-mentioned formulae I, 8 and I, 40, as Stefan Esders has shown, can be connected to the efforts to strengthen rule under Chlothar II in Burgundy and under Dagobert I after the establishment of his subkingship in Austrasia.18 As Esders points out, the oath-swearing of the whole population was an important basis of royal legitimation from the beginning of Merovingian rule in Gaul. One could assume that these formulae were building on older, pre-existing formulae. As Alice Rio Marculf, Form. I , 39, ed. Zeumer, p. 68. 13 Cf. above, p. 61.   14 Marculf, Form. I , 40, ed. Zeumer, p. 68. 15 Esders, ‘Rechtliche Grundlagen’. 16 Marculf, Form. I , 40, ed. Zeumer, p. 68. 17 Marculf, Form. I , 8, ed. Zeumer, p. 48, trans. Rio, Formularies, p. 141. 18 Esders, ‘Sacramentum fidelitatis’, pp. 252–5. 12


Politics of identity emphasised recently, looking at the horizon of the compiler, it surely is the case that the text was put together in the second half of the seventh century.19 Yet one should also consider which legal horizons the compilation tried to maintain or preserve.20 The sparing use of the name of the Franks seems to suggest the preservation of a horizon in which the name of the Franks was much less emphasised than in the time of the compilation of the Marculf collection.21 This point may also be confirmed by the formulae that were added to the collection later, which were edited as the Supplementum formularum Marculfi.22 In contrast to the rest of the collection, two out of the three appended royal charters include the intitulatio with ille rex Francorum.23 The addition of the supplementary formulae must have happened before the 730s,24 but the name of the Franks became increasingly prominent in Merovingian kings’ titles considerably earlier than this. This can be seen in the letter collection known as the Epistolae Austrasicae, which transmits a number of letters to and from Merovingian kings, from Clovis to Childebert II (d. 596). The collection begins with the aforementioned letters of Remigius of Reims to Clovis.25 As with Clovis, his successors do not use the name of the Franks in the preface of their letters, either.26 Even in the famous letter of Theudebert to the Byzantine emperor Justinian, in which Theudebert grandiosely enumerates the regions and peoples under his power, the ambitious king writes as Theudebertus rex to his domnus and pater Justinian.27 It is a letter from Childebert II probably written between 584 and 590, who corresponded in earlier letters as Childebertus rex,28 that first uses the title rex Francorum. From then 19 On the date of the compilation see Formularies, trans. Rio, n. 312 with further literature; and Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 225–7. 20 For this see W. Brown, ‘On the gesta municipalia’. 21 See below, Chapters 10 and 11; and on Merovingian royal legislation see I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 104–8. 22 Supplementum formularum Marculfi, in Marculf, Form., ed. Zeumer, pp. 107–9. 23 Supplementum formularum Marculfi, 1 (Immunitas) and 6 (Carta de episcopatu), in Marculf, Form., ed. Zeumer, pp. 107, 109. 24 Cf. the discussion in the Appendix to the Formularies, trans. Rio, pp. 259–70, 277. 25 See above, p.36 with n.150. 26 Epistulae Austrasicae 1–2, ed. Gundlach, pp. 112–13, are the letters of Remigius to Clovis; Ep. 10, ed. Gundlach, p. 124(Aurelianus of Arles to Theudebert); Ep. 18, ed. Gundlach, p. 131 (Theudebald to Justinian); Ep. 19–20, ed. Gundlach, pp. 132–3 (Theudebert to Justinian), Ep. 25, 28, 31, 33, ed. Gundlach, pp. 138, 140, 141, 142 (Childebert); for Brunhildis regina cf. Ep. 26, 27, 29, ed. Gundlach, pp. 139–40. 27 Epistulae Austrasicae, 20, ed. Gundlach, p. 133. 28 Epistulae Austrasicae, 25, 28, 31, 33, ed. Gundlach, pp. 138, 140, 141, 142; the dating of the letter is controversial, the MGH editor Gundlach assumed 584, Goubert dated it to 588; Malaspina, Liber epistolarum, p. 181, suggests ‘end of 587’. Cf. Dumézil, La reine Brunehaut, pp. 575–92; I would like to thank Thomas Lienhard for sharing the results of his unpublished study and forthcoming translation with me.


Communities of the middle ground onwards, in almost all the letters in the Epistulae Austrasicae written by Childebert or to Childebert, the address of the king is rex Francorum.29 Extant pieces of Merovingian legislation, which Alfred Boretius edited as the Capitularia Merowingica, convey a similar picture.30 Three out of nine preserved pieces of legislation use the intitulation rex Francorum.The oldest is an edict of Guntram. It was issued in the year 585,31 the year in which the childless king named his nephew Childebert II as his successor, which coincides also with the period in which Childebert wrote letters to the Byzantine emperor using the title rex Francorum.32 The next-oldest is a collection of three edicts of Childebert II, which were combined into a single law in 596 entitled Decretio Childeberti.33 The question of whether the third document – the Praeceptio Chlotharii – was a decree of Chlothar I or Chlothar II has been controversial for a long time, but the reasons for crediting it to Chlothar II seem to be better.34 There are, however, also ‘capitularies’ preserved from all three rulers that call the kings reges without the reference to the name of the Franks.35 The treaty of Andelot, in which Guntram, Childebert and his mother Brunhild in 587 attempted to clarify the unresolved political issues between both kingdoms, concluded with the names of both kings and Childebert’s mother: praecellentissimi domni Guntchramnus et Childebertus reges vel gloriosissima domna Brunechildis regina.36 For Chlothar II, the intitulatio with the title rex Francorum is also transmitted in the oldest extant original charter from the Merovingian period from the year 625.37 A good decade earlier, at the beginning of his reign over the entire kingdom, Chlothar had issued his Edict of Paris, which played an important role in politically 29 Epistulae Austrasicae 32, 34, 37, 38, 39, 41, ed. Gundlach, pp. 142, 144, 145, 147, 148; see also Ewig, ‘Zum christlichen Königsgedanken’, p.  13, n.  46; and Goubert, Byzance avant l’Islam, vol. II, Byzance et les Francs, pp. 146–66. 30 In the edition of Boretius they consist of a heterogenous collection of one letter, two precepts, three edicts, a decree and two pacts, see I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, p. 104; and for their definition as capitularies see Woll, Untersuchungen, p. 2, who, however, excludes the letter of Clovis and the treaty of Andelot as capitularies. 31 For the date see Weidemann, ‘Zur Chronologie der Merowinger im 6. Jahrhundert’, pp. 476–80; and Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 33–6. 32 Guntchramni regis edictum, ed. Boretius, pp. 10–12; for the date of the letters cf. above, n.28. 33 Decretio Childeberti, ed. Boretius, pp. 15–17. 34 See Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, pp. 88–108; for a different attribution to Chlothar I see Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 44–7. 35 For a differentiation of the evidence of titles, such as those given by others versus what one called oneself, see the Introduction to Wolfram, Intitulatio i, pp. 9–31. 36 Pactum Guntramni et Childeberti, ed. Boretius, p. 12. It is only transmitted in the Histories of Gregory of  Tours (IX , 20, pp. 434–9). One indication that Gregory presents an ‘official’ text of the treaty, which he might well have helped to negotiate, is the use of Francia for the Merovingian regnum, which does not appear elsewhere in his Histories; see above, p. 64, with n.80. 37 D Merow. 28, ed. Kölzer, p. 75.


Politics of identity integrating the separate Merovingian kingdoms under his rulership. An intitulatio is not transmitted in the edict. It begins: Incipit actuum vel constitutionem inclyti principis Chlothacharii regis.38 In the case of some of the Merovingian capitularies, the question of the relationship of the crown to Frankish tradition and identity is also interesting because of its manuscript transmission. The Pactus pro tenore pacis of Childebert I and Chlothar I, as well as the Decretio Childeberti, are transmitted in some manuscripts along with the Lex Salica.39 Both were placed after what is the oldest redaction of the Lex Salica, which Eckhardt edited as the Pactus legis Salicae in his edition, to differentiate it from later Carolingian versions. In this combination of texts, an interesting tension emerges. Although the capitularies clearly follow the tradition of decrees by Roman rulers, in terms of both their language and contents,40 the Pactus legis Salicae passes down a legal tradition which presents the legislation as based not on royal authority but on the consensus of a group of wise men, the Franks and their proceres.41 We see this right at the beginning of the text, in the ‘shorter’ prologue with the formulation placuit atque convenit inter Francos atque eorum proceribus (!). It continues: four wise men,Wisogastus, Arogastus, Salegastus and Widogastus, came together for three days of legal sessions (per tres mallos) to reach judgement on different disputes.42 5.2  


The question of the Lex Salica’s origins has been hotly debated for a long time, and it will probably never be clarified.43 But the numerous controversies surrounding its development have resulted in investigations of great precision and accuracy about the text as the subject of constant reworking, a project that is documented in the extant versions of the text from the beginning of the sixth century.44 It is usually assumed that there were a series of modifications to the Lex that occurred before the sixth century. The extant texts reflect the integration, transformation and adaptation of a law code whose immediate context was the social, 38 Chlotacharii II edictum, ed. Boretius, p. 20. 39 Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 50–72. 40 Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 154–67; see in general still Clasen, Kaiserreskript; Classen, ‘Spätrömische Grundlagen’. 41 Ubl, Die Lex Salica; Schmidt-Wiegand, ‘Lex Salica’, col. 1950. 42 Pactus legis Salicae, 1–2, ed. Eckhardt, pp. 2–3. 43 See Ubl, ‘L’origine contestée’ and Renard, ‘Le Pactus legis Salicae’, pp. 321–52, who both argue for the origin of the lex in the fifth century. 44 See Ubl, ‘L’origine contestée’.


Communities of the middle ground political and administrative environment of the late and post-Roman world.45 The political reorganisation of Gaul into a Merovingian regnum must have significantly influenced this process. It is therefore not surprising that the oldest redaction that can be reconstructed is usually associated with Clovis.46 This recensio Chlodovea is represented by four manuscripts which constitute the A class of the Lex Salica. It presents an interesting combination of what Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand, building on an earlier article by Franz Beyerle, distinguished as constitutional provisions and measures to ensure peace and to protect ownership, and they set down rights and penalties to be paid if those measures and rights are violated.47 It may well be that the legislation of consensus inter Francos et eorum proceres as described in the short prologue refers to the development of these measures.48 But as the oldest redaction transmits them, they were clearly part of a legal corpus that considered them jointly with other legal systems and communities in the Gallo-Roman world. The catalogue of fines pertained to homines Salici or Franci, for example, but also to other barbari and even to Romani.49 In this horizon, such regulations clearly went hand in hand with more constitutional provisions, which regulated legal procedures and organised larger aspects of social life.They represent legal conceptions that emerged from precise circumstances, and they were often linked to the operations of the fisc.50 As Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand has already underlined, these constitutions do not add up to a complete and self-sufficient legal system and its compilation in the Lex never tries to pretend this. Legislative material is frequently produced to complement a larger context of legal norms and to regulate situations that are not provided for within the system, or which deviate from it.51 This complementary character of such regulations seems to have been crucial for the integration of what might have Schmidt-Wiegand, ‘Lex Salica’, col. 1954; I. Wood, ‘Theodosian Code’; Pohl, Die Völkerwanderung, pp. 112–14; Wormald, ‘The Leges barbarorum’. 46 I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 108–13. 47 See the overview, discussion and examples in Schmidt-Wiegand, ‘Lex Salica’, cols. 1954–8, but cf. now Ubl, ‘Bann der Traditionen’. 48 As Schmidt-Wiegand suggested, ‘Lex Salica’, cols. 1954–8. Schmidt-Wiegand, however, regarded these catalogues of fines as rather archaic traditions, but they might well be understood as progressive solutions to find a common currency in a culturally heterogenous world, as Stefan Esders has suggested: see Esders, ‘ “Eliten” und “Strafrecht” ’. 49 Pactus legis Salicae, 41, ed. Eckhardt, pp. 155–61; and see I. Wood,‘The term “barbarus” ’; on Roman and barbarian identities in the post-Roman West, see now Conant, Staying Roman, pp.  3–9; Heather, ‘The barbarian in late Antiquity’; Mathisen and Shanzer, Romans, barbarians; and the forthcoming volumes on Being Roman after Rome, edited by Pohl. 50 Schmidt-Wiegand, ‘Lex Salica’, col. 1954. 51 Schmidt-Wiegand, ‘Lex Salica’, col. 1957; Ubl, ‘Bann der Traditionen‘, pp. 439–45. 45


Politics of identity been regarded as more local or regional legal practice.This did more than enable the ongoing adaptation and transformation of a legal tradition in the sixth century. It also communicated a strategy to preserve certain legal cultures in linking them to a larger legal world in which the Lex was one legal traditions among others such as Roman and/or Christian. In this respect we might see the lawyers at the royal court as brokers allowing for the imagination of a larger social whole, in which the legal traditions compiled in the Lex Salica had their place too.52 The efforts to maintain and adapt this tradition could demonstrate that there were groups in the Merovingian regnum for whom these legal traditions had an important meaning. The extant evidence even points to an increasing importance of these traditions in the course of the sixth century. In this process it might well have offered a new focus for integration of groups who already identified or came to identify themselves with the homines Salici or Franci of the Lex.They also show the Merovingian kings at a certain distance from them. In many of the constitutions, the legal traditions of these groups are set in relative terms – in relation to other groups such as the Romani or antrustiones, or in relation to other legal and moral systems such as Roman law or Christian doctrine.53 Through the juxtaposition of different legal styles in the Lex, one can already see the oldest extant redaction as the product of a dialogue, in which the Salici or Franci – as one group among others – face the Merovingian king as a partner in negotiation. The continuation of this dialogue is well documented in numerous alterations, revisions and expansions of the text, and it is one of the most important reasons why it is so difficult to reconstruct the original recension of the law. As Franz Beyerle already observed: The Salian law could be likened to an early medieval building to which addition after addition was added, until the original architectural plan vanished further and further from sight under the accretion of successive additions and plaster.54

The extant manuscripts and versions document above all an intensified debate with the law in the time of Gregory of Tours, under kings Chilperic, Guntram and Childebert II. In his edition, Karl August

See now Esders, ‘Nordwestgallien’; Ubl, ‘Bann der Traditionen’, pp. 438–45; for lawyers and legal advisers to the kings in late and post-Roman Gaul see Liebs, Römische Jurisprudenz, pp. 41–94 ; Wood, ‘Administration’. 53 Schmidt-Wiegand, ‘Lex Salica’, cols. 1957–8; see also Nehlsen, Sklavenrecht, pp. 251–357; I. Wood, ‘Theodosian Code’. 54 Beyerle, ‘Normtypen’, p. 216. 52


Communities of the middle ground Eckhardt classified this work all together as a single redaction of the text, as the C-version of the Lex Salica.55 The ongoing work of continuing and updating the Lex Salica is also documented in the sixth-century capitularies of the Merovingian kings, which as I  have already briefly mentioned, were sometimes transmitted in manuscripts along with the Lex Salica.56 These capitularies were royal decrees. Their language and contents were clearly dependent on models of late Roman imperial and provincial legislation, but they also respond or react directly to regulations of the Lex Salica.57 They often concern questions about legal procedures, jurisdictions and responsibilities of the royal court, duties and protections of judges and the possibilities for prosecuting legal violations across the boundaries of the different Merovingian kingdoms.58 Tracking criminals even across the kingdoms’ boundaries, which was done by local officials called centenarii, was an important issue in one of the oldest capitularies, the Pactus pro tenore pacis concluded between Childebert and Chlothar.59 Although the Pactus pro tenore pacis was copied together with the oldest version of the Lex Salica, the manuscript also transmits a few more chapters that represent an addition to the older corpus.60 An epilogue was appended to the Lex Salica (in the version of the corpus as the two kings had compiled it), which also refers to the additions and adaptations that Childebert and Chlothar made.This epilogue is the first document explicitly to provide royal attribution for the Pactus.61 Primus rex Francorum, the first king of the Franks, established the first title to 61[LXI for LXV?62], and he set them out for judgement. After a little while, he and his magnates added titles 62 [LXII for LXVI] to 78.Then indeed, after a long time, Childebert considered what ought to be added, and he instituted 78 to 83, which he is known to have imposed worthily, and he transmitted these writings to his brother Chlothar. Afterwards, when he [Chlothar] had gladly received these titles from his older brother [Childebert], he considered in his own kingdom what ought to be added there and what further should be included, and he ordered clauses 84 to 63 [LXIII for LXLIII] to be fixed. And afterwards he sent 55 See Ubl, Inzestverbot, pp. 176–82, with further literature. 56 For the Pactus pro tenore pacis, the Decretio Childeberti II and the Edictum Chilperici as ‘ßberlieferungsgruppe’, which continued the Lex Salica, see Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 50–73 and 116. 57 Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 87–116; I. Wood, ‘Theodosian Code’, pp. 172–3. 58 For a comprehensive discussion see Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 76–86. 59 See Murray, ‘From Roman to Frankish Gaul’; I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 107, 113–14; for its other regulations, Woll, Untersuchung, pp. 76–83. 60 Wolfenbüttel, Landesbibl.Weißenburg 97; for the manuscript see Eckhardt, ‘Zur Entstehungszeit’, pp. 14–15; a diplomatic edition of the manuscript was published by Holger, Lex Salica, pp. 1–40. 61 See I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, p. 111. 62 This is the emendation suggested by the editor, Eckhardt, see Pactus legis Salicae, ed. Eckhardt, p. 253.


Politics of identity the laws to his brother. And thus it was agreed between them that this whole compilation should stand as it had before.63

The question of when the text (called the ‘short epilogue’ to distinguish it from a longer one that was added later) was added to the sixth-century legal corpus has been the subject of vigorous discussion for a long time. The emphasis on royal initiative in the short epilogue does not fit well with the short prologue’s featuring of the ‘legislation of consensus’ which was regarded as an indication of a later composition of the short epilogue. Schmidt-Wiegand, for instance, estimates that ‘its worth very little for the textual history [of the Lex Salica]’.64 In her study of the ‘Transmission and character of the Merovingian capitularies’, however, Ingrid Woll investigated more meticulously the relationship between the transmission of the epilogue, the Lex Salica and the capitularies. She was able to show that the author of the epilogue did not portray the process of negotiation between Childebert and Chlothar on the basis of his own experience. Instead, he might have compiled the epilogue out of different texts of a legal corpus, then paired it with the Lex Salica along with further additions and capitularies. Woll consequently shifted the question of authorial identity and context to the models that the author of the epilogue used. She also suggested that the composition of the text should be dated to the sixth century, after the Pactus pro tenore pacis was issued but before the Edict of Chilperic and the Decretio Childeberti were added to the legal corpus.65 Another indication for a sixth-century date is the fact that the formulation primus rex Francorum was left open, rather than definitively associating the original act of lawgiving with a concrete name or royal tradition. Some scholars had interpreted this lack of specificity as evidence for the epilogue’s chronological distance.66 But it was only in the course of the seventh and eighth centuries that the question of the primus rex Francorum, which even Gregory had presented as insoluble, was really Primus rex Francorum statuit a primo titul(o) usque LX(V) disposuit iudicare; post mod(icum) autem tempus cum obtimatis suis a LX(V)I titul(o) usque ad LXXVIII add(i)dit. Sic vero Childebertus rex post multum autem tempus pertractavit, quid addere deb(e)r(e)t; ita a LXXVIII usque ad LXXXIII perinvenit, quod ibid(e)m digne inposuisse n(o)scuntur, et sic fratri suo Clotario haec scripta transmisit. Post haec vero Clotarius, cum hos titul(o)s a germano suo seniore gratenter excepit, sic post(e)a cum r(e)gnum suum pertractavit, ut quid addere deb(e)r(e)t ibid(e)m, quid amplius d(e)b (e)at construhere, ab LXXXIIII titul(o) usque ad LX(L)III statuit permanere; et sic postea fratre suo rescripta direxit. Et ita inter eis conv(e)nit, ut (i)sta omnia sicut anteriore constructa starent (Pactus legis Salicae, ed. Eckhardt, p. 253); the translation follows I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, p. 111. 64 Schmidt-Wiegand, ‘Lex Salica’, col. 1959; and Schmidt-Wiegand, ‘Untersuchungen zur Entstehung’, pp. 9–10. 65 Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 50–71 and p. 75; but cf. the forthcoming study on the Lex Salica by Karl Ubl who suggests the reign of Chilperic I. 66 See above, n. 64. 63


Communities of the middle ground answered. As will be discussed at greater length in the following chapter, the seventh-century Fredegar Chronicle, as well as the Liber historiae Francorum (written in 726/7), both transmit names for the first Frankish king. The latter text even states that it was in the time of the first king of the Franks, Faramund, that the Franks began to have laws – tunc habere et leges coeperunt – and it inserts the passage from the short prologue on the four lawgivers.67 It seems as though the author of the Liber historiae Francorum, with his primus rex Faramund, was reacting not only to Gregory of Tours and his inconclusive search for a first Frankish king, but also to the short epilogue in the Lex Salica. 5.3 


The generic reference to a primus rex Francorum in the short epilogue, compared to later historiographical texts, also seems better suited to the sixth century, when Gregory wrote his Histories. As we have seen, there was a reserved and cautious handling of the Frankish past and tradition not only in Gregory but also in other contexts in the sixth century. This openness and caution is particularly conspicuous in the dialogue between the Merovingian kings and a Frankish legal tradition, and in the efforts to integrate that tradition into their rule over the Merovingian regnum. The epilogue would have been a superb opportunity to look back to a long and distant past of the Franks and their kings before the establishment of the Merovingian regnum.68 As in the panegyrics of   Venantius Fortunatus, however, this backward look remained highly unspecific and general. We have already discussed how Gregory used the resulting Spielräume and underlined the impossibility of finding reliable facts about early Frankish kingship in his discussion of earlier historians’ evidence about Frankish history, such as the history of Sulpicius Alexander: ‘When he [Sulpicius Alexander] says regales it is not clear if they were kings [utrum reges fuerunt] or ruled the kingdom in place of kings [an in vices tenuerunt regnum]’.69 But that vagueness also allowed the primus rex Francorum to be associated with a series of different stories about the Frankish past, which probably still circulated in the sixth century. From the perspective of the Merovingian kings, that vagueness might well have been regarded as supporting the successful integration or at least coexistence of different traditions and competing origins, which were intertwined with genealogies other than that of the currently ruling Merovingians. LHF, c. 4, p. 244; cf. also below, p. 259. 68 Pohl, ‘Memory’; Pohl, ‘Origo gentis’; Pohl, ‘Geschichte’. 69 DLH II , 9, p. 54. 67


Politics of identity Gregory of Tours reports that Clovis (who was for Gregory effectively the first king of the Franks) eliminated Frankish kings and relatives in competition with him, a story that Gregory begins in the last years of the king’s life, after the conquest of the Visigothic kingdom in Aquitaine and his appointment as consul et augustus in 508. Only after that was it necessary for Clovis the trickster to eliminate completely the potential rivals among his relatives. One day, as Gregory tells it, Clovis called all his men together and pretended to lament the demise of all his relatives, whom he – as Gregory explicitly says – had already personally killed: ‘How sad a thing that I live among strangers like some solitary pilgrim, and that I have none of my own relations left to help me when disaster threatens.’70 But Clovis only said this, Gregory commented, to find out if there was anyone else left to kill. A probable descendant of one of the kings Clovis had killed, Munderic, confronted Theuderic I after Clovis’ death. He claimed to be parens regius and demanded his share of the kingdom. Munderic might well have been a descendant of Sigibert the Lame, who had fought with Clovis against the Alamans. Later on, Clovis sought to get rid of his fellow king by playing Sigibert off against his son Chloderic. At Clovis’ instigation, Chloderic killed his father, and he in turn was killed by Clovis, who legitimated the murder as revenge for Chloderic’s betrayal.71 After he killed more of his fellow kings and took their kingdoms, Clovis rightly assumed that there were still members of their families around; there are good reasons to believe that Munderic was one of them.72 In the Histories we hear him say: What is king Theuderic to me? My right to throne is good as his. I will go out and gather my people [populum meum] together and will persuade them to swear the oath of fealty to me, so that Theuderic may realise that I am king too, just as he is.73

For some time Munderic was indeed successful and found enough support to challenge Theuderic. The king even had to go to war against him and his populus. The leader of Theuderic’s army, Aregisel, only succeeded in defeating Munderic by fraud. By promising to spare his life and his children, Aregisel was able to convince Munderic to surrender. At great length and in vivid, direct speech, Gregory narrates the siege of the castle in which Munderic eventually entrenched himself, both 70 DLH II , 42, p. 93, trans. Thorpe, p. 158. 71 For Clovis and Sigibert and the latter’s son, see DLH II , 37 and 40, pp. 87–90. 72 Grahn-Hoek, ‘Gundulfus subregulus’, pp. 22–4, suggests that Gundulf was the son of Munderic; for an alternative view: Widdowson, ‘Merovingian partitions’, pp. 3–5. 73 DLH III , 14, p. 110.


Communities of the middle ground leaders’ negotiations and Munderic’s consultations with his men. When Munderic finally surrendered to save the life of his family and dependants, he soon realised that Aregisel had deceived him. As Munderic faced Aregisel’s troops, Aregisel gave his soldiers the order to kill him. But Munderic, in the same manner of the heroes of Troy, was able to cut down his opponent Aregisel with a javelin, to draw his sword and, before he was killed, to stir up a bloodbath among his enemies: ‘Munderic then drew his sword and with the help of his men made a great massacre of the army [populus], right up to his last breath.’74 But Gregory also tells us that Munderic’s sons were not killed.75 It might well be that Gundulf, who later became bishop of Metz, was one of them and that his identification as subregulus in the Vita Arnulfi reflects a memory of his royal lineage that lived on into the seventh century. And this Gundulf may also have been the avunculus of Gregory himself, the same man who had married into Gregory’s maternal family and is also mentioned as the dux of Childebert II in the Histories.76 This would also explain why Gregory provides an unusually heroic stylisation of Munderic’s deeds.77 In any case, the contrast to the other (sub)reguli, whom Gregory mentions in his anti-origo chapter, is obvious.78 Gregory did not want to embellish their histories with similarly heroic motives and stories.79 Yet it would be surprising if the cultural milieu of late and post-Roman Gaul had not produced a great number of stories and narratives like the Gesta Munderici for other reges or reguli too. Apart from Munderic Gregory only tells us about ‘men who would be king’ who claimed to be members of the Merovingian family.80 But there might well have been more Munderics around than Gregory lets us know. Thus the emphasis on discontinuity with Frankish history that we find in Gregory of Tours could also have been in tune with the interests of the Merovingian kings during most of the sixth century.The names of the reges criniti – the long-haired kings – that Clovis disposed of were still well known to Gregory at the end of the sixth century; we have already 74 Evaginatumque deinceps Mundericus gladium, cum suis magnam stragem de populo illo fecit, et usquequo spiritum exalavit (DLH III , 14, pp. 111–12); on the conflicts between Munderic and Theuderic, see Hofmann, ‘The men’, pp. 39–71. 75 See DLH III , 14, p. 112; see for a longer discussion of the children of Munderic Grahn-Hoek, ‘Gundulfus subregulus’, pp. 19–20. 76 As argued by Grahn-Hoek, ‘Gundulfus subregulus’, pp.  18–25; see Vita Sancti Arnulfi, c.  3, ed. Krusch, p. 433; and DLH VI , 11, pp. 280–1. 77 See Goffart, ‘Conspicuously absent’, pp.  367–93; on Munderic, p.  371; for Munderic see also Haubrichs, Die Anfänge, pp. 162–3. 78 DLH II , 9, pp. 52–7. 79 Cf. above, pp. 54–6. 80 See Hofmann, ‘The men’. I am very grateful to Julia Hoffmann for sharing her unpublished dissertation with me.


Politics of identity met Sigibert of Cologne and his son Chloderic, but Gregory also mentions Chararic and his son, and Ragnachar, the king of Cambrai, together with his adviser Farro.81 The elimination of each receives its own chapter in the Histories, and each time Clovis the trickster appears as the hero, who succeeds in ousting his enemies through cunning and force. But as the history of Munderic suggests, there were also memories in which the roles were distributed differently. The same was true for a variety of Frankish groups which had been operating in Gaul since the fourth century while producing very different Frankish pasts and origin stories. The ostentatious entrance of a Frankish prince on the occasion of his wedding in Burgundy, which Sidonius Apollinaris described at the end of the fifth century, shows that around Clovis’ time and even before that, other Frankish kings in Gaul knew how to set the scene.82 History is usually written by the victors, and this was true of Clovis’ success story, too. Still, after the establishment of his regnum per totas Gallias, the Merovingians also had to establish themselves as legitimate rulers in each of the regna whose kings Clovis had allegedly killed. Through the integration of these kingdoms, the rule of the Merovingian family of Clovis had to be set forth as the new common reference point for the first time. As the example of Munderic shows, it was a longer process, for which one must take the different regions’ sensibilities of memory and history into account. This may explain why the linking of Merovingian rule with Frankish history and identity was handled carefully, not only in the public arena of Venantius Fortunatus’ panegyrics but also in a text such as the epilogue to the Pactus legis Salicae. As in Venantius, the kings are mediators here, too. They positioned themselves in an equidistant position to different memories of the Frankish past in late Antique Gaul.The Lex Salica may be the product of such a process of negotiation, in which a particular legal tradition was integrated into the broader social horizon of the regnum. In doing so the kings not only set forth their law; they also guarantee the preservation of the norms drawn up by Wisogastus, Arogastus, Salegastus and Widogastus. As a result, it is entirely possible that the Lex Salica was originally only one of many traditions, which only slowly established its symbolic meaning for a shared Frankish history throughout the Merovingian kingdom.The textual history of the Lex Salica shows a process in which the name of the Franks was given more and more attention in the course of the sixth c­ entury. As I mentioned briefly, thanks to the continual generations of work on the text, it is possible to reconstruct two different sixth-century versions out of the DLH II , 40, 41, 42, pp. 89–93. 82 Sidonius Apollinaris, Epistulae IV , 20, vol. II , pp. 136–8. 81


Communities of the middle ground manuscript tradition: the older of the two known as the recensio Chlodovea (Eckhard’s manuscript class A), and a more recent redaction (Eckhardt’s manuscript group C), which was probably produced in the last decade of the sixth century.The name of the Franks was inserted several times into this later redaction.83 For example, in places where the manuscripts of the A class speak of an ingenuus, the word is changed in the late sixth-century redaction to francus.84 Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand even suggested that the expression Francus has replaced the original Salicus throughout the text.85 The compositional history of the Lex Salica in the sixth century therefore reflects a process of integration, in which parts of the population in the areas conquered by Clovis and his sons increasingly came to identify themselves with the name of the Franks.Along with this process, the symbolic potential of the Lex Salica as an expression of Frankish identity and tradition also seems to have been more and more important. However, in the laws these Franci are themselves defined apart from other social and ethnic groups in the Merovingian kingdom – a delimiting that, like the transformation from ingenuus to Francus shows, the redactors increasingly underscored even as they used the name of the Franks. Through these strategies of distinction, which were continued and developed further, these Franci fundamentally remained one group among others.The kings had to consider and protect that situation, a task they took seriously, as the formula from Marculf that we briefly examined above shows: at the time of his appointment, the comes, dux or patricius was asked to maintain the complete fidelity of his pagus and omnis populus living there – Franci, Romani, Burgundiones vel reliquae nationes – and to rule them in the right way secundum legem et consuetudinem eorum.86 5.4  The coale sce nce of F rank i sh i de ntity i n th e last de cade s of the si xth c e ntury The quotation with which we ended the last section appears in a document which was written about a generation after Gregory’s death. But For example, Pactus legis Salicae, 14 § 2, ed. Eckhardt, pp. 64–5. The reconstructed A text reads: Si vero romanus barbarum Salicum expoliaverit (so all manuscripts apart from A2, which has franco saligo); the C recension, however, has: Si vero Romanus homo Francus expoliaverit; 38, 2, pp. 136f. 84 Pactus legis Salicae, 25  § 3, ed. Eckhardt, pp.  94–5; see Schmidt Wiegand, ‘Fränkische und frankolateinische Bezeichnungen’, pp. 382–3. 85 Schmidt-Wiegand,‘Fränkische und frankolateinische Bezeichnungen’, p. 282. In the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms, however, the text was always transmitted as lex Salica:  for the C-Version see Ubl, ‘L’origine contestée’, pp. 226–31. Evidence for the labelling of the text as Frankish is probably the reception of some of the regulation in the Canones wallici, which in most of the manuscripts are titled as excerpta legum Romanorum et Francorum; see Nehlsen, Sklavenrecht, p. 282; and Faulkner, Carolingian leges. 86 Marculf, Form. I , 8, ed. Zeumer, p. 48; see above, p. 99. 83


Politics of identity it corresponds to the picture of the social order that Gregory of Tours sketched in his Histories, although with clearly different stress and dynamics.The political weight of the Franci, or of those who wanted to become Franci, would become noticeably greater than Gregory portrayed it in his Histories. Yet the dynamic does not seem to have gone in the direction of dissolving collective Frankish identity in the regnum. An important background for this process seems to have been the bella civilia, so much disliked by Gregory of Tours. In the ongoing conflicts it rarely happened that the different parties actually fought each other to death.87 The pattern of the conflict consists usually of the mobilisation of armies, of marching against each other and eventually of efforts to find a solution to prevent a military confrontation. This must have constantly brought together people in the clearing house of the Frankish exercitus.The demand for military personnel might also well have given middle-class members of Merovingian society new opportunities for social advancement offered by joining the exercitus Francorum. To be sure not everyone made a career like the self-made man Conda (whose name is actually Burgundian).88 The more must have members of this group been interested in the Lex Salica underlining the rank of a Frank through the highest wergild of all ethnic groups in the kingdom. At the same time the constant conflict between the different kings must have constantly brought the leaders of the armies or other members of the political elites together. In their negotiations for peace they must have constantly conjured up the well-being of the regnum and their armies – the exercitus Francorum.89 This shared responsibility for the well-being of the regnum and the Franks might well have contributed to a sense of belonging which was increasingly labelled as Frankish. At the same time it also seems that the Merovingian kings themselves in their constant competition for loyalty increasingly used the name of the Franks for political legitimation, offering at their courts another focus for the identification of the name of the Franks with the regnum. Thus the dynamic in the last centuries of the sixth century worked towards the accentuation of Frankish identity. What we observe are increasing overlaps of different uses of the name of the Franks such as the royal title rex Francorum, the cultivation of the Lex Salica as Frankish tradition, the use of Francia for a specific region in the kingdom and the whole regnum. To be sure these tendencies did not erase all the distinction of different Frankishnesses. Yet, they might have helped to link them to each other and integrate them in the Merovingian regnum, intensifying processes I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 88–100. 88 Cf. above, p. 93.   89  Cf. above, p. 32 with n.28. 87


Communities of the middle ground of overdetermination that enhanced the meaning and prestige of the Frankish name. This increasing prestige and intensified use of the name as focus for political legitimation and social integration appears in the extant sources in the last third of the sixth century, exactly when Gregory wrote his Histories and Venantius his poems. This process against which Gregory seems to have been writing can also be traced in the transmission and reception of the Lex Salica in the sixth century. The capitularies of Chilperic, Guntram and Childebert II were not only transmitted along with the oldest versions of the law; they also built upon, reacted to and adapted the regulations of the lex.90 In the Edict of Guntram, which the king issued in 585 as rex Francorum, there are echoes of the text of the C version of the Pactus legis Salicae (which is why Eckhardt attributed this version of the Pactus to Guntram).91 The intitulatio rex Francorum was used somewhat later by his nephew and successor Childebert II in the Decretio Childeberti which the king promulgated in 596, and was also transmitted as an addition to the Lex Salica.92 Work with and about the Lex Salica is also documented before Guntram and Childebert, in the Edict of Chilperic (d. 584). In this edict, one of the things that Chilperic contemplated was a legal reform, intended to amend and adapt the legal procedures of the lex.93 As we have seen, Chilperic seems to have also adapted the text itself.94 In the C version, one of the additions to the Pactus was the condemnation of marriage between a nephew and his uncle’s widow. This was precisely the arrangement that his son Merovech had entered into with Brunhild, the Austrasian queen who had been widowed in 575.95 Interestingly, one of the few appearances of Franci in Gregory’s Histories after the second book occurs in exactly the same context  – in the trial against Bishop Praetextatus, who had married Merovech and Brunhild.When Chilperic brought forward the charges in the church of St Peter, Gregory reports, a multitudo Francorum outside the church started to growl, and they wanted to break down the church doors and stone the bishop to death. But at Woll, Untersuchungen, pp. 50–75. 91 For the Edict of Guntram as the oldest extant legal document using the intitulatio as rex Francorum, see above, n. 102. 92 For the Decretio Childeberti as part of legal corpus consisting of Merowingian capitularies and the lex Salica, see above, p. 103. It might be significant that the Decretio was signed by the referendarius Asclepiodus, who was probably Guntram’s referendary until the king’s death in 592; see Bresslau, Urkundenlehre, p. 365 and pp. 359–65; cf. Kölzer, introduction to D Merow, pp. xv–xviii; I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, p. 107. 93 Woll, Untersuchungen, p. 84; Nehlsen, Sklavenrecht, pp. 300–1 and the forthcoming study on the Lex Salica by Karl Ubl. 94 See for another example, Nehlsen, Sklavenrecht, pp. 298–302. 95 See above, pp. 105–6 with n.55. 90


Politics of identity least in the Histories, Chilperic did not seem to have trouble rebuking them and keeping them out of the church.96 Here as throughout his Histories, Gregory worked to exclude the Franci as a decisive factor in political formation and to counter the increasing salience and political accentuation of the Frankish name. But this was not the expression of an anti-Frankish sentiment of the Gallo-Roman aristocrat. We should understand Gregory’s strategies above all in light of his fine sense for relationship of identity, history and the legitimation of social roles. We can observe this sensitivity in the Histories in particular, through which Gregory used his own identity resources to legitimise himself as actor, auctor and auctoritas.97 The increasing significance of Frankish identity as a reference point for social and political integration in the last decades of the sixth century therefore hardly escaped his attention. But he also seems to have observed this development with great discomfort. His historiographical answer stressed the discrepancy and discontinuity of Frankish identity. As we have seen, in the few cases where he uses the name of the Franks after Clovis’ baptism, Gregory describes an astonishing range of Frankish identifications. The name can be confined to the family of the Merovingian kings; but it can also indicate different groups under their rule, a specific region within the Merovingian kingdom, the whole regnum, individual officials, parts of the population in cities, parts of the army or even the whole exercitus.98 Gregory developed this plurality out of the history and present of late and post-Roman Gaul. His concern above all was to preserve the cacophony of these social realities. In doing so he showed that the Frankish past could not be reduced to a single history, and he would not provide any history or historiographical framework which consolidated them. Although he did not provide a common prehistory of the Franks before they had come to Gaul, Gregory also reminded the Merovingian kings that there was probably more of it in Gaul itself than the reges Francorum in particular appreciated. In Gregory’s history of their integration, a common Frankish identity was not the decisive factor. It was Clovis’ decision in favour of Catholic Christianity that gave the different social and political groupings in Gaul a common future. As we have seen in comparing Gregory to other sources from his time, the Spielräume were wide open towards the end of the sixth century for such a historiographical vision. Gregory was able to build on political strategies that the Merovingian kings had used since the fifth DLH V , 18, p. 217; for the Praetextatus case see above, pp. 39–43. 97 See above, pp. 32–9.   98  See above, pp 52–63. 96


Communities of the middle ground century. We see especially clearly after the establishment of Clovis’ rule how much this policy built upon the rich and multi-layered resources of Roman traditions, not least upon the flexibility and elasticity of Roman identity-politics. In order to continue and further develop this flexibility, Gregory’s friend Venantius Fortunatus also praised and advised it in his panegyrics to Charibert, Sigibert and Chilperic. By cultivating Roman culture and education, the kings would succeed in negotiating between the different social and cultural backgrounds of the population of the Merovingian regnum. Such recommendations seem to have corresponded completely with Merovingian kings’ own strategies. The integration of their rule was a perpetual process of negotiation with different elites and groups in the regnum. As we have seen, the competition and conflicts between Chlothar’s sons might well have been a catalyst for the increasing importance of Frankish identity in the last decades of the sixth century.99 In the context of Gregory’s bella civilia we hear again and again about the kings’ efforts to win the loyalties of elites, cities and groups in the kingdom. In this competition, Frankish identity and tradition seem to have become more accentuated as grounds for legitimation. But in the socially and ethnically heterogenous regnum, it remained one possibility among others. 5.5  In the shadows of e mpire :  p o st - R oman conte ntions with the impe rial past and p re se nc e As we have seen, Chilperic devoted his attention to the cultivation of a ‘Frankish’ legal tradition. He also seems to have been the first Merovingian king to have named a son Merovech, although the seventhcentury Fredegar Chronicle would be the first to mention the name as the eponymous hero of the reges Francorum.100 But Chilperic also styled himself in the mould of a Roman emperor.101 For Venantius Fortunatus, Chilperic surpassed omne genus in his enthusiasm for learning, and his superior education and eloquence enabled him to hold sway over all the different social groups in the regnum.102 Interestingly it is above all this aspect of Chilperic’s rule and representation which Gregory focuses on in his Histories. He tells us that the king had the amphitheatres in Paris and Soissons rebuilt and put on expensive circus games there, and like the Roman Emperor Claudius, he wanted 99 Cf. above, pp. 113–15. 100 Which, as we will see, is in tune with the efforts of the chroniclers to distinguish the Franci as an independent factor of Merovingian politics vis-à-vis the Merovingian kings: see below pp. ch.7. 101 I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, p. 68. 102 See above, p. 91.


Politics of identity to reform the Latin alphabet. Gregory also mentions that he composed poems, some of which have indeed survived, along with a theological treatise.103 With this evidence Chilperic emerges as a champion of late Antiquity, whose representation and legitimation of whose rule indicates the continuity and significance of Roman imperial traditions. This portrait is doubtless justified. However, in contrast to Venantius’ panegyric, these stories figure prominently in an image of the king in Gregory’s Histories that is highly unflattering. According to Gregory, Chilperic’s poetry never really reached the standards of Latin composition. His treatise on the Trinity bordered on heresy. His writing reforms were never put into practice. In order to finance his expensive self-representation (and likely also his wars), Chilperic demanded many new and unjust taxes, and he squandered the money which in fact belonged to the Church and the poor.104 As the Histories portrayed it, the Merovingian king orientated himself to models which in Gregory’s view belonged to the past. Gregory’s ridicule of Chilperic’s attempts to stage himself as a Roman ruler may have highly amused some of his readers who like Gregory himself did not really like the king. But one should not hastily dismiss it as a Gallo-Roman’s posture of superiority over a barbarian ruler. Nowhere in Gregory’s text is there a stylisation of Chilperic as a barbarian. It is above all the romanitas of the king that Gregory criticises, which fits well with the strategies he uses in his Histories to emphasise the discontinuity with Roman history.105 In fact, lurking in the integration of the Merovingian regnum into Roman history and present were a number of threats to Gregory’s ambitious social and historiographical vision of a Christian regnum. It provided enormous potential for understanding the kingdom of the reges Francorum as part of the larger social world, in which this kingdom could be seen as a ‘Frankish’ kingdom, which would have undermined the social differentiation of the Franci in Gregory’s Histories. Like the comparison with other sources written in Gregory’s time, the trend in the world chronicles, which continued the Christian-Roman history of Jerome, went clearly in this direction.106 The long shadow of the history and ethnography of the Roman Empire was increasingly used to reorganise the larger social whole of the post-Roman West as a world of peoples. 103 See DLH V , 44, pp. 252–4 (letters, poems and theological treatise); V , 17, p. 216 (amphitheatre); see I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 66–70; Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 41–51; and Kindermann, ‘König Chilperic’. 104 See the ‘obituary’ of Chilperic in DLH VI , 46, pp. 319–20. 105 See above, pp. 70–3.   106  See above, pp. 75–6.


Communities of the middle ground But it was not only the shadow of the Roman past, but also the shadow of the Roman Empire of Gregory’s time that supported this trend. This becomes evident in assimilations of Roman and Frankish histories that Procopius and Agathias present in their digressions on the Franks.107 If we take Agathias’ Histories as evidence for the self-representation of Merovingian diplomacy vis-à-vis the empire, they can show that the Romanness of the Merovingian rule was in this context much more strongly characterised as Frankish than it is in the sources written in sixth-century Gaul. How strongly the ethnographic and diplomatic encounters with the Roman Empire organised the post-Roman world as a world of peoples is also documented in texts such as the Table of Nations and the Alexandrinian world chronicle discussed above. From a Byzantine perspective, this was a world shaped by the relationship of an empire and its peoples.108 Yet from a ‘Western’ perspective, the post-Roman empire of the Byzantines could also become just one gens among others. In one of the letters that Childebert II sent to Byzantium between 584 and 590 as rex Francorum, the king expressed his hope for a consolidation of the peace between the two peoples – inter utramque gentem.109 For Gregory, however, the integration of the Christian kingdom under Clovis had overcome a world that was socially and politically divided among gentes and their regna. The bishop’s social vision for the future of this regnum did not allow for the establishment of any non-spiritual intermediate authority between the people of his kingdom and the regnum Dei. What should hold society together was the will to construct its world in the prospect of its heavenly future. But the responsibility to decide in favour of this identity was supposed to connect each individual with God – and individuals with each other again through God.110 No authority was supposed to deprive the individual of his responsibility to choose this community, alternative collective identity should stand between God and the individual. In older historiographical representations, such as the world chronicle of Jerome or the ecclesiastical history of Eusebius, the Roman Empire, as a vessel of God’s grace, could be understood as such an intermediary authority. As we have seen, Gregory tried to make clear that his Histories did not stand in this tradition but rather represented a new kind of ecclesiastical history. That was all the more important to him, as the regnum for which Gregory had designed 107 See above, pp. 78–81.   108  Pohl, ‘Justinian’. 109 Epistulae Austrasicae, 32, ed. Gundlach, p. 142. 110 See Foucault, Security; there a summary of his views on pastoral power can be found at the end of lecture 7, pp. 163–90; see above, p. 50.


Politics of identity his vision could well be linked to claims to succeed the Roman Empire as a vessel of God’s grace too. In order to promote the fulfilment of his social vision in his Histories, a fulfilment supposed to proceed from his genealogy of pastoral power in Gaul, Gregory had to try to isolate his development from other powerful social frameworks. He set the continuity and potency of pastoral power in Gaul against the discontinuity of the Roman Empire and ­ethnically defined successor states.To deconstruct these powerful social frameworks, he had to carefully use the pre-existing Spielräume that were available to him, which arose from the diversity of histories and desires for integration in post-Roman Gaul. That it was possible for these different conceptions of history and identity to coexist is surely one of the reasons for the Merovingian kingdom’s political success.111 As I  have tried to illustrate, this success was based on a consensus in post-Roman Gaul about a certain distance or discontinuity with a pre-Merovingian past. This gave room not only for Gregory’s representation but also for the coexistence of different and sometimes conflicting sets of continuities and discontinuities. At the foreground in this chapter were the Spielräume that emerged from constructions of discontinuity with Frankish history and identity. Maintaining these room for manoeuvre, however, involved also the construction of discontinuities with Roman history and identity. For Gregory, preserving the room for manoeuvre was a very important aspect to developing a Christian vision of the world. As we can observe in many of the Church councils, above all in those which were held at roughly the time of the composition of the Histories, the relatively recently forged perspectives were being strongly defended.112 To be sure, it was evident to all involved that they still moved within Roman structures and traditions. But there was a consensus that they were to be handled in a new way. A too strong emphasis on continuities and overlaps with Roman history and tradition may well have been seen as a threat to the established consensus, and to the perspectives of different elites and – for Gregory above all – to the perspectives of his Christendom. In this post-Roman context of the former Western provinces of the Roman empire, however, the demarcation from Roman history and tradition was not only important in view of the renewal of the Roman past. Discontinuity with Rome also played an important role in the demarcation from the Romes of the present: the Byzantine Empire and Pohl, Völkerwanderung, pp. 176–85. 112 See Reimitz, ‘Contradictory stereotypes’; see also Ubl, Inzestverbot, pp. 27–30; and Buc, Dangers, pp. 89–91. 111


Communities of the middle ground the Church of Rome. Especially in the conflicts between the sons of Chlothar, each king was seeking legitimation and allies beyond the Gallic regna, too. From this time we have reports and documents from all of the Merovingian kings that record intensified communication and diplomatic exchange with Byzantium and the popes in Rome.113 The important role that shared Catholic belief played in this political convergence is also evident in Agathias’ excursus on the Franks.114 In connection with the embassies to Byzantium, admittedly, we do not only hear about the exchange of histories dealing with a historiographical synthesis of the Roman-Frankish past. There were also tendencies to integrate the Frankish kingdoms and the Byzantine Empire into a dogmatically cohesive whole as documented in the exchange of relics and cults. As part of his efforts towards legitimation, during his competition with his brothers, Gregory’s royal patron Sigibert I even imported the ‘Byzantine’ Polyeuctus to Metz.115 Gregory and indeed many of his fellow bishops tracked the import and reception of Byzantine cults and theology with unease. Greater convergence and dependence on the Byzantine Church was as unappealing as the model of the Byzantine emperor as a theological authority.116 In the course of the sixth century the Church of Gaul had defined its own spiritual and theological traditions within the political framework of the Merovingian regnum. Particularly in the decades of Gregory’s episcopacy in Tours we see the representants of the ecclesia Galliarum in its encounters with both the old and the new Rome, defending the formation of its own spiritual autonomy.117 Conclusion Gregory, the ‘child of a new age’,118 built on the shared experience of a world in transition, in which the multiple meanings of Roman identity no longer coincided. To put it in the words of Maya Maskarinec: ‘The remaining fragments of “Romanness” no longer fit together so neatly.’119 In his Histories Gregory took stock of such a post-Roman world view. With the emphasis on the discontinuities with Roman history he tried 113 See Goubert, Byzance avant l’Islam, vol. II, Byzance et les Francs. 114 See above, pp. 80–1.   115  Esders, ‘Avenger’. 116 For Chilperic’s theological treatise and Gregory’s reaction to it, see above, p. 117.; for the role of the emperor as religious authority in Byzantium, see Dagron, Empereur et prêtre; for the parting of ways of East and West in the sixth century see P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 146–215; P. Brown, ‘Eastern and Western Christendom’; Sotinel, ‘Emperors and popes’. 117 See Beisel, Studien, pp. 166–88. 118 See P. Brown, Through the eye, p. 498. 119 Maskarinec, ‘Who were the Romans?’, p. 297.


Politics of identity to keep things separate and to prevent the overarching framework of a Roman identity absorbing the formation of his Christendom in Gaul. The powerful history and flexibility of Roman identity not only compromised the liturgical and theological autonomy of pastoral power in Gaul but Gregory also had to make sure that the Roman past and presence would not be turned into a Frankish future. As we have seen, there were ample historical resources for such an assimilation of Roman and Frankish identity and history in Gaul. During the sixth century they were obviously used less to legitimate and explain a Frankish dominion over Gaul to the populations living in Gaul, but in encounters with the Roman Empire of Gregory’s days  – Byzantium. It seems that in Gaul itself, the politics of identity of the Merovingian courts was more carefully taking the sensibilities of different social and ethnic groups and traditions into account than did the ambassadors of the Merovingian kings in Constantinople. It is precisely during the time when Gregory wrote his history that we can observe an increasing use of the Frankish name for political legitimation and integration of the whole regnum. The constant competition for loyalty in the bella civilia between the sons of Chlothar after 567 might well have played an important role in the intensification of this tendency. In his Histories Gregory tried to counter this process with a complementary strategy to his deconstruction of Roman identity. Parallel to his disentanglement of different Romannesses from the conception of an overarching Roman identity, Gregory’s Histories subtly differentiate between Frankishnesses. As we have seen, the relatively few occurrences of the name of the Franks present a great variety of social roles and experiences: the family of the Merovingian kings as in the case of Guntram or Gundovald, Franci as a (not very influential) pressure group in the trial of Praetextatus, the exercitus Francorum as the whole army or in other cases as unruly parts of the army, the Franks as influential individuals, even ambassadors of the kings and so on.120 But they all represented different social realities. Neither in the more distant past nor in his own times did Gregory allow for their overlaps with each other or their integration into a shared Frankish identity. Their main connection to each other should be the same as to all other groups and individuals in the regnum – through their decision for a shared Christian vision. Gregory’s model of society represented social cohesion as a result of individual decisions in favour of God and Gregory’s Christendom. His ideal society was held together by pastoral power, in which the shared responsibility for the Christian community required that each person

  See above, pp. 57–9.



Communities of the middle ground proved himself again and again. The realisation of this social vision in Gregory’s Histories was based on confidence that the Church was the ecclesia Dei. But here, too, Gregory’s focus was not on the Church as an institution or a collective. It lay in the example of individuals, saints and prophets, old and new, who shouldered the responsibility of guiding the members of the Christian regnum by their individual decisions and responsibilities. Gregory held himself to high standards as actor, auctor and auctoritas, and he demanded the same of the other members of his Christian community. To be sure, this high standard had strong potential to create a sense of Christian identity. But in Gregory’s radical vision, individual striving for the kingdom of God was the only decisive criterion for belonging to this community. Other forms of membership, which could distract from this shared goal or even deprive individuals of the responsibility that Gregory privileged, belonged to the past. They were to play no part in the future. But as we have seen, Gregory was well aware that his present was different. He knew that his vision for a Christian community stood in competition with other social, political and religious visions. His account of the trial against Praetextatus of Rouen is a good example of his apprehensions.121 When King Chilperic opened the trial before the assembled bishops in the church and accused Praetextatus of treason, the Franks who had gathered outside the church tried to break in. This is only one of a few places in Gregory’s text where the Franks appear as collective agents. It is also one of only a few episodes when Chilperic does something right. He prohibited the Franks from meddling at all in the matter of state that he was working out with the bishops. Gregory’s concern was not for some rowdy group of Franks outside the doors of the church. He was more worried about the claim of these Franks to have an important part in shaping the political future of the Merovingian kingdom. In Chilperic’s kingdom of Soissons, some members of this group may very well have been successors of the local Franks in northern Gaul who insisted on the codification of the Lex Salica. But the claim by which they connected the law to their Frankish identity at the end of the sixth century went much farther than their predecessors had.122 Gregory was also aware that the identification of the Merovingian regnum as a Frankish kingdom attracted not only members of the secular military elites in Soissons. There were members of Roman families from Aquitaine who made excellent careers at the courts of the Merovingian kings in the north, such as the dux Lupus, who decided to   Cf. above, pp. 39–43.   122  Ubl, ‘Bann der Traditionen’, p. 445.



Politics of identity give his sons names that would work in a Frankish language milieu.123 One of the commanders at the Austrasian court, the dux Gundulf, was a relative of Gregory himself.124 And there were members of the ecclesiastical elites who had obviously fewer scruples than Gregory to frame their Christendom as Frankish. One of the oldest extant collections of Gallic canons was most probably compiled around 600.125 The collection contains the resolutions of the first general council of the Church of Gaul in the Merovingian regnum, the council of Orleans, under Clovis in 511. The proceeding of the council ended with the signatures of the bishops assembled at the council. After the signatures the copyist of this manuscript marked the end of the council’s text with a short phrase: Expliciunt canones francisci, ‘Here end the Frankish canons’.126 If Gregory was already dead by that point, he would have turned in his grave to see the very thing he was challenging come to life even within his own ecclesia. As much as this explicit of the canons of the council of Orleans was against everything that Gregory had worked for in his Histories, it also shows that the belief that Christianity should be the main factor to hold society together was well entrenched in Gregory’s present, too. Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power in Gaul became an important resource for the future of this shared belief. Soon after Gregory’s death, his Histories became the reference work for the history of Gaul in the Merovingian kingdoms. No alternative history from the sixth century of comparable scope and ambition has come down to us, and all subsequent historians of Frankish history had to work with or against Gregory’s legacy. Even texts that created very different visions for the Merovingian society (and even for later Frankish communities) had to defer to Gregory’s historiographical authority: they had to develop and continue their competing conceptions out of his Histories. Thus Gregory’s historiographical vision not only helps us to develop a finer sensibility regarding the Spielräume for the politics of identity in the Merovingian kingdoms of the sixth century. With its great success it also defined them for later generations of historians, too. We shall see in the next part of this book how later historians of the Merovingian period used and redefined these rooms for manoeuvre. 123 Cf. below, p. 211. 124 Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 20–1. 125 Cologne, Erzbischöfliche Diözesan- und Dombibliothek cod. 212; for the dating of the manuscript see the catalogue entry published with digital publication of manuscripts of the Dombilbliothek of Cologne, Codices Ecclesiastici Electronici Colonienses at www.ceec.uni-koeln.de/; and CLA VIII , 1162; see also the edition of the Concilium Aurelianense, p. 10. 126 Cologne, Erzbischöfliche Diözesan- und Dombibliothek cod. 212, fol. 40r.



Countermyths The search for origins in the Merovingian kingdoms

Chapter 6

T H E P E R S IS T E NC E OF G R E GO RY ’S VI SI O N OF C OM M U NITY The réécriture and reconfiguration of the Histories in the seventh century 6.1  Th e e nd of the HIS TORIES and th e anti c i pati on of the ir f uture Gregory left his Histories open-ended. For the last chapter of the last book (X, 31), he included what has been called an epilogue, consisting mainly of a catalogue of the bishops of   Tours that summed up their gesta and counted the years of their episcopates.1 Arriving at his own gesta, he recounted the churches he built, rebuilt and consecrated, and the works he had written: ten books of Histories, seven of Miracles, one on the Life of the Fathers, a tractatus on the psalter and a book on the offices of the Church.2 The chapter ends with Gregory’s own final date: he notes that he finished the text in the twenty-first year of his episcopate (AD 594).3 But the last three chapters before this epilogue all deal with events of the year 591: the Histories do not chronicle the intervening years. Not even the death of King Guntram in 592 broke this three-year silence.That Gregory did not mention Guntram’s death at the end of his Histories is a noticeable omission.4 Throughout his narrative, he used the deaths of Merovingian kings to end other books: he ends Book II with the death of Clovis, III with Theudebert, IV with Sigibert and VI with Chilperic.5 Consequently, it was long assumed that Gregory had been unable to finish the work of his Histories because ‘illness or death took the pencil out of his hand’.6 The period from 591 to 594 is usually seen as the time when Gregory undertook the final revision of his collection of case histories. As recent scholarship has convincingly shown, Gregory took up the historian’s task See Sot, Gesta episcoporum.  2  DLH X , 31, pp. 535–6. 3 Hos enim libros in anno XXI. ordinationis nostrae perscripsimus (DLH X , 31, p. 536). 4 He mentions the death of Guntram in one of his other works: Vita S. Martini IV , 37, p. 209. 5 See above, p. 278. 6 So for instance, Rudolf Buchner in the introduction to his translation, Zehn Bücher Geschichten, p. xxv. 1


Countermyths with great energy after the death of Chilperic in 584. Many of his episodes about the conflicts with Chilperic might thus have been written or revised with the only remaining son of Chlothar I, Guntram, the powerful senior of the Merovingian family (Eugen Ewig), not only as a royal model but together with Childebert II also as the royal model-reader in mind.7 In this respect we have to remember that Gregory wanted to write a new Church history, and that he did not want to meet the expectations which Eusebius had created by ending his own Church history with the triumph of Christianity under Constantine. As we have seen, Gregory tried to avoid such tendencies at other places, too, most notably in his account of the baptism of Clovis.8 It may well have been that at the end of his Histories, Gregory deliberately avoided any mention of Guntram’s death in order to underline the function of his text – as guidance to an end that no one could foresee. The last three chapters before the epilogue, which deal with the events of 591, may support such an interpretation. As Martin Heinzelmann and Adrian Breukelaar observed, they pick up three important themes that run throughout the Histories.9 In ­chapter 28, Gregory recounts the baptism of Fredegund’s son, Chlothar II. After some hesitation, Guntram eventually recognised him as Merovingian and became his godfather.10 But Guntram also took the opportunity to assure his other nephew, Childebert II, that the contract between them would not be affected at all: the Austrasian king, whose regnal years Gregory had subsequently used for the chronology of his narrative, still remained Guntram’s designated successor.11 Chapter 29 deals with the virtues and death of the abbot Aredius of Limoges, a close and old friend of Gregory and his family.12 As a great devotee of the cult of St Martin, Aredius visited Tours shortly before his death and bequeathed his inheritance to the saint.13 The saints whom a possessed woman saw at his funeral – among them no less than Julian of Brioude, Privatus of Mende, Martin of Tours, Martial of Limoges and Dionysius of Paris – underlined his sanctity as well as the fact that he belonged to the spiritual network of Gregory.14 See Halsall, ‘Nero and Herod?’. But cf. Murray, ‘Chronology and composition’, emphasising Gregory’s work on the Histories after 585 in particular to counter both images of Gregory as a naïve compiler of contemporary events as well as a textual demiurge who could manipulate his narrative at will. See also Dailey, ‘Gregory of Tours and the women in his works’. I am very grateful to Erin Dailey for letting me read this manuscript in advance of its publication. 8 See above, pp. 46–7. 9 Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 84–7; Breukelaar, Historiography, pp. 56–7. 10 See I.  Wood, ‘The secret histories’; Diesenberger and Reimitz, ‘Zwischen Vergangenheit und Zukunft’, pp. 236–7. 11 See above, p. 62.   12  See Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 85. 13 DLH X , 29, p. 524.   14  DLH X , 29, p. 525; I. Wood, ‘Topographies’, p. 145. 7


The persistence of Gregory’s vision In ­chapter  30, Gregory ended the narrative with a plague, fatal lightning storms and a sequence of drought and flooding in Aquitaine. Gregory had explanations for all of these.The lightning punished those who had desecrated the day of the Lord. The drought caused a grave disease among the cattle, fulfilling what the prophet Habakuk had foretold: ‘The flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls.’15 Rainfall and subsequent inundation destroyed the hay. But not everything was bad. The organisation of rogations, feasting and almsgiving helped to ease this furor divinus and end the plague. Though there was a poor grain harvest, the vines had abundant yields.16 History would go on, and so would the need for continual decisions in favour of the Christian morality that Gregory outlined in his narratives.17 It seems that Gregory was well aware that the exhortation to extend his historiographical vision into the future also made his historical and literary legacy highly vulnerable to adaptation or revision. He therefore concluded his text in the final chapter, following his own gesta and before his final date, with a dramatic appeal to keep his literary legacy just as he had left it. He even threatened any who sought to destroy or rewrite his books with horrible divine punishment: Even though I have written these books in a more rustic style [stilo rusticiori], I conjure you all, you bishops of the Lord who shall lead the church of Tours after my unworthy self, I conjure you by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by Judgement Day feared by all sinners, that you never permit these books to be destroyed or rewritten – by selecting them only in part or by omitting sections – otherwise you will be left in confusion by the Last Judgement and be condemned with the Devil. Rather, keep them in your possession, intact and unchanged, just as I have left them.18

Even if ‘our own Martianus’ (Martianus Capella) were to teach his successors, so that in their erudition they regarded Gregory’s stilus as rusticus, still, Gregory begged them not to do violence to his books. One might rewrite them in verse, but one must keep them complete (that is, intact).19 As Martin Heinzelmann has shown, Gregory shared this concern about the integrity of his work with many of the historians who 15 Habakuk 3:17.  16  DLH X , 29, p. 525. 17 See above, p. 47. 18 Quos libros licet stilo rusticiori conscripserim, tamen coniuro omnes sacerdotes Domini, qui post me humilem ecclesiam Turonicam sunt recturi, per adventum domini nostri Iesu Christi ac terribilem reis omnibus iudicii diem, sic numquam confusi de ipso iudicio descedentes cum diabolo comdempnemini, ut numquam libros hos aboleri faciatis aut rescribi, quasi quaedam eligentes et quaedam praetermittentes, sed ita omnia vobiscum integra inlibataque permaneant, sicut a nobis relicta sunt (DLH X , 31, p. 535). 19 DLH X , 31, p. 536.


Countermyths predated him, not least Eusebius, Jerome and Rufinus.20 They all knew what they were talking about: each one of them had produced his text with the selective use of other sources, ‘choosing parts of the text while omitting other sections’.21 Rufinus in particular, in his Latin translation and continuation of Eusebius’ ecclesiastical history, had dealt with his originals in exactly the way that Gregory wanted to prevent for his own works.22 But Gregory’s concern not only reveals his expertise as a textual scholar, it also shows that Gregory envisaged that his Histories would be read and reproduced. The subsequent history of the text shows that this was the case, and not only in Tours. The great number of extant Merovingian copies of the Histories demonstrates that they were indeed distributed quickly after his death, all over the Merovingian kingdoms.23 Together with the efforts that Gregory made to establish his role as actor, auctor and auctoritas in his text, we might assume that he indeed anticipated or at least hoped for such a wide publication of his historiographical vision. The wider public sphere that Gregory imagined for the reception of his libri historiarum is well documented in the Histories themselves. As we have seen, from the beginning of Book V onwards we have ample evidence for Gregory’s performance in public contexts:  through sermons and public speeches, legal negotiations in court, councils, letter exchanges and more formal messages to kings, officials and nobles. The trial against Gregory himself, in which he had to defend himself against the accusation that he had called Queen Fredegund an adulteress, was mainly about the question of what had been said in the public sphere. In three long chapters at the end of the fifth book, Gregory explains in detail the different reports about who said or wrote what publicly and when.24 We also see Gregory in a public debate after he returned from his trial to Tours.The priest Riculf had already taken over his bishopric and asked the clergy of the diocese to recognise him as their dominus, since he had shrewdly freed the city and the bishopric of Tours from Gregory’s populus Avernus. To Gregory (but not necessarily to everyone) Riculf and his claim revealed his ignorance of the city’s history: nearly all the bishops of Tours were part of Gregory’s family, a fact that Gregory surely did not publicise in his Histories alone. Heinzelmann, ‘La réécriture hagiographique’, pp. 15–23; and Mülke, Der Autor und sein Text, esp. pp. 20–37. 21 See below, pp. 133–6. 22 Humphries, ‘Rufinus’s Eusebius’; Heinzelmann, ‘La réécriture hagiographique’, pp.  15–23; see above, pp. 44–5. 23 See below, pp. 133–4.   24  See above, pp. 37–9. 20


The persistence of Gregory’s vision A letter from Felix of Nantes, in which he accused Gregory’s brother Peter of having killed the appointed bishop of Langres in order to become bishop himself, also triggered an elaborate defence mechanism on Gregory’s part.25 Felix had sent the letter to Gregory directly (as Gregory mentions), but it also seems that Gregory figured that the message had been spread more widely and that he needed to respond to it. This is the chapter where Gregory makes explicit the overlaps between his spiritual topography and his holy and episcopal lineage.26 But Gregory also had a more immediate reaction; he mentions that he had sent a letter in response to Felix. In the Histories, the letter exchange creates the image of a public dispute, which Gregory also uses to mock the bishop of Nantes: Oh, had you only become bishop of Marseilles! Instead of bringing you cargoes of oil and other wares, its ships could have carried only papyrus, which would have provided more opportunities for your pen to write libels against good people. As it is, only the lack of papyrus cuts short your evil verbosity.27

Gregory appears to have liked this joke so much that he presented it as a word-for-word quotation from the letter. It seems unlikely that he would have waited until his death to present it to people who may have found it funnier than Felix would. In this respect, the episode may demonstrate that Gregory anticipated that his Histories would operate simultaneously in the same public sphere as the letters, sermons and speeches. We know that Gregory himself used passages from sermons and letters of his contemporary Gregory the Great and most likely of Avitus of   Vienne and Sidonius Apollinaris.28 The story of Gregory’s literary feud with Felix may also therefore help us speculate about the channels that Gregory used to make his messages public. Felix was surely not Gregory’s chosen candidate for distributing his version of the story of his brother Peter, their episcopal genealogy and the joke about the bishop of Nantes. Gregory may have sent the letter to other people as well. After all, both Gregory and Felix were still living in a world where literary exchange and letter writing were important means of creating and maintaining social networks.29 One of the co-opted members of the Merovingian elite who was in close contact with both Gregory and Felix was the poet Venantius See above, p. 36.   26  Cf. above, pp. 36–7.   27  DLH V , 5, p. 200. 28 See the introduction to Zehn Bücher Geschichten, the German translation by Buchner, p. xxv. 29 I. Wood, ‘Administration’, pp.  68–71; for letter collections in the fifth and sixth century see Mathisen, Ruricius of Limoges and his forthcoming work on Desiderius of Cahors; see also Gioanni, ‘Fonctions culturelles’; Gioanni, ‘La contribution épistolaire’; Gioanni, ‘Communication’; see also now: Hen, ‘Changing places’; (for the seventh century); I. Wood, ‘Why collect letters’, and G. Müller, ‘Freundschaften’. 25


Countermyths Fortunatus, whose poetry is actually our best evidence for the importance of literary exchange to social positioning in the later sixth century. Soon after his appearance at the wedding of Sigibert and Brunhild, Venantius carved himself a permanent place in the Merovingian upper class, and ended his life as bishop of Poitiers.30 Members of Gregory’s family and network were among Venantius’ first supporters, and Gregory remained his patron until the end of his life. But in the decade after Venantius’ arrival in Gaul, he was on good terms with Felix, too. In his poems, Venantius praises Felix’s unmatched guardianship of romanitas, and he mentions having received a number of letters from the bishop of Nantes.31 On the other hand,Venantius also got a great number of letters from Gregory.32 It may well have been that the poet received letters from both bishops, each one with a different version of the story about Peter. It seems that eventually Venantius decided to laugh with Gregory. As far as we can tell from the collection of Venantius’ poems, he received many more literary, spiritual and material gifts from Gregory than from Felix. His contacts with the bishop of Nantes seem to have stopped in the mid 70s, when Gregory had his dispute with Felix.33 The poems suggest that the exchange between Venantius and Gregory continued until the end of Gregory’s life and that this exchange of texts, poems and books was constant. In one poem, Venantius thanks Gregory for a book with carmina divina that Gregory had written. He also praises Gregory the pastor for sharing them not only with him but with his flock.34 It is most likely that Gregory was thinking of his friendship with Venantius when in his appeal to his successors to keep his work complete and intact, he gave permission for it to be rewritten in verse. Unfortunately we do not have the letters and poems that Gregory wrote and it is not possible to reconstruct the social network of Gregory’s literary friendship any more precisely. Presumably there were strong overlaps with the network that appears in Venantius’ poetry. Since Gregory’s uncle and predecessor, Eufronius, had also been among Venantius’ patrons, it is not surprising that dedicatees of Venantius’ poems such as Chrodinus and Bodegisel or Gregroy’s uncle Eufronius also appear as positive figures in Gregory’s Histories.35 Of course this is not to accept that the social network that Venantius built up overlapped entirely with Gregory’s. On Venantius see above, pp. 88–93. 31 George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp. 114–23; and Roberts, The humblest sparrow, pp. 139–64. 32 On Venantius and Gregory see George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp. 124–31. 33 Gregory places the time of his letter exchange with Felix in Lent 576; for the end of the literary exchange between Venantius and Felix, who died in 582, in the mid 70s see also George, Venantius Fortunatus, pp. 115, 123. 34 Venantius, Carm. V , 8b, p. 119.   35  See above, pp. 92–3. 30


The persistence of Gregory’s vision Nevertheless, their close connections could help us contextualise their relationship within Gregory’s own social, literary and spiritual networks. The bishop of Tours might well have thought about the circulation of his Histories within this communicative framework. The request that he made at the end of his Histories for his successor at Tours to keep his work as he left it could well be understood as evidence for this. As we saw, Gregory put a lot of energy and effort into basing his spiritual authority as bishop of Tours on his descent from a family of holy bishops. He thus may well have expected his successors to be a member of his familia, too.Who was better suited to preserve perfectly the genealogy of pastoral power in Gaul, which was so closely linked to the histories of members of Gregory’s family? But Gregory was not naïve. In all likelihood Gregory, the cultural broker and adroit literary juggler, figured that despite his warning, his case histories would be rewritten and rearranged anyway, by later historians who would ‘select them only in part or omit sections’. He at least imagined that his future successors, who belonged to the same spiritual familia, should secure the preservation and distribution of the authoritative version. 6.2   Th e transmis sion of the HIS TORIES i n th e seve nth c e ntury: the Me roving ian six-book ve r si on The transmission of Gregory’s text in subsequent centuries, however, further demonstrated what Gregory had shown with his Histories:  one always walked a thin line between failure and success. The unusually high number of Merovingian manuscripts makes it clear that the Histories were widely copied soon after Gregory’s death. The manuscript record also shows that the texts circulated exactly as Gregory had feared they would:  Merovingian and Carolingian historians and copyists compiled different versions, omitting not only chapters but even entire books. Within a generation after the end of the Histories, Merovingian compilers produced a six-book version, in which they omitted the last four books, which cover the history during Guntram’s principatus regni following the death of Chilperic I in 584.36 In the first six books, too, a series of chapters were left out.37 This six-book version became quite popular in the Merovingian period. It is extant in an unusually high number of Merovingian manuscripts (five), and in a further manuscript copied 36 In the edition by Bruno Krusch, the manuscripts have been grouped as class B. See Krusch, ‘Die handschriftlichen Grundlagen’; cf. Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp.  192–201, and Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, pp. 279–83. 37 See below, pp. 144–55.


Countermyths probably in northern Italy in the second half of the eighth century.38 It was the version that the authors of the Chronicle of Fredegar used in the early 660s and the author of the Liber historiae Francorum used in 726/7 to summarise the history of the Frankish kingdoms up to Chilperic’s death.39 These were, however, not the only rewritings of Gregory’s Histories. Another Carolingian version came to circulate soon after the beginning of the ninth century.40 It includes material from all ten books, but it still omits many chapters and divides the text into nine books. But it does include a tenth book, which consists of Book IV of the Chronicle of Fredegar, including its continuations up to the death of Charles Martel.41 A  number of manuscripts also combine Gregory’s Decem libri with other historical works; Bruno Krusch, who worked on the editing of the Histories his whole life, grouped these manuscripts as family D. The oldest extant example from this group dates from the late Carolingian period, but most of the D manuscripts were compiled in the high Middle Ages.42 Apart from some ‘chronic gaps’,43 these manuscripts contain a relatively complete text of the Decem libri historiarum.44 But the version of Gregory’s text that Krusch and later Wilhelm Levison deemed the ‘best and most complete’ is transmitted in a single manuscript produced at Montecassino at the end of the eleventh century, and Krusch put it at the top of his stemma as manuscript A1.45 The nature of the transmission of Gregory’s Histories had led to a vigorous debate in older historical research as to which version represented 38 Cambrai, BM 624 [684] (B1 in Bruno Krusch’s stemma), a near-complete version of Books VII to X was added as late as the first half of the eighth century; the same version is also transmitted by MS Brussels, Bibl. royale lat. 9403 (produced around 800), which ‘reminds one of Veronese script and other hands seem to have an Italian look’ (CLA X , 1544.); Paris, BnF lat. 17654, beginning of eighth century, CLA V , 670 (which might have been written in Jouarre); see McKitterick, ‘Nun’s scriptoria’, p. 5; Paris, BnF lat. 17655, Corbie, end of seventh century, CLA V , 671; Leiden, Universiteitsbibliothek,Voss. lat. Q. 63, Tours, first half of the eighth century; a fragment is Karlsruhe, Landesbibliothek, Fragm. Aug. 104, France, beginning of the eighth century, CLA VIII , 1122; see the description of the manuscripts in Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, pp. 282–3. 39 For a full discussion of the use of Gregory’s text in the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber historiae Francorum, see the next chapters. 40 See Heinzelmann and Bourgain,‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, pp. 283–9; and below, pp. 365–6, 403–6. 41 See below, p. 365. 42 Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, pp.  289–91; Heinzelmann, ‘Die Franken’, pp. 328–9. In four of these manuscripts Gregory’s text is transmitted together with the Chronicle of Ado of Vienne and in a further three manuscripts with the Historia Hierosolymitana of Baudri de Bourgueil; see Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, p. 289. 43 Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 193. 44 Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, pp. 289–91, with the stemma codicum on pp. 274–5. 45 Montecassino, Archivio della Badia 275; Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, pp. 277–8; for the context of this copy written in Montecassino see Pohl, Werkstätte der Erinnerung.


The persistence of Gregory’s vision Gregory’s original work; some suggested that the six-book recension might constitute a ‘première rédaction’ that Gregory himself later expanded.46 The question was debated into the twentieth century.47 This is surprising, since as early as 1699, Thierry Ruinart noted that the oldest Merovingian versions (the ones which drew on Gregory’s first six books) included two chapters from Book VII at the end of Book IV, which proved that its first compilers had worked with a longer exemplar.48 There is other proof that a complete version of Gregory’s Histories circulated in the Merovingian and Carolingian periods. Most importantly, three fragments of the text from the first half of the seventh century transmit chapters that are not included in the six-book version, and whose reading matches up with what the later and more complete manuscripts contain.49 Furthermore, some chapters of the Histories are preserved alongside other texts (such as legal collections) in manuscripts that cite their book and chapter number. These numbers also coincide with the version that was reconstructed with the help of the Montecassino manuscript.50 A  series of marginal notes in Carolingian manuscripts also shows the same thing. In the notes, which date to the same time as the manuscripts, the chapters left out of this Carolingian version were indicated by hic deest.51 This version of the text was obviously checked against a copy that transmitted a different more comprehensive version, which must have been similar to the copy from Montecassino. The extant evidence therefore strongly suggests that the Montecassino manuscript represents the ‘best’ transmission of the text that Gregory wrote at the end of the sixth century, at least as regards its scale.52 Although the Merovingian and Carolingian transmission clearly shows that Gregory did not succeed in distributing his historiographical vision ‘just as he had left it’, he does seem to have succeeded in preserving it, at least in part. In addition to all the different versions that were produced, copied and stored in the scriptoria and libraries, a complete text of the Histories was also clearly in 46 See Heinzelmann, ‘Grégoire’, pp. 25–6, with further references. 47 See Krusch, ‘Die handschriftlichen Grundlagen’, p. 680; the English translation by Dalton (1927) is based on an edition which followed in part the B manuscripts. 48 See Ruinart, ‘In novam editionem’, col. 74; Goffart, Narrators, pp. 122–4. The edition by Ruinart was published in 1699; his opinion was already taken into account in the conclusion of the 1735 Histoire littéraire de la France; see Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 198. 49 Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, pp. 277–9; and Krusch, ‘Die handschriftlichen Grundlagen’, pp. 712–18. 50 Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, pp. 291–3. 51 For one of these manuscripts, see below, pp. 365–7; for a more comprehensive discussion see Reimitz, ‘The early medieval history’. 52 As confirmed by the study of Hilchenbach, Das vierte Buch, vol. I , pp. 7–80.


Countermyths circulation. And this text was indeed used to check, or sometimes even to complement, the versions made by compilers who had ‘selected some parts and omitted others’. The role that Gregory’s successors at Tours played in this process is no longer possible to determine. We do not know if they belonged to the network of his magna generatio – his own family. Their names – Pelagius or Peladius, Eparcius, Aigiricus – and the little information we have about them give us few further hints that they were ‘Romans’ like Gregory.53 But it is very likely that the complete version of Gregory’s text did not stay confined to the archives of Tours but was instead distributed quite soon after Gregory’s death. As we have seen, the original compilers of the six-book version had to have worked with a fuller exemplar. The differences between the complete (or nearly complete) manuscripts from the D and A classes suggest a relatively wide distribution of Gregory’s full text from early on. The different Carolingian editors of manuscripts grouped as the C class also used different complete versions for their compilation and corrections of the text. Carolingian library catalogues open up yet another manuscript tradition. Together, these clues show that the complete version must have been available in a number of libraries in the Merovingian and Carolingian periods. The extant manuscripts themselves, however, also display a great interest in the six-book version that emerged shortly after Gregory’s death. When the chroniclers who compiled the Fredegar Chronicle used it around the middle of the seventh century, it must have already been available in different and independently transmitted exemplars. At that point, the six-book version had probably already been in circulation for a generation, but only after the complete version had already been distributed.54 The genesis of the six-book version of Gregory’s Histories, and its subsequent success, has often been explained in terms of a conscious effort to erase or reduce the clerical or ecclesiastical content of the work, in order to rewrite it for an audience who wanted to read a history of the Franks and their kings. For Walter Goffart, the compilers of the six-book version attest to a process by which Gregory’s text was eventually reworked and reinterpreted as a ‘Frankish history’. Although a ‘History of the Franks’ had not been Gregory’s goal, that was what later readers wanted, and what the redactors of the abridged version supplied.55 Further proof for 53 See Leclercq, ‘Tours’, col. 2622. 54 See already Krusch, ‘Die handschriftlichen Grundlagen’, pp. 722–3; but see now Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, pp.  274–5; and Hilchenbach, Das vierte Buch, pp. 41–50, with the stemma codicum, p. 79. 55 Goffart, ‘From Historiae’, p. 65; Goffart, Narrators, p. 123.


The persistence of Gregory’s vision this, according to Goffart and more recently Martin Heinzelmann, is the chapter selection of the Merovingian versions (and the Carolingian versions based on them), which do not include a number of stories concerning bishops, clerics and churches.56 Goffart argued that the redactors of the Historiae supplied a brisker narrative than Gregory had written, ‘so designed as to be, in effect, the first “History of the Franks” ’.57 It is certainly true that the omissions resulted in a considerable increase in the proportion of stories that earlier scholars, too, would have seen as ‘Frankish’ history. This impression may have contributed to the stubborn defence of the six-book recension as Gregory’s ‘première rédaction’ by French historians who regarded the bishop of Tours as the ‘père de l’histoire de France’.58 This treatment of early medieval historiography as the prehistory of modern European nation-states has been fundamentally criticised by Goffart himself, who has shown how this kind of anachronistic appropriation has obstructed historians’ view of a work’s significance at the time of composition. Goffart’s observations have provided important new impulses for a re-evaluation of Gregory’s Decem libri historiarum in the last two decades.59 His insights should be applied not only to Gregory’s Histories but also to the subsequent reworkings of Gregory’s text. As a comparison of the two versions shows, at no point in the manuscripts of the six-book recension are the Franks or their kings given a firmer place in the regnum and their history than Gregory had allowed them.60 While the numerous abridgements remove a large number of episodes pertaining to the spiritual and ecclesiastical history of southern Gaul in particular, the position of the Franks and their kings in the chapters that remain is no more clearly focused than in Gregory’s original version (see the overview of the selections on the following pages). Just as in Gregory’s text, the social geography of Gaul is defined in the six-book version by the martyrs of Gaul and the septem viri who were sent to Gaul to preach.61 The main term that Gregory uses to describe the social and spiritual topography of his narrative  – Galliae  – is also adhered to throughout the narrative of the six-book version and in no instance changed. It remains the fundamental term of political geography, even after the death of Clovis, who according to Gregory had managed See Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 198–201; Heinzelmann, ‘Die Franken’, pp. 327–30; Heinzelmann, ‘Grégoire’. 57 Goffart, ‘From Historiae’, p. 65. 58 See Heinzelmann, ‘Grégoire’, p. 19, with further references. 59 Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 4. 60 One manuscript of the six-book version has been edited in: , Histoire des Francs, ed. Omont. 61 DLH I , 18 and 30, pp. 16–17, 23–4; see below, p. 155., and above, pp. 35 and 46. 56


Countermyths to extend his rule per totas Gallias.62 The six-book version also kept Gregory’s extremely rare and restricted use of the term Francia/Frantia. In omitting the last four books, the compilers even skipped the only time it refers to the whole regnum, in the treaty of Andelot.63 The manuscripts of the six-book version also transmit the entire text of the lengthy ­chapter  9 in Book II  – namely, Gregory’s inconclusive search for the first Frankish king. Interestingly, however, the copyists smuggled a tentative name for a first Frankish king into the very beginning of the chapter. As in Gregory’s original version, the chapter begins with the sentence: De vero Francorum regibus quis fuerit primus a multis ignoratur (Many people do not know who the first king of the Franks was). But the next sentence, starting ‘Among the many things that Sulpicius Alexander tells in his history’, is slightly changed. Gregory goes on to say that non tamen regum primum eorum ullatinus nominat (in no way does he mention names of their first kings). But the manuscripts of the six-book version transmit: non tamen regem primum eorum ualentinus nominat. This may well have been a simple scribal error in the copy from which all the extant manuscripts derive. But it could also have been read as, ‘Among the many things that Sulpicius Alexander tells us in his history, he does not mention their first king Valentinus.’64 If this was meant or understood to be a name for the first king, ‘Valentinus’ can hardly be seen as evidence of a Frankicising tendency. Either way, it had no effect on the main message of Gregory’s chapter. The six-book version ends it just as Gregory had, with the conclusion that nothing can be said about the more distant past of the Franks. And just as in Gregory’s original, the abbreviated version follows this chapter with the lament about the ancient Franks’ paganism.65 After Clovis’ conversion and the extension of his rule per totas Gallias, furthermore, the Franks fall away as a sharply defined group in the six-book version, as they do in Gregory’s Histories. The use of Franci neither increased nor became more specific.66 In response to Walter Goffart’s perception of a Frankish emphasis in the six-book recension, Martin Heinzelmann has undertaken a detailed comparison between Gregory’s text and its Merovingian reworkings. In his study, the process of selection and its role in the shaping of the text is for the first time at the forefront of the analysis – a crucial move towards See above, pp. 56–7.   63  See above, pp. 62–5. 64 DLH II , 9, p. 52, with n. d. For the Carolingian edition of this passage see Reimitz, ‘Konkurrenz’, pp. 191–3. 65 See above, p. 55. 66 See the occurrence of the name of the Franks in Gregory’s Histories above, pp. 57–60 and cf. Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 201. 62


The persistence of Gregory’s vision seeing the text as something more than an empty derivative of Gregory’s work or as raw material that served as a precursor to later Frankish historiography. For Heinzelmann, however, the compilers were not great connoisseurs of Gregory’s text. He basically assumes that they went to work without knowing the original that well, and that they decided which chapters to omit mainly by the chapter headings alone. But as Heinzelmann concedes, someone at least knew the text or sixth-century history well enough to skip the last four books. Because this material deals with the principatus regni of the Burgundian ruler (Guntram) over the Eastern and northwestern kingdoms, it did not fit the political situation after 613, where Chilperic’s son Chlothar II had taken over the monarchia of the Merovingian kingdoms.67 Heinzelmann’s comparison of the texts and his analysis of the redactors’ selection criteria do, however, remain dominated by the general distinction between ecclesiastical subject matter on the one hand and the history of kings and Frankish politics on the other. But this distinction is not always easily comprehensible. As Heinzelmann’s own work on Gregory has demonstrated, the dividing line between political and ecclesiastical spheres is extremely faint in the Merovingian era.68 A comparison between Gregory’s text and the six-book version underlines how questionable this dichotomy is. The latter retained or omitted a number of chapters that do not easily correspond to this pattern. Heinzelmann explains some of these as errors on the part of the redactor, but also concedes that some questions remain in an interpretation of the compiler’s work along those lines.Thus the omission of ­chapters 47 to 49 of Book V, which deal with the accusations and trial against Gregory at the synod of Berny-Rivière, remains inexplicable.69 On the other hand, the six-book version includes some chapters concerned solely with omens and miracles, as well as some sections on purely theological matters.70 Although Heinzelmann discusses what he sees as inconsistencies in the compilers’ work, he still identifies the main criterion of selection as the most obvious common thread in all the omissions: the presence of bishops, clerics, saints and martyrs in nearly all of their chapter titles.71 As we have seen in the previous chapter, this does not necessarily add up to a secularisation of the narrative. In fact the six-book editors were much less interested 67 Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 201. 68 See Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 202–9; P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 154–65; Hen, Culture; and now Kreiner, Social life. 69 Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 201.The titles of these capitula are: 47: De comitatu Eunomii; 48: De malitia Leudastis; 49: De insidiis quas nobis fecit et qualiter ipse humiliatus est (DLH V , capit., p. 192); for the trial see I. Wood, Gregory, pp. 14–17; Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 46–8. 70 See Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 199–201, and Table 1. 71 See Heinzelmann, Gregory, p. 199, also with a discussion of the exceptions.


Countermyths than modern historians in sorting Gregory’s narrative into ecclesiastical, secular and ‘Frankish’ history. As we will see in the following section, their main concern was to build upon Gregory’s central focus on the history and function of pastoral power in Gaul. 6.3   T he re moval of Gre gory ’s i ndivi dual ity and the ap p rop riation of h i s   vi si on The titles that the compilers of the six-book version transmit actually indicate that they wanted to maintain Gregory’s Histories as an ecclesiastical vision of the history of sixth-century Gaul. The majority of extant manuscripts are mutilated at the beginning of the text, so the titles are only transmitted in two of the witnesses. Luckily, however, these two manuscripts were both copied in the Merovingian period around 700. One of them was written at Corbie at the end of the seventh century.72 It specifically underlines not only that the text should be read as a Church history, but it also emphasises the ecclesiastical office of its author. It begins: Incipit praefatio Gregorii episcopi Turonensis ecclesiae.73 After Gregory’s preface to the complete Histories, another title introduces the beginning of Book I on the next page: In Christi nomine incipit Georgi Flo[renti sive] Gregorii Turonensis episcopi historiae aecclesiasticae liber I capitulatio.74 The roughly contemporary, possibly slightly later manuscript written in northeastern France and kept today in Cambrai transmits only Gregorii praefatio prima incipit at the beginning, and as title for Book I In Christi nomine incipit historiarum liber primus. The title was written in a red display type, but is unfortunately no longer legible.75 The impressive manuscript nevertheless conveys very well that the presentation of the text should give it authority. The unusually large format calls to mind Bible manuscripts, which just like Gregory’s text were written in a carefully executed uncial script in two columns (Figure  1).76 Likewise, another extant copy of the six-book version was written at the end of the seventh century in a very beautifully scripted uncial; this manuscript is now housed in Paris (Figure 2).77 To modern eyes, the third manuscript from this group written around 700, the already mentioned manuscript copied at the beginning of the eighth century that transmits the aforementioned 72 Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, p. 282. 73 Paris, BnF lat. 17655, fol. 2v.   74  Paris, BnF lat. 17655, fol. 3r. 75 Cambrai, BM 624, fols. 1r and 3r; Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, p. 282. 76 The book-block is c. 360 × 250 mm, the text-block for the two columns c. 310 × 210; until the middle of the eighth century, Gregory’s Books VII –X were added in a half uncial: see Heinzelmann and Bourgain, ‘L’œuvre de Grégoire de Tours’, p. 282; CLA VI , 742b. 77 Paris, BnF lat. 17654; CLA V , 670; a facsmilie has been published by Omont, Histoire des Francs.


Figure 1  Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 624 [684], fols. 55v/56r, Merovingian six-book version of Gregory of Tours’ Histories

Countermyths title, may seem less splendid. It was written in a highly stylised script that was probably developed at Corbie. This style also bears similarities to the script that was used for royal diplomas in the Merovingian chancery (Figure 3). Both the titles and the careful arrangement of the text indicate a desire to maintain the authority of Gregory’s historiographical vision, even in the abbreviated version. The reproduction retained its main focus on the pre-eminence of Christendom in Gaul, as witnessed and documented by a distinguished member of the episcopacy. Gregory’s writings indeed set an example for future generations. Although the Merovingian compilers and copyists dealt with the Histories in a manner far from what Gregory wanted, their work nevertheless continued his project of historiographical experimentation within an outline that he himself had defined. It was precisely because they wanted to build on his vision that they needed to reconfigure his Histories, in order to adapt them to the changed socio-political settings of the seventh century. The compilers showed great interest in Gregory’s historical exempla and in his experience in the business of truth, but they were clearly less interested in the individual resources that went along with ‘being Gregory of Tours’. By omitting the chapters on bishops, martyrs and saints, they tore apart the carefully woven fabric of chronology and spiritual and familial genealogy that Gregory had used to legitimize his position as the bishop of Tours, as the author of the Histories and as the visionary prophet he plays in the text.The efforts to cut Gregory’s stories off from their roots in the distinctive spiritual and social networks of southern Gaul became apparent as early as the first book. After the compilers had used Gregory’s précis of biblical history, they also built on the bishop of Tours’ history of the early martyrs, for which the history of the Roman Empire was no more than a pale background. The chapter on the foundation of Lyons places it in the time of Julius Caesar, but more importantly it presages its later history as a city of martyrs: Cuius [Caesar’s: HR] nono decimo imperii anno Lugdunum Galliarum conditam manefestissime repperimus; quae postea, inlustrata martyrum sanguine, nobilissima nuncupatur.78 The six-book version skips the chapter in which Gregory actually recounts the history of the martyrs of Lyons. Gregory had placed this chapter before the septem viri were sent to Gaul and started to preach. The compilers decided to leave out the martyrs of Lyons and give the septem viri the first place in Gaul’s spiritual genealogy. This may well have been motivated by the fact that Gregory also mentions Vettius Epagathus at the end of his chapter on the Lyons martyrs.

  DLH I , 19, p. 17.



Figure 2  Paris, BnF lat. 17654, fols. 23v/24r, Merovingian six-book version of Gregory of Tours’ Histories


Figure 3  Paris BnF lat. 17655, fol. 19r, Merovingian six-book version of Gregory of Tours’ Histories, Corbie, c. 700

As Gregory tells us, this man was the first of forty-eight martyrs who fell victim to the persecution once Irenaeus, the second bishop of Lyons, had been killed.79 The compilers skipped not only this chapter, but also the chapter immediately after the one about the septem viri, where Gregory again mentions Vettius Epagathus. In that same chapter we also hear about one Leocadius, a primus senator Galliarum who although still pagan supported the Christian community in Bourges and then converted to Christianity. Here Gregory says only that Leocadius was a descendant of Vettius Epagathus. Leocadius, however, was also Gregory’s great-grandfather, a fact that Gregory makes explicit only in the Vita patrum, not in his Histories.80 This is the first of many occasions when the compilers of the six-book version severed the familial and spiritual networks that Gregory had so   DLH I , 29, pp. 121–2. 80 Leocadius was the father of Gregory’s grandmother Leocadia: Liber vitae patrum VI , 1, p. 230. 79


The persistence of Gregory’s vision Table 1 Selected chapters in the Merovingian six-book version, chapter headings from Ms Cambrai, BM 624 [684] (B1 of Krusch) BOOK I Gregory of Tours, Historiae, ed. Krusch, pp. 1–3 General preface Table of contents Preface to Book I 1. De Adam et Ewa. 2. De Cain et Abel. 3. De Enoch iusto. 4. De diluvio. 5. De Chus adinventorem staticuli. 6. De Babillonia. 7. De Abraham et Nino. 8. De Isaac, Isau et Iob et Iacob. 9. De Ioseph in Aegipto. 10. De transitu rubri maris. 11. De populo in deserto et Iosue. 12. De captivitate populi Israhelitici et generationebus usque David. 13. De Salamone et aedificatione templi. 14. De divisione regni Israhelitic. 15. De captivitate in Babillonia. 16. De nativitate Christi. 17. De diversis gentium regnis. 18. Quo tempore Lugdunos sit condita. 19. De muneribus magorum et necem infantum. 20. De mirabilibus et passione Christi. 21. De Ioseph, qui eum sepelivit. 22. De Iacobo apostulo. 23. De die resurrectiones dominicae. 24. De ascensione Domini et de interitu Pilati atque Herodis. 25. De passione apostolorum atque Nerone. 26. De Iacobo, Marco et Iohanne euangelista. 27. De persecutione sub Traiano. 28. De Adriano et adinventionibus hereticorum et passione sancti Policarpi atque Iustini.

Cambrai, BM 624 [684] General preface Table of contents Preface to Book I De Adam et Euua. De Cain et Abel. De Enoch iusto. De diluvio. De Chus adinventorem staticuli. De Babollonia. De Abraham et Nino. De Isaac, Isau et Iob et Iacob. De Iuseph in Aegipto. De transitu rubri maris. De populo in deserto et Iosue. De captivitate populi Israelithici et generationebus usque David. XIII. De Salamone et aedificatione templi. XIIII. De divisione regni Israelithici. XV. De captivitate in Babillonia. I. De nativitate Christi. XVII. De diversis gentium regni. XVIII. Quo tempore Lugduno sit condita. X De muneribus magorum et necem infantum. De irabilibus et passion Christi. De Ioseph, qui eum sepelivit. De Iacobo apostolo. De die resurrectiones dominicae. De ascensione Domini et de interitu Pilati atque Herodis. De passione apostilorum atque Nerone. XXV. De Iacobo, Marco et Iohanne euangelista. XXVII. De persecutione sub Traiano.


Countermyths Table 1 (cont.) BOOK I 29. De sancto Photino, Hirineo vel reliquis martyribus Lugdunensibus. 30. De septem viris in Galleis ad praedicandum missis. 31. De aecclesia Biturgia. 32. De Chroco et de delubro Arverno. 33. De martiribus qui circa Arvernum passi sunt. 34. De sancto Privato martyre. 35. De Quirino episcopo et martyre. 36. De nativitate sancti Martini et crucis inventione. 37. De Iacobo Nisebeno episcopo. 38. De transitu Antonii monachi. 39. De adventum sancti Martini. 40. De Melanea matron. 41. De interitu Valentis imperatoris. 42. De imperio Theudosi. 43. De interitum Maximi tirrani. 44. De Orbico Arvernorum episcopo. 45. De sancto Hillidio episcopo. 46. De Nepotiano atque Arthemio episcopis. 47. De castitate amantium. 48. De transitu sancti Martini.

XXVIII. De septem viris in Galleis ad praedicandum missis. XXVIII. De Chroco et de delubro Aruerno.

XXX. De adventu sancti Martini. XXXI. De Melanea matrona. De interitu Ualentis imperatoris. XXXIII. De imperio Theudosi. XXXIIII. De interitum Maximi tiranni.

XXXV. De transitu sancti Martini.

BOOK II Gregory of Tours, Historiae, ed. Krusch, pp. 34–6 Table of contents Praeface to Book II 1. De episcopatu Brictii. 2. De Wandalis et persecutionem christianorum sub ipsis. 3. De Cyrola hereticorum episcopum et de sanctis martyribus. 4. De persecutionem sub Athanarico agitata. 5. De Aravatio episcopo et Chunis. 6. De basilica sancti Stefani apud Metensim orbem. 7. De uxore Aetii.

Cambrai, BM 624 [684] Table of contents Preface to Book II De Uuandalis et persecutionem christianorum sub ipsis. II. De Cyrola hereticorum episcopum et de sanctis martyribus. De persecutionem sub Athanrico agitata. IIII. De Arauatio episcopo et Chunis. V. De basilica sancti Stefani apud Metensim orbem. VI. De uxore Ecii.


The persistence of Gregory’s vision Table 1 (cont.) BOOK II 8. Quid de Aetio historiograffi scripserint. 9. Quid de Francis idemque dicant. 10. Quid de simulacris gentium prophetae Domini scribant. 11. De Avito imperatore. 12. De Childerico rege et Egidio. 13. De episcopatu Venerandi ac Rustici Arvernis. 14. De episcopatu Eustochi Turonici atque Perpetui, et de basilica sancti Martini. 15. De basilica sancti Simphoriani. 16. De Namatio episcopo et ecclesia Arverna. 17. De coniuge eius et basilica sancti Stephani. 18. Quod Childericus Aurilianus et Andecavo venit Odovacrius. 19. Bellum inter Saxones ac Romanus. 20. De Victorio duce. 21. De Eparchio episcopo. 22. De Sidonio episcopo 23. De sanctitate Sidonii episcopi, et de iniuriis eius ultione divina moderatis. 24. De fame Burgundiae et Ecdicio. 25. De Euvarege persecutore. 26. De obitu sancti Perpetui et episcopatu Volosiani ac Viri. 27. Quod Chlodovechus regnum accepit. 28. Quod Chlodovechus Chrodigilde accepit. 29. De primo eorum filio baptizato in albis defuncto. 30. Bellum contra Alamannus. 31. De baptismo Chlodovechi. 32. Bellum contra Gundobadum. 33. De interitu Godigisili. 34. Quod Gundobadus converti voluit. 35. Quod Chlodovechus et Alaricus se viderunt. 36. De Quintiano episcopo.

VII. Quid de Aecio historiograffo scripserint. VIII. Quid de Francis idemque dicant. VIIII. Quid de simulacris gentium prophetae Domini scribant. X. De Auto umperatore. XI. De Childerico rege et Egidio. XII. De episcopatu Uenerandi ac Rustici Aruernis.

XIII. Quod Childericus Aurilianus et Andecauo venit Odouacrius. XIIII. Bellum inter Saxones ac Romanos. XV. De Uicturio duce.

XV. De fame Burgundie et Ecdicio. XVII. De Euuarege persecutore. XVIII. Quod Chlodouechus regnum accepit. XVIIII. Quod Chlodouechus Chrodogilde accepit. XX. De primo eorum filio baptizato in albis defuncto. XXI. Bellum contra Alamannus. XXII. De baptismo Chlodouechi. XXIII. Bellum contra Gundobadum. XXIIII. De interitu Godigisili. XXV. Quod Gundebadus converti voluit. XXVI. Quod Chlodouechus et Alaricus se viderunt.


Countermyths Table 1 (cont.) BOOK II 37. Bellum cum Alarico. 38. De patriciato Chlodovechi regis. 39. De Licinio episcopo. 40. De interitu Sigiberthi senioris et fili eius. 41. De interitu Chararici et fili eius. 42. De interitu Ragnachari et fratrum eius. 43. De obitu Chlodovechi.

XXVII. Bellum cum Alarico. XXVIII. De patriciato Chlodouechi regis. XXVIIII. De interitu Sigiberthi senioris et fili eius. De interitu Charici et fili eius. XXXI. De interitu Ragnachari et fratrum eius. XXXII. De obitu Chlodouechi regis.

BOOK III Gregory of Tours, Historiae, ed. Krusch, pp. 94–6 Table of contents Praeface to Book III 1. De filiis Chlodovechi. 2. De episcopatu Dinifi, Apollonaris atque Quinciani. 3. Quod Dani Gallias appetierunt. 4. De Thoringorum regibus. 5. Quod Sigimundus filium suum interfecit. 6. De interitu Chlodomeris. 7. Bellum contra Thoringus. 8. De interitu Hermenifredi. 9. Quod Childeberthus Arvernus abiit. 10. De interitu Amalarici. 11. Quod Childeberthus et Chlotharius Burgundias, Theudericus Arvernus abiit. 12. De excidio regionibus Avernae. 13. De Lovolautro et Meroliacensae castro. 14. De interitu Munderici. 15. De captivitate Attali. 16. De Sigivaldo. 17. De episcopis Turonicis. 18. De interitu filiorum Chlodemeris. 19. De sancto Gregorio et situm Divioninsis castri. 20. Quod Theudoberthus Visigardem disponsavit.

Cambrai, BM 624 [684] Table of contents Preface to book III I. De filiis Chlodouechi. II. De episcopatu Dinifio, Appollonaris atque Quinciani. III. Quod Dani. IIII. De Thoringorum regibus. V. Quod Sigimundus filium suum interfecit. VI. De interitu Chlodomeris. VII. Bellum contra Thoringus. VIII. De interitu Ermenflide. VIIII. Quod Childebertus Auernus abiit. X. De interitu Alarici. XI. Quod Childeberthus et Chlotharius Burgundias, Theudericus Aruernus abiit. XII. De excidio regionibus Aruernae. XIII. De Louolautro et Meroliatensae castro. XIIII. De interitu Munderici. XV. De captivitate Atali. XV. De Sigiualdo. XVII. De episcopis Turonicis. II. De interitum filiorum Chlodomeris. De sancto Gregorio et situm Diuionensis castri. XX. Quod Theudobertus Uisigardem disponsavit.


The persistence of Gregory’s vision Table 1 (cont.) BOOK III 21. Quod Theudoberthus in Provinica abiit. 22. Quod postea Deoteriam accepit. 23. De interitu Sigivaldi [et fuga Sigivaldi]. 24. Quod Childeberthus Theudobertho muneravit. 25. De bonitate Theudoberthi. 26. De interitu filiae Deoteriae. 27. Quod Theudoberthus Visigardem accepit. 28. Quod Childeberthus cum Theudobertho contra Chlothacharium abiit. 29. Quod Childeberthus et Chlothacharius in Hispaniis abierunt. 30. De regibus Hispanorum. 31. De filia Theudorici regis Italici. 32. Quod Theudoberthus in Italiam abiit. 33. De Asteriolo et Secundino. 34. De munere Theudoberthi circa Virdunensis cives. 35. De interitu Sirivuldi. 36. De obitu Theudoberthi et de interitu Partheni. 37. De hieme gravi.

XXI. Quod Theudobertus in Prouintia abiit. XXII. Quod postea Deoteriam accepit. XXIII. De interitu Sigiualdo. XXIIII. Quod Childebertus Theudoberto muneravit. XXV. De bonitate Theudoberthi. XXVI. De interitu filiae Deoterię. XXVII. Quod Theudoberthus Uisigardem accepit. XXVIII. Quod Childeberthus cum Theudobertho contra Chlothacharium abiit. XXVIIII. Quod Childeberthus et Chlothacharius in Hispaniis abierunt. XXX. De regibus Hispanorum. XXXI. De filia Theudorici regis Italici. XXXII. Quod Theudoberthus in Italiam abiit. XXXIII. De Asteriolo et Secundino. XXXIIII. De munere Theudoberthi circa Uirdunensis cives. XXXV. De interitu Siriuuldi. XXXVI. De obitu Theudoberthi et de interitu Partheni. XXXVII. De hieme gravi.

BOOK IV Gregory of Tours, Historiae, ed. Krusch, pp. 133–5 Table of contents 1. De obito Chrodigildis regina. 2. Quod Chlothacharius rex tertiam partem fructuum eclesiis auferre voluit. 3. De uxoribus ac filiis eius. 4. De Brinctanorum comitibus. 5. De sancto Gallo episcopo. 6. De Catone presbytero. 7. De episcopatu Cautini. 8. De Hispanorum regibus.

Cambrai, BM 624 [684] Table of contents I. De obito Chrodigildis regina. II. Quod Chlotharius rex tertiam partem fructum eclesiis auferre voluit III. De uxoribus ac filiis eius. IIII. De Brinctanorum comitibus.

V. De Hispanorum regibus.


Countermyths Table 1 (cont.) BOOK IV 9. De obitu Theudovaldo. 10. De rebellione Saxenum. 11. Quod Catonem ex iussu regis ad episcopatum Turonici petierunt. 12. De Anastasio presbytero. 13. De levitate ac malitia Chramni, et de Cautino ac Firmino. 14. Quod Chlothacharius contra Saxones abiit iterata vice. 15. De episcopatu sancti Eufroni. 16. De Chramno et satellitibus eius et malis quae gessit, vel qualiter Divione advenit. 17. Quod Chramnus ad Childeberthum transiit. 18. De Austrapio duce. 19. De obitu sancti Medardi episcopi. 20. De obitu Childeberthi et interitu Chramni. 21. De obitu Chlothachari regis. 22. Divisio regni inter filios eius. 23. Quod Sigiberthus contra Chunus abiit, et Chilpericus civitates eius pervasit. 24. De patriciato Celsi. 25. De uxoribus Gunthchramni. 26. De uxoribus Chariberthi. 27. Quod Sigiberthus Brunichildem accepit. 28. De uxoribus Chilperici. 29. De secundo Sigiberthi contra Chunus bellum. 30. Quod Arverni ad capiendam Arilatensim urbem ex iussu Sigiberthi regis abierunt. 31. De Tauredune castro et aliis signis. 32. De Iuliano monacho. 33. De Sunniulfo abbate. 34. De Burdigalense monacho. 35. De episcopatu Abiti Arverni. 36. De sancto Nicetio Lugdunense. 37. De sancto Friardo recluso. 38. De regibus Hispanorum.

VI. De obitu Theudoualdo. VII. De rebellione Saxenum.

VIII. De levitate ac malitia Chramni, et de Cautino ac Firmino. IIII. Quod Chlotharius contra Saxones abiit iterata vice. X. De Chramno et satellitibus eius et malis quae gessit, vel qualiter Diuione advenit. I. Quod Chramnus ad Childebertum transiit. De Austrapio duce. II. De obitu Childeberti et interitu Chramni. III. De obitu Chlothari regis. Divisio regni inter filios eius. I. Quod Sigibertus contra Hunus abiit, et Chilpericus civitates eius pervasit. X De patriciato Celsi. De uxoribus Gunthramni. De uxoribus Chariberti. Quod Sigibertus Brunichildem accepit. XXI. De uxoribus Chilperici. De secundo Sigibertho contra Chunus bellum. Quod Aruerni ad capiendam Arilatensim urbem ex iussu Sigiberti regis abierunt. De Tauredune castro et aliis signis.

De regibus Hispanorum.


The persistence of Gregory’s vision Table 1 (cont.) BOOK IV 39. De interitu Palladi Arverni. 40. De imperio Iustini. 41. Quod Alboenus cum Langobardis Italiam occupavit. 42. De bellis Mummoli cum eisdem. 43. De archidiacono Massiliense. 44. De Langobardis et Mummolo. 45. Quod Mummolus Turonus venit. 46. De interitu Andarci. 47. Quod Theudoberthus civitatis pervasit. 48. De Latta monasterio. 49. Quod Sigiberthus Parisius venit. 50. Quod Chilpericus cum Guntchramno foedus iniit, et de obitu Theudoberthi, fili eius 51. De obitu Sigiberthi regis.

De interitu Palladi Aruenni. De imperio Iustini. Quod Alboenus cum Langobardis Italiam occupavit. De bellis Mummoli cum eisdem. XXX. De Langobardis et Mummulo. XXXI. Quod Mummolus Turonus venit. XXXII. De interitu Andarci. XXXIII. Quod Theodoberthus civitatis pervasit Quod Sigibertus Parisius venit. Quod Chilpericus cum Gunthramno foedus iniit, et de obitu Theodoberti, fili eius. De obitu Sigiberthi reges.

BOOK V Gregory of Tours, Historiae, ed. Krusch, pp. 190–2 Table of contents Preface to Book V 1. De Childeberthi iunioris regno et matre eius. 2. Quod Merovechus Brunechilde accepit. 3. Bellum contra Chilpericum et de malitia Rauchingi. 4. Quod Roccolenus Toronus venit. 5. De episcopis Lingonicis. 6. De Leunaste archidiacono Bitorigo. 7. De Senoch reclauso. 8. De sancto Germano Parisiorum episcopo. 9. De Caluppane reclauso. 10. De Patroclo reclauso. 11. De Iudaeis conversis per Avitum episcopum. 12. De Brachione abbate. 13. Quod Mummolus Lemovicas vastavit.

Cambrai, BM 624 [684] Table of contents Preface to book V I. De Childeberthi iunioris regno et matre eius. II. Quod Merouechus Brunechilde accepit. II. Bellum contra Chilpericum, et de malitia Rachingi. Quod Roccolenus Toronus venit.

De sancto Germano Pariseorum episcopo. VI. De Iudicis conversis per Auitum episcopum. VII. Quod Mummulus Limouicas vastavit.


Countermyths Table 1 (cont.) BOOK V 14. Quod Merovechus tunsoratus ad basilicam sancti Martini confugit. 15. Bellum inter Saxonis et Suavos. 16. De interitum Macliavi. 17. De dubietate paschae vel de aeclesia Cainoninse, et quod Guntchramnus rex filius Magnachari interfecit suosque perdidit atque cum Childebertho coniunctus est. 18. De Praetextato episcopo et interitu Merovechi. 19. De aelimosinis Tiberii. 20. De Salunio et Sagittario episcopis. 21. De Winnoco Brittone. 22. De obitu Samsonis, filii Chilperici. 23. De prodigiis ostensis. 24. Quod Guntchramnus Boso filias suas de basilica sancti Helari abstulit, et Chilpericus Pectavus invasit. 25. De interitu Dacconis et Dracoleni. 26. Quod exercitus in Brittaniis abiit. 27. De eiectione Saloni et Sagittari. 28. De discriptionibus Chilperici. 29. De vastatione Brittanorum. 30. De imperio Tiberii. 31. De insidiis Brittanorum. 32. De basilica sancti Dionisii iniuriata per mulierem. 33. De prodigiis. 34. De desenteriae morbo et filiis Chilperici mortuis. 35. De Austrigilde regina. 36. De Eraclio episcopo et Nanthino comite. 37. De Martino Calliciense episcopo. 38. De persecutione christianorum in Spaniis. 39. De interitu Chlodovechi. 40. De Elafio et Eunio episcopis. 41. De legatis Calliciensibus ac prodigiis. 42. De Maurilione Cadurcorum episcopo. 43. De altercatione cum heretico. 44. De his quae Chilpericus scripsit.

VIII. Quod Merouechus tonsoratus ad basilica sancti Martini confugit. VIIII. Bellum inter Saxonis et Suauus. X. De interitum Macliaui. XI. De dubietate paschae vel de aeclesia Cainnonense, et quod Guntchramnus rex filius Maguari interficit suosque perdedit atque cum Childebertho coniunctus est. X De Praetextato episcopo et interitum Merouechi. XII De ęlimosinis Tiberii. XI De Uuinnocho Brittone. XV. De opetu Samsonis, filii Chilperici. XVI. De prodigiis ostensis abstulit, et Chilpericus Pectauus invasit. XVII. Quod Guntchramnus Boso filias suas basilica sancti Helari. De interitu Diaconis et Dracoleni. Quod exercitus in Brittanis habiit. De eiectione Saloni et Saggittarii. De discriptionibus Chilperici. De vastatione Brittanorum. De imperio Tiberii. De insidiis Brittanorum. De prodigiis. De desenteriae morbi et filiis Chilperici mortuis. De Austregilde regina.

De persecutione christianorum in Spaniis. De interitu Chlodouechi. De legatis Galliciensibus ac prodigiis. De altercatione cum heretico. De his qui Chilperico scripsit.


The persistence of Gregory’s vision Table 1 (cont.) BOOK V 45. De obitu Agroeculae episcopi. 46. De obitu Dalmatii episcopi. 47. De comitatu Eunomii. 48. De malitia Leudastis. 49. De insidiis, quas nobis fecit, et qualiter ipse humiliatus est. 50. Quae beatus Salvius de Chilperico praedixit.

Quae beatus Saluius de Chilperico praedixit.

BOOK VI Gregory of Tours, Historiae, ed. Krusch, pp. 263–5 Table of contents 1. Quod Childeberthus ad Chilpericum transiit, et de fuga Mummoli. 2. De legatis Chilperici ad Oriente reversis. 3. De legatis Childeberthi ad Chilpericum. 4. Qualiter Lupus a regno Childeberthi fugatus est. 5. Altercatio cum Iudaeo. 6. De sancto Hospicio reclauso et abstinentia vel miraculis eius. 7. De transitu Ferreoli Ucecensis episcopi. 8. De Eparchio reclauso Aecolinensis urbis. 9. De Domnolo Cinomannorum episcopo. 10. De basilica sancti Martini effracta. 11. De Theodoro episcopo et Dinamio. 12. De exercitu contra Biturigas commoto. 13. De Lupo et Ambrosio Turonicis civibus interfectis. 14. De portentis quae apparuerunt. 15. De obitu Felicis episcopi. 16. Quod Pappolenus uxorem suam recepit. 17. De Iudaeis per Chilpericum regem conversis.

Cambrai, BM 624 [684] Table of contents I. Quod Childeberts ad Chilpericum transiit, et de fuga Mummoli. II. De legatis Chilperici ab Oriente reversis. III. De legatis Childeberthis ad Chilpericum. IIII. Qualiter Lopus a regno Childeberthi fugatus est. V. Altercatio cum Iudaeo. VI. De sancto Hospicio reclauso et abstinentia vel miraculis eius.

VII. De exercetu contra Biturigas commoto.

VIII. De portentes quae apparuerunt. I. Quod Pappolenus uxorem suam recepit. . De Iudaeis per Chilpericum regem conversus.


Countermyths Table 1 (cont.) BOOK VI 18. De legatis Chilperici regis ab Hispania reversis. 19. De homninibus Chilperici regis apud Urbiam fluvium. 20. De obito Chrodini ducis. 21. De signis ostensis. 22. De Cartherio episcopo. 23. Quod Chilperico rege filius natus est. 24. Item de insidiis Theudori episcopi et de Gundovaldo. 25. De signis. 26. De Guntchramno et Mummolo. 27. Quod Chilpericus rex Parisius est ingressus. 28. De Marco refrendario. 29. De puellis monasterii Pictavensis. 30. De obitu Tiberii imperatores. 31. De multis malis, quae Chilpericus rex in civitatibus fratris sui fieri iussit vel ipse fecit. 32. De interitu Leudastis. 33. De locustis morbis prodigiisque. 34. De obitu fili Chilperici, quem Theodoricum vocavit. 35. De interitu Mummoli praefecti et mulieribus interfectis. 36. De Aetherio episcopo. 37. De nece Lupenti abbatis Gaballitani. 38. De obitu Theodosii episcopi et de successore eius. 39. De obitu Remedi episcopi et successore eius. 40. De altercatione nostra cum heretico. 41. Quod Chilpericus rex cum thesauris suis in Camaracense abiit. 42. Quod Childeberthus in Italia abiit. 43. De Galliciensibus regibus. 44. De diversis signis. 45. De nuptiis Rigunthae, filiae Chilperici. 46. De interitu Chilperici regis.

X. De legatis Chilperice regis ab Hispania reversus. I. De hominibus Chilperici reges apud Urbiam fluvium. X. De obito Chrodini duces. . De signis ostensis. . Quod Chilperigo rege filius natus est. XVI. Item de insidiis Theudori episcopi et de Gundoaldo. XVII. De signis. XVIII. De Guntchramno et Mummolo. XVIIII. Quod Chilpericus rex Parisius est ingressus. XX. De Margo refrendario. XXI. De obito Tiberii imperatores. XXII. De multis malis, que Chilpericus rex in civitatibus fratris sui fieri iussit vel ipse ficit. XXIII. De interitu Leudastis. XXIIII. De locustis, morbis prodigiisque. XXV. De obetu fili Chilperici, quem Theodoricum vocavit. XXVI. De interetu Mummuli praefecti et mulieribus interfectis.

XXVII. De altercatione nostra cum heretico. XXV Quod Chilpericus rex cum thesauris suis in Camaracense habiit. XXI. Quod Childeberthus in Italia abiit. . De Galliciensibus reges. . De diversis signis XX. De nuptiis Rigunthae, filiae Chilperici. XXXIII. De interetu Chilperici regis.


The persistence of Gregory’s vision carefully woven into his text. As we have seen, Gregory incorporated two continuous chronologies of the bishops of Tours and Clermont into his Histories.81 Two of the septem viri – Cautinus and Stremonius of Clermont – stand at the beginning of two lines of bishops, which go on to include many of Gregory’s spiritual and actual familia. The two men not only provide parallel chronologies for the reckoning of time before the establishment of the regnum, they also provide time lines that ran towards their fulfilment in Gregory’s episcopate.82 This was all clearly superfluous to the compilers of the six-book recension. After the chapter on the mission of the septem viri, the stories about bishops and martyrs (mostly of Clermont) that follow from it are largely excised. The two bishops of Tours who preceded Martin are mentioned, but the chapters on the saint’s successor, Brictius, were cut from Book II, as were all subsequent chapters on the bishops of Tours in the second book.83 As in the case of the sections about the bishops of Tours in Book II, the redactors of the six-book recension dropped all but one of the chapters dealing with the episcopate of Clermont. Again, this was not a matter of categorical exclusion: we do find other chapters in which bishops or churches appear not only in the text but also in titles, such as the chapter about Bishop Aravatius of   Tongres or the one on the basilica sancti Stephani in Metz during the Huns’ attacks on Gaul.84 Yet the story of the basilica itself was omitted.85 It, too, had a personal meaning that the compilers were uninterested in retaining: as the original text tells us, the basilica had been built by the presbyter Eufronius, who became the bishop of Metz in 451. Gregory also says that Eufronius had donated a marble slab to the tomb of St Martin in Tours. This is not only a ‘sign of the institutional bond of [a]‌senatorial family with the saint’s basilica’ (as Martin Heinzelmann has suggested), it is also one indicator among others of Eufronius’ kinship with Gregory’s family.86 As for the interpretation of the six-book version as a ‘Frankish’ reworking of Gregory’s text, the omission of Gregory’s chapter on Quintianus’ flight from Rodez is interesting. For one thing, one of Gregory’s relatively rare uses of the term Franci was amputated along with it.87 Quintianus 81 Cf. above, pp. 34–5.   82  See above, p. 35. 83 DLH II , 1, pp. 37–8 (Brictius and Eustochius); II , 14, pp. 63–4 (Perpetuus); II , 26, p. 71 (Volusianus and Verus); II , 39, p. 89 (Licinus, his death and successor Dinifius, however, is mentioned in III , 2, p. 98). 84 DLH II , 5, pp.  45–6; II , 6, pp.  47–8; see the comparison of selections in different manuscripts below, pp. 147–8. 85 DLH II , 15, p. 64. 86 Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 19–20; Heinzelmann, ‘Gallische Prosopographie’, p. 601. 87 See above, p. 62 with n.65.


Countermyths himself was a real foreigner. He or his family came to Gaul from Africa; he is attested as bishop of Rodez around 500.88 Gregory tells us that Quintianus was driven out of Rodez (then still under Visigothic rule) because he had been accused of plotting to bring the city under the dominatio Francorum.89 In the same chapter, Gregory reports how Quintianus came to the Auvergne, how Eufrasius of Clermont welcomed him and granted him property, and how the bishop of Lyons supported him, too. At the end of the chapter, Gregory refers to a longer account of the bishop in his Vita patrum, but Quintianus also appears later in his Histories; he eventually became bishop of Clermont at exactly the same time Gregory himself was growing up and getting his early education in that city.90 After Book III, which remained complete and unabridged, the chapter about Gallus’ episcopate in Clermont is the first victim of the Merovingian redactors’ cuts.91 Gregory’s uncle was joined in this fate by Cato and Cautinus, whose struggle to succeed him as bishop is described in the following chapters.92 Likewise, the editors skipped the chapters on another of Gregory’s uncles:  the saintly workaholic Nicetius of Lyons, who in Gregory’s Histories so vigorously defended the preservation of his achievements and memory.93 The chapter on Gregory’s uncle Eufronius – his predecessor as bishop of Tours – was also left out. This last omission not only cut another thread in Gregory’s familial network, it also deleted a statement about Gregory’s family that he had put in the mouth of Chlothar I. Chlothar justified his appointment of Eufronius on the grounds that he came from a prima et magna generatio. In Gregory’s text, the king even confirmed his decision with the sentence, Fiat voluntas Dei et beati Martini, electio compleatur.94 It was not only Gregory’s episcopal relatives whom the Merovingian compilers removed from the Histories. Take the example of dux Gundulfus:  he was sent by Childebert II to Avignon to defend the king’s control of the territory, an incident that both the original and the six-book version mention.95 Gregory had also spoken of Gundulf a few chapters earlier, when Childebert sent the dux to Marseilles. Gundulf had wanted to avoid crossing into Burgundian territory, so he took a detour through Tours, where he met Gregory. Gregory took this occasion to explain that Gundulf was not only member of the senatorial class  Gregory, Liber vitae patrum IV , 1, p. 224. 89 DLH II , 36, pp. 84–5.   90  See Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 29–31. 91 DLH IV , 5, pp. 138–9.   92  DLH IV , 6–7 and 35, pp. 139–40, 167–8. 93 See above, pp. 48–9; DLH IV , 5 and 36, pp. 138–9, 168–9. 94 DLH IV , 15, p. 147.   95  DLH IV , 26, p. 147. 88


The persistence of Gregory’s vision (de genere senatorio) but also his mother’s uncle.96 In contrast to the other chapter with Gundulf, the compilers omitted the chapter with this information in their version. Beyond their omission of individual stories about Gregory’s relatives, it was especially important that the compilers cut out the chapter that explicitly pulled Gregory’s familial network all together. This was the chapter that begins Book V, where Gregory defended himself against the accusations of the foulmouthed Felix of Nantes, the chapter that Ian Wood has called the ‘cornerstone’ for reconstructing the bishop of Tours’ genealogy. As we have seen, in his account of his difficult first years as bishop, Gregory overlapped the spiritual topography of Gaul with his own family history so explicitly that even modern historians have been able to identify Gregory’s blood ties to other characters in the Decem libri.97 As Ian Wood has rightly observed, historians need many tools of modern historical research for that kind of reconstruction.98 The compilers of the six-book version, however, were much closer to the world in which Gregory developed his literary strategies to position himself as actor, auctor and auctoritas in his Histories; they too could identify the personal dimensions of his work, if only to excise them. Their goal was to latch on to Gregory’s genealogy of pastoral power in Gaul, and to do this, it was necessary above all to reconfigure his spiritual topography to make it useful in the changed religious and political landscape of the seventh century. It was this will to preserve the vision of community that Gregory had formulated, albeit from a distinctive southern Gallic perspective that was no longer relevant to their times, which motivated (and possibly legitimised) the work of the Merovingian compilers. Gregory the watchman who guarded the Christian community in his role as pastor  99 maintained a strong presence in the six-book version. The abbreviated Histories start their Book V just as Gregory had, with his ‘sermon’. Just as in the original, Gregory appears as a speaking and acting figure from early on; in his admonitions to the comes Roccolen and King Chilperic in V, 4, and in his forceful appearance at the trial of Praetextatus of Rouen in V, 18.100 The three chapters at the end of Book V covering Gregory’s own trial before the synod at Berny-Rivière, however, were not included. As we have seen, this was again a moment where Gregory’s ‘individuality’ came strongly to the fore in recounting a very difficult situation for the bishop of Tours. After all, he had to defend DLH VI , 11, p. 281.   97  See above, pp. 36–7. I. Wood, ‘Individuality’, p. 40. 99 For the definition of the role of the bishop as watchman around 600 see Leyser, Authority, pp. 162–3. 100 See above, pp. 28–9, 39–43. 96 98


Countermyths himself against accusations of high treason. As with his invective against Felix of Nantes (V, 5), Gregory built on his spiritual and biological familia to bolster his position. This defence seems to have become particularly important when Gregory returned to Tours, where Riculf claimed to have freed the city from the populus Avernus. We already know Gregory’s response to this: Riculf, he asserted, was an idiot if he did not know that the members of Gregory’s family had been bishops of Tours for centuries. But now, probably about a generation after Gregory’s death, the compilers of the six-book version finally got rid of Gregory’s populus Avernus. This strategy was not aimed at the successors of the Auvergnian familial network; it rather released the text from the outdated spiritual topography it represented and the obsolete political constellation to which it was connected. The last four books were discarded for the same reason; in them, Gregory had defined the political framework of his vision through the Austrasian-Burgundian alliance under Guntram and his designated successor, Childebert II. Gregory seems to have found the idea of a king’s supremacy over the Merovingian kingdoms attractive for several reasons.When this regnum Francorum acquired a new perspective with the birth of a son to Childebert II – renewing hope for dynastic continuity and creating cohesion across the subkingdoms  – Gregory publicly shared Guntram’s joy.101 Later, the bishops sent a letter to Childebert that underlined the king’s responsibility for the unity of the Church.102 Above all, Gregory was able to link Childebert’s rule to the hope that members of his network would also play an important role in the future. A series of bishops in his family, including Gregory himself, had excellent connections to the court of Reims and later Metz. At the same time, the bishoprics that members of Gregory’s family had occupied were divided between Austrasia and Burgundy. A  United Kingdom of Austrasia and Burgundy, governed by a ruler in Metz, meant that there was a good chance that these bishoprics would continue to be occupied by members of Gregory’s familial and spiritual network. One of the final three chapters (which I  discussed briefly at the beginning of this chapter) also provides further evidence that Gregory imagined the future of the regnum in terms of this specific constellation. When Guntram finally decided to acknowledge Fredegund’s son Chlothar as a Merovingian relative and agreed to become his godfather, Gregory reports that Childebert II sent an embassy to him. The Austrasian king was clearly concerned about the implications of DLH VIII , 37, p. 405, which is one of the five occurences of regnum Francorum in Gregory’s text (see above, pp. 61–2). 102 DLH X, 16, p. 505. 101


The persistence of Gregory’s vision Guntram’s spiritual fathering. But Guntram energetically defended his decision to become Chlothar’s godfather, and at the same time he confirmed that it would not change anything between him and Childebert. He would observe the treaty between them in every point. As long as Childebert kept his side of the agreement, it would assuredly not be broken.103 As Gregory portrays it, Guntram’s policy was a strategy of peacekeeping, which the king had explained to him personally during a spirited evening they had spent together after the treaty of Andelot had been concluded. Guntram, as Gregory tells it, was in a very good mood. They drank some wine, laughed, chatted and mused together. That evening Guntram also shared his concerns with Gregory about Childebert, whom he feared would misinterpret his strategies towards Chlothar. But Guntram wanted only to prevent further conflict between the two nephews, as he told Gregory: Am I such a fool that I cannot mediate between them and so stop their conflicts from spreading? I am quite sure that it is better to end the conflicts instead of letting it drag on. If I will have convinced myself that Chlothar is my nephew, I will give him two or three cities in some part or other of my kingdom, so that the one does not think that he is excluded from my inheritance and the other is not concerned about what I bequeath to the other.104

6.4  A fte r the e nd of ancie nt Ch ri sti anity:  th e reconfi g uration of late Antique top og raph i e s i n the seve nth ce ntury A little more than two decades after Gregory’s conversation with Guntram on the eve of the signing of the treaty of Andelot, however, this Chlothar would rule more than just a few cities. In 613, the son of Chilperic took over the monarchia of all three kingdoms.105 He had indeed started out with a small power base in the northwest. After Childebert’s death in 596, and the death of Childebert’s two sons (Theudebert II and Theuderic II) in 612/13, parts of the governing classes of the Burgundian and Austrasian regna allied with Chlothar, who marched with his army into the eastern territories. The ageing queen Brunhild, Gregory’s royal heroine, tried to put her great-grandson Sigibert on the throne. As the majority of later sources tell it, the once-powerful queen had lost the support of her men. When her army met Chlothar’s and fell into formation for battle, suddenly a signal was given and Brunhild’s entire army deserted the battlefield. Chlothar took over rule of the whole kingdom, put members of DLH X , 28, p. 521.   104  DLH IX , 20, p. 441. 105 I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 140–9. 103


Countermyths each faction that had supported him into high office and executed the whole Austrasian-Burgundian royal family, save one.106 The foundations of the new political balance were negotiated and established a year later in Chlothar’s new political centre, Clovis’ residence in Paris. Chlothar summoned a kingdom-wide council, and responded to the conciliar canons with his own edict, the famous Edict of Paris of 614.107 During the political settlements and reorganisation of the kingdom, the memory of Brunhild’s family was also completely obliterated. Chlothar’s edict confirms rights concerning tolls and ecclesiastical immunities that he had been granted under his predecessors bonae memoriae, whom he names as Sigibert, Chilperic and Guntram  – altogether ignoring Childebert II, Theudebert II and Theuderic II.108 A  similar damnatio memoriae of Sigibert’s and Brunhild’s progeny can be found in Jonas of Bobbio’s Vita Columbani, written around 641.109 Although Columbanus came to the Frankish realms during the reign of Childebert II, who was also on the throne when the Irishman founded Annegray and Luxeuil, Jonas dated his arrival to the time of Sigibert I, thereby avoiding any mention of the support from Brunhild’s son that the saint undoubtedly received for his Burgundian foundations. Jonas’ bias becomes more explicit in his account of Columbanus’ visit to Brunhild’s court. When the queen asks the saint to bless her great-grandsons (the son of Theuderic II), Columbanus refuses, prophesying that they will never be kings because they were ‘the fruits of fornication’.110 In the very next chapter, and at one further point in the text, Jonas took the opportunity to have Columbanus predict that Chlothar would rule over all the Merovingian kingdoms.111 In the context of the substantial support that the Columbanian foundations received from Chlothar and his successors, it is perhaps unsurprising that Jonas sought to dissociate his saint from the disgraced progeny of Brunhild. His text reflects more than changes in the political circumstances since the late sixth century. It is also an important source for the fundamental transformation of the spiritual and social geography during the first half of the seventh century. The appearance of Columbanus in Gaul fell in a time in which we also observe the ‘emergence of a new 106 See 181–1. 107 See now LeJan, ‘Timor’; Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, pp. 340–57; I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 140–4 Murray, ‘Immunity’. 108 Chlotacharii II edictum, no.  9, pp.  20–3; I.  Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp.  142–3; Rosenwein, Negotiating space, pp. 59–73. 109 See I. Wood, ‘Jonas, the Merovingians and Pope Honorius’; and Rohr, ‘Hagiographie’, p. 233. 110 Jonas, Vita Columbani I , 19, p. 188; I. Wood, ‘Jonas, the Merovingians and Pope Honorius’; Diem, ‘Monks’. 111 Jonas, Vita Columbani I , 20, p. 198; I , 24, p. 207; see also I , 9, p. 220.


The persistence of Gregory’s vision world’ after the ‘end of ancient Christianity.’ Columbanus and his legacy ‘acted as a catalyst for these changes which had already been under way for a century’.112 In writing the Vita Columbani therefore, ‘Jonas was writing a spiritual text, which took into account the political development of the period after 613’.113 In this respect, royal history was not the text’s only focus. It also mentions and highlights Columbanus’ connections with a number of influential families and social networks – such as the family of Audoin, who became bishop of Rouen, Waldelenus and his wife Flavia, and the Burgundofarones – reflecting as well as promoting the establishment and reconfiguration of elites in the Merovingian kingdoms.114 The royal court in Paris apparently played an important role in the formation of new elites, or in building new curricula for the elites of the Merovingian kingdom. There are a number of indications that the court organised the education and training of future court members. ‘It seems’, Ian Wood observed, as if the palace acted ‘as a clearing house, placing the sons of officials and magnates in appropriate households for their upbringing’.115 The task was not delegated to ‘appropriate households’ alone. There was a junior academy at the palace itself, which was an excellent starting position for a career at court. If a young man proved himself there, he could look forward to the possibility of eventually becoming a bishop, a career path that Chlothar had already projected in his Edict of Paris in 614.116 Chlothar’s son Dagobert I could also support himself with this network when his father died, and he returned from his Austrasian subkingdom to Paris and took up rule there. Much to the chagrin of the elites at the Austrasian court he left, and many of Dagobert’s former schoolmates at the court in Paris became his most important advisers and supporters.117 But the networks that were developed at the court were not only cultivated at Paris. A collection of letters from the circle of Desiderius of Cahors shows that former courtiers kept up their connections through literary exchange and friendship even after becoming bishops, very much as Venantius and Gregory had.118 A group of new saints’ lives also emerged P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 219–21; see now P. Brown, Ransom of the soul; Diem, Das monastische Experiment; and Kreiner, Social life. 113 I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, p. 196; and Diem, ‘Monks’. 114 I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, p. 185; LeJan, Famille, pp. 122–7; LeJan, ‘Convents’; and now the study by Fox, Power and religion. I am grateful to Yaniv Fox allowing me to read the manuscript in advance. 115 I. Wood, ‘Administration’, p. 74, see also Hen, Roman barbarians, pp. 101–6. 116 Chlothacharii II edictum, c. 1, p. 21; Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, pp. 340–57; and cf. Murray, ‘Immunity’. 117 See below, pp. 161–2.   118  See above, p. 131. 112


Countermyths from this social context, which the pen-pals wrote for and about each other.119 These texts reflect not only the establishment of new political centres but also the reorganisation of the spiritual topography in the seventh century. This process began with a series of impulses from the Columbanian reform movement, to which many members of the new elites at court were closely linked.120 The support of these elites clearly contributed to the success of a new monastic culture, which in turn was associated with a ‘redistribution of resources between bishops, monasteries and kings’ in the seventh century.121 However, as more recent studies have shown, what has been called Columbianian monasticism is a much less uniform type of monasticism than has long been assumed.122 At the same time we should not forget that there were still other traditions and resources that the promotion of a ‘Columbanian’ spiritual network had to take into account. We might detect this in the composition of the Vita Columbani itself. The text was written in the early 640s, around the same time that the six-book version of Gregory’s Histories had begun to circulate.123 When Dagobert died in 638/9, he left behind a son who was only about five years old, Clovis, to rule the Neustrian kingdom.124 Clovis’ brother Sigibert, who was around four years older, had already been installed as the subking of Austrasia a year earlier. How their mother, Nantechild, and her advisers in Paris would be able to maintain the political and social balance was not yet clear. In this situation, Jonas’ histories about the association of the saints with prominent members of the Merovingian elite (not least Chlothar II) also seem to be geared towards protecting this balance further. It seems to have succeeded, but the great success of the Columbanian movement also tends to let us overlook the many different experiments and alternative efforts to reorganise the spiritual topography of Gaul in the seventh century. The conflict between other spiritual programs appears more clearly in another work by Jonas of Bobbio, the Life of 119 See now Heinzelmann, ‘L’hagiographie mérovingienne’; and Kreiner, Social life, esp. pp.  5–25; for the question, how the transformation affected the positions and postures of bishops: Kreiner, ‘About the bishops’. 120 I. Wood, ‘Jonas, the Merovingians and Pope Honorius’; LeJan, ‘Convents’; see now Fox, ‘The bishop’ and id., Power. 121 For the quotation see Nelson, ‘Queens as Jezebels’, p. 39; for a comprehensive analysis of these social changes in the late Antique West up to the time of Columbanus see now P. Brown, Through the eye, pp. 503–26; P. Brown, ‘From amator patriae’; Kreiner, ‘About the bishops’. 122 Diem, Das monastische Experiment; Fox, Power and religion; O’Hara, ‘TheVita Columbani’; I. Wood, ‘TheVita Columbani’; and Wood, ‘Jonas, the Merovingians and Pope Honorius’. 123 Rohr, ‘Hagiographie’, p. 233. 124 For the tense situation after the death of Dagobert see I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 155–8; Offergeld, Reges pueri, pp. 235–46.


The persistence of Gregory’s vision John of Réôme. As Albrecht Diem has shown in his excellent study of the text, Jonas was a careful reader of Gregory of Tours’ work. But he actually used Gregory’s episodes to turn them upside-down, in order to demonstrate that ‘the Columbanian monastic way of life was in fact already practised long before Columbanus arrived on the Continent’.125 There also seems to have been direct competition with Gregory’s legacy in Auxerre. The seventh-century Vita interpolata of Germanus of Auxerre borrows an episode from Gregory’s Liber de virtutibus sancti Juliani. The interpolator has long been seen to have worked in the Carolingian period. Wolfert van Egmond has in his recent study on the hagiography of Auxerre convincingly shown, that we are in fact dealing with a seventh-century compiler, who tried to collect all possible information to enhance the prestige of the saint.126 He also included passages of Gregory of Tours’, Liber de virtutibus S. Iuliani, but changed the excerpted text substantially, in order to underline the superiority of Germanus over the saint that Gregory and his family so venerated, and stressed the devotional inadequacy of Brioude, more generally in competition with Auxerre.127 We also find Germanus in competition with Gregory’s most important saint, Martin, in the six-book version of his Histories. In his sermon at the beginning of the trial against Praetextatus, Gregory had already attempted to make his colleagues aware of their responsibility by using historical examples, which included among others the example of St Martin and his clash with Emperor Maximus.128 In their version of Gregory’s speech, however, the six-book redactors switched the name of Martin with the name of his contemporary Germanus.129 This ‘mistake’ fits well with tendencies of the seventh-century interpolator of the Vita Germani. He also took up Gregory’s strategies and adapted them, in order to give Germanus and Auxerre a higher profile in the spiritual topography of Gaul.130 Similar motives seem to lie behind the composition of the Rictiovarus cycle, a collection of martyr stories that was compiled around the middle of the seventh century. The subjects not only share a persecutor in common, the Roman prefect Rictiovarus, they also all suffered their marytrdoms in northern Gaul. Already in the Merovingian period their Diem, ‘The rule’. 126 Van Egmond, Conversing, pp. 107–27. 127 Cf. Vita Germani interpolata 58, pp. 200–20, with Gregory, Liber de passione, p. 126. I should like to thank Jamie Kreiner, who shared her research on these differences with me. 128 See above, p. 41.   129  DLH V , 18, p. 218, with n. c. 130 Jamie Kreiner and I are preparing a more comprehensive hagiographical contextualisation of the Merovingian six-book version. 125


Countermyths veneration is attested in a number of places, in the area of Chlothar’s new regnal centre or in the northwest regnum. Their histories clearly recall some of Gregory’s themes, even when they are meant to compete with his spiritual topography. Like Gregory’s septem viri, so does the future martyr Quintianus come to Gaul (in this case, northern Gaul) to preach with eleven other missionaries. In describing how the preachers suffered their martyrdom in various places, and how they were venerated here and there, the text – like Gregory’s Histories – mapped out its own spiritual topography, although in contrast to Gregory, it did so for northern Gaul and the area around the centre of Chlothar’s kingdom:  Soissons, Seins-en-Amienois, Corbie and Beauvais.131 The name of Saint-Quentin, a city about 100 miles north of Paris, still recalls the martyr who is said to have been killed there. But this was not always the case. His remains were found only half a century after his death, but the place where they were venerated was subsequently forgotten. It was no less than Eligius, Dagobert’s treasurer at the Merovingian court in Paris and later bishop of Noyon, who rediscovered it.We know about this because his close friend from his days at the court, Audoin (later bishop of Rouen), wrote about it in the vita he composed about Eligius after his death.132 The traces of conflict with the legacy of Gregory of Tours lead back to a number of different contexts that we cannot follow any further here. But the examples can help us to understand better the social background of the compilers and copyists of the Merovingian six-book version of his Histories. The extensive cutting of bishops, saints and martyrs does not bring us into a world where the question of the public function of sanctity was any less important. On the contrary, they actually should be seen as evidence that it had become even more important. The intensification of this discourse has recently been studied in an important study by Jamie Kreiner. In it she is able to show how the numerous hagiographical texts that were produced in the seventh century continued to develop a Christian vision for Merovingian society. As in Gregory’s Histories, different social and spiritual networks emerged that developed the programme of a shared Christendom for the political community. Through their competition with each other, many of the extant hagiographical texts can be studied as an ideological laboratory, which negotiated the Christian integration of the Merovingian community. Gregory himself provided an essential impetus to this process; his impact is evident in the conflict, reordering and eventual displacement of the spiritual Mériaux and Meijns, ‘Le cycle’; Gaillard, ‘Remarques’. 132 Vita Eligii II , 6, pp. 697–9; see the comprehensive discussion on the author and the date of the extant text: Bayer, ‘Vita Eligii’; Mériaux, ‘Du nouveau sur la Vie’. 131


The persistence of Gregory’s vision topography of his Christendom. The seventh century was able to build on the authority of Gregory the broker and on his historiographical vision. In order to do that, however, it was necessary to cut it loose from the spiritual and familial networks that Gregory had used to construct his authority.


Chapter 7

IO C U NDU S IN FAB O LIS ET STR ENUUS IN C O NSILIIS Roman trickery and Frankish mythmaking in the Chronicle of Fredegar 7.1  Prof i le r s : construing F rank i sh conti nuity through unive r sal h i story As we saw at the end of the first part of this book, the sixth-century Merovingian politics of identity left ample room for manoeuvre:  it was possible to develop conceptions of history and identity in the Merovingian regnum other than Gregory’s. With his lengthy anti-origo, Gregory himself seems to have written a polemic against contemporary efforts to link the name of the Franks to a common history and future. There is no trace of a historiographical project in the sixth century that is even remotely comparable in scope and claim to Gregory’s, in which the name of the Franks was connected to a common history and identity. This was to change from the seventh century onwards. Historians, who were much more interested in the role and meaning of a Frankish identity than Gregory, started to use precisely the historiographical Spielräume which Gregory had used and to some extent passed on through the great success of his Histories. This is especially apparent in the first extant comprehensive attempt to give the Franks a prominent place in the history of the Merovingian kingdom: the Fredegar Chronicle. The oldest extant redaction of the chronicle was most probably compiled in the early 660s.1 This was, however, only one moment in a continuous process in which Merovingian historians continued to work on the Histories of the bishop of Tours and – as concerns the meaning and role of the Franks – often worked against the historiographical legacy of Gregory of Tours. The compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle relied on a different model from Gregory for their integration of the history of the Merovingian kingdoms into a broader historiographical vision. Whereas Gregory I.Wood, ‘Fredegar’s fables’; for an overview over the discussion on authorship and date see Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 8–25; see the forthcoming study by Fischer, Die Fredegar-Chronik. I should like to thank Andreas Fischer for discussing and sharing many of his insights. 1


Trickery and mythmaking clearly orientated himself according to the models of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Church history, the seventh-century authors and compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle orientated themselves to Eusebius’ other historiographical project, the ‘world chronicle’. As I briefly mentioned earlier, Eusebius’ world chronicle had already been translated into Latin and continued by Jerome towards the end of the fourth century.2 Not long after Jerome, successive generations of chroniclers took up the task and continued Jerome’s chronicle up to their own times. Many kept the basic organisation and structure of the chronicle that they had inherited through Jerome.3 The result was a set of continuations that Ian Wood has insightfully described as ‘chains of chronicles’, as in the case of Marius of Avenches, writing in the south of the Merovingian kingdoms at the end of the sixth century. Marius’ own narrative starts only in 455, and it continues not just Jerome’s work but also other chronicle-continuations, including the chronicler of 452 and Prosper of Aquitaine.4 Just like Marius’ chronicle, the historiographical project of the seventh-century Fredegar Chronicle was designed as a ‘chain of chronicles’, although with a different ensemble of chronicles. In its oldest extant redaction, it begins with the Liber generationis of Hippolytus of Rome, followed by the Chronicle of Eusebius/Jerome (until it ends in AD 378) and the continuation of Hydatius (to 468). Unlike Marius, however, the Fredegar compilers not only continued to make connections to Roman history, they also fundamentally reworked them. There are a number of interpolations in the excerpts from Jerome and Hydatius, and the chroniclers also added a number of highly interesting chapters to the end of their version of Hydatius. Whereas Hydatius mainly dealt with the history of Spain and Gaul, this addition broadens the perspective of the narrative with chapters on the kingdom of Italy under Theoderic the Great, the Byzantine Empire and the end of the Vandal kingdom in Africa. As part of this section on the transformation of the Roman world, the chroniclers also included a long story on the conflicts between Goths and Franks under their king Alaric II, and Clovis’ conquest of the Visigothic regnum of Toulouse.5 In all the manuscripts of the older redaction, these chapters end with a section that includes the epitome of Jerome and Hydatius, all grouped together as a single book. The compilers then constituted the next book with their own version of Gregory of  Tours, calling it a liber, quod est scarpsum de 2 See above, pp. 74–5. 3 On chronicle writing in late Antiquity, see above p. 74 with n. 3. 4 I. Wood, ‘  “Chain of chronicles” ’, pp.  67–78; translation and edition of the chronicle of Marius: Favrod, La chronique. 5 CF II , 56–62, pp. 77–89.


Countermyths cronica Gregorii episcopi Toronaci. The title varies slightly in the manuscripts and in the different extant versions of the chronicle, but they all refer to Gregory of   Tours as the author of the book that followed.6 It seems that neither the original compilers nor their successors and copyists could do without the historiographical authority of Gregory of Tours. The compilers were clearly working with the Merovingian six-book version of Gregory’s Histories here, since their epitome ends with the death of Chilperic I (the end of Gregory’s Book VI). In their réécriture, however, Gregory’s vision was not only adapted and updated, it was actually turned upside-down. This becomes most obvious in their version of Gregory’s chapter about the impossibility of finding reliable sources on the first Frankish kings. In the chronicle’s excerpt, the passage begins by repeating the first part of the sentence that starts Gregory’s ultimately fruitless search for the first Frankish kings: De Francorum vero regibus – and, anticipating the inconclusive conclusion – quis fuerit primus, a multis ignoratur. In the Chronicle of Fredegar, however, this line triggers a claim that contradicts the bishop of Tours, thanks to the assistance of prestigious literary and religious authorities: De Francorum vero regibus – beatus Hieronimus, qui iam olym fuerant, scripsit, quod prius Virgilii poetae narrat storia:  Priamum primum habuisse regi. (Concerning the kings of the Franks, the holy Jerome wrote what the poet Virgil had already reported in his history, that Priam had been their first king.)7

In the rest of the excerpt from Gregory, the chronicler sprinkles preand early history of the Franks and their kings in particular places. After Troy had been conquered through Odysseus’ cunning, the Franks set out on a journey under their king Frigas, and from then on they were also called Frigii. Then they split up; one group headed to Macedonia, the other to Asia under Frigas. This latter group split yet again. One part stayed behind on the banks of the Danube: this group chose one Torcoth to be king, so in this region they were also called Turci, after him. The other part, under King Francio, from whom the Franci derived their name, moved further into Europa and came up to the Rhine. They settled the area on the banks of the Rhine with their wives and children, and they even began to build a city, which they named after Troy. After Francio, though, no more kings are named. The chapter ends by saying that the Franks lived in this region under duces for a long time, until the time of the duces Marchomir, Sunno and Gennobaudes. After this sentence  – whose named duces also appeared in Gregory’s Histories – the compilers returned to the text of the bishop of Tours with 6 CF III , capit., p. 89, with note a.   7  CF III , 2, p. 93.


Trickery and mythmaking word-for-word quotations summing up the complex interaction between Franks and Romans along the Rhine.They included the raids of Frankish groups under these duces, as well as the counter-attack of Roman troops that Gregory had included as a quotation from Sulpicius Alexander.8 They also report the Frankish conquest of Trier, the powerful position of the Frankish magister militum Arbogast and that under his rule all the civic and military offices were held by Frankish satellites. The compilers also included Gregory’s account of Arbogast’s victorious campaigns against the duces Marchomir and Sunno. In the next sentence, kings return: after the duces were killed, kings were elected again, descending from the stirps that ruled earlier. Dehinc, extinctis ducibus, in Francis dinuo regis creantur ex eadem stirpe, qua prius fuerant.9 After that, the compilers added another story to their excerpt from Gregory in which the Franks appear as allies of the Roman senator Lucius, to attack and burn down the city of Trier. The prehistory of this Roman-Frankish alliance is interesting. Emperor Avitus (whom Gregory had already mentioned as an emperor addicted to luxury) had seen the beauty of Lucius’ wife. He pretended to be sick, ordered the wives of the senators to come to him and nurse him and took the opportunity to rape Lucius’ wife. Not much later he saw Lucius and made a saucy remark: ‘You have a beautiful warm bath, too bad that you bath in the cold.’ In response to this humiliation Lucius allied with the Franks to attack Trier but as the chroniclers have it, it seems to have been the joke rather than the rape which had enraged the senator.10 After their selection of stories about Roman-Frankish interactions, the Fredegar compilers returned to the history of the Frankish kings in ­chapter  9 of their epitome. The first sentence sums up what they had inserted so far into Jerome’s text: ‘After careful deliberations, the Franks elected a king who, just like the earlier kings, was distinguished by his long hair, and who was a descendant of the family of Priam, Frigas and Francio.’ Like the reference to the long hair, the compilers took the name and lineage of the first king of the new royal generation from Gregory: the Franks named their new king Theudomer, son of Ricimer.11 The same was true for his successor Chlodio, who in contrast to Gregory’s stress on the discontinuity of royal history was now presented as the son of Theudomer. Apart from this crucial change, however, the compilers CF III , 3, pp. 93–4. For a detailed discussion of the historical context of the reported events see Ewig, ‘Probleme der fränischen Frühgeschichte’, pp. 83–93; Nonn, Die Franken, pp. 53–63. 9 CF III , 5, p. 94.   10  CF III , 7, p. 94. 11 Franci electum a se regi, sicut prius fuerat, crinitum, inquirentes diligenter, ex genere Priami, Frigi et Francionis super se creant nomen Theudemarem, filium Richemeris (CF III , 9, p. 94). 8


Countermyths carefully followed Gregory’s wording in the next sentences of their rewritten narrative, about Chlodio and his age at the end of Gregory’s chapter II, 9. The next sentence in the chronicle was clearly also intended to mirror Gregory’s first sentence of the next chapter in his Histories (II, 10) on the paganism of the Franks. Haec generacio fanaticis usibus culta est.12 Instead of Gregory’s biblical lament that the generatio Francorum could not hear the voice of God,13 the compilers of the chronicle inserted a story about Chlodio and his wife. It is said – fertur, the chronicle begins – that Chlodio once went for a walk on the beach with his wife. When his wife went to go swimming, she was suddenly attacked by a beast coming out of the sea – a bistea Neptuni Quinotauri similis. Soon after the incident, it turned out that the queen was pregnant, and the chronicler explicitly leaves it an open question as to whether her son, who would become no less than Merovech, the heros eponymus of the Merovingian family, was a descendant of the sea monster or of the king. Cumque in continuo aut a bistea aut a viro fuisset concepta, peperit filium nomen Meroveum, per co regis Francorum post vocantur Merohingi.14 In older historical scholarship, this passage was often treated as direct evidence for a pre-Christian, Germanic tradition of the sacral legitimation of Merovingian kingship. As more recent scholarship has underlined, however, it belongs rather to tendencies in the chronicle to criticise or ridicule the Merovingian kings.15 It is actually striking that precisely with the Merovingian heros eponymus, the carefully constructed genealogical integration of the Frankish kings with their Trojan ancestors is called into question. Given the fuzziness, some scholars chalked up the question of who Merovech’s father actually was (Chlodio or the bistea Neptuni Quinotauri similis) to the narrative irony of the Fredegar Chronicle.16 This interpretation also fits well with the idea that the Fredegar Chronicle also related the Merovingian family much more deliberately to the archaic-heathen tradition than Gregory of Tours had. Although in Gregory the generatio always gave its allegiance to heathen cults, in Fredegar it became an object of the cult itself.17 12 Cf. CF III , 9, p. 95, with DLH II , 10, p. 58: Sed haec generatio fanaticis semper cultibus visa est obsequium praebuisse. 13 DLH II , 10, p. 60.   14  CF III , 9, p. 95. 15 I. Wood, ‘Deconstructing the Merovingian family’, pp. 150–5. 16 Diesenberger and Reimitz, ‘Zwischen Vergangenheit und Zukunft’, pp.  244–6; see already Murray, ‘Post vocantur Merohingii’. 17 Murray, ‘Post vocantur Merohingii’, p. 133, with n. 33, suggests translating the passage in the sense of Gregory of Tours, but this interpretation overlooks how fundamentally the chroniclers revised Gregory’s Histories.


Trickery and mythmaking Perhaps the intial fertur can also be seen as evidence that the compiler expected certain knowledge of the history he was interspersing only sparingly. Three sentences were enough to make the point. It indicates a return to motifs or syntheses of Roman and Frankish myths and histories that had circulated in different regions of Gaul since the fourth century.18 In the absence of parallel histories or anything about the origin and age of these elements, it is impossible to know whether, when and how much they played a role in how the Frankish kings saw themselves. In the Fredegar Chronicle, the knowledge on which it bases its narrative is not the idea of a divine descent of the Merovingian kings, but the contradiction of the genealogy, in which the descent from the early kings competed with the origin in a supernatural being. It is possible that the text took both its public and a consensus about the absurdity of its history for granted, and from there it was able to build the euhemeristic and distancing dimension of the Merovingian royal family.19 In any case, the narrative is not introduced with the qualification that it is a ridicula fabula,20 but – and this is especially clear in comparison to Gregory’s sentence – instead with a distancing from the generatio of the Merovingian kings. Recent research on the narrative of Merovech’s descent in the Fredegar Chronicle has indeed helped to put things into better perspective. It also seems that the intense discussion has diverted attention from the part of the origin narrative that may have been of much greater importance to the chronicle’s designers: the origin of the Franks that was carefully woven into the réécriture of the Chronicle of Jerome. Whereas the episode on the dubious genealogy of Merovech consists only of about three sentences as an addition to the réécriture of the end of Gregory’s chapter II, 9, far greater effort went into the assimilation of Roman and Frankish history. In contradicting Gregory’s historical views on the early Franks, the compilers did not just refer to great spiritual and literary authorities such as Virgil and Jerome. In order to substantiate their claims for a Trojan origin of the Franks, they also compiled a particular version of Jerome’s Chronicle, in which this history could actually be found. Thus, in the second book of the chain of chronicles – the excerpts from the Chronicle of Jerome, along with the continuations of Hydatius – there are extensive additions to and alterations of the earlier chronicles. At the point where Jerome mentions the Trojan war, a series of longer passages

18 See above, pp. 83–7. 19 For the euhemeristic aspect of the story: Wolfram, ‘Origo gentis’, pp. 174–8. 20 As does Paul the Deacon in his inclusion of the origin myth of the Lombards in his Historia Langobardorum, capit., p. 46, and I , 8, p. 52.


Countermyths are inserted, which recount in extensive detail the Franks’ origo from their departure from Troy under Frigas to their settlement on the Rhine.21 To do this, the compilers also added remarks to the Jerome Chronicle in order to go into somewhat more detail on Frigas’ non-Frankish progeny, too. They first mentioned the group that had settled in Macedonia. They allied themselves with the population of that country and also took the name Macedoni. This alliance was underscored by their display of bravery and strength in combat, which they maintained up to the time of Alexander the Great, himself a descendant of this people. After the Turci, descended from Torcoth, and the Franci, descended from Francio, another chapter was dedicated to the most famous refugees from Troy of the classical world. It singles out Aeneas’ relationship with the primus rex Francorum Priamus, but above all his relationship with Frigas: Aeneas et Frigas fertur germani fuissent.22 In this section, the chroniclers report the history of the Franks after Francio in considerable detail. After Francio’s death, the Franks had elected duces from their own ranks. As in the third book (the abridged version of Gregory’s Histories), this section clearly responds to Gregory’s discussion about the early Frankish kings that he raises in II, 9. Whereas Gregory saw his sources’ frequent mentions of the duces as yet another indication that the Franks had not had kings before crossing the Rhine, the chroniclers underlined with their version that the Franks had acted even without kings as an independently functioning, politically active community from very early on. Apart from Pompey, no ruler or gens ever managed to defeat the Franks.23 The compilers then built upon these extensive interpolations in their epitome of Gregory, the next book in the chain of chronicles. After referring to the authority of Jerome as their key witness for Priam being the first king of the Franks, they briefly summed up the narrative that they had interpolated into their version of the Church Father’s chronicle. In doing that, they even used word-for-word quotations from Gregory of Tours.The compilers also inserted passages into the text which enhanced the role of the Franks in Gregory’s Histories.24 The history of Clovis’ father Childeric, for instance, who had to flee his kingdom for having assaulted the Franks’ daughters without restraint, was considerably 21 CF II , 4–6, pp. 45–6. 22 CF II , 8, p. 47. 23 Post haec [the short time when Pompey managed to subjugate the Franks] nulla gens usque in presentem diem Francos potuit superare, CF II , 6, p. 46. For the confusion of Pompey and Caesar in this passage see Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 474–5. 24 The name of the Franks appears already in the table of contents of the Gregory excerpts thirteen times, see CF III , capit., pp. 89–92; e.g. for the epitome of Gregory’s Histories in the chronicle, III , 16, p. 99; III , 18, p. 100, line 19; III , 23, pp. 102, line 6; 22–3; III , 30, p. 103, line 25; III , 32, p. 104, lines 1–2; III , 59, p. 109, line 15; III , 90, p. 118, line 3.


Trickery and mythmaking expanded. Childeric’s homo carus, who maintained his loyalty to the king, was given a name and an identity, and his part was greatly expanded. The Fredegar Chronicle recounts at length how the Francus fidelissimus Wiomadus, through his cleverness and trickery, finally made it possible for Childeric to return.25 Particularly noticeable are the additions of the Frankish name in the rewriting of the conversion and baptism of Clovis. As we have seen, this was the turning point in Gregory’s narrative for the absorption of the Franks in the Christian regnum.26 The compilers of the chronicler, however, clearly wanted to link the providential potential of Christianity to the name of the Franks, too, and they added it several times in their short summary of the narrative. In their version, Clovis was not baptized with 3,000 de exercitu suo, but with 6,000 Franks  – cum sex milia Francis.27 Additionally, the compilers thought it necessary to underline the Frankish dimension even more explicitly, so they added a story: during the ceremony, Remigius read the story of the passion of Christ. The story obviously appealed to Clovis’ temperament as a warrior, and though he was vested in a white baptismal robe, he said, ‘If I had been present with my Franks, I would have taken revenge.’ These words, commented the chronicler ending the chapter, clearly confirmed his belief: he was a real Christian.28 The following conquest of the kingdoms of the Goths, Burgundians and Thuringians by Clovis and his sons takes place in the Fredegar Chronicle with much greater participation from the Franci. The text really takes on the concepts that Gregory used to describe the regions involved. Gallia(e) is still an essential concept for the region that was subjugated by the Franci and their kings. Only in some places did the chronicle change Gregory’s use of this term. Whereas in Gregory’s text, the Danes attack Gallias shortly after Clovis’ death, the object of aggression in the Fredegar Chroncile is the regnum Francorum.29 More importantly, at some points we can observe that the compilers also worked against Gregory’ interpretation of Francia or Franci as merely local or regional identity. In one of the two instances in which Gregory used Francia in his own text, he reports that Chlothar I took over the regnum Franciae after the death of his nephew Theudebald in 555,30 clearly referring to the eastern regnum of Theuderic I and his successors Cf. CF III , 11, pp. 95–7, with DLH II , 12, pp. 61–2. 26 Cf. above, pp. 56–60.   27  CF III , 21, p. 101. 28 CF III , 21, p. 101: ‘Si ego ibidem cum Francis meis fuissem, eius iniuriam vindicassim’. Iam fidem his verbis ostendens, christianum se verum esse adfirmat. 29 Cf. CF III , capit., p. 90, with DLH III , capit., p. 94. 30 See above, pp. 63–4. 25


Countermyths Theudebert and Theudebald.31 In the Chronicle of Fredegar, the author strove to avoid the use of Francia in this more limited sense and changed the opening of the section: Ipsoque anno Theodebaldus obiit, regnumque eius Chlotharius accepit.32 In another place, Gregory reports of an embassy that was sent to Byzantium, which included the Frank Warmarius (Warmarius Francus) together with the Auvergnais Firmin (Firminus Avernus). In the Fredegar Chronicle, Warmarius stays a Frank, but Firminus is now said to be a comes.33 It seems as if the compilers did not simply want to heighten the Frankish presence in the Histories with these changes. They were also aiming to underscore the fact that the name of the Franks did not represent a local identity or a single region at the edge of the regnum. It stands for the governing class, which from the start had preserved the destiny and continuity of the gens Francorum and bound the different areas and populations of this regnum to each other. 7.2  The compi lation of pe r spe c tive s i n th e Chronicle of F re de gar Among the different elites in the Merovingian kingdom, with whom can we associate the authors of the compilation? The question has preoccupied research for a long time. It is especially complicated by the fact that the collected histories in the chronicle still reflect different chronological, regional and political contexts. Bruno Krusch, the editor of the chronicle, saw signs that there were three consecutive authors.34 He orientated himself with the text’s chronological caesuras. The end of the Liber generationis was appended with a Supputatio Eusebii Hieronimi, in which the age of the world was reckoned by counting the years from Adam to the first year of Sigibert II’s reign.35 Sigibert was the son of Theuderic II, with whom Brunhild in 613 had tried in vain to remain in power. A list of popes added to the Supputatio continued on to Pope Theodore I (AD 642–9). Although years of tenure are given for all the other popes on the list, they are missing for Theodore in the oldest manuscript of the chronicle, from the beginning of the eighth century. The blank space was filled in in the Carolingian period with an. 6, Igitur Chlothacharius post mortem Theodovaldi cum regno Franciae suscepisset (DLH IV , 14, p. 145). 32 CF III , 50, p. 106. 33 CF III , 64, p. 110, line 10, with DLH IV , 40, p. 172. 34 Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp.  423–55; for the discussion before and after Krusch, see Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 8–25; Frédégaire. Chronique des temps Mérovingiens, pp. 10–27; and the introduction to the German translation by Kusternig, ‘Die vier Bücher’, pp. 9–13. 35 Itaque fiunt simul ab Adam usque ad annum primum regni Sygiberthy regis anni 5815 (CF I , 24, p. 34). 31


Trickery and mythmaking m. 1, dies 18, and the list was continued to Hadrian I.36 A further list of Roman and Byzantine emperors ran up to the end of Heraclius’ reign in 641.37 It is around this date that the chronicle’s own narrative ends, a history that the chroniclers take up after the epitome of Gregory leaves off (with Chilperic’s death in 584). In this part of the chronicle, edited as the ‘fourth book’, a series of remarks show that it was still worked on after 642. The text mentions, for example, a kind of contract between the Byzantine emperor Constans and the Arabs, which was concluded in 658, and the death of Samo, the Frankish king of the Slavs, who presumably died in 659.38 Krusch concluded from the different caesuras and breaks in the transmitted chronicle that it was written and continued by three authors at different times:  first, a Burgundian author A, who brought the chain of chronicles to 613; another Burgundian author B, who continued it to 642; and an Austrasian author C, who reworked and supplemented it after 658/9.39 A  year later, Gustav Schnürer took up Krusch’s proposal. He accepted Krusch’s system but tried to characterise and differentiate the authors more precisely. In doing so he suggested that the first author had compiled the Chronicle not in 613 but after 616/17 and before the death of Chlothar II in 629.40 The three-author theory encountered criticism early on, above all in French scholarship, and representatives as prominent as Leon Levillain saw only a single author, who compiled the chronicle around 660.41 Expanding on the stylistic analysis of Siegmund Hellmann, Walter Goffart also demonstrated in an article from 1963 that a sharp divide between the different authors is not possible.42 Likewise, Andreas Kusterning’s linguistic analysis of the Fredegar Chronicle also came to the conclusion that the trademark of the redactors who were working sometime after 658/9 is visible in all parts of the chronicle.43 In 1994, Ian Wood built on the critical insights of the debate and suggested trying to be more precise about the horizon of the compilers working after 658/9. He gave a list of indications that this redaction was created in the context of the Pippinid network of the 660s, after Grimoald’s Paris, BnF lat. 10910, fol. 23r; see the description in Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 56–9, with further bibliography. See CF I , 25, pp. 36, lines 35–6. 37 CF I , 26, p. 42. 38 See Kusternig, ‘Die vier Bücher’, p. 10, for a discussion of these and further examples. 39 Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 423–55. 40 Schnürer, Die Verfasser, p. 88. 41 For a concise overview of the reactions of French medievalists see Hellmann, ‘Das Fredegar-Problem’; and Devillers and Meyers, Frédégaire, pp. 14–15. 42 Goffart, ‘The Fredegar problem’. 43 See Kusternig, ‘Die vier Bücher’, pp. 18–32. 36


Countermyths unsuccessful coup.44 The text’s critical position on the Merovingians (which does not only occur in the history of Merovech’s lineage45), the stress on the important role of the duces in the history of the Franks and the positive representation of members of the Pippinid network, such as Pippin, Arnulf of Metz, Kunibert of Cologne and Pippin’s son Grimoald, actually fit well with this context. Ian Wood’s arguments for this compositional horizon are very convincing. However, we should not forget that they posit only the last redaction of the text as a pièce d’occasion. As Wood himself has made clear in later works, other regional contexts and political constellations shine through all too clearly in the chronicle, and we should not tie our interpretation of the whole chronicle (which was maybe never fully finished46) to this one context.47 And where there are traces of the Austrasian-Pippinid reworking in other parts of the chronicle, there are also plenty of clues that allow us to investigate these efforts as an appropriation of a historiographical project that had already begun. They suggest that the composition of the chronicle around 660 was an important stage, but that it was only one among others in a longer process of its creation. The manuscript transmission of the chronicles documents this work on the chronicle as a continuing project. Although most of them were copied in the Carolingian period, they still transmit various ensembles and arrangements of the chain of chronicles.48 Regions, elites and Frankish consent in the Chronicle of Fredegar Just as the work of older generations was continued into the Carolingian period, so can the creation of the chronicle around 660 be seen as a process of building on pre-existing historiographical resources. The redactors were clearly building on a perspective of the Burgundian kingdom, which above all allowed for the development of a common perspective in opposition to Brunhild’s regime after her deposition.49 This becomes especially visible in the ‘fourth book’, which follows the death of Chilperic at end of the six-book version of Gregory’s Histories and continues the narrative to 642. After an extremely positive portrait of the principatus regni of Guntram, the king’s death in 592 is followed by a 44 I.Wood,‘Fredegar’s fables’, pp. 359–66; cf. now I. Wood,‘Iocundus in fabolis’; and Fischer,‘Rewriting history’, and the forthcoming study by Fischer, Die Fredegar-Chronik; for the context of the ‘coup’ see the discussion below, pp. 194–5. 45 See I. Wood, ‘Deconstructing the Merovingian family’, pp. 149–53; Diesenberger and Reimitz, ‘Zwischen Vergangenheit und Zukunft’, pp. 244–7. 46 See Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 37–8. 47 I. Wood, ‘Iocundus in fabulis’. 48 See below, pp. 236–9.   49  See below, pp. 180–1.


Trickery and mythmaking ruinous representation of Brunhild’s era. The subject had already been introduced in the previous book, in the rewritten version of the Histories, which turned Gregory’s positive representation of the royal patron on its head, just as it had for early Frankish history. Whereas Gregory had celebrated Brunhild’s arrival in the Merovingian kingdom along with Sigibert I and Venantius Fortunatus, the Fredegar Chronicle stylises the event as the beginning of the Dark Ages in the kingdom. The Austrasian queen was also represented as a second Jezebel. Brunhild became Bruna, thereby fulfilling the Sybilline prophecy that many people would perish before her.50 The fourth book then discusses her regency in detail, reporting on the numerous crimes that she committed against her own family, and even worse, against the Frankish nobility. Significantly, this period is shaped by a perspective from the Burgundian regnum which the chronological order of the narrative shows. Just after giving the regnal years of Guntram, the narrative recounts the regency of his adopted son following his death.51 In the fourth year after Guntram’s death post quod Childebertus regnum Gunthramni acciperat, Childebert died and both sons divided the kingdom between them. The older Theuderic II ruled Burgundy, and his younger brother Theudebert II ruled Austrasia. With only one exception, which may be a copyist’s error, subsequent events are ordered according to the regnal years of the Burgundian king Theuderic.52 The narrative up to Theuderic’s death in 613 also includes a series of reports about local events in Burgundy. It recounts in some detail, for example, the history of the discovery of St Victor of Solothurn’s relics. The location had been made known in a vision to Bishop Hiconius of Jean-de-Maurienne. With two other bishops Hiconius hurried to Geneva, and after several days of fasting and prayer he indeed found the body intact. Even King Theuderic was present at the discovery, which has been dated to 601/2. The king himself was said to have given costly gifts to the Church and confirmed the donation of the Burgundian maior domus Warnachar who was probably an ancestor of the later Warnachar who was most likely present too.53 This part of the chronicle also gives a lot of attention to the bearers of the highest positions in the Burgundian regnum. It carefully provides 50 CF III , 59, p. 109; see Dumezil, La reine Brunhaut; Heydemann, ‘Zur Gestaltung’; Hartmann, Die Königin, pp. 71–9; and the classic study by Nelson, ‘Queens as Jezebels’. 51 CF IV , 15, p. 127, starts with Anno secundo cum Childebertus regnum accepisset Burgundiae, his third year is mentioned in the same chapter and his fourth and last year in IV , 16, p. 127. 52 CF IV , 21, 24, 28 and 35–8, pp. 129, 130, 132, 134–40; the exception is IV , 18, p. 128, where the chapter starts in the third year of Theudebert. 53 CF IV , 22, p. 129, on Warnachar see below, pp. 197, 208–9, on his career before 613, see Ebling, Prosopographie, p. 235.






R. Lippe



Maastricht Nivelles Liège St Amand Tertry Péronne


Cologne Malmedy Stablo

ièges JumSt.Wandrille Rouen Compiègne se Soissons Oi Rheims R. St. Denis

S Angers

Orleans R.

ire Lo





Le Mans


i Se R.













Grandval Autun Chalonsur-Saôn

R. Saô




TRANS St. Maurice d'Agaune

Lyons Vienne

R. Rh ône













Arles Marseilles

Narbonne Monasteries 0 0

50 50


100 150

Map 2 The Merovingian world in the seventh century (from Fouracre (ed.), The new Cambridge medieval history, vol. I , pp. 194–5)

150 miles 200

250 km




E R.

R. Unst rut


R. Sa ale





( W

R. Main











R. D Regensburg anu be e b u n Da . Freising R


B AVA R I A Reichenau








St Gallen







R. Danube

r Wese R.





Countermyths the names and backgrounds of the maiores domus and patricii.54 The Burgundian maior domus Bertoald, for example, was genere Francus, which in the chronicle had a particularly positive connotation. Despite his great capability, however, he was sent by Brunhild and her favourite Protadius on a death-squad mission. The chronicle spends two chapters describing in detail the heroic start to Bertoald’s career and his tragic death in battle against the Neustrians.55 His successor was the very Protadius who along with Brunhild was behind Bertoald’s downfall. But he soon fell into bitter conflict with Theuderic’s leudes. Through Brunhild’s goading, Theuderic had set off to battle his brother Theudebert. When both armies faced each other, Theuderic’s leudes advised him to negotiate a peace treaty. Only Protadius (and, of course, Brunhild behind him) wanted combat, whereupon the other leaders of the army killed him. The narrative here is built up with many details that make the report seem almost like an eyewitness account. The leaders of Theuderic’s army and their retinues surrounded the tent of Protadius while he sat playing a board game with the archiatrus Petrus. Theuderic, who apparently noticed the commotion and tried to hurry over, did not make it to Protadius’ tent: his own leudes stopped him. He then sent one of his men, Uncelenus, to the tent, commanding him to end the rebellion against the maior domus immediately. Uncelenus, however, went to the tent and claimed that the king had ordered him to kill Protadius. The rebellious nobles killed the maior domus on the conviction ‘that a single death [was] a great deal preferable to the endangering of a whole army’.56 The rebellion actually attained its goal. Theuderic was confounded and concluded a peace with his brother. Although such stories suggest that the source was privy to Burgundian politics before 613, the obviously critical representation of Brunhild is a reminder that the collection should be seen in light of Chlothar’s successful takeover of the entire realm. The chronicle, with the help of an inserted chapter from the Vita Columbani, anticipates the downfall of the queen and her progeny. That chapter recounts Columbanus’ conflict with Theuderic and Brunhild, his expulsion from the Burgundian regnum and his prophecy that Chlothar would eventually take control of the Merovingian kingdom.57

See Buchner, Die Provence, pp.  86–108; Ewig, ‘Die fränkischen Teilreiche’, pp.  192–3; Geary, Aristocracy; Uhalde, ‘Quasi-imperial coinage’. 55 CF IV , 24–5, p. 130. 56 CF IV , 27, pp. 131–2; for contemporary reflections about the public good see Kreiner, Social life, esp. pp. 189–229. 57 CF IV , 36, pp. 134–8 (= Jonas, Vita Columbanbi, cc. 31–7). 54


Trickery and mythmaking In the chronicle, it is above all the Burgundian and Austrasian nobility who take the political initiative for this transfer of power. It gives detailed reports on their negotations with each other and with Chlothar after the death of both of Brunhild’s sons, Theudebert and Theuderic. The most important role in these matters is played by Warnachar, the Burgundian maior domus. According to the chronicle he was the one who convinced the high-ranking Burgundians  – the Burgundofarones  – to go along with his plan. When the showdown between Chlothar and Brunhild and her great-grandson Sigibert II finally arrived and both armies clashed, Sigibert’s army deserted the battlefield at a prearranged sign from none other than Warnachar. And it was also Warnachar who had Brunhild imprisoned and brought her to Chlothar, who had her horrifically executed.58 Members of the Austrasian elite are also briefly mentioned in connection with Chlothar’s successful takeover. Right after Theuderic’s death in Metz, the Austrasian proceres Pippin and Arnulf advised Chlothar to march into Austrasia. When Chlothar followed their invitation, Brunhild requested through an embassy that he withdraw from her grandson’s kingdom at once. Chlothar, however, proposed that the dispute should be arbitrated with the help of a iudicium Francorum:  he would submit to any verdict of such a iudicium.59 The chroniclers had already spoken earlier of the successful conflict resolution between kings Theudebert and Theuderic that had been mediated through a iudicium Francorum.60 Although Brunhild did not agree to such a procedure, she could not elude the judgment of the Franks. On the day of her son Sigibert’s battle against Chlothar, she would surely have realised in any case that the nobles in Austrasia, as in Burgundy, had decided in favour of Chlothar and against her. Whether Pippin and Arnulf were already in Chlothar’s army at this point, the chronicle does not say. Neither Austrasian noble is mentioned for a long while after the account of their invitation to Chlothar.The narrative mainly concentrates for the next ten years on events and persons in Burgundy. Then Arnulf ’s and Pippin’s political importance comes more clearly to the fore with Chlothar’s installation of his son Dagobert as subking in Austrasia in 622/3.61 At that point, Arnulf had already been bishop of Metz for several years. Even so, it is his role as one of Dagobert’s most important political advisers that the chronicle emphasises.62 Some years after Dagobert’s appointment, Arnulf is explicitly named as one of the CF IV , 42, pp. 141–2.   59  CF IV , 40, p. 140. 60 CF IV , 37, p. 138.   61  Ewig, ‘Die fränkischen Teilreiche’, pp. 194–201. 62 Selle-Hosbach, Prosopographie, pp. 46–7. 58


Countermyths twelve Franks who formed a commission in 625/6 to successfully mediate a territorial dispute between Dagobert and Chlothar. Arnulf ’s role is particularly highlighted in the negotiations which ended with a peaceful resolution:  Tandem a pontificebus vel sapientissimis viris procerebus pater paceficatur cum filio.63 It was soon after the events that Arnulf retired to the monastery of Remiremont in the Vosges, about 100 miles south of Metz. Even after Arnulf ’s retreat into the monastery, the chronicle stresses the important role that the Austrasian nobility played in further stabilising political relations. Pippin now appears in this section as maior domus. His influence, and probably that of the Austrasian nobles associated with him, declined in the kingdom after Chlothar died in 628/9. Dagobert relocated from Metz to Paris to take over as his father’s successor to the whole kingdom. In doing so he was also supported by members of the elite anchored in Paris, with some of whom he had been educated at the court.64 Much to the displeasure of his Pippinid following, the Parisian networks that had been strained since Chlothar seemed to have stood the test of time. From this point forward, the chronicle completely tears down the king it had only just highly praised. Above all, the Austrasians had to suffer under the misguided policies of the king and his advisers. The incompetence and tactlessness of his legates led to heavy casualties in conflicts with the Slavs under King Samo, and to loss of control over eastern territories and peoples.65 Only when Dagobert declared in 633/4 that he was willing to install his two-year-old son Sigibert in Metz as subking did the situation on the eastern periphery stabilise.The chapter with Sigibert’s appointment ends with the sentence, ‘As is well known, from that time on the Austrasians successfully defended the border and the kingdom of the Franks against the Slavs.’66 In the following chapter, the Austrasians also play an important part in finding a solution for the future of the whole regnum after the birth of Dagobert’s second son, Clovis II. Omnes primati Austrasiorum, the bishops and all the other leudes of Sigibert swore their support for the division of the kingdom under both of Dagobert’s sons, in which Austrasia was to be ruled by Sigibert and Neustria and Burgundy by Clovis II.The chronicle makes very clear that the division did not completely meet the Austrasians’ expectations. They finally resolved to accept this compromise, in order to bring peace to the regnum and to make it last. As the chronicler remarks in the final sentence of the chapter, which actually 63 CF IV , 53, p. 147.   64  See above, p. 113. 65 CF IV , 60, 61, 67, 68, 74, pp. 151–2, 154–5, 158; see Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 146–9; Pohl, Awaren, pp. 256–61. 66 Deinceps Austrasiae eorum studio limitem et regnum Francorum contra Winedus utiliter definsasse nuscuntur (CF IV , 75, p. 159).


Trickery and mythmaking looks beyond the end of the narrative in 642, the treaty was indeed kept during the lives of the two kings (who died in 656 and 657).67 The subsequent narrative celebrates the success of this newly acquired political consensus. An army of men from all over Burgundy was levied to fight against the Basques, under the leadership of duces ex genere Francorum, Romanorum, Burgundionum, Saxonum, all of whom the chronicle lists by name.68 After the army had successfully concluded the campaign and conquered the Basques, this exercitus Francorum was sent to fight the Bretons. The rex Brittannorum took no chances on a military confrontation. He rushed to Dagobert at once and promised that he and the regnum Brittaniae wanted to be subject to the rule of Dagobert and the reges Francorum. The Basques, too, came to Dagobert at Paris and swore to remain loyal to the king, to his sons and to the regnum Francorum. This political success and harmony remained even after Dagobert’s death. Before he died, the king had appointed his wife Nantechild as regent for their under-age sons and designated Aega as maior domus. In the chroniclers’ view, Aega was an ideal choice, at least out of the pool of people who were eligible for the office in the western kingdom69: he was just, deliberate, born to a leading and wealthy family, and at the same time he was also eloquent and quick-witted – Eratque genere nobele, opes habundans, iusticiam sectans, aeruditus in verbis, paratus in rispunsis.70 Aega was obviously someone who was easy to talk to from an Austrasian perspective. With his help, the most important advisers to Sigibert III, Pippin and Kunibert of Cologne, negotiated the division of Dagobert’s treasure between his widow, the Neustrian king Clovis II and the Austrasian king Sigibert. After the treasure was divided aequa lance under Aega’s supervision, Pippin and Kunibert brought Sigibert’s share to Metz, and there it was presented to the king.71 The importance of the elites of the Eastern and Southeastern regions for the well-being of the whole regnum Francorum is not only underlined by stories about them in the aftermath of Chlothar’s takeover. A specifically Austrasian view of history had already been incorporated into the excerpt from Gregory. This is evident in several places where Metz is mentioned as the metropole of the eastern regnum, even in the sixth century. Both during the division of the realm after the death of Clovis 67 CF IV , 76, p. 159; see for the frictions after Dagobert’s death, Ewig, ‘Die fränkischen Teilreiche’, pp. 206–8; Kasten, Königssöhne, pp. 26–7; Offergeld, Reges pueri, pp. 241–5. 68 CF IV , 78, p. 160. 69 Aega vero citiris primatebus Neustrici prudencius agens (CF IV , 80, p. 161). 70 CF IV , 80, p. 161.   71  CF IV , 85, p. 163.


Countermyths I, and also after the death of Chlothar I, the Fredegar Chronicle says that the sedes of the eastern kingdom was in Metz. But for most of the sixth century, Reims was the royal seat, as the chroniclers’ presentation confirms. In Gregory’s Histories and in the six-book version of it, Clovis I’s son Theuderic and Chlothar’s son Sigibert reside at Reims.72 Other stories of Gregory were also obviously fitted to an Austrasian perspective. In Gregory’s Histories, for example, Sigibert went west with the gentes illas qui ultra Renum habentur to fight against his brothers Guntram and Chilperic. When the kings agreed to a peace, these gentes became accordingly discontented, so they took the opportunity to enrich themselves in war anyway. Only Sigibert was able to control the furor gentium to some extent, and he had to allow them to plunder the area around Paris. In the Fredegar Chronicle, these gentes do not appear at all; it is only the Austrasii. But they were likewise discontented after Sigibert and Guntram mutually swore to peace. When they asked Sigibert if he planned to keep his promise to go to war, he declared that he was ready to attack Guntram after all. But the Austrasians reminded the king that he had already sworn peace with the king: Sacramentis pacem cum Gunthramno firmasti; quo pacto possumus super eum inruere?’ Once the moral standards of the Austrasian troops had ruled out the possibility of war against Guntram, they eventually decided to attack the kingdom of Sigibert’s other brother, Chilperic.73 The early history of the Franks was also recast in an eastern perspective. After the Franks reached the Rhine, the chronicle (as we have seen) expanded on Gregory’s Histories in several details. Gregory also explicitly mentions the crossing of the Rhine, before the Franks elected their reges criniti. But the chronicle does not refer to the river crossing, although the Franks had already expanded their range further and further west under Chlodio.74 The compilers did make an interesting change to Gregory’s text at that spot, though, which concerned Burgundy. For the time of Chlodio Gregory briefly sketched the political geography of Gaul before the gentes were folded into the spiritual topography of the Christian regnum: CF III , 29, p. 103 (Theuderic). Gregory mentions the sedes Reims only in the case of Sigibert, and all the extant six-book versions transmit Reims; cf. CF III , 55, with DLH IV , 22, p. 155, with n. c. 73 Cf. CF III , 71, p. 112, with DLH IV , 49, 50 and 51, pp. 185–8. 74 Cf. DLH II , 9, p. 57: dehinc, transacto Rheno,Thoringiam transmeasse, ibique iuxta pagus vel civitates regis crinitos super se creavisse de prima et, ut ita dicam, nobiliore suorum familia, with CF III , 9, pp. 94–5: Franci electum a se regi, sicut prius fuerat, crinitum, inquirentes diligenter, ex genere Priami, Frigi et Francionis super se creant nomen Theudemarem, filium Richemeris, qui in hoc prilio, co supra memini, a Romanis interfectus est. Substituetur filius eius Chlodeo in regno, utilissimus vir in gente sua, qui apud Esbargium castrum resedebat, quod est in termino Thuringorum. Burgundionis quoque Arrianorum secta utebant, sedentes in Cysalpinis. Chlodeo, missis exploratoribus ad urbem Camaracum, perlustrans omnia, ipse sequitur, Romanus proterit, civitatem capit, usque Suminam fluvium occupavit. 72


Trickery and mythmaking They also say that Chlodio, a man of high birth and marked ability among his people [utilem ac nobilissimum in gente sua] was king of the Franks and that he lived in the fortress of Duisburg in Thuringian territory [qui apud Dispargum castrum habitabat, quod est in terminum Thoringorum]. In those parts towards the south as far as the river Loire lived the Romani. Beyond the Loire [ultra Ligerem] the Goths were in command. The Burgundians who belonged to the Arian sect lived across the Rhône [trans Rhodanum] in the region of the city of Lyons.75

The compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle clearly had Gregory’s text before them when they wrote their version of this passage: Chlodeo in regno, utilissimus vir in gente sua, qui apud Esbargium castrum resedebat, quod est in termino Thuringorum. Burgundionis quoque Arrianorum secta utebant, sedentes in Cysalpinis.76 Gregory’s description basically follows the pattern of late Roman geographical descriptions, in which adjacent territories are mentioned one after the other and set in relation to each other with the help of landmarks (such as rivers).77 The compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle substantially changed Gregory’s view of geographical relations. In their geography, they did not follow Gregory into the western and southern regions of Gaul, thereby skipping the regions of the Romans and Goths. They did not place the Burgundians on the ‘other side’ of the Rhône river  – a designation that had made sense from Gregory’s point of view at Tours, but not from an area between the Rhône and the Rhine. The compilers not only eliminated Gregory’s view from the Loire, they also underlined that Burgundia was on their side. Instead of calling the Burgundian territory transalpina according to the late Roman geographical tradition, they spoke of it as cysalpina.78 This nomenclature for the territory can be found earlier in the chronicle, too. To Jerome’s reports about a time long before the Burgundians lived along the Rhône, in the time of Emperor Vespasian (d. AD 79), the compilers added that the city of Avenches was built by order of the emperor. They also mentioned that this work had been taken up by his son, Titus, who raised the city to the status of nobilissima in Gallia Cisalpina.79 After that, Avenches continues to hold the chronicle’s interest. The compilers included Jerome’s report of an Alamanic raid against Gaul 75 DLH II , 9, p. 58: In his autem partibus, id est ad meridianam plagam, habitabant Romani usque Ligerem fluvium. Ultra Ligerem vero Gothi dominabantur. Burgundiones quoque Arrianorum sectam sequentes, habitabant trans Rhodanum, quod adiacit civitate Lugdunense (trans.Thorpe, p. 125 (with slight alterations)). 76 CF III , 9, pp. 94–5. 77 See Merrills, History and geography; Gautier Dalché, ‘Principes’; Lozovsky, ‘Roman ethnography’, Lozovsky, The Earth; Reimitz, ‘Grenzen’, pp. 112–26; for the late Roman context see Talbert and Brodersen, Space in the Roman world; Talbert and Unger, Cartography. 78 See Uggeri, ‘Gallia Cisalpina’.   79  CF II , 36, pp. 6–7.


Countermyths during the reign of Emperor Gallienus (d. AD 268), but instead of Gaul, the Alamans laid waste to Avenches in their version.80 The compilers’ interest in Burgundian territory not only concerned places and regions in Burgundy but also the Burgundians themselves, and the chronicle incorporates questions of their origin and settlement in Gaul into Jerome’s account, again labelling the territory where the Burgundians eventually settled as Gallia cisalpina. In order to account for the Burgundian presence in these areas, the compilers assembled an interesting mix of different sources and remarks. From Jerome’s chronicle they took the information that some 80,000 Burgundians arrived at the Rhine during the time of Emperor Gratian (d. AD 375).81 They learned from Orosius that they derived their name from the castra, which they called burgi.82 Possibly based on a report from the Historia tripartita of Cassiodorus/Epiphanius about the two-year-long but ultimately fruitless residence along the Rhine, the chroniclers record an invitation a Romanis vel Gallis, qui Lugdunensium provinciam et Gallea comata, Gallea domata et Gallea Cesalpinae manebant. The compilers also ascribed a motif to the Galli and Romani for this: ut tributa rei publice potuissent rennuere – so that they could refuse to pay the taxes they owed to the state.83 The story is noteworthy in itself.84 Even more noteworthy is that it is part of a chronicle that was compiled around 660 in a Pippinid, Austrasian context. With this context in mind it is easy to overlook how important the Burgundian perspective is to the entire chronicle, as part of the common history that it presents. I have already mentioned several examples from the fourth book to this effect, and there even the final chapter leads up to the conflicts surrounding the re-establishment of a Burgundian maior domus in 642. Just before she died, Dagobert’s widow, Nantechild, appointed Flaochad (genere Francorum) as maior domus for Burgundy.85 He was the first maior domus since Warnachar, who had died in 626/7, after which the Burgundian magnates had decided against replacing him.86 Now Nantechild together with her advisers decided to appoint a Burgundian maior domus again. With the support of the Neustrian maior domus Erchinoald, her appointee Flaochad succeeded in making himself known and accepted by the Burgundian nobility. The opposition of a former friend, the powerful patricius Willebad (genere Burgundionum) led to a major military confrontation. After Flaochad’s appointment, Willebad reacted immediately by raising his own army as 80 See CF II , 40, p. 65.   81 Jerome, Chronicon, p. 329. 82 83  Orosius, Historiae VII , 32.     CF II , 46, p. 68. 84 For the interpretation of the passage see I. Wood, ‘Gentes, kings and kingdoms’, p. 259; Goffart, Barbarian tides, pp. 182–3; but see Halsall, Barbarian migrations, pp. 442–3. 85 CF IV , 89, pp. 165–6.   86  CF IV , 54, p. 148.


Trickery and mythmaking a precaution. Then Flaochad, with the support of a Neustrian army that Erchinoald had given him, moved against Willebad. In the battle that followed, Willebad and most of his men were killed. Connected to this battle is a story told about Berthar, a Frank de pago Ultraiorano, which shows how bitterly the conflict was pursued. Berthar was comes palatii at the court of Clovis II, and he fought on Flaochad’s side. Soon after the start of the decisive battle, he was the first of the whole army to attack Willebad. When Manaulf, a Burgundian on the opposing side who had once been Berthar’s friend, saw this, he left his ranks and came forward, too. In advancing to fight Berthar, however, it became clear that Manaulf had gone too far. Berthar recalled their old friendship, and he offered him the protection of his shield to get him out of danger. But this effort to preserve old loyalties was met with aggression. As Berthar lifted his shield to protect Manaulf, the Burgundian pierced him with a spear, severely injuring him. He was saved only because his son Chaubedo realised the danger his father was in and rescued him in a heroic intervention. In its extensive account of these conflicts, however, this is the only episode in which the chronicle betrays sympathy for one side or the other. It otherwise shows no preference for either party, and only at the end of the narrative does it issue a clear judgement – and even then, it is against both leaders. Only eleven days after Willebad was killed in battle, according to the chronicle, Flaochad took sick and died. In the final sentence of the account, it interprets both deaths as divine judgement and as righteous punishments for their misdeeds. In the very last sentence of the entire text, the chroniclers summed up how contemporaries had seen the events: Many believed that since Flaochad and Willebad had time and again sworn mutual friendship in places holy to the saints and in addition had both greedily oppressed and robbed their people, it was God’s judgement that delivered the land from their overwhelming tyranny and laid them low for their faithlessness and lying.87

Willebad and Flaochad’s conflict have long been seen as a prime example of a deep-seated Frankish-Burgundian Gegensatz.88 More recent research has rather interpreted the episode as an indication for the emergence of the two regions of Austrasia and Burgundy as a political unit with their magnates attending the same meetings and acting in a single political system.89 The cooperation of Burgundian elites with the elites in CF IV , 90, pp. 167–8, trans. Wallace-Hadrill, p. 79. 88 Ewig, ‘Die fränkischen Teilungen’, pp. 164–5. 89 Fouracre, ‘Francia in the seventh century’, p. 385, but cf. Kaiser, Burgunder, pp. 196–8. 87


Countermyths the Neustrian centres of the kingdom might well have been observed by the chroniclers, too. However, they were less inclined than later sources to promote the emergence of a Neustrian-Burgundian power bloc.90 The chronicle’s presentation presents a far more differentiated image in terms of actors, their allegiances and their identities. Flaochad killed Willebad together with two allies Amalgar and Chramnelenus. The two allies had been mentioned earlier as leaders of the Burgundian army that had undertaken the campaign against the Basques.91 There Chramnelenus is described as ex genere Romano. Amalgar came from a family deeply rooted in Burgundy, as other sources also make clear.92 The account of Berthar, the Frankish comes palatii from the Burgundian pagus Ultraiuranus, also underlines that in both armies, there were men opposing each other who had once been friends and allies, men who had once defended the regnum Francorum together. Recalling those days, Berthar had wanted to save Manaulf from danger. That these bonds did not hold was only partly the fault of his Burgundian ex-friend Manaulf. Above all, it was the fault of former friends Flaochad and Willebad, who were also dragging other magnates and their own old friendships into their fight. As the chroniclers present the case, it was the result of flawed politics, which threw the social and political networks in Burgundy out of balance.The unnecessary appointment of a Neustrian maior domus was the first mistake. The contrast here to the establishment of political consensus in the regnum Francorum after Sigibert’s appointment to the kingship of Austrasia is obvious. In this case, the wishes of the Austrasian magnates were taken into consideration. The resulting political consensus was the foundation of subsequent success in domestic and foreign affairs.93 The Burgundians played a large part in this, as they had in the campaign against the Basques. The Austrasian nobles in the Pippinid network also played an essential part; their willingness to compromise also ensured the peace in the regnum after Dagobert’s death.This may have been the subtext of the stories like the one about Flaochad’s conflict with Willebad: a lasting political perspective was something that could only be found through an integrated perspective. The advisers of the kings and queens in Paris should rely on the judgement of their equal partners in other centres of the kingdom in Burgundy and Austrasia in their common concern for the commonwealth of the regnum Francorum. Consequently, one could also regard the Fredegar Chronicle as a historiographical project that worked out this common perspective. It Fouracre, ‘Francia in the seventh century’, p. 385; and below, ch.8. 91 See above, p. 183.   92 Ebling, Prosopographie, pp. 48–50. 93 See above, p. 182. 90


Trickery and mythmaking appears as such in the way it represents Chlothar’s takeover.The common denominator between the Burgundian and Austrasian magnates is not so much their support for Chlothar as their opposition to Brunhild. It narrates her crimes against the members of the Burgundian and Austrasian elites in detail. Its positive description of Chlothar as a ruler comes after he assumes rule of the whole kingdom and after he redeems the crimes committed against the Burgundian and Austrasian nobility. After that, he rules with good fortune over the whole kingdom – the first time in the ‘fourth book’ that the chroniclers speak of the regnum Francorum.94 The chronicle also describes the stripping of power from Brunhild as a successful collaboration between the Burgundian maior domus Warnachar and the Austrasian nobles Arnulf and Pippin. At first, Warnachar receives the most attention. His networking paves the way for overthrowing Brunhild and Sigibert in Burgundy. He was also the one who had Brunhild imprisoned and brought to Chlothar.95 Later on, Arnulf, Pippin and his son Grimoald presented a sharper profile. The focus of the scholarly debate of the last decade on the 660s and the rejection of the three-author theory has imagined one author who started his work in Burgundy and later moved to Austrasia.96 It might be helpful, however, to keep in mind that, as a ‘chain of chronicles’, the Fredegar Chronicle continued a longstanding tradition in which subsequent authors decided to build upon, adapt and continue a specific ensemble of historical texts up until their own times.97 According to this model, we could also understand the compilation of the chronicle as a historiographical project that began after 613 and came to a provisional conclusion in the early 660s. While a precise textual reconstruction of earlier stages of the chronicle is beyond recovery, its different layers might still help us to understand the historiographical agenda of its compilers. In viewing the compilation of the chronicle as a process rather than a single event, we might not be able to define the specific shape of the various stages of its production. But we might be able to define more precisely the commonalities of the different layers and regional perspectives, which the chronicle still displays.The process of the chronicle’s composition could thus be used as a window into the process by which different members or descendants of the former governing class of the Austrasian-Burgundian kingdom used a specific, earlier conception of history and identity to maintain and 94 CF IV , 42, p. 14.   95  See above, p. 181. 96 Kusternig, ‘Die vier Bücher’, pp. 9–13, with further literature; I. Wood, ‘Fredegar’s fables’, p. 360. 97 See the excellent discussion of vision du passé, opinion and composition in the introduction to the French translation by Devillers and Meyers, Frédégaire, pp. 21–36.


Countermyths assert their position after the establishment of Chlothar’s rule over the Merovingian kingdoms in 613. The eventful decades after Chlothar’s takeover certainly shaped the extant form and contents of the chronicle, but it is also precisely in these decades in which we observe the emergence of a new distinctive political culture whose protagonists appropriated and reconfigured the remaining resources of the Roman Empire with increasing confidence. The Fredegar Chronicle provides us with one of the most comprehensive and most complex articulations of this new political culture. In order to define its horizons more precisely, we must turn to the different social contexts of the ongoing historiographical project of the chronicle’s compilation. Columbanian networks after Columbanus and the composition of the chronicle It seems possible to link the chronicle’s integration of Burgundian and Austrasian perspectives more specifically with the reconfiguration of aristocratic networks in these regions after Chlothar’s takeover in 613. Many of its members shared a common past as influential courtiers and aristocrats in the Austrasian and Burgundian kingdom during the reign of Brunhild, her son Childebert II (d. 592) and her grandsons Theudebert II (d. 612) and Theuderic II (d. 613). But this political background is hardly used in the chronicle to create a common history for members of the governing class and their different networks. In the chronicle as well as in their political reality after 613 the claims to their enduring political and social importance in the kingdom of Chlothar II were legitimised with their common opposition to Brunhild and her progeny. This strategy for the integration of Burgundian and Austrasian perspectives has already been studied by Ian Wood. In order to discern the milieus in which the chronicle’s extant form took shape, he suggested that the religious contents of the chronicle should be taken more seriously.The chronicle’s concerns about the salvation of some of the text’s protagonists, together with its remarkably early knowledge of the Vita Columbani, led Wood to suggest that the writing of the chronicle might have taken place ‘within the nexus of Columbanian monasticism’.98 One could indeed try to reconstruct the history of the chronicle’s composition in relation to the efforts of various aristocratic networks, who tried to redefine themselves on the one hand through their opposition to Brunhild’s rule in the Austrasian and Burgundian kingdoms and on the

  I. Wood, ‘Fredegar’s fables’, p. 360.



Trickery and mythmaking other hand through their support of the new monastic culture linked to the name and legacy of Columbanus and his foundation Luxeuil.99 With regard to the latter, it might be helpful to remember that one of the forgotten ‘authors’ of the Fredegar Chronicle was Agrestius, the former notarius of Theuderic who later entered Columbanus’ monastery of Luxeuil. The suggestion that Agrestius had been one of the authors of the Fredegar Chronicle was made by Gustav Schnürer in his study on the Verfasser der Fredegar Chronik more than a hundred years ago. In his detailed analysis, Schnürer argued for three distinct authors of the chronicle and tried to define precisely the different parts of the three authors. For Schnürer, it was Agrestius who had brought the Chronicle’s narrative up to 616/17.100 Following him, a Neustrian continued the text to 642, and later an Austrasian from the Pippinid network continued it until after Grimoald’s death in the early 660s.101 As we have seen, research after Schnürer, however, clearly demonstrated that it is impossible sharply to divide the chronicle into different portions of the text and allocate them to specific authors.The general scholarly consensus that one author compiled the oldest extant redaction around 660 has also ended speculations on Agrestius (who died before 640) as the author of the narrative up to 616/17. Although I do not intend to revive Schnürer’s theory of the three authors, nor to reconstruct an earlier ‘Agrestian’ narrative of the chronicle, the history of Agrestius might help us nevertheless to explore the different milieux within which the chronicle was written and rewritten until the 660s. Agrestius was the notarius of Theuderic II presumably until 613.102 In the year of Chlothar’s takeover of the rule of all the three kingdoms Agrestius seems to have entered the Columbanian monastery of Luxeuil. After Columbanus’ expulsion under Theuderic the monastery was now being run by his successor Eustasius. Soon Agrestius was embroiled in a bitter conflict with Columbanus’ successor over the interpretation of the Columbanian tradition, and Agrestius used his far-reaching networks to promote his own position on the matter. The conflict, which absorbed both men in the mid 620s, still preoccupied Jonas when he wrote the Vita Columbani in the early 640s. Both chapters about the clash between Agrestius and Eustasius are among the longest in the Vita. There Jonas tore Agrestius to shreds, depicting him as a novus Cain, a schismatic and a traitor to the Columbanian tradition. See Diem, Das monastische Experiment, pp. 255–79; Diem, ‘Monks’; I. Wood, ‘The Vita Columbani’, pp. 68–9; O’Hara, ‘The Vita Columbani’’; LeJan, ‘Convents’; and now Fox, Power and religion. 100 Schnürer, Die Verfasser, p. 233; CF IV , 44, pp. 142–3. 101 Schnürer, Die Verfasser, pp. 234–5. 102 Selle-Hosbach, Prosopographie, p. 40, cf. now, PGC, vol. I , p. 82 (Agrestius 5). 99


Countermyths With his excellent contacts Agrestius was actually a catalyst for a broad alliance against Luxeuil’s interpretation of Columbanian tradition. The difference of opinion was partly rooted in the Three Chapters controversy, which had been hotly debated since the sixth century. Whereas Agrestius, just like Columbanus, supported the position of the north Italian Church, Eustasius followed the ultimate papal line. That Agrestius may in this respect have been a truer disciple of Columbanus was of course something that Jonas tried to obfuscate.103 Agrestius also challenged Eustasius by attacking the Rule of Colum­ banus, by which the monks at Luxeuil lived. Eustasius had to defend his position at a Church council in Mâcon in 626/7. In his account of the council, Jonas made clear that the abbot of Luxeuil stood for the preservation of the actual monastic tradition of Columbanus.104 This was – according to Jonas – further confirmed by the death of Agrestius, who was killed by one of his servants in the year after the synod.105 Although Jonas portrays the conflict in a way that promotes Eustasius as the real guardian of Columbanian tradition, it yields interesting insight into the networks of the opposing party, which coalesced around the former notary of Theuderic II. One powerful supporter of Agrestius was Warnachar, the Burgundian maior domus who pulled the strings for the deposition of Brunhild in 613. He must have played an important role in the conflict between Agrestius and Eustasius, since he received Chlothar’s permisison to hold a council on the issue. Besides Warnachar, Jonas mentions a relative of Agrestius, Abelenus, as one of the driving forces behind the opposition to Eustasius. At the time of the council, Abelenus was bishop of Geneva, but he might also be identified with one of the comites of the army de pago Ultraiurano, which tried to defend the region against the Alamans in 609/10.106 The alliance of Warnachar and the bishop of Geneva is also interesting in the context of another passage in the Fredegar Chronicle dicussed above: the (re)discovery of the relics of St Victor of Solothurn. As we saw, the place was revealed to Bishop Hiconius of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, who did indeed find the body of the saint together with two other bishops, Patricius and Ursus, in Geneva. As the chronicle mentions, King Theuderic II was present when the body was found in a silver coffin, and he took the opportunity to confirm the greatest part of the property I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, p. 196. 104 See Dumézil, ‘L’affaire Agrestius’, Corning, The Celtic and Roman tradition, pp. 19–64. 105 Jonas, Vita Columbani II , 9, pp. 123–6. I should like to thank Yaniv Fox and Alex O’Hara for their suggestions and advice. 106 Ebling, Prosopographie, p.  2, for Abelenus, who, however, does not link the bishop with the comes. 103


Trickery and mythmaking of another Warnachar – maxemam partem facultates Warnacharii ibidem confirmavit.107 This Warnachar was not only a predecessor of the younger Warnachar as Theuderic’s maior domus, he was most likely a close relative of his successor.The older Warnachar had died in 598/9, two years before the inventio, and left all his possessions to the poor – qui omnem facultatem suam in aluminiis pauperum distribuit – as the chroniclers tell us a few chapters earlier.108 In 601/2 this donation of his facultates was confirmed by the king. Theuderic’s notarius, who may well have been Agrestius, drew up the official record of the donation for the archives of the bishops of Geneva, an office that his relative Abelenus would later hold at a time when the younger Warnachar was maior domus in Burgundy.109 This younger Warnachar also got quite a good press in some of the extant sources. In saints’ lives he is praised for supporting monastic foundations and cult sites.110 He also seems to have been active in promoting and distributing narratives. He sent accounts on the suffering of the martyrs of Langres and the life of Desiderius of Langres accompanied by a letter to Caraunus of Paris.111 In the Fredegar Chronicle, he appears as the mastermind behind the political alliance that eventually deposed Brunhild. More than a decade later, in his support of Agrestius and Abelenus against Eustasius, we see him in a liturgical alliance that has striking overlaps with the political network that had deposed Brunhild and her great-grandson. Also on the side of Agrestius, Warnachar and Abelenus were important supporters from the Austrasian political and religious landscape around Arnulf of Metz. At the time of the council of Mâcon, Arnulf was most likely no longer bishop of Metz. It seems that he retired soon after 625/6 to the monastery of Remiremont, which belonged to his former diocese.112 Remiremont was a recent foundation of another noble, Romaric, who was a member of the court of the other royal grandson of Brunhild, Theudebert II at Metz, before Chlothar’s takeover. His father was probably Romulf who was comes palatii at the court of Childebert II in Metz/ Reims and became the successor of Egidius as bishop of Reims in 590.113 Romaric entered Luxeuil around 613. Together with his fellow monk at Luxeuil Amatius he founded the double-monastery of Remiremont in the diocese of Arnulf of Metz a few years later, presumably around 620.114 107 CF IV , 22, p. 129 cf. above, p. 177.   108  CF IV , 18, p. 128. 109 Ebling, Prosopographie, pp. 235–8; Selle-Hosbach, Prosopographie, p. 40. 110 Passio Praeiecti, c. 20, pp. 237–8. 111 Epistolae aevi Merovingici collectae, 14, p. 457. 112 See Ewig, Merowinger, p. 123. 113 See PGC, vol. II , pp. 1626–9; and below, p. 211. 114 Folz, ‘Remiremont’; for a fuller discussion on the ‘Remiremont-circle’, see Fox, Power and religion, pp. 100–7.


Countermyths Arnulf not only supported the early Columbanian project in theVosges; he later joined Romaric in his monastery. Jonas mentions the two founders of the monastery, Romaric and Amatus, as men who had their differences with Eustasius at Luxeuil, which made it easy for Agrestius to pull them to his side. This also made it easier for Agrestius once he had fallen foul of Eustasius and had to leave Luxeuil: he simply went to Remiremont, where he stayed with Romaric and Amatus and might have even met Arnulf of Metz.115 Agrestius died the year after the synod of Mâcon, but in the course of the year before his death, the connections that Remiremont provided him and those on his side were especially important. One of the most influential members of the alliance, the maior domus Warnachar, had died shortly before the synod was held. One could speculate that the chronicle first emerged in Warnachar’s social network as a way to lay out, already in this first version, a common perspective between elites in the southern and eastern regions of the Merovingian kingdom. This perspective could easily have been developed in opposition to Brunhild, and in many respects it provided the chance to underline the great importance of elites of the once so powerful Austrasian-Burgundian kingdom  – before and after 613. This common history could also be linked to a common future, through the desire to preserve the stability of the regnum Francorum and the important role that members of the networks of Warnachar and Arnulf played in it. It is also possible to connect all this to the perspectives of the Arnulfing-Pippinid network. There are frequent indications in the Fredegar Chronicle that Dagobert supported aristocratic networks other than the Pippinids after his move to Paris. After Pippin’s death in 640, it was not his son Grimoald who first replaced him as maior domus but Otto, the tutor that Dagobert had appointed for Sigibert III. That Otto did not belong to the Pippinid network is quite clear from the chronicle’s negative representation of him.116 Only after Otto’s death in 642/3 did Grimoald become maior domus and increasingly build up his standing. From this position of power, Grimoald seems to have been able to establish a very close relationship with the Merovingian king. He either convinced Sigibert to adopt his son and to install the son of the maior domus as the successor of the Merovingian king or he adopted Sigibert’s son.117 Whoever’s son it was, this Childebert the Adopted did indeed rule for a few years after Sigibert’s death. But the so-called Grimoald coup 115 Jonas, Vita Columbani II , 9, pp. 127–8. 116 CF IV , 86 and 88, pp. 164–5; I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, p. 157; Schieffer, Karolinger, pp. 18–19. 117 I. Wood, ‘Fredegar’s fables’, pp. 364–5, with n. 77; Becher, ‘Der sogenannte Staatstreich’; see also Kasten, Königssöhne, pp. 28–9; Offergeld, Reges pueri, pp. 253–7; Hamann, ‘Chronologie’.


Trickery and mythmaking ended in fiasco for the Pippinid family. Sigibert’s brother, Clovis II, had not accepted the claim of Childebert the Adopted, and he immediately nominated his son Chlothar III as counter-king. When his men were able to imprison Grimoald, he had him executed in Paris. Childebert, however, ruled for a few more years. When he died in the early 660s, he did so as the last surviving adult relative of Grimoald.118 It was Grimoald’s sister Begga who ensured the continuation of the family line by marrying Ansegisus, the son of Arnulf of Metz, and they named their son Pippin, after her father.119 Ansegisus was slain in 662, probably by the dux Gunduin, a documented opponent of the Pippinids.120 Gunduin was involved in the depletion of the holdings of the monasteries of Stablo and Malmedy that Grimoald had founded, as we know from a charter that also supresses Grimoald’s role in the establishment of the monastery.121 Gunduin was also the brother-in-law of the then-ruling maior domus Wulfoald, whom Clovis II had designated as Grimoald’s successor and who was supposed to determine policy on behalf of the underage king. It was surely not a coincidence that the choice had fallen on Wulfoald, who was the son of Otto, the former maior domus and Grimoald’s opponent in the early 640s.122 Whether the chronicle was redacted before or after the death of Childebert the Adopted, either way it seems to accentuate the network’s great importance to the social and political balance in the regnum, and even more to connect it with images of its alliance with elites that had strong roots in the southern regions of the kingdom. One possible location where someone might have been interested in such an integration of Burgundian and Austrasian perspectives is Remiremont, the monastery where Arnulf had lived since the late 620s. As we have seen, Amatus and Romaric had been allied with Agrestius and the network of Warnachar throughout their conflict with Eustasius of Luxeuil. After Agrestius moved to Remiremont, he might very well have remained there for a short time with another former ally of Warnachar in the deposition of Brunhild. The abbot of the monastery Romaric still maintained close contacts to the Arnulfing and Pippinid family after the deaths of Arnulf in the monastery c. 640 and of Pippin I who died in the same year. Even during the difficult time following the deaths of Arnulf and Pippin, Romaric continued to support the Pippinids and remained in close contact with Pippin’s son Grimoald. We even hear in his Life 118 Hamann, ‘Chronologie’, pp. 91–4. 119 I. Wood, ‘Genealogy’, p. 245.   120 Schieffer, Karolinger, p. 21. 121 D Merow. 108, pp. 277–80 (AD 670, 6 September); see Werner, Lütticher Raum, pp. 359–60; LeJan, Famille, pp. 198, 396–7. 122 LHF, c. 45, p. 317.


Countermyths (written only in the eighth century, however) that Romaric travelled to the court of Grimoald to convince the mayor to abandon his ambitious political plans. The text does not specify what ambitions Grimoald actually had in mind, but together with other evidence indicating a continuing debate about Grimoald’s coup among members of the Austrasian elites, we might safely assume that the author of the Life was thinking of Grimoald’s promotion of Childebert the Adopted to the successor of Sigibert III.123 One would also have had no problem in Remiremont including chapters of the Vita Columbani in the compilation of the chronicle. On the contrary, the inclusion might well be another effort in the integration of perspectives. After the conflicts regarding a common Columbanian tradition with Luxeuil had been settled (as is also emphasised in Jonas’ Vita Columbani itself), the selected chapters of the text remember Columbanus’ and his successors’ common opposition to Brunhild and her progeny, a choice in line with the general strategies of consensus featured in the chronicle. The chronicle’s use of this strategy to create a consensus with the help of a common opponent could be another indication of Remiremont as one of the possible locations for the chronicle’s compilation. The compilers present a highly negative portrait of the successor of Bishop Desiderius of Lyons, Arigius. According to the chroniclers, together with Brunhild he had been responsible for the execution of his predecessor ordered by Theuderic II.124 As Yaniv Fox has demonstrated, Brunhild’s unjust persecution of Desiderius is a promintent theme in many of the products of Columbanian-Luxovian hagiography.125 It is also taken up in the Fredegar Chronicle. But it is not only used to evoke memories of the shared suffering under Brunhild’s cruel regime, it is also linked to a literary assault on Arigius, who received particularly bad press at Remiremont. As the Life of Romaric recounts, Arigius and Romaric had met personally after the execution of Romaric’s father in the tumult of war between the brothers Theudebert II and Theuderic II. Evicted from his familial home, the young Romaric had to plead for mercy with the representative of the queen, Arigius. Arigius refused and even physically assaulted Romaric who had to flee to the tomb of St Martin.126 The negative portrayal of Arigius in the Fredegar Chronicle could well

Vita Romarici, c. 8, p. 224; on nervous discussions in the centuries after the ‘Grimoald coup’, see now Hen, ‘Changing places’; on the date of the life see, Gauthier, L’évangelisation, p. 275; I. Wood, ‘Forgery’, pp. 370–1; Heinzelmann, ‘Studia sanctorum’; see also Goullet, ‘Les saints du diocèse de Toul’, p. 58. 124 CF IV , 32, p. 133; see also IV , 23, p. 129, and IV , 30, p. 132. 125 Fox, ‘The bishop’.   126  Vita Romarici, c. 3, p. 222. 123


Trickery and mythmaking be seen before the background of such memories and stories about the history of Romaric before and around 613. Romaric died most likely in the 650s, at which time the chronicle might have already been circulating in strongholds of the Pippinid-Arnulfing network.The manuscript evidence of the oldest version of the chronicle, as transmitted in Paris BnF lat. 10910, is unfortunately inconclusive, as the manuscript itself can be located only vaguely to France.127 The only other witness of this initial version, a manuscript copied at Metz (†BM 134) at the end of the eighth century which was unfortunately destroyed in World War II,128 indicates that the chronicle was available in one of the centres of the former Pippinid-Arnulfing network by 800. By that time, however, the descendents of the Pippinid-Arnufling network had continued the process of compilation and produced a totally new version of the chronicle, which might well have been a factor for the sparse transmission of the version with a provisional end in 642.129 The impression that the chronicle conveys of being incomplete does of course invite speculation about how the chroniclers would have continued their account up to at least 658, as they had promised.130 If they had, it would have been necessary to deal with the reign of the powerful queen Balthild, who ruled for her minor son Chlothar III after the death of her husband Clovis II in 657. As Ian Wood suggested, the image of Balthild in the chronicle would possibly have been less favourable than the one that the extant sources transmit. The queen may well have been cast in Brunhild’s mould, as part of the chronicle’s legitimation of the Pippinid coup (that is, when Grimoald’s son was enthroned as Childebert).131 Were the chronicle to have been continued into this time, we would doubtless have a clearer picture of the political struggle surrounding the Grimoald coup. But instead we have only a short paragraph about the events in the Liber historiac Francorum, written in 726/7.132 Most historiographers of Grimoald’s descendants, the Carolingian kings, avoided carefully any recollection of this episode in Carolingian pre-history.133 As concerns this book, however, the fact that the redaction of the chronicle around 660 did not leave behind a thoroughly completed version of history is a stroke of luck – for what this ‘incompleteness’ reveals. The different layers emerge more clearly because of it, and as a result it is easier to explore the efforts to integrate different perspectives into a larger historiographical whole. The name and the history of the Franks 127 Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, p. 56. 128 † Metz, BM 134; CLA VI , no. 788. 129 See below, pp. 311–12.   130  See above, p. 175. 131 I. Wood, ‘Fredegar’s fables’, p. 366.   132  See below, p. 275. 133 Reimitz, ‘Der Weg zum Königtum’, pp. 300–1.


Countermyths played an important role in interlacing these different perspectives. This was, however, never used to establish Frankish identity as a local or regional identity.134 Some observations on the reworking of Gregory’s Histories suggest that the compilers actually avoided the few passages in which Gregory presented Frankish identity as a local or regional identity. This is particularly obvious in the suppression of Gregory’s use of regnum Franciae, which Gregory used to describe the regions of the Austrasian kingdom.135 The Franci of the chronicle are those who hold omnem regnum Francorum together, although they did so from the eastern and southeastern parts of the kingdom. Only after the unification of the three kingdoms of Austrasia, Burgundy and Neustria under Chlothar II, which was made possible through the initiative of the Frankish duces in Burgundy in Austrasia, does the chronicler speak of a regnum Francorum. From ancient history up to the seventh century, these Frankish duces are presented as the main stabilising factor for their commonwealth. It was exactly the place in history and in the regnum that Gregory of Tours had not wanted to give Frankish identity. But it was not enough to rework Gregory’s text to stress the role of the Franks in history and in the present. In linking the Frankish name with a common perspective for the regnum, the compilers were also confronted with the problem of different views of Frankish history and identity, which Gregory had been able to use to challenge possible contemporary imaginations the Franks. It was clearly not enough to simply contradict Gregory. The compilers had to confront his provocation, and to do that they looked through his text, through every moment and every story. Gallic, Roman, Auvergnais, Armorican, Frankish, Burgundian and other histories all merged. In reconceptualising Frankish history in opposition to Gregory, the compilers also fundamentally disagreed with Gregory’s views on the Roman past. Instead of emphasising discontinuity with the Roman Empire, the compilers not only forged a common descent and lineage linking the Franks and the Romans, they also developed the social and political structures of the Frankish regnum with continuities from the Roman and post-Roman past of Gaul. This textual endeavour, however, did not present a straightforward transition from Roman to Frankish rule. As we shall see in the next section, the compilers used the ‘middle ground’ of the Roman provinces along the former northern frontiers to portray the emergence of the social and political structures of late and post-Roman Gaul as a result of interaction and cooperation between Roman and Frankish rulers, commanders and politics. 134 See above, pp. 182–4.   135  See above, pp. 173–4.


Trickery and mythmaking We should not take this late Roman perspective of the compilers for granted. To be sure, there must have been some sort of consensus in the seventh-century Merovingian kingdom that the regnum was a successor state to the Roman Empire.The actual relationship to Rome and its consequences, however, remained open to debate, as seen in the example of Gregory of Tours, whose Histories were still widely read and distributed in seventh-century Gaul. Gregory’s emphasis on the discontinuity with Rome not only stemmed from his Christian vision of community, but also from the history that members of his family shared with other prominent families of the sixth century. Most of them seem to have acquired their elevated social status only in post-Roman times through cooperation with the post-Roman rulers of Gaul.136 In regard to this balance of continuities and discontinuities with Rome, the chroniclers developed a very different interpretation of the Roman past from Gregory’s that corresponded with the social and political strategies and traditions of members of the governing class in the Austrasian and Burgundian kingdoms, such as Warnachar, Agrestius, Lupus and his descendants, or the families of Pippin and Arnulf of Metz. 7.3  Fre degar’s Roman fable s : storyte l l i ng, p ol iti c s and th e i nte g ration of a Roman and F rank i sh   past Already in their incorporation of the Frankish origin myth, it is clear just how important it was to the compilers of the chronicle that they embedded their rewriting of Gregory’s text within a much greater historiographical horizon than Gregory had developed. In their reply to Gregory’s anti-origo, the compilers explicitly referred to the far more detailed account from the Chronicle of Jerome that they had reworked into their version. In skipping Book I of the Histories the compilers also avoided narrowing down the history to the regions of Gaul which became enlightened by the advent and preaching of St Martin. Instead they continued the narrative (after the preceding chain of chronicles consisting of the Liber generationis, the Jerome-Hydatius-epitome and their continuation with Hydatius and the additional stories on the kingdom of Italy under Theoderic the Great, the Byzantine Empire and the Vandal kingdom) with a short remark about the Vandals’ invasion of Gaul (chapter II, 2 in Gregory’s text and chapter II, 1 in the six-book version137). Then in the same sentence they jumped to reports on the Hunnic campaign See P. Brown, Through the eye, pp. 393–4, 400–7; Diefenbach, ‘Bischofsherrschaft’; Drinkwater, ‘Un-becoming Roman’; Reimitz, ‘Contradictory stereotypes’. 137 See above, pp. 167–8. 136


Countermyths against Gaul under Attila (II, 5–6 in Gregory and II, 4–5 in the six-book version). In this highly selective rewriting, in which they continued to use Gregory’s formulations for the most part, the chroniclers underlined how the conflict had a world-historical dimension.138 They included the story about Aravatius of Tongern who had gone to Rome to pray and fast in order to avert catastrophe for his people.139 In a vision at the limina sancti Petri, it was revealed to Aravatius that God had already decided that Attila – ’the scourge of God’ – should descend upon Gaul with his Huns. The compilers also summed up Gregory’s story about the wife of the magister militum Aetius – ’the last hope of the West’ – who also prayed to Peter and Paul in Rome to save her husband’s life.140 For in those days by the prayer of Aetius’ wife, who went to pray to the churches of the most blessed apostles Peter and Paul in fasts and vigils, the apostles interceded and Aetius was freed from danger. It was revealed by a certain poor man that Aetius had been saved by the prayers of his wife.141

It would seem that at this moment, all of Rome, its most venerable saints, the pilgrims, members of the senatorial class, as well as the poor, were holding their breath and looking to Gaul. What actually happened in Gaul, however, the Fredegar Chronicle does not say. From this section, the compilers skipped over the story of Bishop Anianus of Orleans, who exhorted his people to fast and pray when the Huns began to storm the city. It was Anianus who, when the city and its population were in dire straits, first saw Aetius’ troops marching towards them, which God had sent to rescue the praying populus. The compilers also suppressed Gregory’s subsequent accounts of the conflicts between Aetius’ alliance and the Huns, excluding also Gregory’s conclusion that the Huns’ defeat was doubtless the result of Anianus’ prayers.142 Yet the compilers’ rewriting did include the extremely positive portrayal of Aetius’ history, family and virtues (Gregory’s chapter II, 8). As Gregory had made clear, his source for this characterisation was Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus.143 At the beginning of the chapter, Gregory remarked that Igitur his ita degestis ac per ordinem expletis, quid de Aetio supra memorato Renati Frigiredi narret historia, tacere nefas putavi.144 Like Gregory, the chroniclers also referenced their source of their praise for Aetius, See CF III , 1, p. 92.   139 Cf. DLH II , 5, pp. 45–7. 140 Cf. DLH II , 7, pp. 49–50; see above, p. 53. 141 CF II , 1, p. 92; see the discussion and translation in Woodruff, ‘The historia epitomata’, p. 8. 142 DLH II , 7, pp. 48–50: Nam nullus ambigat Chunorum exercitum obtentu memorati antestites fuisse fugatum (p. 50). 143 See above, Chapter 3, p. 53.   144  DLH II , 8, p. 50. 138


Trickery and mythmaking with the heading Aetium patricium huius chronici gesta laudatur.145 Whereas Gregory sought to support the authenticity of his reports by referring to Renatus Profuturus, the chroniclers developed a sort of Verwirrungstaktik, obfuscating which passages they derived from which authorities and making the episode at the same time a more integral part of a single narrative. The caption relating to Aetius appears only a few lines after the beginning of the epitome of Gregory, which the compilers had introduced as the excarpsum of Gregory’s Histories.146 The passage about Aetius therefore appears as if Gregory had written it, who by the same subtle elision becomes the supradictus storiographus with which the compilers – just like Gregory – conclude their praise for the magister militum: Haec supradictus storiographus [historiograffus in Gregory] de Aetio narrat.147 The chronicle, however, omits Gregory’s comprehensive narrative of Aetius’ gesta in his battle against the Huns on the Catalaunian fields. Instead the chroniclers refer to an earlier part of their own version:  Cum inisset certamen cum Chunis, que gessit,Ydatius suae storiae huius volumine narrat (Hydatius tells us in his history about what [Aetius] waged in his battle against the Huns, which has been included in this book).148 Aetius’ fight against the Huns in Gaul can indeed be found in the rewriting of Hydatius in Fredegar’s chain of chronicles. But the account is actually a long interpolation based on Gregory’s narrative from chapter II, 7 (II, 6 in the six-book version). In its new contextualisation amid Hydatius’ material, Gregory’s version of the story was carefully altered to merge Roman and Frankish history. Instead of Anianus of Orleans and his powerful prayers procuring aid, the Franci play a much more active role. Gregory had mentioned the Franci as allies of Aetius, but in his version their role is different and much less prominent. Gregory (or his source) was more interested in the Goths under their king Theodoric and his son Thorismund:149 as he portrayed it, it was Aetius together with Theodoric and Thorismund who arrived as the auxilium Domini that saved Bishop Anianus and the people of Metz. Together with these kings, their men and the Franks – Gregory continues a bit later – Aetius also fought the decisive battle against the Huns, in which King Theodoric fell.150 After that victory, however, Aetius seems to have been concerned about the concentration of Gothic and Frankish troops in Gaul, and he used a 145 CF III , 1, p. 92. 146 For the titles of the Gregory excerpts, see above, pp. 140–2. 147 Cf. DLH II , 8, p. 52, with CF III , 1, p. 92. 148 CF III , 1, p. 92.   149  See Christensen, Cassiodorus, p. 185. 150 DLH II , 7, p. 50: Igitur Aetius cum Gothis Francisque coniunctus adversus Attilanem confligit.


Countermyths cunning ploy to get rid of them. He deceived both Thorismund and the Frankish king (whom Gregory does not name) with the same ruse, that in their absence both of their brothers were trying to usurp their thrones, so that both kings hurried home.151 In the Fredegar Chronicle’s version, Aetius does not join forces with the Goths and Franks against the Huns but instead manages to turn the Huns and the Visigoths against each other. After the two armies wore each other out in extensive and gruelling battle, Aetius  – whom the chronicle describes as strenuissimus consilii – approached Attila to inform the Hunnic ruler that numerous troops had arrived as reinforcements for the Visigothic army. Attila understood that he would have no chance under these new circumstances. He thanked Aetius for his consilium and act of support by giving him 10,000 solidi, and he departed with his troops. Aetius then played the same trick on the Visigothic king, who also paid the Roman patricius 10,000 solidi before withdrawing from the area with his army.With the hurried departure of both the Huns and the Visigoths, the chronicle celebrates Aetius as the liberator of Gaul. The Franks were not involved in the military conflict; rather, they make an appearance as allies of the magister militum by helping him deceive both sides with res fictae. Together with Aetius, the Franks lit watch fires to suggest the advance of troops to the Huns, for which the chronicle celebrates them as helping liberate Gaul from enemies: Quievit hoc proelium Ageci consilium; Gallia ab adversariis liberatur.152 The parallels to the strategies with which the chronicle integrated a Frankish origin myth into the rewriting of Gregory’s Histories are obvious. Like their origo version they referred in the story on Aetius to the authority of another part of the chronicle – in this case the Jerome continuation of Hydatius – into which they actually inserted a totally different version of Gregory’s narrative. Thus the chroniclers built on the authority of historians other than Gregory to establish their alternative vision of a Frankish-Roman past and to put Gregory’s vision into the ‘broader’ historical perspective of their chain of chronicles. The chroniclers’ reorganisation of the accounts of Aetius and the liberation of Gaul are not simply a case of literary trickery through which they appropriated Gregory’s Histories. The move also betrays an interesting duplication of Aetius’ own political trickery. Just as the Roman magister militum played off the Goths and Huns against each other to his own benefit, the authors of the chronicle did the same with different historiographical authorities See above, p. 53. 152 See CF II , 53, pp.  73–4; quotation:  p.  74. Cf. Hydatius, Chronicon, ed. Burgess, p.  90, and ed. Mommsen, p. 22. 151


Trickery and mythmaking to establish and legitimise their own history. Through their portrayal of the Franks in a new and much more important role for the history and liberation of Gaul, the overlapping literary and political trickeries function in the chronicle as a merger for Roman and Frankish history. What was probably more obvious to early medieval readers, who did not have an MGH edition at hand to compare the different extant versions of the texts that the chroniclers used, was this linking of political trickery and storytelling. After all, the arguments that Aetius used to get rid of the Huns and the Goths were based on fictions. The Franks had bolstered his credibility with res fictae, which indeed sped up the Huns’ withdrawal, thereby ensuring that they had no chance to see through the deceit. This connecting of storytelling, trickery, loyalty and politics is a motif that appears throughout the whole chronicle. In several places, it is also used to underline the successful cooperation of barbarian rulers and Roman elites. The motif first appears prominently in one of the stories that the compilers had appended to their version of Hydatius.153 Whereas the excerpts from Hydatius end with an interpolation announcing the end of Visigothic rule and the beginning of Frankish rule in southern Gaul,154 the episodes that follow (whose sources have yet to be identified) once again broaden the perspective. They place the events of Gallo-Frankish history with histories of the Ostrogoths,Visigoths,Vandals and the Byzantine Empire into the broader context of the transformation of the Roman world. Here the chroniclers devote special attention to the transfer of rule in Italy to Theoderic, who was natione Macedonum and descended like the Franks from the Trojan heroes.155 As the chronicle reports with considerable accuracy, Theoderic’s military and political success was viewed with increasing suspicion in Byzantium.156 Eventually the Byzantine emperor, whom the chronicle identifies as Leo,157 along with his advisers, decided to invite Theoderic to Constantinople to kill him. But one of the senators at the emperor’s court, Ptolemaios, proved to be a more loyal amicus of Theoderic. When Theoderic came to Constantinople, he was arrested at the imperial court, but Ptolemaios succeeded in using a clever ploy to compel the Byzantine emperor to release the king. 153 See Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, p. 47. 154 CF II , 56, p. 77; see the discussion of the passage below, pp. 229–30. 155 CF II , 57, p. 78; for the Macedonians as descendants of the Trojans and relatives of the Franks, see above, pp. 168–9. 156 For the historical context, see Wolfram, Goten, pp. 279–86. 157 It should be Anastasius I; the wrong name, however, seems to have been a conscious choice as the following fabula identifies the Byzantine emperor with the lion: I. Wood, ‘Iocundus in fabolis’, and below.


Countermyths Soon afterwards, Leo made a second attempt. Once again he invited Theoderic to Constantinople, where he could be killed on the spot. He had also learnt from the failure of his first try: now all the senators had to swear to keep the plan a secret. Theoderic sent a message to Ptolemaios, who had also been obliged to take the oath.The Byzantine senator asked the king’s messenger to accompany him to a banquet with the other senators, and listen carefully to the stories that Ptolemaios told. At the banquet, Ptolemaios said to his fellow senators, Laetus dies huius prandii sit, iocundemur in fabolis (It is a happy day of feasting, let’s enjoy ourselves with fables). He then told an animal fable with a clearly decipherable warning. The lion – leo in Latin – as the strongest animal of all was elected to be ruler, and he invited everyone to a celebratory dinner. When the deer came, the lion sprang to devour him, and only with difficulty was the deer able to escape. The lion sent the fox after him, to persuade the deer to appear once again before the lion, which he did. When the deer came again, the lion set upon him at once and tore him to pieces. The fox managed to set aside the deer’s heart, which he ate himself.When the king asked for the heart of the deer and found it was missing, suspicion quickly fell on the fox. But the fox slyly defended himself: ‘This deer has no heart. If he had, it would have been impossible for me to persuade him, and he never would have come.’158 The message of the fable was clear, and it seems unlikely that its authors expected otherwise of anyone who read it after she or he had been given the right interpretational framework. The senators had only part of it and obviously regarded themselves as the audience of the fable. The message they could get from it was that Ptolemaios tried to distance himself from his friend Theoderic in ridiculing the Gothic ruler’s naïvety. In this respect the story gives interesting insight into how the chroniclers imagined the communication about delicate political matters at a ruler’s court. Recounting fabulae seems to have been such a normal part in this communication that one obviously did not have to fear provoking any suspicion by their relation. It is also interesting that in the story’s context in the chronicle the compilers underline that Ptolemaios was directing his consilium exclusively to the ruler, to Theoderic himself. He instructs the messenger to learn the fable by heart and to relate it to his ruler exactly as Ptolemaios had told it. It was the king, not the messenger, to whom the advice of the fabula is given, and it was the king who ought to interpret it.

  CF II , 57, p. 81.



Trickery and mythmaking The loyalty and cleverness of advisers, their ability to render good stories and their talent for political trickery, is a theme that also appears prominently in the subsequent narrative of the chronicle, above all in stories of Frankish history. There are several places where the chroniclers mention successful advisers as strenuus in consiliis and iocundus in fabolis.159 The story about Theoderic and Ptolemaios, the first episode about storytelling and politics, defines from the outset the meaning of fabula as a story to learn from. It may well have been that the compilers needed to make sure that their readers would not understand fabulae, and consequently the quality of iocundus in fabolis, as simply talking, or even gossiping. That was probably how most people who had a good classical education understood the word until the sixth century.160 One indication that the compilers sought to avoid this meaning occurs in their rewriting of the Hydatius chronicle. In the account of Athaulf (d. 416), Alaric’s successor, the chroniclers followed Hydatius’ text word for word. In the sentence about his death, however, they deviated slightly from the original. Hydatius reported that Athaulf was killed by a certain Goth, inter familiares fabulas.This was not the context and meaning of fabulae that the chroniclers wanted to convey. Consequently they skipped the phrase and just wrote that Athaulf was killed by a certain Goth in Barcelona.161 In the Fredegar Chronicle, people whose fabulae were heeded by rulers played a much more positive role. In this regard, the chroniclers were much more inclined to build on the images of advisers that Gregory had provided, such as for Aridius, the counsellor of the Burgundian king Gundobad. In Gregory’s Histories Aridius acted as a highly sophisticated and wily political broker in the conflicts between Gundobad and Clovis. To prevent Clovis from devastating the Burgundian lands around Vienne, he switched sides and offered his services to Clovis in order to win the king’s trust. Clovis was more than happy to accept the offer, since Aridius was iocundus in fabulis, strinuus in consiliis, iustus in iuditiis et in conmisso fidelis.162 The Fredegar Chronicle extends Aridius’ role even further, and it compares him to a counterpart at Clovis’ court before Aridius had ‘left’ the Burgundian court. This counterpart is Aurelian, quendam ex Romano ingenio, whom Clovis had sent to the Burgundian kingdom on a delicate mission. He was to CF III , 23, p. 102; and IV , 28, p. 132; see now I. Wood, ‘Iocundus in fabolis’’, and below, pp. 208–9. 160 For the wide semantic field of fabula see the entry ‘fabulae’ in Georges, Ausführliches lateinisches Handwörterbuch, vol. I , cols. 2651–2; and for the medieval usage of the word the entry in the Mittellateinisches Wörterbuch, vol. IV , cols. 9–10. 161 Cf. CF II , 50, p. 71, with Hydatius, Chronicon, ed. Burgess, p. 84, or ed. Mommsen, p. 19: per quondam Gothum apud Barcilonam inter familiares fabulas iugulatur. 162 DLH II , 32, pp. 79–80. 159


Countermyths contact the niece of King Gundobad to win her hand for Clovis. But since Gundobad had sought to prevent any direct contact with the daughter of his murdered brother Chilperic, Aurelian dressed himself as a beggar and made contact with the Burgundian princess in disguise. She consented to marry Clovis at once, but she urged Aurelian and Clovis to hurry.163 They would have to arrange the marriage with Gundobad quickly, before the astute Aridius came back from Constantinople. When Aridius returned to Burgundy, Chrodechild was already on her way to Clovis. Aridius quickly made clear to his king, however, that Clovis’ marriage to Chilperic’s daughter was a big mistake, and he persuaded Gundobad to send an army after her immediately. But the troops arrived too late. Someone had given Chrodechild a horse, and she reached her future husband Clovis safe and sound.164 It is not only clever advisers and good storytellers who appear again and again. Fabulae also play an important role in the chronicle’s narrative of Frankish history. For example: the compilers inserted a fablelike story into their recounting of the history of Clovis’ father, Childeric, after he had married his wife and Clovis’ future mother, Basina. The first night they spent together, Basina refused to have sexual intercourse with Childeric and instead sent her husband to see what was outside the palace. Childeric saw animals that looked like lions, leopards and unicorns. When he returned, Basina sent him out again. That time he saw bears and wolves. The third time he went out to look, he saw dogs and other smaller animals, which were dragging each other through the mud and writhing around. Basina interpreted these visions and suggested that their own son would have the appearance and bravery of a lion, their grandsons those of leopards and unicorns and their great-grandsons the bravery and truthfulness of wolves and bears. But what you saw the third time will be the shame of this kingdom, as they will rule just like dogs or smaller beasts: their bravery will be like that of these animals. The multitude of other despicable beasts who were dragging each other around signifies that under their rule, the people [populi] will destroy each other without fear of their rulers [principes].165

In the sentence that follows this, the chroniclers confirmed Basina’s interpretation. After reporting that Basina gave birth to a son named Clovis, they added that he would become magnus et pugnator egregius, ad instar leoni fortissemus cyteris regibus – a great and extraordinary fighter, similar to the lion and braver than any other king.166   Cf. Kreiner, Social life, pp. 145–55. CF III , 18–19, pp. 99–101. 165 CF III , 12, p. 97.   166  CF III , 12, p. 97. 163 164


Trickery and mythmaking As Ian Wood has observed, the main agenda of this story was not to highlight the bravery of the rex primus Clovis but rather the slow but sure degeneration of his descendants.167 This degeneration brings us very close to the compilers’ own time. The wolves’ descendants – the fourth or fifth generation, according to the story’s interpretation – would have been the sons and grandsons of Brunhild, including Chlothar II and Dagobert I. Given the critical assessment of Dagobert’s rule in Paris, the ambiguity may have been deliberate, or at least an element the successive compilers wanted to retain. But it seems that in one of the earlier layers of the chronicle, the fable was directed against Brunhild’s progeny. One indication of this could be another instance in the text where the telling of a fabula moved the Burgundian king Theuderic to pursue and eventually kill his brother Theudebert. At the climax of the conflict between them, Theuderic moved against his brother with a large army. The first major clash was decided in his favour, and Theudebert fled to Cologne. When Theuderic was chasing after him, he reached Mainz and encountered the city’s bishop, Leudegarius. Leudegarius, ‘who appreciated the virtues of Theuderic as much as he despised Theudebert’s folly’, seems to have confirmed the Burgundian king’s pursuit of his brother by telling him a fable: Finish what you have begun … There is a rustica fabula that tells how a wolf went up into the hills with his cubs, and when they had started to hunt he called them and said: ‘As far as your eyes can see and in what direction, you have no friends except the few who are from your own family. So finish what you have begun.’168

The chroniclers describe the battle that follows, in which Theuderic triumphs decisively over his brother, as one of unbelievable carnage. ‘It is said that from time immemorial, no such battle had ever been fought by the Franks and the other peoples. The number of the slain was so great that there was no room for them to fall down.’169 That this carnage followed the advice of a bishop in the dramaturgy of the chronicle has sparked considerable discussion in modern scholarship. Some scholars saw in this episode a contradiction in the fact that Theuderic went to war against his brother on the basis of a fable that seems to advocate the bonds of kinship. Godefroid Kurth suspected that the chronicle’s account had merged what were originally two separate fables. The story in which Leudegarius tells his fable, Kurth supposed, I. Wood, ‘Deconstructing the Merovingian family’, p. 151. 168 CF IV , 38, p. 139; I have slightly altered the translation by Wallace-Hadrill, p. 31. 169 CF IV , 38, p. 139, trans. Wallace-Hadrill, p. 31. 167


Countermyths probably originally indicated that the bishop was against the war.170 Wallace-Hadrill, who also saw this episode as contradictory, follows Kurth on this point.171 Indeed, Andreas Kusternig pointed to the fact that Brunhild, Theuderic’s grandmother, had incited her grandson against his brother by claiming that Theudebert was not really Childebert’s son but rather the son of a gardener.172 Gustav Schnürer, on the other hand, saw that the story’s ambivalence lay precisely in how the chroniclers represented the king’s incompetence in understanding the message correctly.173 It is also possible that the chroniclers deliberately played on the ambiguities and different possibilities of the fabula’s interpretation. Theuderic interpreted the fable’s message as Andreas Kusternig had and initiated the destruction of his false brother. Unlike Theuderic, the chroniclers and likewise their readers could also associate Leudesius’ fable with the meaning of the fable about Basina and Childeric – in which the descendants of the wolves were dogs and even smaller beasts, under whose rule the peoples of the kingdom would destroy each other and lose all respect for their rulers. The chroniclers and readers knew what happened after this story:  Brunhild’s descendents would indeed lose the support of their nobles, and the queen’s progeny would soon be on their own.174 With hindsight of these events, one could also read Leudesius’ appeal to Theuderic to finish what he had begun as ironic advice to continue the politics that would eventually lead to the extinction of this branch of the family.175 It seems that fables were an important literary tool for the chroniclers to convey their messages. Just as they served an important function in the communication between advisers and their rulers in the narrative, they also helped the compilers of the chronicle to establish a common understanding of history with their readers. Iocundemur in fabolis (let’s enjoy ourselves with fables) – the words with which Ptolemaios introduced his fabula – may well have also been addressed to the readers of the chronicle, encouraging them to reflect on the meaning of history with the help of the stories that followed.176 The compilers may have identified themselves with good storytellers and counsellors like Ptolemaios, Aridius or later the maior domus Claudius.177 In this respect, it is striking that in their historiographical vision for a Frankish regnum, the compilers 170 Kurth, Histoire poétique, pp. 413–14. 171 Wallace-Hadrill, The fourth book, p. 31, with n. 1. 172 See Kusternig, ‘Die vier Bücher’, pp. 182–3, with n. 97. 173 Schnürer, Die Verfasser, pp. 63–7.   174  See above, p. 181. 175 Cf. the passage on the downfall of the family in CF IV , 42, pp. 141–2. 176 See I.  Wood, ‘Fredegar’s fables’; I.  Wood, ‘Iocundus in fabolis’; and the forthcoming study by Fischer, Die Fredegar-Chronik. 177 See above, pp. 205, CF IV, 28, p. 132.


Trickery and mythmaking often highlighted the Roman identity of counsellors and good storytellers. Aurelian, Clovis’ matchmaker, is explicitly characterised as ex Romano ingenio.178 Aridius, the sharp-witted adviser of Gundobad who eventually entered into the service of Clovis, was also a member of the Roman regional elite, who established their prominent position by cooperating with the new political rules.179 The chronicle also mentions a certain Paternus, a legate of Clovis in the negotiations with the Visigothic kingdom. Paternus energetically and effectively represented the interests of Clovis and the Franks, while seeing through the various tricks with which Alaric and his advisers tried to deceive the Franks.180 As we have seen, the cooperation of members of regional elites like Aridius with the new rulers played a crucial role not only in the creation of the new political and social frameworks of the Merovingian kingdoms but also in the establishment of their own prominent position. We have also seen that the members of these rising elites strongly defended these newly forged perspectives to maintain their political and social importance in the Merovingian regnum throughout the sixth century. Ian Wood has shown in his recent article on the governing class of the Merovingian kingdom that the interaction and cooperation of members of this class is particularly well documented in the second half of the sixth century.181 This closely corresponds not only to Gregory of Tours in all his different roles, although he is certainly our key witness to this process. As we see from other sources, Gregory was clearly not the only one who profited from the brokerage of different available cultural resources and from the ability to manoeuvre between different social and political horizons. Gregory’s contemporary Venantius Fortunatus also developed a vision of a larger social integration. Unlike Gregory, however, Venantius’ larger whole was less shaped by a Christian vision than by the idea of a rejuvenated romanitas in the Merovingian kingdom. As different as this conception was from Gregory’s, however, it was also closely linked to Venantius’ personal resources and position as a Roman poet. Another example of a member of the Merovingian governing class who built his position by manoeuvring between distinguished political and cultural horizons in Gregory’s time was Asclepiodatus, who authenticated the decrees of Childebert II – the decretio Childeberti in its modern edition.182 It is very likely that he was the Asclepiodatus who served as referendary to Childebert’s uncle Guntram and had therefore been involved in drafting the sophisticated Edict of Guntram in 585.183 He may 178 See above, pp. 205–6.   179  See above, pp. 15–18. 180 CF II , 58, pp. 82–3.   181  I. Wood, ‘The governing class’. 182 Decretio Childeberti 3, p. 17; see above, p. 114, n.92. 183 See I. Wood, ‘The governing class’, p. 16; and Liebs, Römische Jurisprudenz, pp. 272–5.


Countermyths also have been the same patricius of Provence who received letters from Gregory the Great in 599 and 601.184 Like Asclepiodatus, members of this class continued to work with and for the Merovingian kings. As patricius of Provence, Asclepiodatus would have been an official of the sons of Childebert II, Theudebert and Theuderic. His expertise in manoeuvring between different legal traditions would have served him well in a region where Frankish rule had taken over what were essentially Roman foundations of the Ostrogothic provincial administration.185 The governing class in the Burgundian kingdom also included Agrestius,Theuderic’s notary and later the bête noire of Jonas of Bobbio. It is very likely that both men knew Claudius, another member of the governing class whose Roman background the Fredegar Chronicle explicitly highlights. Theuderic made him maior domus in 606/7, an office that the chronicle describes Claudius (de genere Romanus) as highly qualified to fill, since he was homo prudens, strenuus in cunctis and iocundus in fabolis.186 As some of our extant sources show, the cooperation between rulers and educated experts in cultural difference continued to play an important part in politics even after the takeover of Chlothar II. We might well see an example of it in what we can sketch of Warnachar’s network, in which Warnachar worked together with Agrestius and his relative Abelenus of Geneva.187 As I suggested above, this might well have been the milieu in which the work on the chronicle began.188 Its weakness for storytellers, their fabulae, literary trickery fits well to this post-Roman milieu, too. This interplay between Roman and Frankish culture would also place later stages of the chronicle’s compilation in the context of the Arnulfing-Pippinid network, many of whose members had strong roots in the Roman past of Gaul. One very prominent but later memory of this context is the different versions of the Genealogia domni Arnulfi written in the Carolingian period, presenting Arnulf as a descendant of a Roman senatorial family from southern Gaul.189 One of the best examples, however, is the family of one of Arnulf ’s protégées, Romaric, the founder of Remiremont, and probably the grandson of the dux Lupus, whom we have already met as dedicatee of

Gregory the Great, Registrum epistolarum IX , 226, and XI , 43, pp. 800 and 940–1. 185 See Buchner, Provence, pp. 15–23. 186 CF IV , 28, p. 132.   187  See above, pp. 194–7. 188 See above, pp. 191–4. 189 See I. Wood, ‘Genealogy’, pp. 250–4; Reimitz, ‘The early medieval history’; and still: Oexle, ‘Die Karolinger’. 184


Trickery and mythmaking several poems by Venantius Fortunatus.190 Venantius had praised Lupus’ descent from a stirps Romana on the occasion of Lupus’ appointment to the dux of the Champagne, an event which Venantius interpreted as the post-Roman renewal of Rome, the return of Scipio, Cato and Pompey.191 Lupus was most likely a member of an old Roman family from Aquitaine. But while Venantius tried to style Lupus as the ideal cultural broker who, through his education and eloquence in different languages, would be able to renew romanitas in the future integration of the kingdom,192 Lupus and the members of his family saw it the other way round.They used their prestige and resources to establish their position as members of the new governing class of a ‘Frankish’ kingdom at the royal courts in the north. One of his sons was Johannes, of whom we have only a tenth-century source that testifies to his office as dux.193 We know more about Lupus’ other son, who received the name of his father through its Germanic translation – *wulfa – Rom(w)ulf, who was most likely the father of the founder of Remiremont, Romaric.194 With the decision to translate Lupus into the Germanic wulf the family also decided for a different tradition of namegiving of zweigliedrige Personennamen (two-tier system).This had already been the case for Lupus’ brother Magnulf, where the two parts of the name could have been interpreted as *Magan-wulfa – ‘Power-wulf ’ – or as a combination of a Germanic wulf with the Latin magnus – ‘great’. This tradition was passed on to the next generation as Lupus’ son was named Romulf, which could be interpreted as consisting of two Germanic parts as Hrōma-wulfa – ‘Glory-wulf ’ – or as a combination of the Germanic wulf with Roma.195 If Romaric was the son of Romulf then it was interestingly the part of the name which obviously played around with the Latin and Germanic meanings that was passed on to the next generation. In any case, the naming strategies of the family show its members indeed as cultural brokers between Roman and Germanic worlds, although clearly not in the way Venantius Fortantus had suggested.196 190 See PCG, vol. II , pp. 1210–1 (Lupus 7), and 1626–7 (Romaric). 191 Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. VII , 7, 1–5, ed. Leo, p. 159. 192 Cf. above, pp. 91–2.   193 Selle-Hosbach, Prosopographie, p. 117. 194 Haubrichs, ‘Romano-germanische Hybridnamen’; Haubrichs,’Identität und Name’; for ‘zweigliedrige Personennamen’ see also Sonderegger,‘Prinzipien germanischer Personennamengebung’. 195 For this example and for a fascinating discussion on the wider context see now Haubrichs,‘Typen der anthroponymischen Indikation’, (Lupus’ family, n.  130). I  should like to thank Wolfgang Haubrichs, who with his characteristic generosity shared the unpublished manuscript of his article with me. 196 Venantius might have well been aware of this, as he also dedicated a poem to Lupus’ brother, Magnulf, see Haubrichs, ‘Romano-germanische Hybridnamen’, p. 192; as Haubrichs has shown, Venantius as well as his dedicatees were well aware of the meaning of the names in different languages (see, for instance, Haubrichs, ‘Identität und Name’, pp. 88–9). Like Venantius, Lupus and


Countermyths What we observe in the histories of Lupus’ family and of other members of the Merovingian elites is not a clash between Roman and Germanic culture, or a ‘barbarian mentality’ that finally prevailed over a Roman mentality.197 Rather, the histories reveal a competition between different efforts to synthesise Roman traditions and institutions, which were themselves already syntheses of different cultural, political and social traditions of the late and post-Roman world. The enduring political importance of people like Asclepiodatus, Lupus or even Agrestius has not been overlooked in modern research.198 But it seems to me that the continuing importance of such (cultural) brokers in the transformation of the Merovingian regnum under Chlothar has been largely underestimated. It seems to have become even more important after Chlothar’s establishment as the sole ruler of the Merovingian kingdoms in which many different post-Roman syntheses coexisted in the various regions of the regnum. Chlothar and his advisers responded to this challenge with their own post-Roman interpretation of ‘Roman’ policy. As we shall see, the reforms of Chlothar and his advisers did not attempt to replace older models and institutions, but rather allowed for their compatibility. In this respect, one could build upon the long and rich experience of Roman politics in Gaul in order to reform and further develop the social and political structures these politics had originally created. This complex reinterpretation of older models and institutions resembles in many respects the literary strategies used to reconfigure Roman history in the Chronicle of Fredegar. In order to assess these strategies’ social significance in relation to the politics of identity in the Merovingian world, we shall briefly compare them with other strategies for the social, political and historiographical configuration of the Merovingian kingdom under Chlothar II and his successors. 7.4  Roman mode l s and the ir re i nve nti on unde r Chlothar II One reason why modern historical research has tended to overlook the complex strategies of brokerage so crucial to the reforms of Chlothar might well be the rhetoric of the sources, which are strongly shaped by strategies of distinction from earlier Merovingian history. Although Magnulf, people were obviously perfectly capable of understanding the meanings of these names and it is thus not necessary to assume that ‘Lupus may have been differently addressed in Frankish speaking circles’, as Chris Wickham suggested (Framing, p. 176, n. 63). 197 For a recent attempt to revive such a view: Scheibelreiter, Die barbarische Gesellschaft. 198 See I.  Wood, ‘The governing class’, with further references; and already Stroheker, Der senatorische Adel.


Trickery and mythmaking these strategies of distinction were primarily aimed at a damnatio memoriae of Brunhild and her progeny and not at the achievements of earlier Merovingian politics, they allowed for the construction of a sharp break in the history of the Merovingian kingdoms and of their elites which was supposed to have marked a process of increasing regionalisation of Merovingian politics. The assumption of these sources was that Chlothar’s reunification of the kingdoms was only made possible at the cost of increasingly strengthened regional elites. Above all, this view is based on the 614 Edict of Paris, which Chlothar issued in the year after the establishment of his rule over the whole kingdom; the title regulating that iudices should be appointed only to their home provinces or regions is of particular interest.199 Taken out of context, this regulation has often been seen as the king’s concession to powerful local interests in exchange for extending his rule into all parts of the kingdom. We have already seen the implications of such a view in the erroneous interpretation of the conflict between Flaochad and Willebad.200 All too often, the complex tensions and conflicts after 613 have been reduced to antagonism between local/regional positions and central authority in Paris, itself was seen as increasingly dominated by northern, ‘Frankish’ elites. Stefan Esders has shown just how misleading it is to interpret Chlothar’s legislation along these lines. He convincingly demonstrated that the aims of Chlothar’s legislation were above all to establish a comprehensive legal vision to integrate the reunified regnum. In the process, the interests of particular networks do not stand in the foreground. Instead, the objective was to establish a legal system that bound everyone to it and yet was sufficiently flexible to accommodate local particularities, so that it was actually practical. In so doing, Chlothar followed models of Roman and in particular Justinianic legislation by seeking to strengthen regional administration in order to extend the reach of royal legislation: What was at stake in the Edict of Paris was above all the reorganisation of the legal system as the foundation for peace and order in the Frankish kingdom. In particular, the resolutions concerning the cooperation of king, church and local authorities should be understood as driven by a comprehensive royal initiative to reorganise the legal framework for the adjustments of different interests. In this regard, the strategies built much more strongly on Roman forms of rule and administration of justice than has been assumed by modern scholarship for a long time.201 199 See Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, pp.  342–50; Murray, ‘Immunity’. See Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, pp. 342–50; and already Kocher, Das Pariser Edikt, pp. 6–7. 200 See above, pp. 186–8. 201 Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, p.  349:  ‘Was im Pariser Edikt zur Diskussion stand, war vor allem die Frage der Reorganisation der Rechtsstruktur als Grundlage von Frieden und Ordnung


Countermyths It was not only the establishment of a larger legal vision for the whole regnum under Chlothar that built upon the resources of Roman legal traditions. As Esders demonstrates through the example of the Praeceptio Chlotharii, the adaptation of this system to local and regional contexts also built on a variety of Roman legal traditions and adaptations. This becomes obvious in one of the manuscripts containing the Praeceptio, which it transmits together with the Burgundian Liber constitutionum and Roman laws.202 Although the manuscript is actually a Carolingian copy, it still provides a vivid image of the ongoing experimentation with Roman resources in establishing the convergence of different legal traditions within a larger legal framework. Because the Praeceptio Chlotharii was addressed to the Burgundian elites, the use of Roman law as a code of communication between ruler and elites may not be too much of a surprise.203 The Edict of Paris indicates, however, that the same models and strategies were used for the shaping of the larger legal framework of the whole Merovingian kingdom under Chlothar. We might therefore assume that the role of cultural brokers who were experienced in the adaptation of Roman frameworks to integrate socially, legally and ethnically diverse groups became even more important after 613. Their expertise must have been crucial in the efforts to legitimate Chlothar’s rule in finding new perspectives of integration for the whole regnum. Such an intensified reception of the remaining Roman resources in the southern regions of the Merovingian kingdoms is also documented in an intriguing tract on Roman offices. The text is extant in two versions, under the title epistula Hieronymi de gradus Romanorum, or Decursio de gradibus in the later manuscript.204 Franz Beyerle traced the origins of this tract to the Ostrogothic kingdom back in the time of Athalaric, Theoderic’s grandson.205 But the extant versions are both reworkings of the text in the Merovingian period.206 Interest in the text can actually im Frankenreich. Im Miteinanderhandeln von Königtum, Kirche und lokalen Autoritätsträgern müssen die Beschlüsse als Interessensabgleich im Rahmen eines umfassenden, vom Königtum betriebenen Reorganisationsversuches verstanden werden. Dieser Abgleich knüpfte in weitaus höherem Maße an antike Formen der Herrschaftsorganisation und antiken Rechtspflege an, als lange Zeit wahrgenommen wurde.’ 202 Paris, BnF lat. 10753, first half of the ninth century. For a detailed discussion of the Praeceptio Chlotharii see Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, pp.  350–7; for its ascription to Chlothar II and Burgundy: pp. 88–108; for a detailed description of the manuscript, pp. 56–78; for the Liber constitutionum, see I. Wood, ‘Gentes, kings and kingdoms’. 203 Esders, Römische Rechtstradition, p. 278. 204 See the edition of Baesecke, ‘De gradus Romanorum’. See the discussion of the tract in Anton, ‘Königsvorstellungen’, pp.  324–5; Buchner, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, p.  60; Eckhardt, Lex Ribuaria i, pp. 73–9. 205 Beyerle, ‘Das frühmittelalterliche Schulheft’. 206 Schramm, ‘Der Traktat’.


Trickery and mythmaking be linked to the acquisition of Ostrogothic Provence, whose Roman administrative structures were maintained under Merovingian rule.207 The highest-ranking official in Provence was the patricius, a title which is well attested in the Fredegar Chronicle. In the hierarchy of offices, the patricius ranked just after the king himself – qui sedet ad latus regis, et iudicat causas orbis et nulla molestia habet rex.208 As both versions show, the tract was adapted to changed circumstances in the Merovingian period. In the younger version, Beyerle was able to detect the influence of Isidore of Seville as a new element. On the basis of that, he dated the older version to the time between the middle of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century, locating it in Merovingian Provence, and the younger version he placed in the context of the mid seventh century, after Chlothar’s takeover.209 Especially in connection with the Fredegar Chronicle, both redactions offer interesting contrasts in their conception of the political and social order of the world. The older version, for example, summed up the official hierarchy as follows:  In hac subputatione crescit, ut decani sub centorioni et centoriones sub tribuno, tribuni sub duce, duces sub patricio, patricius sub rege, rex sub imperatore.210 The younger version matches exactly with the older one, save one small change:  instead of the hierarchy of a patricius under a king and a king under the emperor (patricius sub rege, rex sub imperatore) it places the patricius under the king or the emperor (patricius sub rege vel imperatore). But the modification to rex is also connected to another revision to this world’s social order. In the older text, the imperator stands at the top of the hierarchy over kings of other regna.211 The newer version places the rex at the start of this paragraph and describes his power as a ruler over one or several peoples while the emperor rules the whole world.212 A full discussion of this highly interesting tract is beyond the scope of the study. But its transmission provides us with an illuminating impression of the reception of Roman models and their transformation in the time of Chlothar and his immediate successors. At the beginning of the seventh century its reception seems to have been motivated by local or See Buchner, Provence, pp. 6–29; Geary, Aristocracy. 208 See Baesecke, ‘De gradus Romanorum’, p. 3; the younger version says: Patricius, qui ad latus regis sedet et, ne molestias rex accipiat. 209 Beyerle,‘Das frühmittelalterliche Schulheft’, pp. 21–3; see the summary of the discussion in Anton, ‘Königsvorstellungen’, p. 324; see also the interpretation by Barnwell, ‘ “Epistola Hieronymi de gradus Romanorum” ’, who argues that the text could also be used as an aid to reading the Bible. 210 Baesecke, ‘De gradus Romanorum’, p. 5. 211 Imperator cuius regnum procellit in toto orbe et sub eo reges aliorum regnorum, et non imperatores, sed reges nominantur (Baesecke, ‘De gradus Romanorum’, p. 5). 212 Rex qui super unam gentem vel multas, imperator qui super totum mundum aut qui precellit in eo (Baesecke, ‘De gradus Romanorum’, p. 5). 207


Countermyths regional interests in the Provence. By the middle of the seventh century, however, compilers linked their reception of the text with reflections about how its contents could be linked to a new, post-Roman order of the world. In the decades after Chlothar’s takeover, however, it is not only the reception and reinvention of the Roman Empire’s legal and administrative traditions that are documented.We can also observe a corresponding intensification of the work on available historiographical resources. As we have already seen, the revision of Gregory’s Histories into a six-book version clearly marked an effort to build on his vision of community for the Merovingian regnum.213 At the same time, the successive compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle were not alone in their search for alternative historical perspectives, for the purpose of developing a vision for the common future of the kingdom. We have a number of traces pointing to several different historiographical experiments in integrating the Roman past with the history of the Franks. I have already mentioned one interesting example of this: the ‘table of nations’ as transmitted in a manuscript from St Gall, which seems originally to have been a historiographical export from Byzantium in the sixth century.214 In its context in the manuscript, it clearly shows traces of efforts to integrate it into a common historical vision of Roman and Frankish history in the time of Chlothar and Dagobert. The short text that lists the gentes of the world as the descendants of Ermino, Inguo and Istio is framed by two catalogues of kings under the heading generatio regum. The first catalogue is a list of Roman kings followed by the table of nations: INCIPIT GENERATIO REGUM PRIMUS REX ROMANORUM Analeus. Analeus genuit Papulo. Papulus genuit Egegium. Egegius genuit Egegium. Egegius genuit Fadiru. Ex ipsum Romani perdiderunt. TRES fuerunt fratres unde sunt gentes Erminus, Inguo et Istio. Frater eorum Erminus genuit Gothos, Walagotus, Wandalus, Gepedes et Saxones. Haec sunt gentes V. Inguo frater eorum gentes Burgundiones, Loringus, Langobardus, Baioarius. Haec sunt gentes IIII. Istio frater eorum genuit Romanos, Brictones, Francus Alamannus. Haec sunt gentes IIII.215

Under the heading De [generatione] regum Francorum follows the second catalogue, one of Frankish kings that are clearly presented as the successors of the Roman kings of Gaul: See above, ch.6.   214  See above, pp. 82–3. 215 See St Gall, MS 732, pp.  154–5; for an edition of the table see Goffart, ‘Table of nations’, pp. 110–12; for the St Gall manuscript see also Schott, Lex Alamannorum. 213


Trickery and mythmaking Chloio genuit Glodobode. Chlodobedus genuit Mereveo. Mereveus genuit Hilbrico. Hildebricus genuit Genniodo. Genniodus genuit Hilderico. Childericus genuit Chlodoveo. Clodoveus genuit Theodorico, Chlomiro, Hildeberto, Hlodario, Chlodarius genuit Chariberto, Guntramno, Chilperico, Sigiberto. Sigibertus genuit Hildeberto. Hildebertus genuit Theodericus et Theodebertus et ante Hilpericus genuit Hlodario. Hlodario genuit Dagaberto.216 PRIMUS REX FRANCORUM

The manuscript was certainly written in the ninth century, but the second catalogue ends with Dagobert, which may well provide us with a date for the efforts to integrate Roman and Frankish history in the first half of the seventh century. The compilers of this little text seem not only to have used the Tacitean genealogy of the table of nations (as it was probably designed in sixth-century Byzantium) to establish a historical vision of their own world as a world divided among gentes. They obviously also researched sources that provided them with names of early Frankish kings not attested anywhere else in the extant sources. Interest in historiographical sources from the Eastern Empire is also documented in the biblical genealogies or lists of peoples, prophets, kings and emperors at the beginning of the Fredegar Chronicle. The model of this ‘first book’ has been identified as the Liber generationis, the title given to the Latin version of the Greek chronicle of Hippolytus of Rome.217 Another text built on Hippolytus’ model was the Excerpta latina barbari, which as we have seen is another example of the intensified historiographical exchange between Byzantium and the Merovingian kingdoms in what were probably the last decades of the sixth century.218 We might assume that the Latin versions of Hippolytus’ chronicle were widespread in the West during the first half of the seventh century. But the Fredegar chroniclers appear to have had additional sources for their compilation of lists and catalogues that started their chain of chronicles. As Bruno Krusch had already shown, this included a version or translation of a chronicle that they used to compile what Krusch edited as ­chapter 26 of the first book of the chronicle, a text that has only come down to us in a rewritten version appearing in a later Greek chronicle from the ninth century.219 It seems that the compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle were able to reach back to a series of historiographical experiments that had been integrating Frankish and Roman history since the sixth century. As we have seen, one of the most important resources for the Fredegar chroniclers in this regard were Christian world chronicles, which represented 216 St Gall, MS 732, p. 55; for an edition see Catalogi regum Francorum praetermissi, p. 851. 217 See Caspar, Die älteste römische Bischofsliste; on the dynamic character of Hippolytus’ original, esp. pp. 92–101; for a reconstruction of parts of it, pp. 206–8; for an edition of two versions of the Latin translation in a synoptic presentation see Mommsen, Chronica Minora I , pp. 89–138. 218 See above, pp. 81–2.   219  Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 471–8.


Countermyths a well-established historiographical tradition in the Latin West since the time of Jerome.220 Here, too, the compilers were hardly the only ones to turn to this tradition after Chlothar’s takeover. One particularly interesting example is the already briefly mentioned manuscript that includes the chronicle of Marius of Avenches. Marius’ chronicle here is part of a ‘chain of chronicles’ that begins with yet another version of Jerome’s chronicle.221 Though its text is much closer than the epitome in Fredegar to Jerome’s original, it represents a group of manuscripts in which the original layout of Jerome’s text was fundamentally reorganised. In his translation of the chronicle of Eusebius, Jerome had basically copied the structure of the Greek original, organising the history of the world into different columns called fila or tramites regnorum sketched out over a double page (see Figure 4). Each of these fila presented the succession of prophets, kings or rulers of different peoples, beginning with the biblical peoples but soon juxtaposing them with series of rulers of other peoples, such as columns of the Argivorum, Athenensium, Latinorum, Macedonum and so on.222 In between the fila, Eusebius and Jerome added entries and comments pertaining to the histories of the respective peoples and their rulers.223 The group of manuscripts to which the version of Jerome belongs, that is transmitted with the Chronicle of Marius of Avenches features a reorganised layout with the historical comments in the right margin.With that creation of a spatium historicum, as Joseph Justus Scaliger called it, it seems to have been much easier to alter and expand the original.224 If the compilers wanted to insert longer portions of text, they could just write them in long lines that interrupted the fila (see Figure 5). While this surely ran against Eusebius’ original intentions, it clearly continued the tendency of Jerome’s reworking.225 It also optically anticipated the end of the chronicle, where after the end of the history of all the different regna, history came together in one historical filum – that of the Christian Roman Empire. For the instant impact of Jerome’s translation of Eusebius, see Vessey, ‘Reinventing history’. 221 See I. Wood, ‘ “Chain of chronicles” ’, p. 68. 222 The original layout of Jerome is reconstructed in the latest edition by Rudolf Helm as the seventh volume of Eusebius Werke, but with the title Hieronymi Chronicon. 223 Eusebius seems to have reserved the left page for entries regarding what in his view belonged to the biblical and Christian history and juxtaposed them on the right page with entries on profane history from other historical sources. In his translation of the chronicle, Jerome abandoned this principle and did not distinguish his entries between biblical/Christian and profane history. See Grafton and Williams, Christianity, pp. 133–77; but see also the comparison of Eusebius and Jerome in Caspar, Die älteste römische Bischofsliste, pp. 76–85. 224 For a detailed discussion of the different layouts, see Schöne, Die Weltchronik, who regarded the manuscripts with the spatium historicum as witnesses to the original layout of the chronicle. For a correction of that view, see Rudolf Helm’s introduction to his edition of the chronicle. 225 See Vessey ‘Reinventing history’; see also Caspar, Die älteste römische Bischofsliste, pp. 76–85. 220


Figure 4  Oxford, Bodleian Library, Auct. T II 26, fols. 68v/69r, Jerome, Chronicle


Figure 5  London, BL Add 16974, fol. 60r, Jerome, Chronicle, with spatium historicum

In this layout, Jerome’s Chronicle itself could be continued in long columns, and in doing so the compilers of the London manuscript developed a thoroughly Fredegarian way of masking their original sources. They claim that the first textual building block after Jerome that they use is a section from Prosper’s Chronicle, but it is in fact a different chronicle, known in its modern edition as the Chronicle of 452. Only after the end of this chronicle did the compilers use Prosper’s text for their account of 220

Trickery and mythmaking the years 452 to 455.226 Next comes the Chronicle of Marius of Avenches, which leads the historical narrative up to 581. At the end of the compilation there are a few short texts from the seventh century, including ten short entries selected from the Chronicle of Isidore of Seville, followed by a brief account of the events in the Merovingian kingdom in 612/13.227 The prehistory to this outcome was the war between Theuderic and Theudebert, the deaths of both brothers in quick succession, the elevation of Sigibert II to the throne by his great-grandmother and Chlothar’s defeat of them both. Brunhild’s end is reported in detail consistent with the representation in the Fredegar Chronicle, namely, that the queen was placed on a camel and then torn to pieces by horses. Nevertheless, the account was clearly written independently of the Fredegar text.228 After Chlothar had disposed of all of his relatives, the short account concludes, he then ruled feliciter religioseque together with his priores into the fortieth year of his reign. The chain of chronicles ends with a further computation of the age of the world, up to the fortieth year of Chlothar’s reign and the fourteenth year of the reign of Heraclius. The dating at the end of this chronicle collection brings us to the year 623, and it also serves to mark the reception of Isidore’s Chronicle into Francia (although Isidore himself continued to work on further versions of it).229 One of the oldest textual witnesses of Isidore’s Chronica maiora ends with this exact dating computation, and the text’s conclusion in that manuscript also largely matches the excerpts from Isidore’s text in the London manuscript.230 Interestingly, this witness to Isidore’s Chronica is also the oldest extant manuscript of Fredegar  – Paris Cod. 10910, from the beginning of the eighth century. In it, the end of a version of Isidore’s Chronica maiora was copied to the end of the fourth book of the Fredegar Chronicle.231 Bruno Krusch had already decided that Isidore’s Chronicle did not constitute a component of the Fredegarian chain of chronicles, and even after further discussion his position (on this issue at least) has 226 See now Muhlberger, ‘The Gallic Chronicle’. 227 Per idem tempus divis[a]‌in tribus olim regnis Francia in uno a prefato rege Francorum coniungitur: see the transcription of the texts in London, BL Add. 16974, in I. Wood,‘ “Chain of chronicles” ’, pp. 76–7; see also Mommsen in Chronica minora II , p. 397 (Isidor-epitome) and p. 490 (Additamenta zu Isidor). 228 Cf. London, BL Add. 16974, fol. 113r: per idem tempus uicti filii sui a rege praefato Chlotacario capiuntur ac praefata regina praedictorum auia ab eo capta diuersaque poenarum genera adflicta, deinde camelo inposita multis suis spectaculum praebuit: postremo ferocissimo conligata pedibus equi tergo extremum spiritum exalauit, cuiusque deinceps corpusculum incendentes populi sepulcrum ignis fuit, with CF IV , 42, p. 142: iobetque eam prius camillum per omne exercito sedentem perducere, post haec comam capitis, unum pedem et brachium ad veciosissemum aequum caudam legare; ibique calcibus et velocitate cursus membratim disrumpetur. 229 See J. Wood, The politics, pp. 70–2; J. Wood,‘Religiones and gentes’, pp. 130–5, with further references. 230 For a comparison of the two texts see I. Wood, ‘ “Chain of chronicles” ’, pp. 76–7. 231 Cf. the edition of Isidore’s Chronicle by Mommsen in Chronica minora II , pp. 489–90, with the comments on the version of the Paris manuscript, pp. 398–9.


Countermyths largely prevailed.232 Supporting this view is the fact that no other manuscripts of the Fredegar Chronicle transmit the Chronicle of Isidore. As to why a copyist in the beginning of the eighth century decided to append it to the Fredegar Chronicle, one can only speculate. One possibility is that the Fredegar Chronicle mentions Isidore as a source in the prologue to the fourth book. One might also consider the possibility that the ending of this version of the Isidore Chronicle prompted the copyist to add it to the Fredegarian chain of chronicles, as a way of expanding the collection of material in order to update the obviously unfinished chronicle.233 More important for this discussion at any rate is the fact that this version of Isidore’s Chronicle arose independently of the Fredegarian chain of chronicles. Consequently it can be treated as a further example of the intensive historiographical efforts to continue the Roman-Christian sketches of history into the time of Chlothar and Dagobert. 7.5 


eth ni c re nde ri ng of worl d history

This panorama also includes the work of the Fredegar Chronicle, whose compilers unquestionably developed the most ambitious historiographical synthesis of Roman-Frankish history that we have. The version of the Jerome Chronicle that they had clearly used was in both layout and overall conception clearly more orientated to Jerome’s original than the continuation of Marius of Avenches had been. Two manuscripts of the version that preserves the original character of Jerome’s Chronicle still survive from the seventh century. One was probably copied in Luxeuil, the other, which came later to Fleury, certainly in a cultural centre of the Merovingian kingdom.234 Using both manuscripts, Bruno Krusch was able to verify textual agreement with the excerpt of Jerome from the Fredegar Chronicle.235 Text, layout and a series of graphic symbols and doodles show that the manuscript from Luxeuil in particular was a fairly exact copy of a very old version that still survives today in fragments from a fifth-century manuscript.236 Another manuscript that followed See Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 35–8. 233 See Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 37–8. 234 Valenciennes, BM 495, CLA VI , no. 841 (Luxeuil); and Berne, Burgerbibliothek 219, CLA VII , no. 860 (‘written in a French centre with Insular connexions’). 235 Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 472–5. It should be noted that especially with the manuscript from Berne, Krusch worked in consultation with Schöne’s edition, which granted this manuscript a very important place in the manuscript tradition – a prominence that the newest edition by Helm does not accord to it. See Jerome, Chronicon, ed. Helm, p. xiii. 236 Cf. the introduction in Jerome, Chronicon, ed. Helm, pp. x–xi; and Traube, Hieronymi Chronicorum, with a facsimile of the fragments. 232


Trickery and mythmaking this model for the layout is a Carolingian codex, today in the Berliner Staatsbibliothek as Phillips 1829.237 In this one, the Chronicle of Jerome is transmitted with the continuations by Hydatius and the Liber generationis, the three texts that appear at the beginning of the Fredegarian chain of chronicles. It is therefore very likely that the exemplar used by the compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle was similar to an exemplar like that to which the Berlin manuscript is a witness. The compilers not only substantially changed the text through selection and addition. Reorganisation of the layout also played an essential role in their appropriation of Jerome’s Chronicle. Placing Frankish history on an equal footing with the Roman past was not the Fredegar Chronicle’s only achievement. Another dialogue was also in progress, one about the role of Frankish identity within the regnum Francorum. In order to present Frankish identity as one of the key factors in the social integration of the Merovingian kingdom, Frankish history needed to be supplied with a prehistory that stretched far into the past. Here it seems that contradicting Gregory’s view of Frankish history was only one aspect of this project. It was also necessary to establish a vision of a world divided among peoples in which the identity of a gens Francorum made sense and could be presented in hierarchical relations to other ethnic identities, as well as to other forms of social identity. For this purpose, the choice of Jerome’s Chronicle was not an arbitrary one. Very few texts presented a history so closely tied to the history of peoples as the Chronicle of Jerome. As we have seen, in the extant manuscripts the visual arrangement of the text even structures the history as a history of peoples.238 In Jerome’s text, the different columns dedicated to different regna and gentes – that is, the tramites or fila Assyriorum, Hebraeorum, Macedonum, Latinorum, Romanorum – eventually run together into a single column, that of the Romans, which continues the narrative until the Christianisation of the Roman Empire (see Figure 6).The compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle did not want to depict such a process. Jerome’s text in the chronicle does not appear as a synoptic presentation of the fila of peoples and their realms; rather, from the very beginning it is organised as a linear text (see Figure 7). In such a presentation, every mention of a gens could be considered as a filum within history. Reorganising the text in this form must have been a complicated task. The historical entries that had been arranged in regnal sequences had to be 237 See Rose, Verzeichniss, vol. XIII , pp. 277–80; Bischoff, Katalog der festländischen Handschriften, p. 91, no. 435. 238 For a description of the layout see Jerome, Chronicon, praef., pp.  1–19, where Jerome himself explains the system and how to navigate in it and then adds his translation of Eusebius’ preface with the comments of the latter.


Figure 6  Oxford, Bodleian Library, Auct. T II 26, fols. 136v/137r, Jerome, Chronicle

Figure 7  Paris, BnF lat. 10910, fols. 30v/31r, beginning of the epitome and reworking of Jerome’s Chronicle in the oldest extant manuscript of the Fredegar Chronicle

Countermyths completely reshuffled into the new narrative structure.The genealogies of the regnal series were arranged into genealogical segments and recounted sequentially. In this form, the relative positions of the genealogies and associated narratives could no longer be presented in their chronological relationship. This necessitated a constant addition of complicated notices, references and connections that explained the chronological horizon of the narrative. As Bruno Krusch once remarked in his comparison of the Fredegar epitome with its possible exemplars, some chronological and factual errors and misunderstandings crept in as a result.239 One particularly spectacular example is the confusion regarding the history of Pompey and Caesar. Pompey is mentioned as secundus imperator of the Romans in the Fredegar Chronicle, which the compilers added after finding L. Lucullus mentioned as the primus imperator in their copy of Jerome.240 This had interesting consequences for the portrayal of the early history of the Franks, too. As we have seen, in their interpolation on early Frankish history the compilers stressed that even under duces, no gens had ever managed to subjugate the Franks.The sole exception to this in the long history of Frankish independence was Pompey’s rule.241 This anomaly was itself due to a mistaken reading of Jerome’s text, which right after mentioning Pompey reports that Caesar conquered Lustitaniam et quasdam insulae in Oceano. Somewhat later the entry on Caesar’s victory over the Gauls and Germans appears as follows:  Caesar Germanos and Gallos capit.242 The Fredegar compilers obviously thought that the ‘caesar’ of both these passages was none other than Pompey, the secundus imperator who had been mentioned just before, and they filled in his name accordingly:  Caesar Pompegius Germanus et Gallus capit.243 This conjecture had consequences for the early history of the Franks, who had been interpolated into the story a few chapters earlier. Only under the caesar Pompey, the subjugator of the Germans and Gauls, had the Franks ever been subject to a foreign power. As difficult as the reorganisation of the text must have been, it allowed the compilers to interweave the history of the Franks as one filum among other fila that was further strengthened through additional narratives. As we have seen, the most important addition was of course the fable about the Frankish origins from Troy. From that point on, the epitome highlights and expands the presence of the Franks in the history of the Roman world. Thus in the year 264, when the Germani invaded Syria 239 See Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 472–5. 240 Cf. CF II , 31, pp. 54–5, with Jerome, Chronicon, p. 152. 241 CF II , 6, p. 46.   242 Jerome, Chronicon, pp. 154–5. 243 CF II , 31, p. 55.


Trickery and mythmaking after attacking the provinces of Spain, the Franci are said to have helped them.244 One dux Pompeius is mentioned in the year 278, about whom the Chronicle of Jerome observes that his cognomen was ‘the Frank’ – cognomento Francus. In the Fredegar Chronicle, Pompeius is further supplied with a Frankish ancestry and identified as genere Francus. The chronicle also includes Jerome’s remark that Pompeius’ relatives were still living in the region of Antioch, but it dramatically enhances his historical role, stating that he subjected Asia to Roman rule: Cuius Pompegiani instantia maxima pars Asiae dicione Romana subicitur.245 The compilers also used the space that they created in reorganising the text to amplify the role of other gentes as well. This is already evident in the origo that they had interpolated into the Jerome Chronicle and into Gregory’s Histories. In their telling, the early history of the Franci was connected to that of other gentes who had also descended from the Trojans, not least the Latini, from whom the Romani eventually sprang.246 After the world fanned out into a world of gentes  – which the first book, beginning with the Liber generationis, had already comprehensively listed – the chroniclers devoted a lot of their attention to the history of the ‘western’ gentes. As we have seen, there are a number of interesting interpolations into Jerome’s text about the history of the Burgundians (such as the short summary of their origins compiled from Orosius, or their treaty with the Roman senators in the context of their settlement along the Rhône).247 At the same time, the compilers also included a number of historical entries about other gentes, who acted with, against and within the Roman Empire, including the Alamanni, Saxones and Britanni.248 Some of the names – such as the Avari instead of Adiabeni, or Goti instead of Quadi – were clearly the products of conscious or unconscious misreadings. Most of them already appear in Jerome’s Chronicle, albeit in different places.249 All this amounts to a highly selective rewriting of Jerome’s text, in which the compilers increased the historical 244 Cf. CF II , 40, p.  64:  Germani Spanias obtenuerunt, etiam et Siriam incursaverunt, Francos in eorum habentes auxilium, with Hieronymi Chronicon, p. 221: Germani Hispanias optinentibus Tarracon expugnata est. Parthi Mesopotamiam tenentes Syriam incursaverunt. 245 Cf. CF II , 40, p. 65, with Jerome, Chronicon, p. 222. 246 The emphasis that the Latini are the Romani is striking in the chronicle; it appears nearly every time the Latini are mentioned: e.g.: Latini qui et Romani; Latini qui et vocantur Romani, CF I , 5, p. 21, lines 17 and 20 (Liber generationis); Post tercio anno capta Troia Latini, qui postea Romani nuncupati sunt, et, ut quidam volunt, post octavo anno regnavit Aeneas (II , 8, p. 47). 247 See above, p. 186. 248 For example, Alamanni: CF II , 41, pp. 65f.; II , 47, p. 68; Britanni, II , 35, p. 59; Saxones, II , 45, p. 68, with the information that they settled in regione Francorum. 249 Avari instead of Adiabeni, CF II , 38, p. 63 (Jerome, Chronicon, p. 211); Goti instead of Quadi, CF II , 37, p. 63, with Jerome, Chronicon, p. 207.


Countermyths profile of certain gentes, most of whom were active in the Roman West, specifically in Gaul. The gentes’ profile made stronger through the selection and interpolation of the Fredegar epitome is particularly obvious in the final part of Jerome’s Chronicle, which deals with the history of the third and fourth centuries. This was precisely the part of Jerome’s text, as the history of the world progresses, in which the community of the Christiani acquires an increasingly important role. It is also the part of the narrative where Jerome increasingly uses the first-person plural in recounting the history of the Christians. He mentions the fate of the Christian community as ‘our’ actions, or speaks of actions against ‘us’: Aurelianus cum adversum nos persecutionem movisset, fulmen iuxta eum comitesque eius ruit.250 The Chronicle of Fredegar incorporates all these passages on Christian history, but it consistently replaces the first person plural with Christiani:  Aurilianus quomodo adversus christianus persecutione movisset, a fulmine occidetur.251 This was, however, not a distancing from Christian history but rather part of the strategy to reshape the chronicle as a history underlining the continuing presence and importance of an organisation of the world divided among gentes. As we have seen in the original layout of Jerome’s Chronicle, the paths of history eventually ran together into one filum of Roman and later Christian history. Such a triumphal Christian vision of the world was quite different from the Christian vision of Gregory of Tours. Despite their differences, it at least shared with Gregory the implicit wish for a disolution of ethnic identities in a Christian world.252 This was not the vision that the compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle wanted to develop. On the contrary, in their reinvention of Roman and post-Roman history, the gentes did not dissolve in a Roman-Christian world but instead continued to provide the basic (re)organisational principle for historical memory. Thus, in using Jerome’s historiographical authority as a stick against Gregory, they also had to evade the all-embracing vision of Christian eschatology to which the tradition of the Christian world was strongly attached.253 In the Fredegar Chronicle, the inundatio gentium substantially changed the Roman world,254 even or particularly after Constantine had conquered omnes gentes in signo crucis.255 250 Jerome, Chronicon, p. 223. 251 CF II , 40, 65, line 8; other examples: CF II , 41, 44, 45, p. 65, line 8; p. 66, lines 1–2; p. 67, line 26; p. 68, line 9. 252 For Gregory’s reservations regarding a triumphalistic vision of Christian history, see above, pp. 47–8. 253 On chronicle writing in late Antiquity, see above, pp. 89, with n.5. 254 Inundatio gentium is an interpolation replacing Jerome’s pestilentia. CF II , 37, pp. 62, lines 30–1: Tanta undique tunc fuit inundatio gentium ut totus Romanorum exercitus ad internitionem delitus sit. 255 Constantinus per signum crucis omnes gentes superat, is another interpolation to the Chronicle of Jerome; see CF II , 42, p. 66, lines 13–14.


Trickery and mythmaking The compilers’ ethnicising tendency is also observable in their rewriting of the Chronicle of Hydatius. Writing in Galicia, Hydatius continued Jerome’s Chronicle until the year 468. His work was strongly shaped by his eschatological perspective, although the fading Roman Empire continued to serve as the chronicle’s social and political framework. Numerous episodes describe the sometimes successful, sometimes failed attempts of the empire to assert its supremacy over the barbarian gentes.256 Despite Hydatius’ fundamentally pessimistic mood about the future of the Roman Empire, he always treats the gentes in relation to, and dependent on, imperial politics. At some points in the Fredegarian rewriting, it becomes clear that the compilers altered the text to their post-Roman perspective in order to ascribe a more visibly independent agency to the gentes. For example, according to Hydatius, Avitus sent a messenger to the Sueves shortly after he became emperor in 455. His elevation had been powerfully supported by the Visigoths under Theuderic, and together with the Gothic king, Avitus was now attempting to get the Sueves to recognise his rule. To no avail, the Sueves sent the messenger back, broke their oaths and ‘invaded the province of Tarraconensis, which was subject to the Roman Empire’.257 In the Fredegar Chronicle’s rewriting, there is no Roman emperor involved in the conflict any more. The Sueves march into Tarragona, and it is the Gothic king Theuderic who, mindful of his fides imperii, invites the Sueves to leave the province. In the Fredegar Chronicle as in Hydatius, such pleas prove unsuccessful, whereupon a campaign is taken up against the Sueves. In Hydatius, this war is the initiative of the voluntas and ordinatio of Emperor Avitus, whereas the Fredegar compilers make Theuderic and his Goths move against the Sueves, consilio et consinso Aviti imperatoris.258 It is also interesting how the chronicle treats Hydatius’ eschatological motifs and meanings. In his chronicle, Hydatius coupled the increasing disintegration of the imperial political framework with fairly drastic eschatological imagery: As the barbarians ran wild through Spain and the deadly pestilence continued on its savage course, the wealth and goods stored in the cities were plundered by the tyrannical tax-collector and consumed by the soldiers. A famine ran riot, so dire that driven by hunger human beings devoured human flesh; mothers too feasted upon the bodies of their own children whom they had cooked with their own hands; wild beasts, habituated to feeding on the bodies of those slain by sword, famine or pestilence, killed all the braver individuals and feasting on 256 Kulikowski, ‘The Visigothic settlement’; Hydatius, Chronicon, ed. Burgess; and Muhlberger, The fifth-century chroniclers, pp. 198–255. 257 Hydatius, Chronicon, ed. Burgess, pp. 104–7. 258 Cf. the Hydatii Continuatio, ed. Mommsen, p. 28, with the comparison of the two versions.


Countermyths their flesh everywhere became brutally set upon the destruction of the human race. And thus … the annunciations foretold by the Lord through his prophets came to fulfilment.259

The Fredegar chroniclers retained most eschatological passages such as these. But in their reworking, they associated them more closely with Gothic rule and thereby replaced an eschatological perspective with an ethnic one. This is especially clear at the end of Hydatius’ Chronicle, where he reports a dense cluster of natural disasters, which along with the wars and catastrophes of northern Spain are seen to signal the end of the world.260 The compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle give these events another interpretation: they are portents of the end of Gothic and the beginning of Frankish rule.261 A mere four sentences later, Hydatius’ text is followed by stories about the transformation of the Roman world, whose original source has yet to be identified.262 Alongside histories of the Vandals and Ostrogoths and their disputes with the Byzantine Empire, this part of the chronicle also narrates Clovis’ conquest of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse. Next follows the reworked text of Gregory of Tours, a book that further builds upon this ethnic rendering of the past. Through omissions and additions, ethnicity is worked into Gregory’s narrative as a key element in the organisation of society. This included not only Frankish identity; as we have seen, other identities were also ethnically interpreted, such as Clovis’ matchmaker in Burgundy (Aurelianus quidam ex Romanis) and Childeric’s loyal ally (the Francus Wiomadus).263 Members of the political elite are characterised not only by their political functions – that is, as dux, patricius or maior domus – but also by their ethnic origins – ex genere Francorum, Romanorum, Burgundionum or Saxonum.264 Building on their reorganisation of history in the early parts of their chain of chronicles, the compilers made ethnic groups the main composite elements of the Merovingian regnum’s past in the réécriture of Gregory as well. Hydatius, Chronicon, ed. Burgess, pp. 82–3. 260 See Hydatius, Chronicon, ed. Burgess, p. 121. 261 CF II , 56, p. 77: An. 2. regni Antimiae medio Tholose civetatis sanguis erupit de terra et tota diae fluxit, signeficans, Gothorum dominatione sublata, Francorum adveniente regno. Cf. Hydatius, Continuatio chronicorum, ed. Mommsen, p. 35, or ed. Burgess, p. 121. 262 See above, p. 203. 263 Cf. CF III , 18, p. 99: Et cum non esset licetum eam [Chrodechilde: HR] videre, Chlodovius Aurilianum quendam ex Romanis ingenio quo potebat Chrotechildem praevidendam direxit, with DLH II , 28, p. 73, where Clovis sends a legatio. 264 For Aurelian, see CF III , 18, p.  99; Wiomadus:  CF III , 11, p.  95; other examples:  CF II , 57, p.  78 (Theudericus natione Macedonum); III , 38, p.  105 (Deoteria, genere Romana); III , 64, p.  110 (Warmecharius Francus). Apart from the integration of a Burgundians origin story into the Jerome epitome, the compilers also included an origin story of the Lombards in the excerpts from DLH III , 65, p. 110. 259


Trickery and mythmaking In the chroniclers’ reorganisation of history, they used their research in Roman and Christian history to restore the balance in the social equilibrium of Merovingian history. There were lessons in the history of the Roman Empire, which bestowed upon the post-Roman world a rich and longstanding expertise in the politics of ethnic differentiation. In the Roman tradition, the strategies of distinction were mainly established within a dichotomy of empire and barbarians, Rome and the gentes: ethnicity was mainly seen as the quality of the other.265 In their reinvention of Roman history, the Fredegar chroniclers established a new world view. They drew upon available cultural and political resources to define ethnicity as a ‘relational mode of social organisation between a number of distinctive groups’:266 theirs was an ethnic conception both of the wider world, and also of an inner differentiation within the Merovingian regnum. As we have seen, in the chronicle these strategies of distinction were an important prerequisite for the integration of different histories and political perspectives, and they surely played an important role in the context of the text’s original composition in the Roman-Burgundian-Frankish south. As we know from a document that was originally composed for these regions, it was the duty of the royal officials ‘to govern in such a way as to keep the complete fidelity’ of all the people living there, be they Franci, Romani, Burgundionis vel reliquas nationis.267 The balance that the chronicle presented between different social groups, political factions and ethnic identities was clearly an important aspect of the text’s further use in markedly different political contexts. So far, we have followed the continuous work on the chronicle from Burgundy into the circle of Arnulf of Metz and later the Pippinids.268 We will soon see, however, that interest in the chronicle’s conception of history did not end in the 660s. 7.6  Th e role of the F ranks in a wor l d divi de d among  GEN TES We have also seen that the chronicle’s strategies of distinction highlighted the role that the Franci played in the history of the world as a whole. Not only were the chroniclers interested in presenting the Franci as the most important group among many in the Merovingian kingdoms (at least as long as their elites listened to the advice of good storytellers), they were also concerned to portray the importance of the members of this group for the social balance and stability in the socially 265 See already Pohl,‘Telling the difference’; see now: Pohl,‘Introduction. Strategies of identification’. 266 Cf. above, p. 7. 267 Marculf I , 8, ed. Zeumer, p. 48. 268 See above, pp. 194–7.


Countermyths and ethnically diverse regnum. Only after Chlothar established his rule over the unified kingdoms and made good on his promises to different elites, do the chroniclers mention a regnum Francorum, in their fourth book.269 In the decades that follow, however, it is not the kings who guarantee the political stability of this regnum Francorum. When kings begin to argue with each other, it is the iudicium Francorum that finds a permanent solution.270 With their idea of a iudicium Francorum the chroniclers seem to have picked up another question which Gregory had raised in his Histories. In his argument with Chilperic over the case of Praetextatus, Gregory asked Chilperic: who was supposed to correct the king when he himself acted against justice?271 Gregory had already given the answer in his sermon to bishops shortly before. Emperor Maximus, after deciding to persecute Priscillian against the advice of St Martin, had been expelled from his imperium by the iudicium of the rex aeternis.272 Not surprisingly, we do not find a iudicium Francorum in Gregory’s text, although he uses the word iudicium frequently for conflict resolution in several ‘worldly’ contexts. He mentions a iudicium cum senioribus vel laicis vel clericis in Tours, or a iudicium civium which tried to find a solution for the conflict between the two citizens of the city, Sichar and Chramnesind.273 Of course there is the iudicium of the king,274 but also a iudicium episcoporum.275 The final judgement about their decisions, however, would only be found in the iudicium futurum.276 As Gregory saw it, Chilperic had not understood the imminence of this future iudicium. It is surely no coincidence that Gregory’s invocation of the final iudicium appears particularly frequently towards the end of his Histories,277 and that he uses the conflicts surrounding the nunnery of Poitiers to underline how important the iudicium episcoporum was for the preparation for the dies iudicii.278 The compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle seemed to have been less concerned about the iudicum futurum, a formulation that is nowhere used in the text. The results of the iudicum Dei were quite apparent in the past and present of the chroniclers. The devastating defeat of the Byzantine army of Heraclius against the Saracens is portrayed as a divinum iustitium.279 Flaochad and Willebad both died because of their misdeeds,   See above, p. 189.   270  See above, pp. 181–2. 271 See above, pp. 42, 83.   272  DLH V , 18, p. 218. 273 DLH V , 48, p. 258; VII , 47, p. 366. 274 DLH IX , 8, p. 421.   275  DLH VII , 17, p. 338. 276 DLH VII , 2, p. 327. 277 DLH X , 13, 14, 19, 31, p. 497, line 25; p. 498, lines 3 and 8; p. 499, line 20; p. 500, line 1; p. 512, line 14; p. 536. 278 DLH X , 15, 16, 17, p. 505, line 2; p. 507, line 23; p. 509, line 3. 279 CF IV , 66, p. 154. 269


Trickery and mythmaking which is also presented as a iudicium Dei.280 One could even provoke a iudicium Dei as the Frankish envoys did when they freed the parens Francorum Gundeperga through an ordeal by battle. The presentation of the chronicle emphasises how important the role and initiative of the Franks was for finding such solutions. When Gundeperga was imprisoned again, it was a certain Aubedo who stood up for the Frankish queen of the Lombards.281 He should most likely be identified with the son of Berthar, the Francus de pago Ultraiurano who heroically saved his father’s life in the last chapter of the chronicle.282 On his embassy to the Lombard kingdom, Aubedo, apparently acting on his own initiative  – quasi iniunctum habens – spoke to the Lombard king Rothari about his having incarcerated Queen Gundeperga. The kings of the Franks and also the Franks themselves, Aubedo told the king, were extremely angry about the situation. Rothari, reverenciam Francorum habens, freed Gundeperga at once and restored all her property to her.283 Most importantly the Franci could also take the initiative when their own kings endangered the stability and future of the Frankish community. As we have seen they proactively solved conflicts and settled disputes that arose from conflicts between kings and queens who had left the paths of justice with a iudicium Francorum. The Fredegar Chronicle is our oldest extant source to use this term. We also meet it in later texts. But it was never used in documentary or legal sources in the Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms, although the word iudicium was of course widely used in many legal contexts, not least in the transmission of Roman law as well as its reception in the laws written and compiled in the post-Roman successor states. Most importantly for the present context, it also appears prominently in the ‘short prologue’ of the Lex Salica. The four electi, having convened the court three times (per tres mallos), had found the iudicium hoc modo referring to the regulations of the Lex Salica that begin after this sentence.284 The prologue states that the code had been developed in negotiations inter Francos et eorum proceres to keep the peace. One could have easily reinterpreted it as a precedent for a iudicium Francorum, particularly when this iudicium helped to maintain peace and order in the kingdom.285 This was, however, just one possible interpretation and it seems that it did not correspond with that of the Merovingian kings. This becomes CF IV , 90, p. 167.   281  CF N, 71, pp. 156–7. 282 See above, p. 187.   283  CF IV , 71, p. 156. 284 Qui per tres mallos convenientes omnes causarum origines sollicite discutientes de singulis iudicium decreverunt hoc modo (Pactus legis Salicae, Prologue, p. 3). 285 See Esders, ‘Der Reinigungseid’, pp. 55–62, with further references; and already Voß, ‘Vom römischen Provinzialprozeß’. 280


Countermyths obvious in some of the regulations of the Lex Ribuaria, the ‘Austrasian’ law given in the context of the establishment of the Austrasian kingdom at about the same time that subsequent historians were working on the historiographical corpus of the Fredegar Chronicle.286 Taking the model of the Lex Salica it updated many aspects of the older code. Though Franks and Ripuarians are often listed as distinct groups they can still both belong to an overarching concept of Frankish identity in which the name of the Franks is used for both the Franci and the Ripuarii.287 Just as in the Fredegar Chronicle this differentiation assumes or portrays the social world as a world divided among gentes. Title 35, 3 decrees that ‘within the territory of the Ripuarians [pagus Riboarius] whether Franks, Burgundians or Alemanns or whatever nation one belongs to, let one respond when summoned to the court [iudicium] according to the law of place in which one was born’.288 The Lex Ripuaria, like the older Lex Salica, assumes a legal and political territory in which the Franks are just one group among others. But unlike the older Salian law the Ripuarian code identifies all the different social groupings as nations whose members are legally defined by their birthplace. It was an ethnic reinterpretation of the Merovingian royal politics of the sixth century, placing the kings in an equidistant relation to all the different groups and nations whose members had to respond to and obey their iudicum. In this respect the Fredegar chroniclers suggested a different interpretation of the iudicium in defining it as a iudicium Francorum offering an alternative to justice and political legitimacy to royal authority on the basis of Frankish identity. This was a radical step and it is probably not surprising that the Carolingian descendants of the Pippinid and Arnulfing heroes of the Fredegar-chronicle did not pick up this formulation in their appropriation of the symbolical prestige of the Lex Salica after they had usurped the throne in 751.289 Although the short prologue of the older Salian law was extended into a long eulogy of the Franks, the iudicium mentioned at the end of the short prologue was never changed into a iudicium Francorum in its Carolingian versions.290 286 For the debate on the date of the Lex Ribuaria, see now Esders, Die Formierung, pp. 50–9, with further references. 287 See the commentary by Beyerle in the edition of the Lex Ribuaria, pp. 142 and 146. 288 Lex Ripuaria 35(31), 3, p. 87: Hoc autem constituimus, ut infra pago Ribuario tam Franci, Burgundiones, Alamanni seu de quacumque natione commoratus fuerit, in iudicio interpellatus sicut lex loci contenet, ubi natus fuerit, sic respondeat. 289 See below, ch. 10. 290 Cf. Pactus legis Salicae, prologue, pp. 2–3, with the Carolingian revisions of the text Lex Salica, prologue, pp. 1–6; for the long prologue see the discussion below, pp. 331–12.


Trickery and mythmaking The formulation does appear in later historiographical texts for similar political constellations where the consent of the Franks is contrasted with the dissent of their rulers.291 As we shall see, the name of the Franks had very different meanings in these texts from different periods and regions.What they all shared with each other and the Fredegar Chronicle was the politicisation of Frankish identitiy. To appropriate these overlaps of Frankish identity and political legitimacy from a non-royal perspective was even easier, as these Franks were not tied to a specific region in the Fredegar Chronicle. On the contrary, as we have seen in their rewriting of Gregory’s Histories, the chroniclers avoided any specific regional localisation of the Franks or their territories.292 The Franks are present and active all over the kingdom, and they also act as its representatives to the outside world. In their work on the role and significance of Frankish identity, the Fredegar chroniclers continued tendencies that we already detected in Gregory of Tours’ historiographical response in the last decades of the sixth century. In the continual conflicts between the sons of Chlothar I, the name of the Franks seems to have acquired greater meaning, as an expression of collective negotiation. Gregory of Tours tried to counteract this process with his Histories, and in doing so he increased the multiplicity and fuzziness of Frankish identity. In certain ways, the Fredegar chroniclers also did this, but to completely different ends. Gregory used the contradictory and scattered nature of Frankish identity to stress their utter lack of a common history and future.The Fredegar chroniclers used the ambivalence of Frankish identity to propose it as the overarching identity in the Merovingian kingdom. The name of the Franks receives its profile from the ethnic differentiation established in the chronicle, and as a result, it is simultaneously flexible with respect to other identities. The specific strategies for integrating other perspectives were not developed solely as a dialogue and debate with the past. The text’s distancing from Merovingian kingship also played an essential role in ethnic integration, which is apparent in numerous episodes and stories throughout the chronicle.293 The ‘commonwealth of the Franks’ was presented as an alternative focus of political integration. The duces of its glorious past, which reached far back into history before the Romans, had already proven that even without kings, they were able to preserve their Frankish identity and freedom. It seems to me that the relativisation of the royal monopoly on political integration has to be seen as an important aspect of the chronicle’s composition and transmission in the seventh century.This See the examples in Waitz, Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte, s.v. ‘iudicium Francorum’. 292 See above, pp. 173–4.   293  See above pp. 170–6. 291


Countermyths aspect also explains the oscillation of the name of the Franks between political and ethnic identity. The appropriation of the name of the Franks to counter the royal monopoly the chronicle also points to the increasing salience of Frankish identity in the integration of the kingdom, a process we have already observed in the time of Gregory of Tours. This increasing political importance also calls attention to another factor that influenced the specific formation of Frankish identity in the chronicle. The chronicle was surely not the only political-historical experiment to plug into sixth-century efforts to use Frankish identity to integrate the Merovingian kingdom. When he established Paris as the capital of the regnum Francorum, Chlothar II was not only taking up the residence of Clovis. He also shifted the centre of the kingdom to the area in which elites could easily identify themselves as the heirs and successors to the very group that, along with Merovech, Childeric and Clovis, had established Frankish supremacy in Gaul. Their social and spatial proximity to the actual rex Francorum must have facilitated such an appropriation of the name of the Franks in the seventh century. By contrast, several texts from the end of the seventh century document the self-styling of the Franci in the northwestern regions of the kingdom as the real and only Franci.294 The different compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle might well have defined their conception of Frankish identity in contrast to this more exclusive appropriation of the name of the Franks. This was, however, equally true for more exclusive regional locations of Franks in the east. The regnum Francorum of the chronicle should not be represented by a region, be it the new political centres around Paris, or be it a regnum Franciae which meant only the Austrasian kingdom of Theudebald I.295 7.7  Th e transmis sion of the ORDO SINGU LARIU M i n the e ighth and ninth c e nturi e s


With their integrative vision of the Franci in a world divided among gentes, the chroniclers bequeathed a valuable historical resource to future generations of historians and storytellers. As unfinished as it may have appeared, successive generations of historians built on their results and continued to work on the text’s historical vision. In nearly every manuscript we find different arrangements, selections and additions. The most

See Reimitz, ‘Neustrien’, p. 129; Ewig, ‘Volkstum’, pp. 268–9. 295 See above, p. 63. 294


Trickery and mythmaking spectacular arrangement of the text was produced in the Carolingian period, when Carolingian historians, some of them even members of the Carolingian family, rearranged the ‘chain of chronicles’ and continued it.296 Apart from some more subtle changes to the text, they also replaced the Liber generationis (which comes at the beginning of the oldest extant version of the chronicle) with Hilarian’s De cursu temporum and inserted Dares Frigius’ Historia on the fall of Troy into the excerpts from Jerome.297 Their continuation of the narrative of the fourth book portrayed the rise of the Carolingian family in order to legitimise the deposition of the Merovingian kings and the Carolingian takeover of royal power. Here they were clearly building on the work of the Merovingian compilers, who had not only portrayed Pippin and Arnulf – the ancestors of the Carolingians – in a highly favourable light, but also put the Merovingian monopoly on royal power into perspective. The continual reworking of the text is also documented in manuscripts that do not belong to the manuscript family of the Historia vel gesta Francorum, as Roger Collins has called the Carolingian edition of the text.298 We can also observe the ongoing work on the text in other manuscripts, where the rearrangement of chapters and insertion of new texts set the entire chain of chronicles in different codicological relationships.299 The transmission thus documents a continual work of cultural recovery. The historical vision of Frankish and ethnic identity that the Fredegar compilation offered was a constant work in progress. It is interesting, however, that these manuscripts show a particularly intensive interest in reorganising the ordo singularium gentium of the earlier parts of the chronicle.300 The ones in charge of the historiographical workshop of the eighth and ninth centuries clearly paid far more attention to the first books of the Fredegar Chronicle than most modern historical scholars have (who mainly concentrated on the ‘independent’ narrative of the fourth book). Only a manuscript written around 800 in the region of Lake Constance (probably St Gall)301 and a paper manuscript from the sixteenth century302 preserve in their different arrangements a ‘chain of chronicles’ up to the fourth book that is identical to the See Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 3–7 and 82–95. 297 See ch.10. 298 For this title for the Carolingian version see Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, p. 5. 299 See Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 55–75; the continual reworking, however, can be more easily retraced in Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 250 and 258–318. 300 For the expression see CF IV , praefatio, p. 123. 301 Today the manuscript is split between Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek Voss. lat. Q 5 and Vatikan, BAV Reg. lat. 713. See Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 68–71 302 Augsburg, Staats und Stadtbibliothek 2° 223, probably written in Reichenau, see Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 71–2. 296


Countermyths one in the oldest extant version (which dates from the beginning of the eighth century).303 Between the other four textual witnesses of the ‘pre-Carolingian’ version of the Fredegar Chronicle, only two contain the text up to the ninth chapter of the fourth book, and both break off mid-sentence in that chapter.304 The older of the two manuscripts was copied in what is today northeastern France in the second quarter of the ninth century.305 The younger was probably written at the end of the ninth century in around the same region (although it may have been stored soon after in Aquitaine).306 As Bruno Krusch showed, both were copied separately from very similar exemplars.307 A concerted focus on the books up through the epitome of Gregory is also clearly documented in a manuscript written around 800, perhaps at Reichenau:308 the manuscript transmits a version of the chronicle that runs only to the end of Gregory’s Histories. One of the most interesting of these manuscripts is one that was written in Metz shortly before 800, probably under Bishop Angilram (d. 791). The manuscript was written in an elegant Caroline miniscule that bears great similarities to the script that was used for manuscripts produced at the Carolingian court. Bernhard Bischoff saw it as a part of a group of manuscripts from Metz that documented the Metz scriptorium’s close connections and lively exchange with the Carolingian court.309 Unfortunately, the manuscript was destroyed in 1944. But it was still available when Bruno Krusch prepared his edition at the end of the nineteenth century,310 and on the basis of Krusch’s notes archived at the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Roger Collins published a comprehensive description of the manuscript’s contents.311 Its compilers had selected only the first part of the chain of chronicles, which became part of a larger compendium of texts and excerpts from a Paris, BnF lat. 10910, see above, p. 197. 304 CF IV , 9, p. 126, with n. i. 305 Berne, Burgerbibliothek 318, Bischoff, Katalog der festländischen Handschriften I , p.  122; Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 65–8. 306 London, BL Harley 5251; though Bischoff originally regarded the manuscript as having been written in northeastern France, the entry in his Katalog, vol. II says ‘Südliches Frankenreich’ (p. 123); as Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, p. 64, suggests, this was possibly because of Aquitanian neumes in the manuscript. 307 Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 271–2. 308 Vienna, ÖNB lat. 482; see Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 71–2. 309 Bischoff, Die Abtei Lorsch, p. 36; see above, n. 146. 310 Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp.  258–9; images of the manuscripts can be found in the preface of Krusch’s editon:  CF p.  10, table  1; see also Köhler, Die karolingischen Miniaturen, vol. III.2 , ­tables 50a, b, c. 311 Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 59–63. 303


Trickery and mythmaking wide range of famous Christian writers, including Augustine, Caesarius of Arles, Gregory the Great, Isidore of Seville and so on. Krusch characterised the manuscript as a florilegium, a ‘Lesebuch’ to educate young nobles and future clerics who had the privilege to work in the Metz library.312 The manuscript is therefore not only an interesting example of the continual work on the historical resources for Frankish and ethnic identity that the Fredegar compilation offered but it also shows that familiarity with the results of this ongoing research was also a part of higher education. As we shall see, when at the end of the eighth century, Carolingian ‘Ivy League’ students worked on their historical assignments about the Merovingian past, they not only looked back to the series of experiments that the transmission of the Fredegar Chronicle documented.313 The historiographical workshops of the Merovingian and early Carolingian period had also provided them with manuscripts documenting a continuous interest in the different versions of Gregory’s Histories, too.There was more. Carolingian scholars and students had other choices to make, beyond the ever-growing body of historiographical visions inspired by Gregory of Tours and the Fredegar chroniclers. At the end of the eighth century, an additional and particularly powerful conception of Frankish identity and history was already circulating widely through the Carolingian kingdoms: the Book on the History of the Franks, which had been written (and already rewritten) during the last decades of Merovingian rule. Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, p. 258. 313 See below, pp. 365–7. 312


Chapter 8

S I C U T C ET ERAE GENT ES: ‘LI K E THE OT H E R PE OPLES’ The Liber historiae Francorum and the definition of the populus in the seventh and eighth centuries 8.1   Th e wi l d one s go we st: a new p rof i le f or the  F ranks In the sixth year of the reign of Theuderic IV an anonymous author finished his book on the history of the Franks.1 It was the year 726/7 and the political constellation and power balance had changed fundamentally in the Merovingian kingdoms since the 660s. The battle of Tertry in 687 when Pippin II, the maior domus in the east, and grandson of Pippin I, defeated the coalition of the maior domus in Paris, Berchar, is usually seen as the turning point in the history of the Merovingian kingdom. After Tertry the descendants of Pippin I and Arnulf established themselves as the most powerful family of the kingdom, ruling with and increasingly for the Merovingian kings.2 In this period, the end of the seventh and the first decades of the eighth century, we not only observe the rise of the Carolingians. We are also able to explore the reactions to this ‘rise’ in the historiographical workshops of the time through an increasing number of original manuscripts, including the copies and versions of two histories we have comprehensively discussed in the previous chapters. Three manuscripts of Gregory’s six-book version were copied at the end of the seventh and the beginning of the eighth century and the oldest extant manuscript of the Fredegar Chronicle was written in the first decades of the eighth century, too.3 The anonymous historian who finished his history The manuscripts transmit the text with various titles such as Liber historiae Francorum, Gesta regum Francorum, De origine et gestis Francorum. 2 See now Fischer, Karl Martell; Fouracre, Age of Charles Martel; and I.  Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 270–87; for a critique of a too simplistic ‘Carolingian’ view of the ‘rois fainéants’, see I. Wood, ‘Usurpers’, pp. 15–31; for a different interpretation of the evidence, see Kölzer, ‘Die letzten Merowinger’; and Offergeld, Reges pueri, pp. 241–99. 3 See above, pp. 133–4, 140–4.; and pp. 197, 225. 1



Ambleve Quierzy Verberie StDenis









Paris Orleans












Herstal Valenciennes



B U R G U N DY Lyons

Blaye Bordeaux

Nîmes Narbonne

Avignon Arles


0 0

200 miles 300 Km

Map 3 The Frankish kingdoms in the time of Charles Martel (from McKitterick (ed.), The new Cambridge medieval history, vol. II , p. 95)

Countermyths in 726/7 responded to their debates on early Frankish history with great confidence, and does so right from the start: Let us set forth the beginnings of the kings of the Franks, their own origin and that of those peoples as well as their deeds. In Asia there is a stronghold of the Trojans where a city called Ilium is in which Aeneas ruled. The people [gens] was strong and mighty, men exceedingly prone to warring again and again, provoking constant combat, and conquering the neighbouring lands all around them.4

The text which contradicted Gregory so confidently from the outset has been edited as Liber historiae Francorum, based on the title in a Carolingian copy.5 Other early manuscripts transmit alternative titles such as gesta regum Francorum, or de origine et gestis Francorum, and some of the oldest manuscripts have no title at all.6 It could well be that the original text just started with the first sentence: Principium regum Francorum eorumque origine vel gentium illarum ac gesta proferamus. In any case, with the confident statement at the beginning of the narrative, the author made two things clear from the outset:  first that he wanted to take up the argument with Gregory about the origin of the Frankish kings and the Franks, and second that he intended to do this in a very different way from the one of the Fredegar chroniclers. As with the Fredegar Chronicle, the clash with Gregory’s legacy emerges not only in the form of a contradictory argument but also through a comprehensive rewriting of his Histories, which appears in the Liber after its account of the Franks’ Trojan origins. The author of the Liber was working with the six-book version of Gregory, but as in Fredegar, the Liber was extremely selective in what passages and chapters it incorporated, which it too supplemented with new stories and accents. Yet at the same time, the author was apparently unwilling to dismiss out of hand Gregory’s historiographical authority, even in the 720s. The placement of the origo in front of the excerpted Histories already shows that the narrative’s focus lies principally with the Franci. Their existence does not develop out of history in a complex game of separation and differentiation. They are the sole and direct descendants of the Trojans, who preserve their character as bellatores, as gens fortis et valida Est autem in Asia opidum Troianorum, ubi est civitas quae Ilium dicitur, ubi regnavit Aeneas. Gens illa fortis et valida viri bellatores atque rebelles nimis, inquieta certamina obiurgantes, per gyrum finitima debellantes (LHF, p. 241; trans. Gerberding, Rise of the Carolingians, p. 173). 5 BAV, Reg. lat. 713, A3b; in the classification of Krusch, LHF, c. 1, p. 241, with n. a. 6 See LHF, c. 1, p. 241, with n. a; among them is one of the most important manuscripts of the original version (A) Berne, Burgerbibliothek 599, c. 800, CLA VII , no. 865; A1a in the classification of Krusch. 4


Sicut ceterae gentes and continue to preserve it to the present and beyond.7 A linear narrative proceeds from the fall of Troy to follow the rest of the Trojan army under their principes, Priam and Antenor, to the border between Asia and Europe – the Meotides Paludes.8 There they built a city, which they named Sicambria in memory of their ancestors. In his comprehensive study of the Liber, Richard Gerberding has suggested that the founding of Sicambria was associated with the memories that Frankish groups (or a single Frankish group) had of their stationing in Pannonia, in particular around modern Budapest.9 As we have seen, these memories must have run through a series of filters in Gaul that are mostly lost to us now.10 Thus it is difficult to reconstruct why the name ‘Sicamber’ had acquired the profile it did in late Antique Gaul, although Sidonius Apollinaris, Venantius Fortunatus and (not least) Gregory of Tours mention it.11 By the time the Liber uses it all these layers would have been stacked together. But when the author returns to the name again in his representation of Clovis’ baptism, it is the Histories that he cites, with words that Gregory had put into the mouth of Remigius of Reims:  Mitis depone colla, Sicamber; adora quod incendisti, incende quod adorasti  – ‘Bend your neck softly, Sicamber, and revere what you have burned, burn what you have revered.’12 It is clear from this replay of Gregory’s ceremony that the author did not merely adopt the name to refer to old Frankish memories. He used Remigius’ words, precisely as Gregory’s Histories transmitted them, to present them as evidence against the bishop of Tours, showing that there were obvious links to a distant past of the Franks, albeit under a different name. That Gregory had been unable to find any early king of the Franks, so the message of the Liber went, was consequently unsurprising. For the former Trojans had remained Trojans. They first acquired the name of Franks rather late – only in the later days of the Roman Empire, during the reign of Valentinian.13 After the Troiani had built Sicambria, had lived in the region for many years and had become a great people, they fought for the empire under Valentinian, against the Alans.The Romans had been unable to quell the Alans, although the wild ancestors of the Franks – strong and The subjugation of the neighbouring gentes is a motif already mentioned in the shorter prologue of the Lex Salica (see Pactus legis Salicae, p. 2). For the Franks as gens fortis in the longer prologue Lex Salica written in the Carolingian period, see below, pp. 331–2. 8 For the Meotides paludes as the border between Asia and Europe and its reception in the LHF, see Gerberding, Rise of the Carolingians, pp. 22–9; and Coumert, Origines, pp. 328–30. 9 Gerberding, Rise of the Carolingians, pp. 21. 10 See above, ch.4. 11 For the Sugambri and Sicambria, see Nonn, Die Franken, pp. 28–9, 134; for the use of the name in late Antique Gaul, see Coumert, Origines, pp. 282–4. 12 LHF, c. 15, p. 263; which is identical with DLH II , 31, p. 77. 13 For Valentinian, see I. Wood, ‘Defining the Franks’, p. 52; and Ewig, ‘Die Franken’, pp. 140–1. 7


Countermyths mighty – still called Trojans, could.They and the Romans routed the Alans, for which they received tributa donaria from Valentinian for ten years. They also received their new name from him, having proven their bravery and ferocity in the battle: Tunc appellavit eos Valentinianus imperator Francos Attica lingua, hoc est feros, a duritia vel audacia cordis eorum.14 The Fredegar Chronicle had chosen a significantly less essentialist explanation for the name of the Franks.15 It did not take long for the Franks’ character traits to turn against their name-giver. When their ten-year tribute expired and they were supposed to start paying taxes, they refused to do so and went to battle against the empire.16 Although they valiantly kept up the fight – fuit autem ibi strages magna de uterque populo17 – they eventually had to recognise imperial superiority. They left Sicambria and moved in extremis partibus Rheni fluminis in Germaniarum oppidis.18 Once in Germania, the narrative of the Liber links up with Gregory’s account. For many years, the Franks lived under the principes Marchomir and Sunno – Gregory’s reguli, who in the Liber are sons of Priam and Antenor.When Sunno died, the Franci elected kings: acciperunt consilium, ut regem sibi unum constituerent, sicut ceterae gentes.19 The first rex Francorum is a new name in the received historiographical tradition: Faramund. And as the first king, he is also the first rex crinitus – long-haired king. Under him, the Franks began to have laws – Tunc habere et leges coeperunt. But it was not Faramund who decreed them; the laws were negotiated – tractaverunt – by priores gentiles, as in the short prologue of the Lex Salica. The author of the Liber seems indeed to have taken his inspiration from this text. The four lawgivers mentioned in the Liber – Wisowastus, Wisogastus, Arogastus, Salegastus – match the lawmen named in the short prologue, too.20 With the arrival of Faramund’s son Chlodio, the Liber starts treading the definitively established paths of Merovingian geneaology and succession. Chlodio is the father of Merovech, who in the Liber is also 14 LHF, c. 2, p. 243. 15 The coexistence of the two explanations in the seventh-century West is well documented in Isidore’s Etymologiae IX , 2, 101; for a summary of different theories on the name of the Franks, ancient and modern, see now Nonn, Die Franken, pp. 11–15 for the Fredegar Chronicle see above, p. 168. 16 LHF, c. 3, p. 243. 17 LHF, c. 4, p. 244.   18  LHF, c. 4, p. 244. 19 LHF, c. 4, p. 244. 20 Cf. LHF, c.  4, p.  244, with Pactus legis Salicae, p.  3; for the Pactus and the process in which it became a focus for Frankish identity in the Merovingian kingdoms of the sixth century, see above, pp. 103–8; for an important article on the names and their etymologies see Haubrichs, ‘Namenbrauch’, who carefully deconstructs the wild etymological speculations about the names, particularly in reaction to Poly, ‘La corde’, who interpreted these names as the names of some of the Frankish military leaders of the fourth century.


Sicut ceterae gentes the heros eponymos of the Merovingian kings. But unlike in the Fredegar Chronicle, there is no doubt about Chlodio’s paternity: ‘King Chlodio died and Merovech of his familial line accepted the kingdom Chlodio ruled for twenty years. It is because of Merovech, a strenuous king, that the kings of the Franks were called Merovingians.’21 Merovech was already west of the Rhine when he suceeded to the realm. His father had dispatched exploratores to the city of Cambrai and then crossed the Rhine with a large army – cum grande exercitu Renum transiit.22 In the Liber, as in Gregory, the starting-point for this campaign is Dispargum, in Thuringian territory. It remains difficult to pinpoint these locations: Gregory reports that Thuringia was settled after the Rhine crossing, and the question of where exactly Thoringia and the Thuringians were on the left bank of the river has preoccupied many scholars.23 To complicate things further, Gregory first mentions that the Franks had also settled on the banks of the Rhine, and there is at least a chance that Gregory meant the area or the castra on the west side. His remark that the Franks came to the Rhine from Pannonia gives a different impression. But the quotations he had cited earlier from historiograffi on the conflicts between the Romans and the Franks also placed Frankish groups west of the Rhine. Hence Arbogast attacked them in Cologne.24 Likewise in the Histories, Frankish groups battled the Alans and Vandals, whose own crossing of the Rhine is usually dated to 405 or 406.25 Thus it is entirely possible that Gregory used reports about Frankish groups who were already stationed or settled west of the Rhine and attacked Thuringian territory east of the Rhine from there.26 From the perspective of Gregory, however, this is much less contradictory than modern scholars thought it to be. As we have seen, unlike modern scholars of Frankish history, Gregory was not interested in developing from the different reports just one history of the Franks. He rather employed the contradictions and inconsistencies of different sources to underline that it was impossible to write one coherent history of the early Franks.27 The Fredegar compilers and the author of the Liber solved the problem of the location of Thuringian territory, each in their own way. The Fredegar Chronicle’s excerpts from the Histories included every account from the historiograffi that had unambiguously placed the Franks east of Chlodione rege defuncto, Merovechus de genere eius regnum eius accepit. Regnavit Chlodio annis 20. Ab ipso Merovecho rege utile reges Francorum Merovingi sunt appellati (LHF, c. 5, p. 246); for doubts about the father of Merovech in Fredegar’s Chronicle, see above, p. 170. 22 LHF, c. 5, p. 245. 23 See the overview in Nonn, Die Franken, pp. 81–3. 24 DLH II , 9, pp. 54–5.   25  DLH II , 9, pp. 55–6. 26 See Ewig, ‘Die Franken’, pp. 141–53.   27  See above, pp. 52–7. 21


Countermyths the Rhine,28 and it was clear that they stayed there until the time of Chlodio, who resided in castrum Espargium, quod est in termino Thuringorum. From there, he sent his scouts to Cambrai, then followed them himself and occupied the countryside up to the Somme – Chlodeo, missis exploratoribus ad urbem Camaracum, perlustrans omnia, ipse sequitur, Romanus proterit, civitatem capit, usque Suminam fluvium occupavit.29 The author of the Liber is a bit more detailed and precise here. He situates Chlodio in Disbargo castello in finibus Thoringorum regionem Germaniae.30 In somewhat later reworkings of the text, which Bruno Krusch edited as the B version, the redactor made it even more clear by adding that Germania here meant the regions east of the Rhine.31 Even in the original version, in a short geographical sketch of Gaul, it becomes clear where the Franks settled in Chlodio’s time, and what the perspective of orientation was: In those times the Romans lived in the regions on this side of the Rhine [citra Renum] up to the Loire; across the Loire ruled the Goths.The Burgundians, who adhered to the most pagan and perverse Arian doctrine, settled along the Rhône near the city of Lyons.32

For the most part, the Liber follows the passage in Gregory, with two exceptions: it represents Burgundian’s Arianism more drastically as heresy, and above all, it adds the phrase citra Rhenum.33 The author’s perspective, viewing the eastern regions from the West, is consequently clear in his version of the Franks’ early history. Accordingly, his staging of the crossing of the Rhine is a special event. In the Liber, too, Chlodio sends out exploratores and follows after them, which merits its own additional sentence:  Ipse [Chlodio] postea cum grande exercitu Renum transit, multo Romanorum populo occidit atque fugavit.34 Neither Gregory nor Fredegar mentions the crossing of the Rhine at this point in their narratives. The author of the Liber also describes the stages of Chlodio’s expedition much more explicitly and precisely. First he travelled through the silva Carbonaria and occupied the city of Tournai. 28 Cum quibus temporibus imperatoris Theodosiae in Germania prorumpentes, pagus depopulantes, etiam Coloniae metum incusserunt; … Post Eraclio et Joviano cum exercito ultra Renum transeuntis, disponentis Francos ad internicionem perducere … Franci Treverus hiemando resedere praesumunt (CF III , 3, pp. 93–4). 29 CF III , 9, p. 95.   30  LHF, c. 5, p. 245. 31 LHF, c. 5, p. 245; see the discussion of these versions below, pp. 310. 32 LHF, c. 5, p. 245; the Fredegar chroniclers had mentioned only the Burgundians, who lived in the Cisalpina and judged their Arian belief much more mildly: ‘they too [quoque] were Arians’. See CF III , 9, p. 95. 33 In his autem partibus, id est ad meridianam plagam, habitabant Romani usque Ligerem fluvium. Ultra Ligerem vero Gothi dominabantur. Burgundiones quoque, Arrianorum sectam sequentes, habitabant trans Rhodanum, quod adiacit civitate Lugdunense (DLH II , 9, p. 58). 34 LHF, c. 5, p. 245, see the further discussion of the passage below, pp. 254, 259–60.


Sicut ceterae gentes (Gregory and Fredegar do not mention these places, either.) The silva Carbonaria is a landmark in the oldest extant version of the Lex Salica, in which a paragraph specifies the silva Carbonaria as the western boundary of the extent of the lex’s jurisdiction.35 The sharp delineation of conquered territory in the Liber is also connected to an explicit and consistent definition of the Franks living within it. Such demarcation is already apparent in the origo section, in the conflicts between the Franks and the Romans. In the Liber, there is no integration of Roman and Frankish politics through mutual diplomatic and literary trickery as in the Fredegar Chronicle. Despite their cooperation in the war against the Alans, Romans and Franks find no common ground, but enmity. After all, in their victory against the Alans, the populus Francorum drew the (false) conclusion that they were superior to the Romans, and when the emperor sent out tax collectors under the supervision of the dux Primarius, they decided to withhold payment.36 The Franks’ conflicts with and delimitation from the Romani continue on Gallic soil, only more drastically. After crossing the Rhine, Chlodio killed multus populus in the silva Carbonaria. After capturing Cambrai, he had all the Romans that he found in the city murdered – Romanos, quos ibi invenit, interficit.37 (In his version of the story, Gregory chose the phrase Romanos proterit, which leaves the fate of the population somewhat open to question.38) And when the Franci under Clovis take Cologne, they kill multus populus Romanorum a parte Egidii, Egidius being the Roman magister militum.39 The Liber’s radical depiction of the obliteration of the Roman populace struck the attention of a glossator of the text in the fifteenth century. He also knew that the Franks, who were considered the ancestors of the French, did not speak Latin originally, but a Germanic dialect. He added a note of clarification in the margin of the manuscript to explain that the Franks had indeed killed all the Romans, but only after learning the Latin language from them first.40 Pactus legis Salicae, § 47, 1 and 3, pp. 182–8. There is a controversy about whether the Liger of the Pactus should be identified with the Loire.Whether it originally designated a different river or not, later redactors of the lex surely understood it that way, as well may have the author of the LHF. See an overview of the discussion in Ubl, ‘L’origine contestée’; and Renard, ‘Le Pactus legis Salicae’. 36 LHF, c. 3, p. 243.   37  LHF, c. 5, p. 246. 38 Other examples in Gregory’s Histories of the use of protero indicate a less final semantic than interficere: DLH III , 12, p. 108, lines 10–1 (Theuderic I’s campaign against the Auvergne); VII , 2, p. 327 (the people from Auvergne and Bois attack those of Châteaudun); VIII , 39, p. 405, line 15 (Bishop Badegisel of Le Mans mistreats the citizens). 39 LHF, c. 8, p. 250; however, here the Roman populus is specified a parte. 40 Paris, BnF lat. 10911, fol. 7v: Omnesque Romanos, qui tunc in Gallia habitabant, exterminavit Clodoueus ut unus vix potuisset inveniri. Et videtur Franci illis temporibus linguam Romanam, qua usque hodie utuntur ab illis Romanis qui ibi habitaverant didicisse. Que autem eis prius naturalis lingua fuerit, ignoratur in partibus istis. The same fifteenth-century hand added that the mother of Charles Martel, Alpaida, 35


Countermyths The marginal note may be first and foremost an indication of the prevalence of Latin instruction in Liège in the fifteenth century, where the manuscript seems to have been kept at the time.41 But it also shows that the martial rhetoric of the Liber was stirring even late medieval readers to further reflection. It has also struck modern scholars, prompting far-reaching conclusions about the identity of author and audience (a subject to which we will return in more detail later).42 The complete annihilation of populations is something the Liber narrates only for select regions, which were mainly cities that the author considered the core of his contemporary Francia  – that is, the northwestern areas of the Merovingian kingdom, centred on Tournai, Cambrai, Soissons and of course Paris. Other sources, including the Fredegar Chronicle, thought of this area as Neustria;43 but for the author of the Liber, it was neither Neustria nor home to Neustrians. It was the Franci who lived and ruled there. After the conquest of the land under Chlodio, they moved from this centre outward – like their Trojan ancestors – to subjugate neighbouring regions and gentes. As in Gregory, it was above all Clovis, magnus et pugnator egregius, who succeeded in extending the regnum across Gaul. His sons continued the work. In the Liber the kings fight together with the Franks, who are frequently added to the narrative that Gregory had written. In the approximately 8,500 words of the Liber’s rewriting of Gregory, the name of the Franks occurs forty-seven times, which amounts to thirty-four additions to the original. In the process, the Liber, like Fredegar, also left out Gregory’s reference to Theudebald’s regnum Franciae, which Chlothar I  inherited from his great-nephew.44 The motivations for doing this, however, clearly differed from the intentions of the Fredegar Chronicle. It was not too narrow a location of old Frankishness, it was the wrong one. For the author of the Liber, the realm of Theuderic, Theudebert and Theudebald did not belong to the actual Francia. It was Austrasia they ruled, and although Franci did live there, the Liber identifies them as superiores Franci vel Austrasii to differentiate them from the true Franci.45 The true Franci was the filia Dodonis. For the identification see Gerberding, Liber, pp. 116–19 (who thought, however, that the entry was written in a nearly contemporary hand); cf. also Joch, Legitimität, p. 131, with n. 702–3. 41 For a longer discussion of the manuscript, see below pp. 428–30. 42 See below, pp. 252–3. 43 See Reimitz, ‘Neustrien’, pp. 126–31, with further references. 44 Theodovaldus autem rex, filius Theudoberti regis in Auster, egrotans febre valida, mortuus est regnavitque annis 7, regnumque eius [regnum Franciae in Gregory] Chlotharius rex cum thesauris multis accepit (LHF, c. 27, p. 286; see above, p. 63 (for the passage in Gregory) and pp. 173–4 (in Fredegar)). 45 Post haec rex Theudobertus egrotans, febre valida correptus, mortuus est regnavitque annis 14. Regnum ipsius in superiores Francos in Auster Theudovaldus, filius eius, accepit (LHF, c. 27, p. 285). For this identification see also LHF, c. 36 and c. 41, pp. 304–5, p. 311; Gerberding, Liber, pp. 171–2.


Sicut ceterae gentes lived in the west of the kingdom. They were the populus Francorum, the true sucessors of the populus Troianorum who set out with Clovis and his sons to subjugate neighbouring peoples and regions with unwavering toughness.46 This is also evident in the choice of stories from Gregory’s text, which concentrate first and foremost on the northwestern kingdom of Soissons.47 Through its selection and a few rearrangements of the Histories, the Liber effects what are often significant shifts in emphasis. An interesting example of this is the account of the taxes levied by Gregory’s bête noire Chilperic. For extensive sections of the story, the author of the Liber keeps the original narrative. After Chilperic ordered the collection of discriptiones novas et graves, the populus valde oppressus called upon God for help.48 First Chilperic became sick, and when he recovered, both of the sons he had with Fredegund fell ill. The desperate parents burned up all the collection books and retracted the tax measures. Even so, both children died, and Chilperic and Fredegund buried them with large public funerals, at Saint-Denis in Paris and Saint-Médard in Soissons.49 Chilperic seems to have understood the omen. He gifted multa munera ac dona to the Church and to the poor.50 In the Liber’s selected material, the account of Chilperic as a contrite penitent is one of the last stories about the king before his death, which befalls him in the next chapter. As with other negative representations of Chilperic in the Histories, the Liber omitted Gregory’s obituary of the king, in which he styles Chilperic as a Herod and Nero who had constantly sought to steal from the Church and from the poor. In the Liber, Chilperic dies as a ruler who repented his sins, and he was buried with great sorrow by his people.51 The Liber also represents Fredegund more ambivalently than Gregory does. In the chapter on the discriptiones novas et graves, it is she who prompts Chilperic’s reversal through her dramatic appeal. She is also the one who plots Chilperic’s murder in the proceeding chapter, when he discovers her affair with the maior domus Landeric. But she succeeds in shifting the guilt on to Childebert II and assuming rule on behalf of her son Chlothar, whom the Franci elevated to the kingship.52 She proved to

46 Populus Troianorum: LHF, c. 1, p. 241; for the narrative on the subsequent campaigns of Clovis and his sons see Gerberding, Liber, pp. 37–8. 47 Gerberding, Liber, pp. 31–3.   48  Cf. Kreiner, Social life, 152 49 For the epitaphs for the two sons of Fredegund and Chilperich, written by Venantius, see above, p. 94. 50 LHF, c. 34, p. 301; see Kreiner, Social life, pp. 185–8. 51 LHF, c. 35, p. 304. 52 Franci quoque predicto Chlothario rege parvulo super se in regnum statuerunt (LHF, c. 35, p. 304).


Countermyths be a thoroughly capable regent who defended the regnum in a time of great danger. The death of Chilperic in the Liber marks the end of the part in which the Liber rewrote the Histories of Gregory which it also used in the six-book redaction. Already the next chapter in the Liber is one of the best-loved examples of the epic style of narratives that the fabulator anonymus (as Bruno Krusch described the author of the Liber) sprinkled into his text.When Childebert II, the ruler of the Austrasian kingdom, learned of his uncle’s death, he immediately assembled a large army.53 The superiores Franci – that is, the Austrasians – together with the Burgundians, moved against Fredegund, Landeric and little Chlothar. At first Fredegund succeeded in keeping the support of the Franci through multa dona et munera. But when she came to recognise the superiority of the opposing army, she also came up with a stratagem: camouflaged by trees and branches, the Franci sneaked up on their enemies under cover of night – de nocte consurgens. They cuffed bells to their horses, so that the opposing army would mistake the advancing horses for their own grazing herd. At dawn, only one of the enemy sentries wondered about the new forest. ‘Wasn’t there just a plain field yesterday in the same place where we now see woods?’ But his colleagues did not take him seriously: ‘Obviously you were drunk, and now you’re still delirious. Don’t you hear the bells of our horses grazing next to the woods?’54 In any case, there was not time for the sentries to discuss it further. At the first light of day, the Franci and Fredegund (with little Chlothar on her horse) burst onto their sleeping enemies. Beneath the din of the trumpets – cum strepitu tubarum – they attacked their enemies and killed ‘a countless crowd, an enormous army, all social ranks from the highest to the lowest’.55 Such epic narratives are also used to emphasise the western perspective of the text in stories about Chlothar II and Dagobert. After Chlothar had established his sedes in Paris, he had sent his son Dagobert to Austrasia, where the superiores Franci elevated him as king; Dagobert soon had to combat a rebellion of the Saxons. Dagobert and his army met with great distress: a sword swipe against the king only barely missed its target, cutting off a few of Dagobert’s hairs. When the king saw that his people 53 The author of the LHF places Chilperic’s death after the death of the ruler of Burgundy, Guntram, when Childebert ruled both Austrasia and Burgundy. 54 … dixit vir ad socium suum: ‘Nonne crastina [most likely mistakenly for hesternus: HR] die in illo et illo loco campestria erant, quomodo silvas cernimus?’ Et ille inridens, dixit: ‘Certe inebriatus fuisti, modo deleras. Non audis tintinnabula equorum nostrorum iuxta ipsam silvam pascencium?’(LHF, c. 36, p. 305). 55 Cum haec agerentur, et aurora diei inicium daret, inrueruntque Franci cum strepitu tubarum super Austrasiis et Burgundiones dormientibus cum Fredegunde vel Chlothario parvolo interfeceruntque maxima parte de hoste illo, innumerabilis multitudo, maximus valde exercitus, a maiore usque ad minorem (LHF, c. 36, pp. 305–6).


Sicut ceterae gentes were perishing – lesum cernens populum – he took the hair that had been cut off his head and sent an envoy with it to his father. Until help arrived, Dagobert retreated into the Ardennes. Chlothar set out as he got the message, leaving that very night, under the din of the war trumpets – cum strepitu tubarum de nocte consurgens.56 He quickly crossed the Rhine in a rush to help his son. After both armies had united, they jubilantly moved together towards the Saxons, up to the Weser. On the other side of the river, Bertoald, the dux of the Saxons, heard the commotion and asked about it. The Franks told him that they were rejoicing because domnus Chlotharius rex had arrived. Bertoald did not believe them and derided the Franks: ‘Liars! Fear must be driving you insane if you are saying that Chlothar is with you, since I have heard that he is dead.’57 Chlothar was already standing on the other bank, in full armour and helmet. When he heard Bertoald, he took off his helmet to reveal his long, whitened hair. Bertoald recognised the Frankish king immediately.58 When he began to insult the king, Chlothar, despite his advanced age, set off in front of his army over the river, to pursue and kill the Saxon dux. After that, the king seemed to take the entire campaign against the Saxons into his own hands: The king devastated all of the land of the Saxons, wiped out whole people, and spared the life of no man who was bigger than his sword, called spata. In this way the king set an example [signum] in this region and returned victorious to his land.59

The land to which the king returned – terra sua – was of course the real Francia, and the whole story underlined that it was in fact the exercitus from these lands, which had marched out with Chlothar to help Dagobert and the superiores Franci, that eventually managed to conquer the rebellious Saxons. 8.2   ALI A P RO ALIIS REFEREN T : to re late s om e th i ng s f or oth e r s. h istoriog raphical discour se i n th e late r Me roving ian pe riod The inclusion of such epic hero stories in the Liber has certainly received a lot of scholarly consideration. On the one hand, the obvious focus on places and persons from the west of the Merovingian kingdom has helped place the author more precisely.  At the same time, the localisation 56 LHF, c. 41, p. 312.   57  LHF, c. 41, pp. 312–13. 58 For the episode, see Diesenberger and Reimitz, ‘Zwischen Vergangenheit und Zukunft’, pp. 215–19, with further references. 59 LHF, c. 41, p. 314.


Countermyths of the author in a specific regional context also encouraged scholars to locate the author and audience in a specific cultural context. Many of the stories that have come down to us only in the Liber have thus been treated as sources for narratives or epic traditions that were otherwise not preserved. In fact, some elements of the story about Chlothar and Dagobert’s conflict with the Saxons crop up in the ‘song of Faro’, eight lines of which are transmitted in the Vita Faronis. The vita describes it as an excerpt of a carmen publicum iuxta rusticitatem.60 The obvious implication is that some of these overlaps in the Liber are handed-down epic traditions or heroic tales.61 This epic character of the Liber in turn played an important role in pinpointing the author and his public. Most stressed in this analysis have been the text’s staging of military success, the uncompromising and tough actions of the Franks and the magnates’ important role in advising the ruler.62 Add to that the obvious differences from Gregory’s Histories and his focus on ecclesiastical history, and the Liber’s interest in the gesta of the Franci and their kings in the northwest kingdom, and one finds the author and the public for his text even more clearly defined: the author (so scholars have concluded) was a secular, male, Neustrian Frank who wrote somewhere north of Paris for the elites of the western Frankish kingdom, all members of an increasingly self-confident warrior society.63 The precise social location of the author and his audience could then be additionally taken as evidence for a desire to preserve old sagas and the barbarian or even Germanic mentality that they reflected, and by extension for the ongoing influence of these texts and ideas in the circles of Frankish warriors in the eighth century – and even after that, disseminated through the text’s wide distribution well into the Middle Ages.64 Christianity doubtlessly had a part in this schema, but for many scholars it seems to have been more of a stage prop for what were relatively consistent ideals of a warrior society. Richard Gerberding, for instance, found almost no traces of the Christian image of the Merovingian kings that we find in other Merovingian sources in the Liber. If we search the LHF for a reflection of the political system of Kirchenstaaten with a Christian king at its center we shall search in vain. It would be equally 60 Vita Faronis Episcopi Meldensis, c. 77, p. 193. 61 See Haubrichs, Die Anfänge, p. 100, who remarks that the extant lines of the song of Faro transmit romanische Sprachspuren. See also Heisig, ‘ßber das Farolied’. 62 On the importance of this theme, see Gerberding, Liber, pp. 33, 168. 63 See Gerberding, Liber, pp. 146–72; following Gerberding: Coumert, Origines, p. 322; for a more critical approach see already I. Wood, ‘Defining the Franks’, pp. 47–8; Nelson, ‘Gender and genre’, pp. 194–5; and M. Hartmann, ‘Die Darstellung der Frauen’, pp. 209–37. 64 For a recent example see Scheibelreiter, Die barbarische Gesellschaft.


Sicut ceterae gentes futile, however, to seek in the author’s general lack of pious phrases and ecclesiastical emphasis an indication of a pagan or Germanic attitude as opposed to a Christian one. It is rather a clear reflection of that type of Christianity which Patrick Wormald so lucidly describes as native to the early medieval warrior society.65

To be sure, there are a number of stories in the Liber that seem to fit in topic and style with such an assessment. We have to be careful, however, not to oversimplify our image of a warrior discourse, in which old ideals, models and narratives are passed down, relatively unchanged, from generation to generation. The problem is less the notion that this warrior discourse is shot through with older narrative traditions or stories about heroes and their wars; it would be rather surprising if such traditions did not exist in a kingdom as militarily successful as that of the Merovingians. What seems to me to be problematic above all is the artificial isolation of this discourse from the social contexts in which it was formed and transformed. The criticism that these interpretations have been justifiably received has mostly been content with detaching Merovingian histories from such constructed strands of tradition. This had especially profound consequences for the Liber. As a secular narrative, located in a specific region, representing the ideals of the military elite living in this region, this meant above all that it was treated as a history that had developed largely independently of other discourses in the late and post-Roman world. Just how inappropriate it is to isolate the text from the historical traditions in the Merovingian kingdoms, however, is already evident in the Liber’s selective use of Gregory as its main source for history from Chlodio to the death of Chilperic. If we assume that the author of the Liber had access to a great number of other stories in Frankish history, we need to ask why he bothered to rewrite Gregory’s Histories so carefully. To be sure, one factor was the authority that Gregory’s narrative had obviously established.66 If the author wanted to put his secular discourse in the service of the warrior class, one has to ask why he did not draw exclusively or even predominantly on the reserves of that discourse’s stories, rather than including traditions that Gregory had represented and activated. It seems that this ‘secular discourse’ was much less of an independent force. As Ian Wood has shown, the idea that the Liber’s famous epics were independent narrative traditions is also misleading in terms of the text’s reception of other historiographical traditions. Wood demonstrated the Gerberding, Liber, p. 160, with reference to Wormald, ‘Bede’, pp. 53–7. 66 See Chapter 6, above. 65


Countermyths variety and multiplicity of layers in the Liber’s Trojan origin myth, which lead us back to the manifold historiographical experiments in integrating different pasts (Frankish, Burgundian, Avernian, etc.) in late Antique Gaul.67 It is insufficiently noticed how much the narrative of the Liber built upon or reacted to this rich reserve of memory and history, and the isolation of the text from its broader historiographical discourse had a lot to do with this. As an example, scholars have stressed the narrative’s independence from other historiographical traditions with the rebuke that the Liber’s author was not familiar with the Chronicle of Fredegar.68 The obvious differences in the Trojan myth are cited as the main argument in support of this view. It is true that the Liber does not once directly refer to the Fredegar Chronicle. But there are some conspicuous commonalities that cannot be traced back to their common source, Gregory’s Histories. The most noticeable common trait is of course the Franks’ ancestry from Troy, differently though it is presented in both texts. In addition, both the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber add the name of Childeric’s amicus Wiomad, who supported his king after the Franks betrayed him – a name that Gregory did not include. The same is true for the name of Clovis’ matchmaker Aurelian (whom the Liber nevertheless does not describe as ex Romano ingenio).69 Beyond that, the competition between the two texts in their different appropriations of Gregory’s text is striking. The varied representations of the Rhine crossing can serve as an example, whereas the Fredegar Chronicle does not mention a crossing of the Rhine under Chlodio at all, the event is celebrated in the Liber with its own sentence.70 Both, of course, reworked Gregory’s politico-geographical terminologies differently. Men presented as magnates from west Francia in the Histories, the Chronicle describes as Neustrasii and the Liber just calls them Franci.71 To be sure, the author of the Liber did not work with the text of the Fredegar Chronicle in the same way that he had with the six-book version of Gregory’s Histories that was undoubtedly available to him. This need not mean, however, that he was unaware of the Fredegar Chronicle’s interpretation of history, along with its cohesive and regnum-wide idea of a ‘commonwealth of the Franks’ and other related views. As we know from one passage in the Liber on Clovis II, the author knew about a great number of already existing historical accounts. In the Liber, Clovis received seriously bad press. He became insane during his reign and cut off the   I. Wood, ‘Defining the Franks’. For example, Anton, ‘Origo gentis’; Gerberding, Liber, p. 17. 69 See above, pp. 173, 205–6.   70  See above, pp. 246–7. 71   See above, p. 248, with n. 43. 67



Sicut ceterae gentes arm of the martyr St Denis, he was a fornicator and defiler of women and he was bloated by gluttony and drunkenness. Consequently, the author of the Liber considered Clovis’ death unworthy for inclusion in the historical record. But he also hints at an ongoing debate about the king’s death. He wrote that there were a great number of scriptores who condemned Clovis’ end, but that ‘not knowing about the ultimate end of his evil, they relate, in their uncertainty about him, some things for others’.72 Another episode in the history of the Merovingian kingdoms that had been portrayed in many different ways was the deposition of Brunhild and the takeover of Chlothar II as ruler in the whole regnum. The account of the Liber is (not surprisingly) quite different from Fredegar’s. In the Liber the prehistory to Brunhild’s deposition is much less a conflict between the queen’s court and the Burgundian-Austrasian network that eventually deposed her than a sequence of perpetual conflicts of Chlothar II and his Franks versus the superiores Franci and Burgundiones under Theuderic II and Theudebert II. But it is interesting that the author of the Liber not only relates the events from his distinct perspective, but also worked with older accounts. Some of the passages in the relatively short account of the civil war in the Liber recall another account of events transmitted in the above discussed manuscript as a continuation to the Chronicle of Marius of Avenches.73 The branching and indirect traces of links between different scriptoria and libraries in the Merovingian kingdom, or at least traces of their similar interests, help us understand the Liber and the Fredegar Chronicle as products of a vibrant world of well-informed and connected historiographical activity. It also shows that we are not only dealing with competing accounts of Frankish history and identity. As is documented in the chronicle and the Liber themselves as well as in their transmission, the texts were also written in dialogue and response to histories produced outside the Merovingian kingdoms, too. These included not only older historical works such as the Chronicle of Jerome and their continuations,74 but also more recent historiographical synthesis such as the historical works of Isidore of Seville, which the bishop of Seville started to write and revise after the conversion of the Visigothic kings from Arian to the ‘Catholic’ Christianity of the Franks. LHF, c. 44, p. 316: Huius mortem et finem nihil dignum historia recolit. Multa enim scriptores eius finem condempnant, nescientes finem nequitiae eius, in incertum de eo alia pro aliis referunt; I have slightly altered the translations of Gerberding of and Fouracre, Late Merovingian France, p. 89, who also refer to a different characterisation of Clovis II in the Vita Balthildis, c. 4, pp. 486–7. 73 See LHF, c. 38, p. 309, lines 15–16, and c. 39, pp. 310–1, lines 23–4; for the manuscript with the chronicle of Marius and the short text at its end, see above, p. 221 74 For the Merovingian manuscripts of Jerome, see above, pp. 222–3. 72


Countermyths As Jamie Wood has recently shown, Isidore’s chronicles portrayed the triumph of Gothic over Roman rule that was only fully realised after the Goths’ conversion to Catholicism under Reccared.75 The Chronica was itself a masterstroke.To write it, Isidore put together a patchwork of quotations from other world chronicles, above all those written in Spain, and worked for several decades to shape the text as his own. He also quoted large parts of the Chronica in the different versions he had made of a Historia Gothorum.76 In the Historia, Spania became – just as Gallia had for Gregory – a screen for integrating the people, the Church and the regnum. Just as for Gregory, for Isidore it was above all Catholic Christianity that could mediate the integration of the gens, the peoples and the land in the regnum, thereby providing the social coherence of a unified Christian Spania. In sharp contrast to Gregory, however, Isidore granted the gens Visigothorum a prominent role in stabilising Spania socially and politically.77 In all his historical texts and their different versions, Isidore stressed that the Visigoths were an old and elevated people. From the beginning, their history heralded their glorious future as Catholic rulers of Spain and their victory over the Roman Empire. Neither historiographers nor magnates in the Merovingian kingdom failed to notice the development of Gothic history at the end of the sixth century and in the first decades of the seventh.78 From here one can assume that the claims that were developed in Spain for the gens Visigothorum could also be understood in the Merovingian kingdom as the claims of rivals. The Fredegar chroniclers’ answer to this was the ‘first universal chronicle of the Middle Ages’, in which the Goths played a very marginal role. One of the most famous Gothic kings,Theodoric the Great, is not mentioned as a Goth once in the chronicle, but instead as genere Macedonum.79 In this context, it is also possible to understand the interpretation of the portents as the end of Gothic rule and the beginning of Frankish rule.80 The competition is also evident in the fables pertaining to the seventh century. After the death of Dagobert, who had left only two underage sons, the Frankish magnates themselves, especially those from Burgundy and Austrasia, guarantee the stability and unity of the regnum Francorum.81 75 J. Wood, ‘Religiones and gentes’, p. 130. 76 J.Wood, Politics of identity, ch. 3, and in particular pp. 70–4; Merrills, History and geography, ch. 3, and on the historical writing of Isidore, pp. 171–9; see also Reimitz, ‘The historian’, pp. 84–9. 77 See Velázquez, ‘Pro patriae’; and Merrills, History and geography, pp. 205–60. 78 For the reception of Isidore in general, see Bischoff, ‘Die europäische Verbreitung’; for a good discussion of the increasingly powerful Visigothic regnum in the seventh century see Wickham, Inheritance of Rome, pp. 130–41. 79 See above, p. 203.   80  See above, p. 230. 81 CF IV , 79, p. 161.


Sicut ceterae gentes At the same time, young rulers took the throne in Constantinople and in the Visigothic kingdom  – each with devastating consequences. In Constans’ minority, the empire was laid waste by the Saracens.82 In the Visigothic kingdom, the underage Tulga had hardly taken the throne before being removed again. In his place, the new king Chindasuinth sought to protect himself against further uprisings, so he had hundreds of primates Gothorum killed.83 The rivalry with the Visigothic kingdom that appears in these histories could certainly have influenced the formation of Frankish historical imagery in the seventh century. As we have seen, the Fredegar chroniclers decided to go in another direction from that of Isidore. Although they were working with a similar group of sources, including the Chronicle of Jerome and Hydatius, they did not define the Franks in relation to a triumph over Roman rule, as a way of proving some providential mission. In their rearranging and rewriting, the chroniclers instead emancipated themselves from the dichotomous patterning of Roman-Christian historical writing, which perpetuated oppositions such as Romans and barbarians, Christians and pagans, the chosen people and the Other(s). As a result, the chroniclers succeeded in building a broader perspective that was capable of integrating other gentes and regna, and in doing so was capable of representing the pre-eminence of the Franks both within and outside the regnum Francorum. The author of the Liber, in sharp contrast, decided to focus entirely on the Franks and their providential mission from the beginning. Unlike Isidore, however, he did not do this by building on established traditions of Christian world chronicles and history writing. That the author of the Liber made no reference at all to this influential tradition, which Gregory and the Fredegar chroniclers both took clear advantage of in their own ways, has not yet been seen as a problematic: the classification of the text as a ‘secular narrative’ seemed to be a sufficient explanation. This explanation, however, overlooked how fundamentally hazardous such a classification was in the first place  – it was as anachronistic as the search for authentic Germanic traditions had been. Especially in invoking the concept of ‘secular’, there is a great danger of projecting anachronistic and abstract social divisions back into the early medieval past, which would have been completely unfamiliar to contemporaries of the Liber’s author. It is true that the Liber leaves out a large number of stories about Gaul’s ecclesiastical history that the six-book version of Gregory’s Histories still   CF IV , 81, p. 162. 83 CF IV , 82, pp. 162–3. 82


Countermyths contained.84 As we have already seen in discussing the six-book Histories, however, omissions do not mean that these stories were meaningless for the compilers. On the contrary, the compilers left out certain stories precisely because they understood them. The author of the Liber wanted to build upon the social energy of Gregory’s Histories; so just as the six-book version and the Fredegar Chronicle had done, he interpreted the meaning and relevance of Gregory’s text for contemporary Merovingian society. As we shall see, the aim of the author of the Liber was not to extract cleanly and augment a secular narrative from Gregory’s history of pastoral power; it was to build upon Gregory’s providential vision for the regnum and to link this vision firmly to the history of the Franks. In order to do this the author of the Liber developed a very different concept from that of the Fredegar chroniclers. He merged the codes of honour and status in the post-Roman Frankish world with social metaphors and models inspired by the ‘Great Code’ of the Christian world – the biblical histories of the Old Testament.85 8.3  

in the LIBER HIS TORIAE FRANC ORU M :  th e real isation of the scri p ture s


The author of the Liber was of course not the first historian of the Merovingian kingdoms who referred to histories, episodes and statements of the Old T   estament.86 Old T   estament history had already played an important role in Gregory’s Histories and the Fredegar Chronicle. Both texts, albeit in very different ways, begin with a sketch of Old Testament history. As Martin Heinzelmann has shown, Gregory developed important typologies in his first book that he would return to later in his narrative.87 When the Fredegar compilers developed their own history in relation to biblical narrative, it was not just the Jerome Chronicle that helped them. Already the Liber generationis had drawn up extensive lists of biblical prophets, kings and peoples alongside the non-biblical.88 Such a historical-exegetical introduction to Old Testament history also openly articulated a problem of identity  Gerberding, Liber, pp. 31–2. See Heydemann, ‘Biblical Israel’; and Blumenberg, Paradigms for a metaphorology; for the Great Code: N. Frye, The Great Code. 86 See now Heydemann,’Biblical Israel’ and her ‘Christentum und Ethnizität’ with further references; O’Loughlin, Early medieval exegesis; I. Wood, ‘Who are the Philistines?’; see also the special issue of EME on ‘The uses of the Bible’; for the Merovingian contexts particularly the contributions of Hen, ‘Uses of the Bible’ and I. Wood, ‘Incest’; also Meens, ‘The uses’; van Uytfanghe, Stylisation biblique; Buc, L’ambiguïté; and still de Lubac, Éxégèse médiévale. 87 Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp.  120–8, 146–52; for Gregory’s exegetical work, in particular his lost commentary on the Psalms, see now Heinzelmann, ‘Die Psalmen’. 88 See above, pp. 217 and 227. 84 85


Sicut ceterae gentes or identification with Israel’s history.The author of the Liber does not draw attention to such a problem. The merging of history, themes and formulation of the historiae of the Old Testament with Frankish history does not invite its audience to compare the biblical past with a Christian-Frankish present. As we shall see, the narrative leaves as little room as possible for such reflections on identification in an exegetical mode.89 In the presentation of the Liber the Franks were not like the biblical people, they were the people of God – the fulfilment of the promise with which biblical historia had been connected in the Christian world.90 This providential perspective is worked into Frankish history from early on. When the Franks reached the Rhine, they decided to elect kings like the other people  – sicut ceterae gentes.91 Faramund was chosen as the first king, and under him they began to have laws. The passage clearly recalls 1 Samuel 8:5. When Samuel grew old, the Israelites asked him to constitue kings over them sicut et universae habent nationes. The compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle, with their ambivalent attitude towards Merovingian kingship, did not make any mention of a biblical legitimation of kingship. Gregory incorporates the reference to the Book of Samuel into his extremely selective use of biblical history in his first book (but did of course not refer to it in the context of the Frankish kings in the second book). In the first book however, the relatively detailed retelling of the Samuel story stands out.92 Apparently Gregory thought it was important that kingship represents an institution that men had wrested from God. God nevertheless gave the Israelites the strong warning that once they had decided to elect a king, the king’s power could and would be abused. Gregory’s Histories themselves present enough examples how imminent the danger of royal abuse of power still was.The Franks in the Liber had a straightforward response to this problem. At the same time they constituted kings over themselves, they also began to have laws to protect their rights. When kings acted against these laws, they could lose their life, such as Childeric II, who had been killed by the Franks only half a century before the author of the Liber finished his work.93 There is another especially revealing place that illustrates the difference in the Liber’s use of the Old Testament in comparison with that of Gregory’s Histories and of the Fredegar Chronicle. When the Franks For strategies of identification in early Medieval exegesis: Heydemann,‘Biblical Israel’; I. Wood,‘Who are the Philistines?’; De Jong, ‘The empire as ecclesia’; De Jong, ‘Exegesis’; De Jong, Penitential state. 90 See McClure, ‘Bede’s Old Testament kings’; for Bede’s exegesis see now I. Wood, ‘Who are the Philistines?’; DeGregorio, ‘Bede and the Old Testament’; and Thacker, ‘Bede and history’. 91 LHF, c. 4, p. 244.   92  DHFI, 12, p.13. 93 LHF, c. 45, pp. 317–18. 89


Countermyths under Chlodio were stationed just east of the Rhine, the king sent exploratores across the river to the city of Cambrai. The passage would have reminded any early medieval churchgoer of the story of Joshua, who sends exploratores across the Jordan to scout out Jericho.94 Chlodio’s exploratores are already present in the Histories and the Fredegar Chronicle, and within the same short sentence – phrased nearly identically in both texts, Chlodio is right behind them: Chlogio autem, missis exploratoribus ad urbem Camaracum, perlustrata omnia, ipse secutus, Romanus proteret, civitatem adpraehendit, in qua paucum tempus resedens, usque Sumenam fluvium occupavit.95

As I have already briefly discussed in connection with the Liber’s western perspective, the text stages the crossing of the Rhine in much more detail: Chlodio autem rex misit exploratores de Disbargo castello Toringorum usque ad urbem Camaracum. Ipse postea cum grande exercitu Renum transit, multo Romanorum populo occidit atque fugavit. Carbonaria silva ingressus, Turnacinsem urbem obtenuit. Exinde usque Camaracum civitatem veniens, illicque resedit pauco temporis spacio; Romanos quos ibi invenit, interficit. Exinde usque Sumnam fluvium occupavit.96

Given the biblical background that the Rhine crossing evokes, the ‘barbarian’ actions of the Franci against Romani look more biblical than barbarian. Just as the Franks attacked all the Romans they found in Cambrai, Joshua’s Israelites did the same against the Canaanites of Jericho:  et interfecerunt omnia quae erant in ea.97 It seems that the Liber’s conspicuous martial rhetoric was impacted less by the mentality of a Germanic or barbarian ‘warrior society’ and more by Old Testament language and history. How very different the Liber’s updated history was from Gregory’s and Fredegar’s is also evident as the narrative continues. In all three texts, the next sentence mentions Merovech as the successor to Chlodio. But the biblical associations that Gregory and the Fredegar Chronicle had conjured through the exploratores were quickly contrasted in the following sentence with the Franks’ paganism. Sed haec generatio fanaticis semper cultibus visa est obsequium praebuisse, so Gregory opened his long chapter on the heatheness of the Franks – peppered with quotations from the Old

 Joshua 2:1. Cf. DLH II , 9, p. 58, with CF III , 9, p. 95: Chlodeo, missis exploratoribus ad urbem Camaracum, perlustrans omnia, ipse sequitur, Romanus proterit, civitatem capit, usque Suminam fluvium occupavit. 96 LHF, c. 5, p. 246.   97 Joshua 6:21. 94 95


Sicut ceterae gentes Testament.98 The shift in the Fredegar Chronicle likewise begins with a sentence inspired by Gregory – haec generacio fanaticis usibus culta est – which opens the story about the double origins of the heros eponymus of the Merovingian family.99 The Liber, however, underlines in a sentence about Merovech’s succession that the namesake of the Merovingians was surely from Chlodio’s line, de genere eius [sc. Clodionis].100 It then proceeds to tell the history of the Huns’ attack on Gaul, which Aetius – and actually much more the prayer of St Anianus of Orleans  – was able to fend off. The next chapter begins with an overview of the following three generations of Merovingian kings: Merovech’s son was Childeric, who in turn was the father of the rex inclytus atque fortissimus Clovis. The Liber then tells a story about Childeric’s luxuria. The first thing it mentions in this context is the Franks’ paganism: Erant enim tunc Franci pagani atque fanatici.101 Then follows the account of the Franks’ expulsion of Childeric.With this new resituating, the author of the Liber tried to tone down the antithesis between the paganism of the Franks and the biblical associations that he had so clearly promoted in his version of the Rhine crossing and the capture of Cambrai. The stories well illustrate how the Liber’s author intertwined Frankish and biblical history through images, motifs and quotations, and this appears in the text again and again. Not least, it surfaces prominently in the epic stories about Frankish history. Just as Joshua set out with his army at night  – de nocte consurgens  – Fredegund and Chlothar did the same in their heroic slaughter: in these passages the author of the Liber decided to employ the Old Testament’s wording exactly.102 This was not just a superficial appropriation of biblical language in the presentation of stories from a warrior-discourse. In particular, the story about Chlothar which built on themes that are also transmitted in the song of Faro – a carmen publicum iuxta rusticitatem – represents a real synthesis of different narrative traditions and their ideals into a new code.103 In blending the language of the Old Testament into the history and present of the Merovingian kingdoms, the author took up a trend that DLH II , 10, pp. 58–60; see above, pp. 55 and 73. CF III , 9, p. 95; see above, p. 170. 100 LHF, c. 5, p. 246.   101  LHF, c. 6, pp. 245–6. 102 Fredegund suggests her plan to the Franks: De nocte consurgamus (LHF, c. 36, p. 305, line 4); the plan is put into practice: illa, sicut consilium dederat, de nocte consurgens (LHF, c. 36, p. 305, line 17); Chlothar, when he hears about Dagobert’s difficulties against the Saxons: cum strepitu tubarum de nocte consurgens, cum exercitu suo Renum transiit (LHF, c. 41, p. 312, lines 13–14.) 103 See Haubrichs, ‘Emotionen’, who also discusses the use of some elements of the story on Chlothar’s Saxon campaign in the Old Saxon biblical epos Heliand (pp. 74–81). 98



Countermyths had already begun centuries ago. As Peter Brown shows in his ‘Wealth, the fall of Rome and the making of Christianity in the West’, Old Testament motifs and models that had become popular through exegesis and preaching from the fourth century onwards played an increasingly important role for the reconfiguration of the social and political structures of the Roman Empire in the post-Roman kingdoms.104 Of course, modern research on Merovingian history has not overlooked the heightened reception of Old Testament ideas and models. But it has been mostly investigated in conjunction with the biblical stylisation of Merovingian kingship.105 Brown’s recent studies place the reception of Old Testament models in the wider context of ‘changes in the social imagination’ towards the ‘end of ancient Christianity’ which fundamentally transformed conceptualisations of social distinctions, relations and order in the post-Roman world: As the ‘honeycomb of carefully graded social statuses’ gradually collapsed, a binary model of powerful facing the powerless gained profile in post-Roman sociological reflections; a binary model that was strongly influenced by Old Testament traditions, through which the relations of social groups were conceptualised in a totally different way than they had been in late Roman times.106

The fundamental changes in the social imagination that Peter Brown explores in his recent studies can of course only be alluded to here.107 In connection with my own study, two aspects are especially important. First, Brown’s findings help us understand that the Liber’s reception of the Old Testament must be seen as part of a longer process. Old Testament models had been conjured up by centuries of Christian preaching, from the late Roman world through the post-Roman Merovingian world. To be sure, there is a new and intensified energy with which these models were put into political practice in the Merovingian kingdoms between the time of Clovis and the Liber. Yet, we have to be aware that the Merovingian world built on experiments in social and religious syntheses that had already started in the late ancient world. This continuity is documented not least in the Lex Salica, to which the Liber refers so prominently at the beginning of its history. The code’s origin in a provincial-Roman-Frankish-military milieu has been well researched.108 Less discussed, however, are its traces of Old Testament ideas, P. Brown, ‘From amator patriae’. 105 Hen, ‘Uses of the Bible’; Hen, ‘Christianisation of kingship’; Anton, ‘Königsvorstellungen’; LeJan, ‘Timor’. 106 P. Brown, ‘From amator patriae’, p. 104. 107 See also: P. Brown, Ransom of the soul. 108 See above, pp. 103–4. 104


Sicut ceterae gentes even in the oldest redactions and provisions in the Lex, which Hermann Nehlsen had already observed forty years ago.109 In later redactions and supplements and more obviously in other legislative contexts, these Old Testament images were powerfully amplified.110 Ongoing reflections and debates on the relationship of old and new law were not only important for the legitimation of legal gesta. As Isidore of Seville observed in his widely read and influential Etymologies, Moses was not just the first lawgiver; he was also the first historian.111 The articulation of social and political ideals and models in the Liber should therefore be understood as a result of this process, too. Second, and possibly even more importantly for our context, Brown’s study demonstrates that the modelling of social roles and functions on the basis of experiences and experiments with biblical models had wide-ranging consequences for the configuration of the whole of Christian society, and not only for the elevated few. As I  mentioned briefly, studies have mainly focused on the biblical stylisation of kingship in the Merovingian kingdoms. To be sure, this has been an important response to the absurdly romantic ideas that Merovingian sacral kingship was rooted in ancient Germanic tradition.112 Brown’s recent studies, however, help us to redirect our attention from the royal instrumentalisation of biblical motifs and models to changes in social imagination of the complex web of horizontal and vertical solidarities to which these instrumentalisations were connected.These changes not only affected the strategies of legitimation of a post-Roman king; they also had important consequences for strategies of identification. This is particularly evident in reflections about the social responsibilities of different roles and groups, as well as the responsibilities to different roles and groups. In the Liber, the objectification of the populus as a focal point of political and religious responsibility, but also as bearers of this responsibility, played a great role – with important consequences for the conception of Frankish identity that the text developed and inspired.

109 See Nehlsen, ‘Der Einfluss’, pp. 203–18; for the Pactus legis Salicae as a late Roman syntheses see above, pp. 103–4. with nn. 41–2. 110 For the Carolingian reworking see in particular Garrison, ‘The Franks’; and Ubl, Die Lex Salica. 111 Isidore, Etymologiae I , 42, 1 and V , 1, 1. 112 Hen, ‘Christianisation of kingship’; I.  Wood, ‘Deconstructing the Merovingian family’; Diesenberger and Reimitz, ‘Zwischen Vergangenheit und Zukunft’; Becher, ‘Dynastie, Thronfolge und Staatsverständnis’; Murray, ‘Post vocantur Merohingii’; see also the excellent critical study by Picard, Germanisches Sakralkönigtum?.


Countermyths 8.4  RECO RDARE PRAETERITA ET COGITA FU TU RA :  b i bl i cal advi c e and s ocial orde r f rom th e seve nth to th e e ighth ce ntury The intense use of Old Testament imagery in the Liber is actually a late witness to this trend. It is already well documented in hagiographical and liturgical sources decades earlier.113 There is also an interesting example of a letter that was written more than two generations before the Liber. The now-unknown author wrote this letter to a Merovingian king, who was most likely Clovis II (639–57).114 According to Hans-Hubert Anton, the letter represents a milestone in the admonitory literature of the Merovingian period. Although it does include aspects of the style and content of earlier letters of bishops to the kings, such as Remigius’ letters to Clovis or that of Bishop Aurelianus to Theudebert I,115 there are also some interesting differences that reflect the intensified use of Old Testament themes. Right at the beginning of the letter, the author explicitly draws attention to the important role of Old Testament history and the models of the famous biblical kings: ‘It is proper for you, most pious king, frequently to examine the holy scriptures with care, so that you will be able to learn from the motives of the ancient kings.’116 Should the king follow his models, he would not only strengthen and protect his kingly power; he would also receive eternal life. David and Solomon are then named as special examples: David had not only conquered all of his enemies – semper vincit – but had also begun to build the temple. His son Solomon then completed it. A direct quotation from the Book of Kings underscores yet again the construction of the temple as the fulfilment of divine mandate.117 Both kings are also represented as models in their relationship to their prophets. From this the king might also deduce that he should listen carefully to his sacerdotes and consiliarii seniores, with whom he ruled in the palace. A vernacular proverb supports this: ‘He who consults with 113 Meens, ‘The uses’; I. Wood, ‘Incest’; see the survey by Kottje, Studien. Liturgy: Hen, The royal patronage, pp. 33–41; Hen, ‘Uses of the Bible’; Hen and Meens, Bobbio missal; McCormick, Eternal victory, pp. 342–62; Riché, ‘L’enseignment’, pp. 231–53. Hagiography: van Uytfanghe, Stylisation biblique; van Uytfanghe, ‘Modèles bibliques’. 114 Anton, ‘Königsvorstellungen’, pp. 320–4; but see also the comments on the letter by Hen, ‘Uses of the Bible’, pp. 284–5. 115 See above, pp. 96, 99, 101. 116 Oportet siquidem te, piissime rex, frequenter sacras recensere scripturas, ut in eis antiquorum et Deo placentium regum valeas cognosere causas, qualiter ipsi per humilitatis custodiam Domino placuerunt; quorum vestigia si secutus fueris, honorum longevum regni praesentis et insuper vitam obtinebis aeternam (Epistolae aevi Merowingici collectae, 15, p. 457). 117 3 Reg 8, 19.


Sicut ceterae gentes many does not err alone.’118 Like Remigius of Reims in his letter to Clovis about a century and a half earlier, the author of this letter also speaks of the king’s still-young age, and he admonishes him to listen not to his young followers but to the advisers of a more mature age:  quia per iuvenum consilia saepa casus evenit, et in senioribus eloquii stabilis dignitas perdurat.119 There were still other temptations of the court that called for a warning: excessive consumption of alcohol, and fatui and stulti sermones. Under no circumstances should the king listen to ioculares. When the king exchanged bonae fabulae with his sapientes or ministeriales, then the ioculares might stay silent. Only there, where true wisdom could be found, would God also reside.120 The semantics of fabula in these passages leans more towards its meaning as ‘talk’ than in the Fredegar Chronicle, where it refers to stories with a specific moral or lesson.121 But even there it was also clearly connected to the idea of good advice. Furthermore, the place of the remark in the letter suggests that its author tied it to history and its lessons, in particular what the predecessors of Clovis II had drawn from their examinations of biblical histories: the material that immediately follows the question of fabulae is concerned with the deeds and history of the king’s ancestors. (It is above all this passage that points to Clovis II as the addressee of the letter.122) The young ruler’s genealogical ranking concentrates – like the historical representation in the Liber – on his forebears in the western kingdom. In the generation after the kingdom’s founder, Clovis I, the letter especially highlights Childebert, who ruled in Paris.123 Because of his sapientia, patientia and his generosity, his memory is upheld and and he is prayed for, up to the present day. But the progenitor of the present king’s lineage and Childebert’s brother, Chlothar I, is also singled out: fortis fuit in eloquio, adquisitor patriae, nutritor fidelium.124 It was the addressee’s grandfather, Chlothar II, who received special emphasis. His benignitas secundum Deum was so immense, he was not only righteous in everything he did, but he also resembled a sacerdos. This 118 … quia vulgari sermone ita dicitur:  ‘Qui cum pluribus consiliatur, solus non peccat’ (Epistolae aevi Merowingici collectae, 15, p. 458). 119 Epistolae aevi Merowingici collectae, 15, p. 458. 120 Et quando tu cum sapientibus locutus fueris aut cum tuis ministerialibus bonas fabulas habueris, ioculares taceant; quia plus te oportet recondere sapientiam in cubilo cordis tui, quam fatuos et stultos sermones loquentes audire, quia, ubi sapientia vera habitat, Deus ibidem mansionem facit (Epistolae aevi Merowingici collectae, 15, p. 458). 121 Cf. above, pp. 203–10. 122 Anton, ‘Königsvorstellungen’, pp. 320–4. 123 In Hildeberto quidem tanta sapientia et pacientia fuit, ut non solum seniores, sed etiam et iuniores paterno affectu diligeret (Epistolae aevi Merowingici collectae, 15, pp. 458–9). 124 Hlotharius autem senior, habens quinque filios, ex cuius stirpe tu procedis, fortis fuit in eloquio, adquisitor patriae, nutritor fidelium (Epistolae aevi Merowingici collectae, 15, p. 459).


Countermyths appreciation for Chlothar ends with a short sentence, in which the letter connects the rex Francorum (as the letter calls him) directly to biblical exemplars and their deeds: Ille rexit Francos, aedificavit ecclesias.125 Even though the letter was written a considerable time before the Liber, the noticeable parallels between both texts can help us understand the cultural milieu of the Liber’s historical narrative. As Richard Gerberding has already analysed in detail, the discussion about good and bad advice and about the king acting in concert with his consiliarii also plays an important role in the Liber.126 The author develops this idea through additions to Gregory’s text, beginning as early as the origo. This includes its account of the consilium by which the Franks chose their first king,127 in addition to its quotation from the short prologue to the Lex Salica. As we have seen, it is this shorter prologue of the oldest redaction that presents the lex as decreed not by the king, but as the result of legislative consensus inter Francos et eorum proceres.128 Especially important in comparing these two texts, of course, is that both recommend mining history as a guide to future courses of action. The letter to Clovis II ends by taking up this reminder one more time: Recordare praeterita, et cogita futura – remember the past, and think of the future. This meant not only recourse to biblical historia but also its successful application in the history of the Merovingian kingdom. The author also may have been thinking of bonae fabulae, which sapientes and ministeriales were supposed to discuss in counselling their king, as another such form of historical interpretation. Alternatively in the Liber, one could learn from history itself, rather than from the enigmatic fabulae that rulers and their clever advisers had to decode in the Fredegar Chronicle. After Ebroin, a deposed maior domus, escaped the custody of the monastery of Luxeuil in order to win back his old position, he asked Bishop Audoin for advice. The bishop of Rouen then told him, ‘The memory of Fredegund will come to your aid.’ Ebroin had learned the complex lessons of history. De nocte consurgens … at night he set off on a campaign across the Oise and killed all the foes he found.129 The Liber and the letter to Clovis II also exhibit parallels in their orientation to the history of biblical kings, for the Liber too casts the king as a builder of churches. In the Liber, unlike in Gregory’s Histories or in the Fredegar Chronicle, Clovis makes Paris his seat already before his war 125 Epistolae aevi Merowingici collectae, 15, p. 459, line 8. 126 Gerberding, Liber, pp. 74–5; for parallels in hagiographical literature: Kreiner, Social life, pp. 175–88. 127 Sunno autem defuncto, acciperunt consilium, ut regem sibi unum constituerent, sicut ceterae gentes (LHF c. 4, p. 244; see above, p. 244.). 128 See above, pp. 103–4.   129  LHF, c. 45, pp. 318–19.


Sicut ceterae gentes against the Visigoths.130 There he turned to his populus and proposed a war against the Goths. It pained him, the king said, that the Gothi Arriani still ruled such a large part of Gaul. The consilium pleased the proceres Francorum. But Clovis’ wife, Chlothild, also made a suggestion. In order to obtain the help of God and his saints in this war, the king might consider having a church built in Paris, in honour of the apostles. Clovis agreed, and he determined a place for the church by throwing his axe – bipennis, quod est francisca. Soon afterwards, he marched out with the populus Francorum against the Goths: Commovit autem rex cunctum exercitum suum, populo Francorum Pectavis dirigit.131 This story was gladly taken to illustrate the mentality of a warrior society and its appropration of Christian traditions, which the Liber was seen to represent in general.132 But such an argumentation misrepresents the actual emphasis of the narrative, often because it is only the additions to Gregory’s narrative that are discussed, and not the broader representation that for the most part follows Gregory’s lead. For the march to Poitiers, the author of the Liber quotes the Histories nearly verbatim; the populus Francorum is the only obvious insertion. This is followed by long word-for-word passages on the campaign against the Goths. Clovis sent messengers laden with gifts to Tours, including (according to the Liber) his favourite horse. They were given the task of trying to learn something about the outcome of the war from the holy scriptures. (Ite et forsitan aliquid victoriae et sancto sermone accipiatis ab scripturis sanctis.) And the messengers did, in fact, hear the primicerius chant an extremely promising psalm.133 ‘You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes’ (Psalms 18:39–40). This was followed by a good omen at the Vienne river – a flash of fire, emanating from the church of Hilary of Poitiers and signalling the saint’s support. Clovis then impressed upon his army not to take any provisions from the area, let alone plunder it.134 After this somewhat lengthy story in Gregory, the actual military confrontation itself is related only very briefly, in a mere three sentences, which for the author of the Liber was also a sufficient summary of the glorious campaign.135 The entire excerpt from Gregory displays an interest in the building of churches and gifts to them as well as their privileged freedom from levies of taxations. Elsewhere, the Liber expands upon Gregory’s remarks on the 130 Cf. LHF, c. 17, p. 267, with CF III , 24, p. 103, and DLH II , 38, p. 89. 131 LHF, c. 17, pp. 267–8. 132 Gerberding, Rise of the Carolingians, pp. 160–1. 133 LHF, c. 17, p. 268.   134  LHF, c. 17, pp. 268–7. 135 LHF, c. 17, pp. 269, lines 18–25.


Countermyths endowment of churches or the burial of rulers and saints, locating them more precisely. To be sure, in some cases the author’s interest reflects the construction of ecclesiastical infrastructure that was characteristic of his western Francia.136 Other examples of the building and endowment of churches and monasteries also survey the rest of Gaul,137 which have the effect of stressing the responsibility of the potentes – above all, kings – for ecclesiastical construction and for Christian religious practice.138 Clearly the author of the Liber was drawing upon Gregory here, while amplifying this point through his choice of stories. Even small additions made a difference, such as the remark appended to Gregory’s report that when Chlothar I was near his death, he journeyed to Tours cum multis muneribus, to confess his sins and to seek forgiveness. For the author of the Liber, the comment on the multa munera offered to the sanctuary of Tours was evidently inadequate, and he supplemented Chlothar’s gifts.139 The Liber’s specific selections from Gregory’s Histories concentrate on the responsibility of the potentes to provide the means for the cultus religionis.140 Whereas the Histories narrate the deeds of saints and pagans, kings and bishops mixteque confuse,141 the Liber (as I mentioned) removed nearly all accounts about members of the clergy, which is often taken as proof of the text’s secular character. Here it seems, however, less an example of a secularisation of historical narrative, and more a case of a clearer split between clergy and laity than Gregory was able or willing to represent. Because the author of the Liber focused on the history of the laity, he could place particular emphasis on the social responsibility of the members of the lay community. For him, this included not least the responsibility for the infrastructure of the cultus, which guaranteeed the stability and future of the regnum.142 With his specific recourse to Old Testament imagery, a process emerges more vividly in the Liber than in the Fredegar Chronicle, which Peter Brown has described as ‘the othering of the clergy’. Only a clergy that made itself markedly distinct from the laity could be efficient and successful in its duty to mediate between God and men.143 Peter Brown has also shown how strongly the ‘othering of the clergy’ 136 See Gerberding, Liber, p. 40. 137 See LHF, c. 23, p. 279; c. 28, p. 287; c. 29, p. 288. 138 See above, pp. 263, 264, 266–7. 139 Cf. LHF, c. 29, p. 288, with DLH IV , 21, p. 154. 140 For the term cultus religionis in the Merovingian period, see Kreiner, Social life, pp. 114–25 141 See DLH II , praef., p. 36. 142 See Kreiner, Social life, pp. 140–88. 143 P. Brown, ‘From amator patriae’, pp. 105–7.


Sicut ceterae gentes was supported by the interests of the lay community, which invested a lot of cultural and economic resources in divine mediation and intercession. The sharper delineation of the clergy also posed anew the question of identity of the reliquus populus. The various historiographical projects that were written in competition with Gregory, not least the Liber, must be understood against this background. In this respect, it seems less important for our understanding of the text to ascertain whether the author was a member of the laity or the clergy, since he was doing the work of a broker. He built on the desire for delineation between laity and clergy by integrating it, between the biblical past and a Frankish present, into a division of social responsibility for a common future. The Liber’s social blueprint for this new partitioning of responsibility did not just differ from Gregory’s vision: the respective focus on social responsibility was the essential difference. In the Liber, it was the populus Francorum who – following the example of the Old Testament – moved to the centre of this responsibility. 8.5   NUTRI NUN C RELIQUIAS FRAN CORUM :   g ove rnm e ntal ity and th e P O P ULUS in the seve nth and e i g h th c e nturi e s This shared responsibility for the populus Francorum appears in the letter to Clovis II, with a few pertinent parallels with the Liber.144 In the paragraph where the author asks the king to prepare for the tasks of the future by studying the past, he concludes with the sentence: Nutri nunc reliquias Francorum, hoc est filios eorum, paterno potius affectu quam crudeli imperio.145 The Liber uses a very similar phrase. It portrays Dagobert I, on the occasion of his accession to the monarchia in totis tribus regnis, as an ideal ruler. Among his merits as a ruler, he was a nutritor Francorum.146 According to the Liber, Dagobert was the first to order a distribution from the fiscus to the churches. As pacificus Solomon ruled Israel, so he, Dagobert, ruled the regnum Francorum.147 For Dagobert especially, the Liber underscored his concern for the populus. In the battle against the Saxons (as we have seen), the king had narrowly escaped death when a sword-swipe missed and merely cut off a few hairs of his head. Not until he realised the peril his people faced did he send to his father for help.148 The Liber also articulated this responsibility Cf. for the hagiographical discourse Kreiner, Social life, pp. 125–39 and 140–88. 145 Epistolae aevi Merowingici collectae, 15, p. 460. 146 Fuitque ipse Dagobertus rex fortissimus, enutritor Francorum, severissimus in iudiciis, ecclesiarum largitor (LHF, c. 42, p. 314). 147 Ipse pacificus, velut Salomon, quietus regnum obtenuit Francorum (LHF, c. 42, p. 314). 148 LHF, c. 41, pp. 311–12. 144


Countermyths and concern for the populus before Dagobert enters the picture. It plays an important role in Clovis’ decision to convert to Christianity. In his report on the battle against the Alamans, Gregory had consistently used the term exercitus for Clovis’ army. In its rewriting, the Liber attached Franci to it – Factum est autem pugnantibus inter se Francorum et Alamannorum exercitu. It was concern for the populus that motivated Clovis’ adviser Aurelian to remind Clovis about the god of his wife.149 When Clovis wanted to honour his promise after his victory, he was worried about the populus: the people who followed him might refuse to abandon their gods. The Liber borrowed Gregory’s wording here: populus qui me sequitur. Clovis’ anxiety, in both the Histories and the Liber, turned out to be unfounded. The populus had long been ready to convert. In both texts, it shouts out almost exactly the same thing: ‘We abandon the mortal gods, O glorious king, and are prepared to follow the immortal God, about whom Remigius preaches.’150 In the Liber, however, it is now the entire people of the Franks – omnis populus Francorum – who respond to their king’s confession una voce. Granted, the Liber (like Gregory) then reports the baptism of only 3,000 de exercitu eius. After the king’s sister is baptised, the author of the Liber adds to the Gregory’s account that the entire population of the Franks – cunctus populus Francorum – followed suit.151 The compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle also inserted the Franks at this spot in the text, and they doubled the number of baptised Franks.152 But that should not be taken to allude to an underlying cunctus populus.153 The collective baptism of the populus Francorum is not just a quantitative difference but also a qualitative one. In the Liber, in contrast with the Fredegar Chronicle, the constitution of the Franci as populus is linked to an alternative conceptualisation of the larger social whole, which places the Franks in relation to other social groupings. This is also evident in both texts’ different applications of the terms gens and populus. As we have seen, the ordering of the world into gentes played an important role in the Fredegar Chronicle from the very beginning. Already the Liber generationis, which begins the chain of chronicles, introduced this ordering with its long list of prophets, rulers and gentes. From the divisio terrae among Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, it leads to a declaratio gentium, quae ex quibus factae sint.154 In the enumeration of the … ut populus Chlodoveo nimis caderet. Aurilianus haec videns ait ad regem (LHF, c. 15, p. 261). 150 Mortales deos relinquimus, gloriose rex, et Deum verum, immortalem, quem Remegius predicat, credere parati sumus (LHF, c. 15, p. 263; cf. DLH II , 31, pp. 76–7). 151 LHF, c. 15, p. 262.   152  See above, pp. 46–7. 153 For the numbers, see above, p. 171, with n. 27. 154 See CF I , praef., p. 19; I , 1, pp. 25–6. 149


Sicut ceterae gentes seventy-two gentes and linguae that were scattered across the world after the construction of the tower of Babel, the Fredegar Chronicle’s version includes Trojans, Macedonians, Frigians and Romans.155 They appear in a comprehensive list of gentes who are treated as Japheth’s progeny. Another detailed list follows that one, which traces the terrae of these gentes from Amazonia to the British Isles.156 As I discussed in some detail in the previous chapter, the chronicle built up this division of the world into gentes to the very end. We were able to track this in the reworking of the Jerome Chronicle, Gregory’s Histories and up to the abrupt ending of the text with the conflict between Flaochad and Willebad: the concept of the gens/gentes thus remains an important ordering principle from beginning to end. The chroniclers even explicitly mention their goal to represent history as an ordo singularium gentium.157 The chronicle used the term populus for completely different purposes. In the first part of the text, the Liber generationis, it explicitly designates the people of God of the Old Testament, usually without further denomination.158 This was not a usage that the chronicle kept up in its other sections.159 From the beginning of the Jerome excerpt onwards, not once does the populus seem to indicate a gens in the Fredegarian sense.160 It is mostly used in the sense of ‘population’, to refer to a populace of a region or city, or to the inhabitants of a city.161 In several cases, the populus is stressed as part of a larger collective. Thus Gundobad and his populus relied on the exercitus of Burgundians to fight Clovis.162 When Sigibert III set off to battle the Thuringians, he also had to fight the Agilulfing Fara, who was allied to the Thuringians. The portion of Fara’s populus that was not killed in battle was imprisoned by Sigibert.163 In many other cases, populus is resolutely unspecific. In their rewriting of Gregory’s preface it appears in the remark that there was nobody to be found among the people – in populis – capable of putting current events on parchment.164

155 See CF I , 4–5, pp. 20–1.   156 Fredegar, Chronicae I , 5, pp. 21–2. 157 Cf. above p. 237, n. 300. 158 See CF I , praef., p. 19, line 1; p. 201, line 1; I , 13–14, pp. 26–7; I , 15, p. 28, line 24; I , 15, p. 28, line 29; I , 24, p. 32, line 5. 159 Only one passage in the Jerome excerpts calls the people who were brought to Assyria pars populi Iudaeorum (CF II , 16, p. 50). 160 The only exception might be the Macedonians in the narrative on the Frankish origins.The part of the Trojans who went into Macedonia are said to have received the name from the populus. 161 Regions: CF III , 12 and 13, p. 98, lines 4 and 8; III , 87, p. 117, line 8; IV , 71, p. 157, line 1. Cities: CF II , 35, p. 58, line 29; II , 43, p. 67, line 10; II , 60, p. 84, line 6; IV , 45, p. 143, line 13. 162 CF III , 22–3, p. 102.   163  CF IV , 87, p. 164, line 29. 164 DLH praef., p. 1; CF III , praef., p. 89, line 5: nec repperiretur in populis, qui gesta praesentia promulgare possit in paginis.


Countermyths A  shorter sentence mentions Chilperic’s discriptiones gravissimae, which oppressed the populus regni sui.165 The concept of a populus that takes effective measures against these taxes (as in the Liber), however, is far removed from the chronicle’s use of the term. In the Liber’s version of the story, the populus in its need asks God for help, then Chilperic and then both his sons fall ill.166 The agency of the populus here is based on a completely different use of the term gens and populus from the one in the Fredegar Chronicle. In the Liber, both terms can be translated as ‘people(s)’, although populus takes on the central function of organising the Franci’s relationships into a larger social whole.167 At the same time, gens falls back more distinctly on the Old Testament stress on gens and gentiles.168 Only before their conversion to Christianity are the Franci described as gens in the Liber, and even then, only four times in the first fifteen chapters.169 Following the example of the Israelites, the emerging populus Francorum does elect kings sicut ceterae gentes.170 In addition, the Liber from the beginning uses populus to refer to the Franci, even when the Franks still belonged to the populus Troianorum. It was a matter of being a chosen people, which the author had already implied earlier when mentioning that the reliquus exercitus Troianorum, which had gone off to the Meotides Paludes, was 12,000 men strong.171 The very sentence after the Franks receive their name from Emperor Valentinian, they enter history as the populus Francorum.172 After the text’s dramatic representation of the populus’ decision to convert to Christianity, the Franci are never again described as a gens. At the same time, the use of gens to describe people who did not profess the true teaching increased. In the battle against the Goths, Clovis had already proposed driving the Gothi Arriani out of Gaul. A little later, Clovis and the populus Francorum set off, and the king asked St Martin for his support against the incredula gens.173 The term increasingly accommodated the implications of paganism – gentilitas – as well. This becomes clear, for example, in the story where Chlothar II (cum strepitu tubarum de nocte consurgens) marches like Joshua to the east and over the Rhine to help his son Dagobert against the gens of the 165 CF III , 80, p. 115, line 5.   166  See above, p. 249. 167 See for the use of populus for nation or people in LHF, c, 2, p. 242 (populus Romanorum); c. 4, p. 244 (strages magna de uterque populo); c. 1, p. 253 (Thuringians); c. 12, p. 256 (Burgundians). 168 See Pohl, ‘Alienigena coniugia’. 169 LHF, c. 1, p. 242, line 9; c. 7, p. 248, line 30; c. 13, p. 259, line 16. 170 See above, p. 259. 171 See LHF, c. 1, p. 241; the numbers 12 and 12,000 appear again and again in the Bible, not least as the number of one tribe of the twelve tribes in Revelation 7:3–8. 172 LHF, c. 3, p. 243.   173  LHF, c. 17, pp. 268–9.


Sicut ceterae gentes Saxons.174 We have seen that the dux Saxonum could not believe that the king himself had come to aid his son. But after Chlothar revealed himself, Bertoald quickly composed himself.To combat Chlothar’s psychological effect on the morale of the Frankish populus, who had hailed Chlothar’s arrival, he began openly insulting the king. Chlothar did not let that slide. He set off on his fastest horse across the river, pursued Bertoald and began to fight him. Psychological warfare was clearly Bertoald’s specialty. During the duel, he pointed out to Chlothar the great risk that the king was running. If Chlothar killed Bertoald, he said, everyone – omnes homines – would merely say that the king had killed one of his servi, the dux gentilis Berthoald. ‘But if I kill you, there will be a great rumour among all the peoples [gentes] that the most powerful king of the Franks [fortissimus rex Francorum] was killed by one of his servants.’ Chlothar took that risk and succeded in his fight against the dux gentilis. The heroic episodes about Chlothar and Dagobert’s war against the Saxons can be read as a thick description of some of the most important aspects of the objectification of the Franci as a populus in the Liber. We have already discussed how the western perspective of the Liber was reflected in the story: only with the help of the western Franks could the battle against the gentes across the Rhine end successfully. We have also already discussed the synthesis of the epic elements of the story – including another version that was also told as a carmen publicum iuxta rusticitatem – with the narrative of the Old Testament. Inspiration from the Old Testament’s social models was another important element of the story, namely the care for the people. Dagobert’s concern for the populus was ultimately the cause for Chlothar’s trip east and for the unification of the Franci, whom the populus clamorously celebrated. In the presence of Chlothar, this populus was set against the gentiles and gentes. In the Liber, the populus also nearly always appears as a collective. An individual de genere Francorum rarely appears in the text, and when one does, he is placed in relation to the collective. There is one Francus levis who stands apart from the Franci qui bono animo fuerunt. In the Liber’s version of a well-known story in Gregory’s Histories, Clovis had asked the Franks to reserve a vase, an urceum pulchrum mirae magnitudinis, for him from the spoils of war. Only the Francus levis was unwilling to grant Clovis his wish, and he destroyed the vase with his axe. The following year, Clovis took his revenge on him. After commenting at the military inspection at the Marchfield that this Frank had not kept his armour in

  LHF, c. 41, pp. 311–12, see above, p. 251.



Countermyths order, he struck him dead in front of the whole army. In doing so, he won great respect from the populus Francorum.175 In the very next sentence, Clovis and this populus Francorum conquer the Thuringians, one of the neighbouring peoples east of the Rhine. More than hundred years later, Chlothar II had to go through the region of the Thuringians in order to do battle against the Saxons, who lived even further to the east. Between both wars, the Liber’s narrative does not describe a constantly growing and unfolding populus Francorum. On the contrary, in the generation just after Clovis, the term populus narrowed and became more concrete. Although the narrative elaborated the Franks’ constitution in Clovis’ time as a biblical populus, and although the expression populus Francorum becomes increasingly salient,176 the text hardly uses the name of the Franks after a certain point: it occurs only four times between ­chapters 24 and 35.177 With the birth of Chlothar II, however, it makes a major comeback. An important ‘canalling’ of the name of the Franks takes place between the history of the two rulers. From one to the other, the Franci of the western regnum became the true successors of the populus Francorum. It is the Franci that Chilperic rules in Soissons and who elevate his son Chlothar as king after Chilperic’s death.178 It is these western Franci with whom Fredegund so heroically defended the regnum of her son.179 It was these Franci on whom Chlothar II could rely when he established his rule over all three regna.180 At the same time, these Franci were now the ones who slipped into the role of the chosen people, and the Liber no longer employed the phrase populus Francorum. Whereas Clovis concerned himself with the well-being of his populus (Francorum), Chlothar’s son Dagobert is lauded as nutritor Francorum.181 The Franci had not only slipped into the role of the populus, the object of concern and love. As a collective, they likewise took up its role in political participation. The ground for this had been laid early in the history of the populus Francorum: Clovis conferred with his populus before the battle against the Visigoths, and the consilium

LHF, c. 10, pp. 252–3; the only two further occurences of individual Franks are: c. 23, p. 279, line 10 and c. 45, p. 318, line 10. 176 For example, LHF, c. 7, pp. 248–9; c. 9, p. 251; c. 10, p. 253; c. 15, p. 263; c. 20, p. 276; c. 22, p. 277. 177 LHF, pp. 279–304.The term is strikingly absent in the campaigns against the Goths and Lombards in ch. 26; c. 27, p. 285: superiores Franci in Auster; 27, p. 286: exercitus Francorum; c. 29, p. 286: Franci utiliores; c. 32, p. 295: Franci, qui quondam ad Childebertum seniorem aspexerant. 178 LHF, c. 35, p. 304. 179 LHF, c. 36, pp. 304–6; for the story, see above, p. 250. 180 LHF, c. 40, pp. 310–11 181 See above, p. 269. 175


Sicut ceterae gentes pleased the proceres Francorum. The Franks had also listened to the advice of one of their princes even earlier, when they decided to elect kings – acciperunt consilium, ut regem sibi unum constituerent, sicut ceterae gentes. Their princeps Marchomir had advised them to do this, but it was the Franks who chose Faramund.182 To this story, the narrative adjoins the elevation of Chlothar II: Franci quoque predicto Chlothario rege parvolo super se in regnum statuerunt.183 When Grimoald, the Austrasian mayor of the palace, made Childebert (the adopted) king in Austrasia, it was the Franci who angrily imprisoned Grimoald and brought him to the king in Paris for sentencing. It was not for Grimoald to choose a king. That was the role of the Franci, who chose from the sons of Clovis II to make Chlothar III king: regem sibi statuunt.184 When he died and they chose his brother Theuderic to succeed him, these Franci sent the youngest brother, Childeric, with the dux Wulfoald as his maior domus, to Austrasia, where he acceded to rule.185 The Franci not only played the decisive role in selecting kings but also mayors of the palace. They also appointed King Theuderic’s mayor, Ebroin, to his high rank – Franci … prefinito consilio, Ebroino huius honoris altitudine maiorum domo in aula regis statuunt.186 They could also depose king and maior domus alike. When Theuderic and Ebroin proved to be a bad combination, they were both ousted from their positions, and the younger brother Childeric (II) was brought out of Austrasia and in regno Francorum elevatus est.187 The increasing significance of the Franci in the course of the seventh century not only tapped into the role of the populus Francorum in its early history.The dramaturgy of the Liber also followed an Old Testament story from the Book of Kings, in which the people choose their kings again and again. Already following Solomon’s death, omnis Israel had gathered to install his successor Rehoboam as king – ad constituendum eum regem.188 The Israelites, however, unhappy with the taxes that Rehoboam levied, soon elected Jeroboam as a counter-king – et constituerunt eum regem super omnem Israel.189 The Liber’s borrowings of this phrase from the Latin translation of the Old Testament are obvious.190 Marchomiris quoque eis dedit hoc consilium, et elegerunt Faramundo, ipsius filio, et elevaverunt eum regem super se crinitum (LHF, c. 4, p. 244). 183 LHF, c. 35, p. 304. 184 LHF, cc. 44–5, p. 317, for the coup, cf. above, pp. 194–5. 185 LHF, c. 45, p. 317.   186  LHF, c. 45, p. 317. 187 LHF, c. 45, p. 318.   188  1 Kings 12:1.   189  1 Kings 12:20. 190 Further examples: 2 Kings 17:21: et constituerunt sibi regem Joroboam filium Nabat; referring to the story in 1 Kings 12:20; 2 Kings 14:21: Tulit autem universus populus Judae Azarium annos natum sedecim, et constituerunt eum regem pro patre eius; 2 Kings 21:24: et constituerunt sibi regem Josiam filius eius pro eo; after the populus terrae had killed his father Manasses and his followers. 182


Countermyths Like the biblical people, the Franci could also make mistakes. After Theudebert III and Ebroin proved to be a blunder, Childeric was even more awful. He was unjust and he oppressed the Franks – Francos valde oppremens.191 Unlike the case of Chilperic, when the populus prayed to God for help and were thereby freed from an oppressive tax burden, the situation escalated under Childeric. The king’s disregard for the law of the Franci resulted in a rebellion, in which not only Childeric but also his pregnant wife were killed. The sad end to Childeric’s rule, life and wife were not treated as much of a success for the Franci. As the author of the Liber added, it pained him to report it – quod dici dolor est.192 The choice of Berchar as maior domus also proved to be a mistake, and it led to fierce conflicts with the Austrasians under their maior domus, Pippin II, which culminated in defeat (as the Liber saw it) at Tertry in 687. The Liber’s view of Pippin’s regency was completely positive, and when Childebert III (694–711) took the throne a few years later, the author enthusiastically extolled him, too. But the situation remained tense. After Childebert’s death and the murder of Pippin’s son Grimoald, major unrest broke out again.The respective mayors of the palace, or those who wanted to be, nominated themselves as kings. The Franci installed the monk Daniel to rule, whom they called Chilperic (II, 715–21), but he did not even grow out his hair once he took the position.193 At the end of his text, the author seems to find some grounds for hope: first when Charles Martel finally asserted himself as maior domus amid all these power struggles, and after the death of Chlothar IV (the counter-king that Charles had installed).With Theuderic IV (721–37), the Franci once again selected a king who had grown up in the west: Franci vero Theudericum, Cala monasterio enutritum, filium Dagoberto iunioris, regem super se statuunt, qui nunc anno sexto in regno subsistit.194 And with this statement that the king was in the sixth year of his rule, the Liber’s narrative ends. As Richard Gerberding has convincingly shown, the Liber’s representation of history in the last decades of the seventh century and the first decades of eighth should be understood as a search for a historiographical compromise between the Liber’s western perspective and the new balance of power.195 At least since the battle of Tertry, the Pippinid family had established itself as the most powerful political group in the Merovingian kingdoms. The rise of the family was not even stunted LHF, c. 45, p. 318.   192  LHF, c. 45, p. 318. 193 LHF, c. 52, p. 326. 194 The Franci set up Theuderic, son of the younger Dagobert, who had been brought up in the monastery of Chelles, over them as king, and he is now in the sixth year of his reign (LHF, c. 53, p. 328). 195 Gerberding, Liber, pp. 169–72. 191


Sicut ceterae gentes by conflicts within the family, which erupted after Pippin died in 714 between the future princeps Charles Martel and his stepmother Plectrude. The attempts of other aristocratic networks to take advantage of these conflicts is documented above all in the Liber.196 But it was no longer a question of contestation; when the Liber was written, Charles’ position was unassailable. Instead, the author tried to promote the historical memory of an old order, at a time when the Merovingian kingdoms were being transformed by the new leaders of the east.197 The Liber is not merely a nostalgic lament for the end of a time when the western Franci called the shots. This was only the tip of the iceberg. The real substance of the text was its use of Old Testament models and motifs to conceptualise the social reality of the Merovingian kingdoms, including a role, now, for a conquest-based aristocracy. True, the Liber built upon the experiences and experiments that had been forged in the Christianisation of the Roman Empire.198 Even so, the reception of biblical models intensified in the seventh-century Merovingian kingdoms. The social and political reorganisation of the regnum under Chlothar II seems to have provided an important impulse in this regard. It was Chlothar who was the first Frankish ruler to be equated with David in an official document of the year 626/7.199 With the letter probably written to his grandson, Clovis II, we have an especially interesting document in which the kingship is described for the first time as a ministerium, following the model of the Old Testament.200 Other groups of seventh-century sources also document the intensified reception of the Old Testament and its role in the formation of different social groups’ understanding of themselves and their relationships to each other: legal texts, liturgical prayers and readings and saints’ lives.201 It therefore makes sense to differentiate between the models upon which the author of the Liber drew to develop his own conception of Frankish identity and its application in the 720s.The pointed emphasis on the Franci of the western kingdom belongs to the later context. Granted, Chlothar’s establishment of a royal centre at Paris surely opened up new avenues of influence and wealth to elites in that region. These possibilities were offered as part of a royal aristocracy that Chlothar’s politics had heavily promoted. Membership in this new elite was not tied to a regional pedigree. It was the integration of local interests and positions Fouracre, Age of Charles Martel, pp. 57–64; Fischer, Karl Martell, pp. 50–66. 197 Fouracre, Age of Charles Martel, p. 77; with reference to Gerberding’s study. 198 P. Brown, Poverty, esp. pp. 69–73; and P. Brown, ‘From amator patriae’. 199 Concilium Clippiacense, p. 196. 200 Anton, ‘Königsvorstellungen’, pp. 322–3. 201 Cf. above, pp. 261–3. 196


Countermyths of power, in broader connection with the reformed regnum Francorum under Chlothar, that defined the preconditions for entry into this circle.202 Strategies of identification that based this regnum and its populus on the chosen people of the Old Testament must first and foremost be understood as part of this large-scale process. The intensification of this imagery was part of the efforts to integrate the newly constituted regnum in its entirety under Chlothar II. Connecting these strategies of identification to the elites of western Francia seems to have been a later development, which responded to the ascent of the Pippinids/Carolingians. In hagiographical texts, the stress on the western Franks as the actual Franci can first be observed at the end of the seventh century.203 This coincides with the decisive establishment of Pippinid power in the eastern Merovingian kingdom. The victory at Tertry was a decisive turning point not just for the author of the Liber but also for later historians in the Carolingian period. Some of them such as the author of the Annales Mettenses priores or the Annales Fuldenses took this event as their starting point.204 The family’s rise was not principally a matter of military success. It lay in the extensive construction of social and political networks that were based on economic, spiritual and cultural resources. Work on the Fredegar Chronicle within Pippinid networks after Grimoald’s coup is just one example of this.205 Equally important was the establishment of new spiritual centres, sometimes anchored by their own family members (especially women), which were embedded into a spiritual and religious landscape that crossed the entire regnum.206 In this context, the redaction of the Fredegar Chronicle around 660 can also draw attention to the important role that these efforts played in the family’s survival in the crisis following Grimoald’s coup. At the same time, it also shows that after the Pippinid network was cut off from access to the western royal centre, its members concentrated on building up these resources in their eastern areas of influence.207 When Pippin II asserted his control over the entire kingdom, the elites at the king’s court in Paris confronted a maior domus whose position had been built on well-developed social, political and spiritual infrastructures in the east. 202 See Reimitz, ‘Omnes Franci und viri inlustres’. 203 Reimitz, ‘Neustrien’, p. 129. 204 Annales Mettenses priores, p. 1; Annales Fuldenses, p. 1. 205 Cf. above pp. 176, 194–5. 206 See Fouracre, ‘The origins of the nobility’; Fouracre, ‘The origins of the Carolingian attempt’; I.  Wood, ‘Genealogy’; see also Halsall, Settlement; Werner, Der Lütticher Raum; McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 57–71. 207 Schieffer, Karolinger, pp. 19–33.


Sicut ceterae gentes Vitae written in the west reacted to this by representing Franci as exclusively the Franci of the western kingdom.208 Later on, the author of the Liber also reacted with a narrower historiographical definition for the term. At the same time, he also propelled the idea that the intensification of the Franks’ identification with biblical models actually originated in Paris after Chlothar’s takeover. He linked the care and responsibility for the populus with maintaining the cultus religionis, or more precisely with the expansion and preservation of the infrastructure for the cultus.209 Despite the Pippinids’ impressive construction work, the centres of this cultus divinus lay in the west, as the Liber takes pains to record. One could only govern a united populus Francorum from the new Jerusalem, with the cooperation of those at the centres of the kingdom who guaranteed the preservation of the old order. The author of the Liber built on a model of identity whose enormously inclusive potential is often overshadowed by the Liber’s more exclusive articulation of it. Especially in the seventh century, it was a model in continual use, in assemblies, in masses, in hagiographical texts and in historical narration.210 The model of Frankish identity that the Liber’s version of this discourse evoked was quite different from that of the Fredegar Chronicle.The Franci were not defined by their responsibility to maintain the social balance in an ethnically and socially heterogeneous society and world. Their relationship to God made the difference, which in the Liber was also tied to a specific region, a centre. The populus Francorum shared, from the beginning of its history, a common destiny. It shared joy and sorrow. When Dagobert’s son, Clovis II, broke off the arm of the martyr Dionysius at the devil’s instigation, disaster befell the Franks.211 The discord of the Franci plunged their kingdom into a long-lasting crisis, during which even kings and their pregnant wives were killed.212 The Franci shared with the kings (whom they had placed on the throne) responsibility for themselves as a populus. This populus did not have to be understood as one gens among many in the post-Roman world. It set aside the dichotomy of Roman imperialism for another kind of demarcation  – that of a people chosen above the rest. Rather than Reimitz, ‘Neustrien’, p. 129. 209 Kreiner, Social life, pp. 114–15. 210 Hen, ‘Christianisation of kingship’; Hen, ‘Uses of the Bible’. 211 LHF, c. 44, p. 316. 212 In the LHF, the fissure of the Franci begins after the death of the maior domus Erchinoald: eo tempore, defuncto Erchonoldo maiorum domo, Franci in incertum vacellantes (LHF, c. 45, p. 317). It is mentioned again with the appointment of Berchar, who lost the battle of Tertry: Franci nempe in diversa tendentes (LHF, c. 48, p. 322). The discord is first dispelled in the last sentence of the text with the election of Theuderic IV (LHF, c. 53, p. 328). For the death of Childeric II and his wife see above, p. 259, n.93. 208


Countermyths building on the imperial Roman order, the Liber replaced it. In contrast to the Fredegar Chronicle, in the Liber the world was not ordered into gentes, among which the Franci could occupy a pre-eminent place. The Franks alone moved into the centre of history, and they were defined by their difference to the circumpositae gentes. Yet, this razor-sharp delineation that characterises the biblical Franco-centricism of the Liber could also be qualified, given the historical ambivalence of the chosen people in the Old Testament. After all, before crossing the river Jordan, it was foretold that the people of Israel would be split into three kingdoms, and the Book of Kings documents the antagonism between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah after Solomon’s death in detail. The author of the Liber could use this material as a foundation in writing about the age of the princeps Charles Martel. The indication that it was a time of negotiation between the elites and residents of the Western kingdom with the Franci superiores (that is, the Austrasians) seems to reflect an effort to integrate the situation to a biblical representation of history. In the history of the Old Testament, Jerusalem’s status as the spiritual centre of the chosen people is never called into question. When Israel split from Judah after Solomon’s death and the start of his son Roboam’s rule, the population of the kingdom of Israel made its pilgrimage to worship God in another kingdom’s capital, just as it had done before.213 The updating of such images to a western perspective in Charles Martel’s time might seem like wishful thinking on the part of the author. However, one should not overlook the series of examples that show that the early Carolingians actually made great efforts to integrate their spiritual and social networks in the western centres of the kingdom.214 Charles Martel was buried at Saint-Denis, as many Merovingians were and as was the first Carolingian king Pippin in 768.215 Charlemagne was the first to be buried in Aachen, the royal centre that he founded.216 The Liber seems to have played an important role in these early Carolingian efforts. The concept of Frankish identity that it conveyed was already expanded in many directions just decades after it was written. The text itself was reworked to more deliberately and visibly fold the eastern Franci into the populus Francorum. Bruno Krusch edited this version of the Liber as the B version and conveniently placed it in a column alongside the older 3 Kings 12, where Jeroboam, the ruler of Israel, builds sanctuaries for gods to offer his people alternatives. 214 Fouracre, ‘The origins of the Carolingian attempt’. 215 Merta, ‘Politische Theorie’, pp. 118–19; Nelson, ‘Carolingian royal funerals’. 216 For the establishment of Aachen as a new centre, see Nelson, ‘Aachen’; McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 157–71. 213


Sicut ceterae gentes version, but it could easily stand for a series of similar but varied efforts to add to the original.217 That the Carolingians started plugging into the Liber’s narrative and models so early is also attested in the Carolingian continuations of the Fredegar Chronicle. In order to legitimate the Carolingian takeover, Carolingian historians continued the chronicle’s narrative, in part to build on the prominent role that the text accorded the Carolingian precursors, Pippin and Arnulf, as far back as Chlothar II’s seizure of power. In the first ten chapters of their continuation, the narrative uses the last ten chapters of the Liber historiae Francorum, forcefully employing its biblically inspired rhetoric. But that is a story for the Carolingian future.

  See the discussion below, p. 310.



Chapter 9


The first part of the book explored how in the world of Gregory of Tours, it was increasingly up for debate whether Frankish identity should have any role in integrating Merovingian society. This second part has followed the continuation of these debates in the long seventh century:  through the six-book version’s readjustment of Gregory’s vision to a transformed spiritual and political geography, through the subsequent efforts of compilers of the Fredegar Chronicle to argue for a much greater political role for Frankish identity and through the Liber’s appropriation of Frankish identity for an exclusive circle of western elites at a time when the Pippinid mayors of the palace were expanding their influence and control over the whole of the Merovingian kingdoms. The world of the Liber, however, was much larger and more complex than it seems at first sight.This world included a discrete group of secular military elites in the west who tried to assert and maintain their position at the centre of Merovingian politics and power. In order to do so, they built on ideas about the religious and social integration of society that were not exclusive to their circle. They turned to appropriations of Old Testament models and language with which theologians and politicians had experimented for over two centuries, and which they had used to characterise, organise and demarcate their societies in the post-Roman world.1 As we have seen, such efforts were intensified in the Merovingian kingdoms in order to forge social and political cohesion after Chlothar II had taken over the monarchia in all three kingdoms.2 These experiments with biblical models and identities in the seventh century had a much wider perspective than their particular application in the Liber reflects,

See P. Brown, ‘From amator patriae’. 2 The phrase is used in LHF, c. 40, p. 310, but also in the short text continuing the chronicle of Marius of Avenches up to the year AD 623 in London, BL Add. 16974, fol. 113. 1


Spielräume of Frankish identity whose concepts of identity engaged and competed with other ideas on the role and function of Frankish identity in Merovingian Gaul. Modern historical research has tended to see the Liber as representing the separate and independent traditions of a relatively well-defined, face-to-face group. This ‘imagined community’ consisted of members of the military and secular elite of the western kingdom, who traced their history and identity back to the time of the ‘Salian’ Franks.3 Such an interpretation understands the Liber’s definition of Frankishness as a preconceived notion, an identity whose existence and value the text takes for granted. Consequently, this view sees the blending of Frankish identity and the notion of a chosen people as a logical adaptation of biblical motifs by a Germanic warrior society in the process of being Christianised. If we emancipate the Liber’s narrative from what amounts to an artificial isolation from the discourse on history and identity in the Merovingian kingdoms as a whole, things become less certain. Once we understand the articulation of Frankish identity in the Liber as engaging in a wider debate about its role and function, it becomes obvious that neither the specific definition of Frankishness, nor the use of biblical models, was something that the text took for granted. As familiar as the synthesis of Frankish and biblical identities may seem as a result of their prominence in the Middle Ages and beyond, they were by no means inevitable developments in the Merovingian period. It was the product of specific competitions and concurrences with other models of identity proposed for social integration in the kingdoms. I briefly mentioned the competition between the biblical notion of God’s chosen people – appropriated in a rather restricted definition of the new Israel as the western Franks – and its larger integrative applications in the seventh century. As we shall see in the next part of this book, the Carolingians made ample use of the biblical models of community that the Liber transmitted.Yet while they built on its seventh-century history, they quickly dismantled the Liber’s exclusivity to include all regions of the Frankish kingdoms again. The question of which groups should actually belong to the new chosen people was not the only contested issue in historiographical debates about identity. In fact, this inflection of Frankish identity was only one option among a range of possibilities for the ‘uses of the Bible’ in the early Middle Ages: Old Testament history provided a wide spectrum of social models for almost every possible social constellation in the history For an excellent deconstruction of the continuity of a division of Salian and Ripuarian Franks in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, see Springer, ‘Gab es ein Volk der Salier’; Springer, ‘Riparii’, pp. 200–2; Springer, ‘Ribuarier’. 3


Countermyths of a community.4 In his or her rewriting of the Histories of Gregory of Tours, the author of the Liber was responding directly to one such alternative use of biblical history. As research on Gregory in recent decades has shown, he extensively employed biblical typologies in the Histories.5 Because he did not want to provide a historiographical basis for the establishment of a strong Frankish identity, he strictly avoided identifying the Franks with the biblical people of Israel.6 Gregory seems not only to have avoided identifying the gens Francorum with the chosen people but even to have worked against it. Frankish identity was not to establish itself in his Histories as an independent factor in Christian integration. Instead, Gregory’s model of society represented social cohesion as a result of individual decisions in favour of God and Gregory’s Christendom. His ideal society was held together by pastoral power, in which the shared responsibility for the Christian community required that each person proved himself again and again. The realisation of this social vision in Gregory’s Histories was based on confidence that the Church was the ecclesia Dei. Here, too, Gregory’s focus was not on the Church as an institution or a collective. It lay in the example of individuals, saints and prophets old and new, who shouldered the responsibility of guiding the members of the Christian regnum by their individual decisions and responsibilities. As we have seen in the first part of the book, Gregory held himself to high standards as actor, auctor and auctoritas, and he demanded the same of the other members of his Christian community.To be sure, this high standard had strong potential to create a sense of Christian identity. In Gregory’s radical vision individual striving for the kingdom of God was the only decisive criterion for belonging to this community. Other forms of membership, which could distract from this shared goal or even deprive individuals of the responsibility that Gregory privileged, belonged to the past. They were to play no part in the future. However Gregory was well aware that his present was different. He knew that his vision for a Christian community stood in competition with other efforts to promote other social identities and frameworks through an emphasis on the providential aspect of Christian identity.The scribe who labelled the council of Orleans, the first general council of the Church of Gaul under Clovis in 511, as canones Francisci might well have written his explicit while Gregory was still alive.7 It was against everything that Gregory had worked for in his Histories. It even got worse in the course of the next century. The Liber established the populus Francorum See above, p. 258, nn.85 and 86. 5 See in particular, Heinzelmann, Gregory, pp. 120–8; and Heinzelmann, ‘Die Psalmen’. 6 Cf. above, pp. 260–1.   7  Cf. above, p. 123. 4


Spielräume of Frankish identity as a collective that mediated between God and the individual. Its status as a chosen people unburdened individuals of the voluntary decision to choose God, the very thing that in Gregory’s view was the basis of Christian identity and the requisite for a conversatio, a true Christian life. At the same time, in linking the populus Francorum with a Christian providential perspective, the Liber made the formation, protection and future of the populus one of its central concerns. More than a hundred years separated Gregory’s Histories and the Liber, and the Merovingian kingdoms had changed substantially. When it came to prevailing conceptions of Frankish identity and its political role, it was not a simple matter of one historical concept replacing another in the course of the century. Just like Gregory, the author of the Liber had to establish his vision of history in competition with alternative views on Gallic and Frankish history. One of the most influential sources of competition was still the vision created by Gregory of Tours. This is evident not only in the Liber’s rewriting of his text and in the frequent use of Gregory’s authority in the titles of extant manuscripts. That Gregory’s historiographical vision was widely read at the time of the Liber’s composition is also documented in the unusually high number of extant manuscripts of the six-book version that date to around 700 and the early eighth century. The most impressive exemplar of the six-book version, the manuscript kept today in Cambrai, is a particularly good example of the continuing interest in Gregory’s historical work. Before the middle of the eighth century, even possibly at the time when the Liber was beginning to be circulated and revised, Books VII–X were added to the manuscript.8 It was not only Gregory’s Histories (and its many redactions) that belonged to the world of the Liber. The same can be said of alternative historical conceptions that developed Frankish or Merovingian history from a Christian-Roman past through chains of chronicles.The Fredegar Chronicle is the most important example of this. As we have seen, the oldest manuscript of the chronicle was copied by a certain Lucerius about a decade before the composition of the Liber. As with the Liber, the chronicle’s reaction to Gregory’s provocation is more than clear. However, the two historiographical ripostes to Gregory were much less independent of each other than is usually assumed. Though its relationship to the Fredegar Chronicle is less obvious than its argument with Gregory’s text, there are indications that the Liber was competing with concepts of Frankish history and identity that the chronicle had promoted. Even the

  Above, p. 134 with n. 38.



Countermyths oldest manuscript of the Fredegar Chronicle attests to how Merovingian authors and copyists knew a lot about parallel and alternative historical enterprises. The end of Isidore’s Chronicle that Lucerius had added to the Fredegarian chain of chronicles is basically the same text that a different manuscript had used to conclude a different chain of chronicles (the one including Marius of Avenches’ work). Lucerius also inserted a short account on the civil wars of 612/13 in the Isidorian addition to the Fredegar Chronicle. Some of the formulations of that account were also used in the Liber. This evidence should not, of course, be overstretched to argue for textual dependencies, but it does clearly demonstrate historiographical exchange. It may well hint at an ongoing debate about history and identity in the late Merovingian period. The turmoil of the second half of the seventh century and the first decades of the eighth century has often been seen as indicative of decline. During a time of weakened central authority, of rois fainéants (so the interpretation goes), the barbarians took over again. Consequently, the period is often dominated by a view of the Merovingian kingdoms as an aimless polity, ruled by selfish noble elites with no regard for or even notions of wider visions of community and public good.9 More recent research has demonstrated how wrong such assumptions are.10 In particular, work on hagiographical texts has introduced us to a world where the authors of saints’ lives were engaged in a lively conversation about the notion of a public community in post-Roman society.11 As Jamie Kreiner has most recently shown, the debate even heated up in the late Merovingian period. In the politically unstable circumstances towards the end of the seventh century, more and more hagiographical texts addressed the urgent question of the social and political coherence of the Merovingian regnum.12 As is well documented by overlaps with and references to historical texts, the hagiographers knew their history well. Their texts can therefore help us imagine the lively debates about history and identity, and about the past and its meaning for the present in historiographical texts.13 In this respect, the author of the Liber himself A recent example is Scheibelreiter, Die barbarische Gesellschaft; for longer discussion see Reimitz, ‘Contradictory stereotypes’. 10 See, for instance, Geary, Before France, pp.  179–231; Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp.  255–72; Wood, ‘Usurpers’, or Fouracre, Age of Charles Martel. For a different interpretation of the late Merovingian period: see Kölzer, ‘Die letzten Merowinger’ and Offergeld, Reges pueri, pp. 241–99. 11 See, for instance, Heinzelmann, ‘L’hagiographie’, and I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 238–54; Le Jan, ‘Convents’; Hen, Roman barbarians, pp. 94–123; Hen, Culture, esp. pp. 207–50; Fouracre, ‘The origins of the Carolingian attempt’. 12 Kreiner, Social life. 13 See also Hen, Roman barbarians, pp. 94–123. 9


Spielräume of Frankish identity has left us an interesting comment about such historiographical debates when he explains why he did not want to go into any more detail about Clovis II’s death because of the great number of divergent accounts of the death of the king.14 Seeing the texts and their conceptions of history and identity engaged in such a conversation about the meaning of the past helps us to understand some of their authors’ specific choices and decisions. Understanding the texts not as isolated products of a Dark Age but rather part of a common discourse raises another question. Why and how could they be so different? Only a little over 130 years lay between Gregory’s final redaction of his Histories in the 590s and the composition of the Liber. One would assume that once a comprehensive historiographical work such as Gregory’s Histories had established itself as the main narrative, later historians would have been much more bound to this version of the past than the narratives of the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber actually were. In the previous chapters I  addressed this question by exploring the Spielräume of history and identity in post-Roman Gaul. For the question of Frankish identity in particular, one could regard it as a happy coincidence – or aléa, in Michel Foucault’s sense15 – that the first comprehensive history written in the Merovingian kingdoms was one that actually tried to prevent the historical grounding of a strong Frankish identity. It was precisely because Gregory sought to work against the establishment of collective identities, which were potentially in competition with his Christian vision of Merovingian society, that these Spielräume can be so well studied in his Histories. As we have seen, the historiographical room for manoeuvre that Gregory used resulted from the absence of a single dominant narrative of Frankish history, which would have demanded different strategies of contestation. Instead, Gregory could draw from different stories about the Franci that were scattered and even contradictory at times, in order to underline that this information could not be pieced together to form a single Frankish history and identity. Building on this anti-origo, Gregory also developed a rich picture of his contemporary Merovingian kingdom, one of highly differentiated and uncertain identities, none of which had the potential to integrate the others. It was up to Christian pastoral power alone to integrate these political, social and ethnic differences into a single shared vision for the future. The historiographical Spielräume that Gregory could use to promote his vision of community were closely related to the actual social and political options resulting from the politics of identity in the sixth-century

  Cf. above, p. 255.  Foucault, L’ordre du discours, pp. 57–8.

14 15


Countermyths Merovingian kingdoms. The flexibility of identity was a product of political necessity: the Merovingian kings had to consider the sensibilities of different Frankish groups, most of whom came under Merovingian rule only during Clovis’ time. Not only were there diverse Frankish interests to take into account but the establishment of Merovingian kings as rulers of northern Gaul required the consensus of a range of social and ethnic groups. This may well have been the reason why Childeric (d. 482), as ruler of Belgica secunda, did not use the title rex Francorum in his official documents. Clovis seems to have followed his lead, particularly after establishing his rule over most of Gaul. Remigius of Reims and later Avitus of V   ienne strongly advised Clovis to maintain this policy.16 Towards the end of the sixth century, Gregory assumed their role. As pastor and broker of a Christian vision of community, he invited Clovis’ successors to join him, to take on their Christian responsibility for all the realm’s individuals, groups and peoples equally. This advocacy, however, involved not just the mediation of differences but also the cultivation of difference. In order to underline the need for brokerage (both his own and the ruler’s), Gregory had to preserve the distinctions and tensions between different social, cultural and political groups. At the same time, Gregory’s integration of these groups into his Christendom was an invitation to each and every group of the regnum to take part in the constant work it required to come into being. In short, the legacy of Gregory’s Histories was social as well as historiographical: it provided a rich and capacious resource of identification. The text’s transmission demonstrates how the seventh and eighth centuries preserved the interpretative space that Gregory had exploited and reinforced. This manoeuvrability was also used against Gregory’s historical vision. The Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber used the spectrum of possibilities that Gregory had passed on in his Histories to establish a stronger notion of Frankish identity in their respective histories. The significance of the politics of identity cannot be overstated for the history of the Merovingian world. Investigating those historiographical and social Spielräume, shows, first of all, that there was not one powerful Frankish group to which the Merovingians ultimately owed their power and success. On the contrary, positioning the ruler in an equidistant relation to the different Frankish, ethnic and social identities was a key factor in the successful political integration and consequent rise of the Merovingian kingdoms as the most important post-Roman polity in the West. Second, the openness and ambiguity of Frankish identity that resulted from the flexibility of its meaning was essential not just   See above, pp. 96–9.



Spielräume of Frankish identity to the political success of the Merovingians but also to the social success of Frankish identity itself. The available Spielräume not only enabled Gregory to develop his vision of community but also contemporary and later historians to promote other forms of social identities. These included competing conceptions of Frankish identity as an important factor for political integration of the regnum. This process was crucial for the formation of a discourse of Frankish identity, in which scribes and scholars continually and competitively invested the name of the Franks with new meaning and social prestige. This process was not merely a response to Gregory’s Histories. As we have seen, Gregory himself was reacting to the increasing use of the name of the Franks to address a common polity across the Merovingian kingdoms, a trend of the last decades of the sixth century. The rise of the Merovingian kingdom’s strength and stature in the West, especially the attendant intensification of diplomatic exchange, contributed to this process. Other polities’ identification of this new power as ‘the kingdom of the Franks’ surely had repercussions on its inhabitants. In the last decades of the sixth century, when Gregory worked on his Histories, this process seems to have intensified in the conflicts between Guntram, Sigibert and Chilperic. Because they were competing for legitimation in the kingdoms, they were presumably more willing to accept the title rex Franorum than Clovis had been in his correspondence with Theoderic the Great and other rulers. In their interactions with Byzantium, Clovis’ grandsons may well have seen the title as an opportunity to present themselves as the Merovingian king to Constantinople, as well as in Gaul. The competition between these kings may have also acted as a catalyst for the elites’ use of the name of Franks to address a common polity within the Merovingian kingdoms in the context of the civil wars. We have many reports of armies being summoned by the kings involved in these conflicts, who sent them out to march against each other. It is very likely that for the military leaders who met to resolve these conflicts peacefully, the name of the Franks offered an important solution because it addressed a common interest. Both texts, which, contra Gregory, gave Frankish identity a more important role in the political integration of the regnum, underline this role of elite leaders. It is precisely when these texts express their commitment to the public good of the regnum – with or against the kings – that they also often employ the name of the Franks to underscore the common ground of these negotiations. The Fredegar Chronicle supplies an impressive number of examples of this, including Brunhild’s deposition, the division of power between Chlothar and Dagobert and Chaubedo’s embassy to the Lombard kingdom. Both later histories, however, 289

Countermyths established the role and responsibility of the Franks in their own terms. The Fredegar Chronicle emphasised the political role of the Franci in their responsibility for the social and political balance between different interests and kings and an ethnically heterogenous kingdom. For the author of the Liber it was the care for the populus Francorum itself and its providential mission which should be the common focus and responsibility of the Franks. As different as the three histories are, they also share a perspective. Their authors all positioned themselves in talking to, not from, the centres of royal power. One hardly gets the impression from the Histories, the chronicle or the Liber that their authors were writing in reaction to, in agreement or disagreement with an established royal narrative of Merovingian-Frankish history. Such a narrative does not even seem to have existed by the 720s. In spite of, or perhaps precisely because of the conflicts over the meaning of the name of the Franks in the seventh and early eighth centuries, the kings themselves seem to have placed themselves in between different efforts of appropriation. This strategy was well suited to a system of rule that has been described as a ‘politics of consensus’.17 Through their equidistance from the different elites of the kingdom, the Merovingian kings guaranteed a balance of power that would otherwise have been difficult to imagine. Even in the late seventh century, their monopoly of rule was grounded in a positioning of kingship that granted elites equal access to the kingdom.When the Pippinid/ Carolingian mayors of the palace increasingly monopolised access to the throne, the rules of the game began to change. It is striking that with the rise of the Carolingians to power, we can also observe the first signs of a centralised writing of history. Significantly, the historiographical projects that were initiated under the new Carolingian rulers are stamped with a centralised perspective. For the first time the kings and their historians offered suggestions for a common Frankish future. Of course one could also expect the Carolingians to have suppressed any royal narrative of the Merovingian period that existed when they took over. Such a view, however, clearly underestimates the influence and spread of the different historiographical texts, while simultaneously overestimating the power of the Carolingians. Their takeover of the kingdom may be not quite what it has seemed to modern historians of the nineteenth and twentieth century:  the true beginning of Frankish and medieval history after the decline of the Merovingian See I. Wood, ‘Usurpers’; for the concept of politics of consensus, see Fouracre and Davies (eds.), The settlement of disputes, in particular the contributions of Fouracre, ‘Placita’; and Nelson, ‘Dispute settlement’. 17


Spielräume of Frankish identity period.18 Contemporaries experienced the Carolingian takeover as a longer and more complex process, one that developed little by little out of Merovingian history. Even the Carolingians saw it this way. As we shall see in the last part of this book, the historiographical propaganda that legitimated the Carolingian takeover of control of the kingdom followed the histories of the Merovingian period almost exclusively. In so doing, the Carolingians continued the process of developing their historiographical resources. The Fredegar Chronicle, for example, was rearranged and continued already in the middle of the eighth century. This continuation not only included the last ten chapters of the Liber; it also built heavily on the Liber’s rhetoric. In the next part of this book, I  shall discuss in more detail how the historiographical resources of the Merovingian period were continually rearranged, compiled and extended. In one of these Carolingian rearrangements of the Merovingian past, the independent narrative of the Fredegar Chronicle was even used to continue Gregory’s Histories. Within the manifold and rich Carolingian tradition, however, no historiographical project has been transmitted that remodelled early Frankish history as profoundly as the Fredegar Chronicle or the Liber historiae Francorum had done with Gregory’s text. The Carolingians carefully rearranged the texts, combined them with other works of history and made subtle transformations through nearly inconspicuous insertions. The Carolingian work on their historiographical resources shows that the new rulers were legitimising themselves as the guardians and continuators of Frankish history and identity.Their political achievement was the integration of all these different pasts into a new, shared future. The effort was not fundamentally new.What was new was that, for a time, they actually succeeded. Frankish identity, and its variety and flexibility, played an important role in this process, and vice versa; this process, in turn, had important consequences for the history of Frankish identity.

  See below, ch. 10.




A common future The reforms of Frankish identity under the Carolingians

Chapter 10


The centralisation of Frankishness under the early Carolingians Up to this point, the illustrious Childebrand [vir inluster], uncle of the said King Pippin, took great pains to have this history or deeds of the Franks [historia vel gesta Francorum] recorded. From here authorship succeeded to the illustrious Count Nibelung, Childebrand’s son.1

With these few lines, the uncle and the cousin of the first Carolingian king, Pippin, sought to perpetuate their own memory as the authors of a history that continued the history of the Frankish kingdoms under the Merovingian kings into the time of their Carolingian successors. The compilers of this chronicle started their narrative where the Fredegar Chronicle had abruptly ended its history and continued it from the time of Dagobert I’s son, Clovis II (d. 638/9–657), to the death of Pippin in 768.2 Neither early medieval historians nor their modern successors have had any difficulty identifying the agenda of this newly arranged Historia vel gesta Francorum. Its main aim was to legitimate the Carolingian usurpation of the throne. This is already obvious at the start of the continuation, which picks up the historical narrative after the death of Dagobert I and the reign of his son Clovis II.3 The compilers rewrote the last ten chapters of the Liber historiae Francorum, which described the unrest of the civil wars up to the rise of the political symbiosis of Charles Martel and the king Theuderic IV. The final sentence of the Liber, which dated itself to 726/7, was of course changed: instead of stating that Theuderic was now (nunc) ruling in his sixth year, the compilers omitted the date and

1 Continuationes, pp. 101–3. Usque nunc inluster vir Childebrandus comes avunculus predicto rege Pippino, hanc historiam vel gesta Francorum diligentissime scribere procuravit. Abhinc ab inlustre viro Nibelungo, filium ipsius Childebrando, itemque comite, succedat auctoritas (Continuationes, c. 34, p. 182). 2 For a discussion of content and context see now Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken. 3 Wattenbach, Levison and Löwe, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, vol. II , pp. 161–3.


A common future instead mentioned that Theuderic succeeded Chilperic II, and would live for many years to come.4 This is, however, the last time the king is mentioned. The compilers do not even note his death in 737, but instead, exactly at the point in the chronicle, where Theuderic’s death could have been mentioned, they pause for a comprehensive chronological computation to count how many years have passed ‘up to now’ (actenus).5 The narrative that had focused mainly on the deeds and triumphs of Charles up to this point, presented his sole principatus as the logical consequence of history. When Charles died in 741, he divided the regnum between his two sons, Pippin and Carloman, who also corrected one of the few mistakes of history committed at the time of their father Charles. In order to properly depose and replace the Merovingian kings, there needed to be an alternative king. Although the enthroning of a Merovingian king should most probably be understood above all in the context of the rivalry between Carloman and Pippin,6 it was also the precondition for the dramatic orchestration of what has been called die folgenschwerste Tat des Mittelalters  – ‘the most momentous act of the Middle Ages’.7 The chronicle of Childebrand and Nibelung has provided us with the oldest account of this ‘most momentous act’. Only a few years after the resignation of Pippin’s brother Carloman, an embassy was sent to the pope – una cum consilio et consensu omnium Francorum. No agenda of the embassy is mentioned.8 The legates returned with a decision of the pope. This decision was presented as the signal for Pippin’s elevation. He was raised to the seat of rulership together with his wife Bertrada, ‘with the consecration of the bishops and the acknowledgment of the leading magnates’ (cum consecratione episcoporum et subiectione principum).9 It is precisely after this report of die folgenschwerste Tat des Mittelalters that the Carolingian viri inlustres, Childebrand and Nibelung, identify Continuationes, c. 10, p. 174. 5 Continuationes, c. 16, p. 176. 6 For this context Nelson, ‘Bertrada’; Nonn, ‘Die Nachfolge’; Airlie, ‘Towards a Carolingian aristocracy’; Collins, ‘Pipin III’; see also Becher, ‘Eine verschleierte Krise’; Schieffer, Die Karolinger, pp. 50–62; McKitterick, The Frankish kingdoms, p. 34. 7 See the contributions in Becher and Dick, Der Dynastiewechsel; Semmler, Der Dynastiewechsel; McKitterick, History and memory, pp. 133–55; Gosman, ‘The long-haired kings’ and his ‘Memorable crisis’; for the expression and its history see Schieffer, ‘Die folgenschwerste Tat’; 8 Unlike the author of this section of the Royal Frankish Annals, the chroniclers did not go into any detail about the question the embassy had had for the pope: Quo tempore una cum consilio et consensu omnium Francorum missa relatione ad sede apostolica, auctoritate praecepta, praecelsus Pippinus electione totius Francorum in sedem regni cum consecratione episcoporum et subiectione principum una cum regina Bertradane, ut antiquitus ordo deposcit, sublimatur in regno (Continuationes, c. 33, p. 182); cf. McKitterick, ‘Die Anfänge’; McKitterick, History and memory, pp. 133–55. 9 Continuationes, c. 33, p. 182; see Nelson, ‘The Lord’s anointed and the people’s choice’. 4





Cambrai Prum Corbie A A I Amiens I Noyon Echternach S Worms R Trier A Laon T R St Denis Rheims Verdun T U S S Honau


Chartres St Calais










B U R G U N D Y Poitiers








0 0

Map 4 The Frankish kingdoms, 751–68 (from McKitterick (ed.), The new Cambridge medieval history, vol. II , p. 95)

200 miles 300 Km

A common future themselves as the authors of the chronicle. Admittedly these few lines about Childebrand and Nibelung do not add much to the interpretation of the chronicle. Its Sitz im Leben is obvious enough. We will see that it is hardly necessary to know that two members of the Carolingian family compiled it to understand it as part of the Carolingian propaganda efforts to justify the usurpation of the Frankish throne. The narrative enumerates the political successes and in particular the military triumphs of Charles ‘the Hammer’ and of Pippin in order to demonstrate that the Carolingians were chosen to be kings by God to rule over the Franks and their kingdom long before the pope’s decision and the election by all the Franks. Behind the martial rhetoric of the text, however, stood a longer process of political experimentation, in which the Carolingians carefully and cautiously developed their central role as primi inter pares, in a new political vision of a Frankish community. Pippin did not simply take over the role of the Merovingian kings. He also defined the role of kingship anew. He pledged a political future to the Frankish magnates, in which they would structure politics together with their new kings. This was not mere political rhetoric. What we observe is a fundamental transformation of Merovingian politics of identity. As we have seen, the question of the optimates’ participation in royal decision-making played an important role and is a prominent subject of discussion in all the texts of the Merovingian period. All of them take for granted a political consensus that set the Merovingian royal family distinctly apart from the other aristocratic groups in the Merovingian kingdom. This separation was not based on a deeply anchored belief in the sacrality of the Merovingian king, but it was crucial to the Merovingian ‘politics of consensus’.10 The fundamental distinction between the Merovingians and their nobiles was the precondition for the kings’ equidistance from the different elites of the kingdom: it guaranteed a power balance that would have been difficult to imagine without a king in the centre of different coexisting and competitive social groups and networks. Divided, as the different factions and networks may have been, the maintenance of this equilibrium was a common concern. The coup of the Pippinid mayor of the palace, Grimoald, was surely interpreted as a blatant violation of this politics of consensus.11 A few years later, the powerful mayor of the palace in the western kingdom, Ebroin, was deposed and imprisoned in the monastery of Luxeuil after he had been accused of trying to monopolise access to the king.12

Cf. above, p. 290.   11  See above, pp. 194–5. 12 I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 100, 227; Fouracre, Age of Charles Martel, p. 31. 10


Gens Francorum inclita The Carolingians of the eighth century knew their Frankish history. Childebrand and Nibelung, for instance, included the story of Ebroin’s deposition in their revision of the last ten chapters of the Liber historiae Francorum. They omitted, however, the coup of their own ancestor Grimoald, although the Liber (their source for this chapter in Frankish history) had included it.13 The Carolingian historians, however, developed also a new image of political consensus. The Carolingian rulers were portrayed not in the centre of competing factions but as the main factor of integration in the emergence of a new political community. After Pippin had been elected king, the royal family did not highlight its fundamental difference from other members of the Frankish aristocracy. They emphasised rather their common history and above all their common future. The legitimation of the new kings rested mainly on the special role the Carolingians had in making this common future happen. 10.1  The historian as VIR IN LU STER :   double continuitie s into a common   f uture In regard to Carolingian strategies of legitimation and distinction, the few lines identifying Childebrand and Nibelung as the authors of the Historia vel gesta Francorum might help us analyse the more subtle aspects of these strategies. One seems to have been the writing of history itself. As we have already seen, there is no extant royal narrative from the Merovingian period. All the texts that have come down to us represent the viewpoints of different elites and their traditions and seem primarily to have expressed reactions to alternative or competing claims of other elites. There are no signs that these texts were written in response to an established royal narrative. Childebrand and Nibelung are our first examples in early medieval Gaul of members of the royal family starting to write their history themselves. They did so, however, by continuing and adapting the histories that had been written, rewritten, compiled and circulated by different aristocratic networks in the Merovingian period, including the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber historiae Francorum. The legitimation of the new Carolingian kings, through a historical narrative that underlined their distinctiveness, was based on a cultural practice that was apparantely still associated primarily with the aristocracy at the time when the new history was compiled. This was a strategy that defended and elevated the dynasty, paradoxically, by recourse to the established traditions of Merovingian non-royal Continuationes, c.  2, pp.  168–9; for the omission of the Grimoald coup cf. Continuationes, c.  1, p. 168, with LHF, c. 43, pp. 315–17; see I. Wood, Merovingian kingdoms, pp. 223–4; Fischer, Karl Martell, pp. 30–2; for the Grimoald coup, cf. above, pp. 194–5. 13


A common future elites. We can also see this double strategy at work in the manner that Childebrand and Nibelung present themselves in the text. Not only was it new for members of the royal family to actively engage with history, it was also equally new for them to self-identify as members of the Frankish aristocracy, by using the titles of dux and comes. Although it is more than likely that there were a great number of relatives of the Merovingian kings who were active as dukes or counts in the centuries before the Carolingian takeover, we have almost no evidence for members of the Frankish nobility as related to the Merovingian kings.14 Childebrand, however, is mentioned not only as Pippin’s avunculus; he also remembers himself proudly in his history as dux Childebrandus, who fought alongside the dux Charles Martel cum reliquis ducibus et comitibus – with the other dukes and counts of the region.15 After his son Nibelung took up where Childebrand had left off after 751, an entry (quoted at the beginning of this chapter) inscribed both authors not only as close relatives of the first Carolingian king, but also as comites and viri inlustres. It is striking that both Childebrand and Nibelung are mentioned in the chronicle not only with their functional titles, dux and comes, but also with the old senatorial title, vir inluster. By the time Nibelung had finished his portion of the text, the title had become a regular feature of the royal intitulatio. Since 751, Pippin had issued his charters as Pippinus rex Francorum vir inluster and for some time, his sons Carloman and Charlemagne continued to use this title in their charters, too.16 It may well be that the authors again wanted to underline their proximity to the Carolingian kings by employing this title in their history. As members of the Frankish aristocracy, however, Childebrand and Nibelung did not need membership of the royal family to justify their use of the title. There was a long Merovingian tradition of conferring the title vir inluster upon officials of the royal court. It is particularly well attested for members of the Merovingian court in documents from the seventh century onwards. To be sure, the oldest extant Merovingian diplomas have come down to us only from the end of the sixth century onwards.17 It is very likely, however, that after Chlothar II took control of the whole realm in 613 the title was also used more intensively.18 As 14 Interesting exceptions which show that one was well aware of familial relations of the Merovingian kings are a remark of Gunthram in Gregory of Tours where the king blames bishop Betram of Bordeaux of betraying him although he was a relative, see DLH VIII , 2, p. 372, and the remarks on Erchinoald in Fredegar, Chronicae IV , 84, p. 163 (qui consanguineus fuerat de genetrici Dagoberto); see Lubich, Verwandtsein, pp. 149–64 and also Ewig, ‘Studien zur merowingischen Dynastie’. 15 Continuationes, c. 20, p. 177. 16 See Wolfram, Intitulatio i, pp. 208–13; for Carloman and Charlemagne, see p. 208, n. 11; for Pippin, see Merta, ‘Politische Theorie’. 17 See above, p. 99.   18 LeJan, Famille, pp. 124–5.


Gens Francorum inclita we have seen, the translation and appropriation of Roman tradition into a new Frankish polity was an important aspect of Chlothar’s efforts to legitimate his rule over all the Merovingian Teilreiche.19 After the revolution of 613, the title was certainly capable of underscoring its bearers’ closeness and access to their new king. At the same time, bestowing the title offered even Chlothar and his successors an instrument to tie aristocratic networks to their new centre of power at the court of Paris.20 In any case it is striking that one can follow the social dynamic and mobility of the Roman system of titles even into the completely altered conditions of the seventh century. As Beat Näf has observed, in the later Roman Empire the regulations for acquiring senatorial rank had actively fostered social mobility.21 Senatorial status, for example, was hereditary only under very restricted terms. Children could inherit the title only if the father was already of senatorial rank, and even then they would bear only the lowest-level rank of clarissimus. Status as a voting member of the senate, which since the end of the previous century had been indicated by the vir illustris title, was not heritable.22 This had to be attained through service and the acquistion of office. As a result, a system was created in which the accumulation of social, economic and political capital played an important role in obtaining senatorial rank and keeping it in the family. The vir inluster title was not hereditary in the Merovingian kingdom, either. It seems to have been associated with certain court officials, who could continue to hold it past the end of their service.23 It had to be awarded to successors in connection with attaining royal office. At the same time, this also created a real social mobility that was promoted by royal policy, too. For the establishment of the royal court in Paris as the political centre of the kingdom such regulations were definitely advantageous. It ensured that the members of the leading classes would seek entry into royal service, and it simultaneously create incentives and possibilities for promotion and integration for elites who had established their elevated positions in other political constellations or regions than the new centres of the kindom along the Seine and Oise.24 It would fit well with other strategies that Chlothar and his successors used to establish the Merovingian court in the northwest of the kingdom as a political and 19 See above, pp. 212–16. 20 Werner, Naissance, pp. 283–95; LeJan, ‘Timor’; and LeJan, La société; with further references to the volumes of the large project on elites in the early Middle Ages, see also Fouracre, ‘Origins of the nobility’; Wickham, Framing, pp. 187–203; and Stone, Morality, pp. 21–3. 21 See Näf, Senatorisches Standesbewußtsein, pp. 12–27. 22 See now Weisweiler, ‘The price’; and Barnish, ‘Transformation’; Mathisen, Roman aristocrats. 23 Bergmann, ‘Personennamen’, p. 101. 24 For a more detailed discussion, see Reimitz, ‘Omnes Franci und viri inlustres’.


A common future social centre, and that they would also take up and continue to develop this instrument of social engineering.25 In any case, as the proud signers and issuers of Merovingian charters show, the title was imbued with new significance and new prestige in the course of the seventh century. It became also an integral part of the intitulatio of all the Merovingian mayors.26 Members of the new governing classes, however, used the title not only to define themselves apart from less influential social strata. In the course of the seventh century, the title came to express the self-awareness and self-confidence of a Merovingian court aristocracy as a group, which was able at the same time to develop its position and role independently and in contrast with the Merovingian kings. As we have seen, the sense of self that the members of this group enjoyed was also articulated in the extant historiographical texts with ever greater self-assurance and political ambition. The Fredegar chroniclers underlined the elevated status of the elites with their responsibility for the social and political balance of the regnum, a responsibility that sometimes even brought them into conflict with irresponsible rulers and kings.27 The articulation of this political balance, and the subtle difference between the governing class and the kings, for whom it was connected to it, occurs not only in history writing but also in the cultivation and adaption of the title in the charters. Thus the common responsibility for political stability and consensus also seems to be stressed with the vir inluster title in some Merovingian documents. It is especially striking that it is precisely those documents that handled disputes between competing networks where the vir inluster title is applied in common to members of different families or aristocratic factions.28 In this capacity it was also possible to differentiate oneself from the kings. In 723 the vir inluster and maior domus Charles Martel granted a donation to the monastery in Utrecht that Bishop Willibrord had set up with his own property and with the fiscus. Charles’ cancellarius Chaldo dated the charter to the second year of the reign of the gloriosus rex Theuderic (IV).29 Likewise, another charter for Willibrord, which was issued by the same scribe three years later, also mentions a donation from 25 Cf. above, pp. 161–2, 212–6. 26 Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 135; Bergmann, ‘Personennamen’. 27 See above, pp. 188–9, 235–6. 28 For example, DD Merov. 108, p. 279, a charter which confirms the donation for Stablo Malmedy made by Grimoald after his death and the death of all the male members of the Pippinids, cf. above, p. 195; DD Merov. 131, p. 333; the charter too documents a compromise between competing factions – for a longer discussion see Rosenwein, Negotiating space, pp. 81–9. 29 DD Arnulf 12, p. 30.


Gens Francorum inclita the property of the Carolingian family that Childebert (III), the gloriosus rex, had once given to the vir inluster Pippin (II).30 Both examples show clearly that even in Charles Martel’s time the subtle difference between the late Roman titles and their post-Roman evolution was still precisely recognised  – the title of a royal servant was also seen as the title of a privileged group. Despite or because of this, Charles’ son Pippin, the first Carolingian successor of the glorious Merovingian kings, decided to keep the title that members of the family had shared with other potentes and included it in the Carolingians’ royal intitulatio.To continue this distinguished solidarity was therefore to create a discontinuity with the traditional politics of the Merovingian past. As Herwig Wolfram observed some time ago, Pippin’s adoption of the vir inluster title in his royal title was a ‘deliberate neologism constructed from Merovingian and Carolingian tradition, which served to establish a political continuity in both a Merovingian as well as a Carolingian sense’.31 While Wolfram’s findings influenced the diplomatic discussion considerably,32 the implications of his insights for the social and political restructuring of the Merovingian kingdom have hardly been further developed. For what they actually show is how carefully the early Carolingians developed the legitimation of the usurpation of the throne with a new vision of the political community, in which they emphasised the kings’ and the nobility’s common history and responsibility, instead of their irreconcilable difference. The subtlety and care with which the early Carolingians developed this double strategy step by step is remarkable, and it even seems that they tested it out very carefully in their first years as kings.The early charters of Pippin still used an abbreviation for vir inluster in their intitulatio, which strongly resembled the one used by the Merovingian chancery. The Merovingian kings, however, had not used the title as part of their intitulatio but as an address.33 Around the middle of the eighth century, however, Carolingian contemporaries seem to have understood how to resolve the abbreviation. Already in the spring following Pippin’s royal elevation, the scribe Marcus dated a St. Gall charter to the reign of vir inluster Pippin: anno primo domno nostro Pippino regnante vir inlusdro.34 These brief observations on the adoption of the vir inluster-title by the early Carolingians might have helped to illustrate the caution and diligence 30 DD Arnulf 13, p. 31; for gloriosus as the title for the post-Roman kings in the West since the end of the fifth century see Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 63, with n. 46. 31 Pippin’s royal title was ‘bewußte Neubildung aus merowingischer und karolingischer Tradition, die der Herstellung einer politischen Kontinuität im doppelten Sinn diente’, Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 123, with n. 62, see also pp. 209–13. 32 See Brühl, Studien, pp. 265–77; see Kölzer in his introduction to Urkunden der Merowinger, p. xxii. 33 See Brühl, Studien, pp. 244–77; and Wolfram, Intitulatio i, pp. 209–13. 34 Urkundenbuch der Abtei Sanct Gallen, vol. I , no. 16, p. 19.


A common future with which they and their advisers experimented with the strategies of political legitimation. It was, however, only one among several closely linked experiments in which the Carolingians developed a new political language of loyalty and identity in constant communication with each other and the different elites of the Frankish kingdoms. I have already briefly mentioned the writing of history itself as one such example of the conscious creation of a new role constructed from Merovingian and Carolingian tradition.While Childebrand and Nibelung drew on a specifically Carolingian or Pippinid historiographical tradition, they also presented themselves in a role that was traditionally assumed by members of the Merovingian nobility. Another example is their reconceptualisation of Frankish history and identity which the early Carolingians reconfigured and reformed, building on the same double strategies that we observed in their adoption of the role of historians as viri inlustres. 10.2  UN A CUM CON S ILIO ET CON SENSU FRANC ORU M : th e C arol ing ian VIRI IN LUSTRES as m e m b e r s and rule r s of the ir F rankish com munity It was not only the adoption and interpretation of the vir inluster title by the Carolingians after 751 that were carefully registered by their contemporaries. In fact their connection with other experiments in the rearticulation of loyalty and identity that I mentioned at the end of the last section seems to have been well observed and understood.A little less than a decade before the ‘most momentous deed of the Middle Ages’35, a certain Grimhild donated some land to the monastery of Weissenburg. The charter’s scribe, a certain Theutgar, dated it anno secundo principatu Carlomanno et Pippino ducibus Francorum.36 That was six weeks after Pippin had issued a charter in the second year of his principatus in civitate Metis in palatio regis.37 The scribe, Theutgar, had already used the title dux Francorum for the new rulers.38 Less than a year after the death of Charles Martel, whose last charter still refers to the regnal years of the last Merovingian king (anno quinto post defunctum Theodericum regem39), another Weissenburg donation written by Theutgar dated the act in anno prino (!) post obitum Carlo maioro regnante domno Carlomanno duce Francorum.40

See above, p. 296. Traditiones Wizenburgenses, no. 24, p. 176 (18 January 743). 37 DD Arnulf 17, p. 41; Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 147. 38 On Theutgar see Traditiones Wizenburgenses, pp. 122–5. 39 DD Arnulf 14, p. 33. 40   Traditiones Wizenburgenses, no. 235, p. 466 (1 December 741). 35



Gens Francorum inclita Theutgar and Pippin were not the only ones to experiment with the formulae. Pippin’s brother Carloman used the title dux et princeps Francorum in his intitulatio in the acts of the Concilium Germanicum held most likely in the spring (21 April) of 742.41 The event itself was orchestrated as a new form of building political consensus. It was a gathering of all secular and religious leaders of Carloman’s regnum meant to correct the failures and negligence of the praeteriti principes, the Merovingian kings. As has often been observed, Carloman and his advisers used the event to underline powerfully his position as the new princeps who ruled his regnum without a Merovingian king. The context allowed for manipulations, in which Carloman and his advisers used the rhetoric of innovation and reform to develop new room for manoeuvring in the protocol of self-presentation in his documents as the new princeps.42 Herwig Wolfram has already noted how important the combination of the titles princeps and dux, along with the name of the Franks, was for articulating and promoting the pre-eminence of the Carolingians through the double strategy that we have already observed in their adoption of the title of vir inluster. In the course of its long history since the end of the Western Roman Empire, the princeps title had been applied to kings as well as members of their political elites.43 Particularly in their diplomatic correspondence with Rome, it is obvious that the Carolingians used this ambiguity to present themselves as kinglike rulers. The popes strengthened this tactic by addressing their Carolingian allies with the same or very similar addresses that were used by and for the Lombard kings of Italy.44 The title dux, however, had never been used to designate royal status. According to the Fredegar Chronicle, the Franks were ruled by duces for quite a while in their early history.45 In the chronicle, this history of the duces anticipated the emergence of a powerful class of nobles in the Merovingian kingdoms who served as the powerful leaders of the exercitus Francorum and as the watchmen over the political integrity and social balance of the Merovingian ‘commonwealth’.46 These duces, however, were never addressed as duces Francorum, nor did they describe themselves as such. A dux was basically a functional title. He was in charge of a specific territory, a governor of a region that could be described with an ethnic denominator. The dux Burgundionum, Baiuvariorum or Alemannorum was Concilium in Austrasia habitum q. d. Germanicum, p. 2; for the date see now Glatthaar, Bonifatius; and Schieffer, ‘Neue Bonifatius-Literatur’. 42 Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 146. 43 Wolfram, Intitulatio i, pp. 148–51; see now Depreux, ‘Auf der Suche’. 44 Wolfram, Inititulatio i, pp. 152–3. 45 See above, pp. 168–72.   46  See above, pp. 198–9. 41


A common future not an ethnic denominator for the dux, but for the region of the regnum Francorum he governed.47 The invention of a dux Francorum by the early Carolingians underlined their equal status with the Merovingian reges Francorum, but at the same time it was an appropriation and reinterpretation of an old aristocratic title. A dux Francorum was now to be equivalent to a rex Francorum, but was also supposed to replace him, and by this interpretation the political significance of ethnic legitimation increased. Carloman’s brother Pippin also made this connection after his brother put a Merovingian king, Childeric III, back on the throne in 743. In the proceedings of ‘his’ synod for reform at Soissons in 744, Pippin also entitled himself dux et princeps Francorum. It seems, however, that in doing so he felt it more necessary to take Merovingian legitimists into consideration. Unlike Carloman, whose intitulatio followed the invocatio, Pippin’s intitulatio was packaged into the dating clause of the synod of Soissons. After the invocation (in Dei nomine trinitatis), the date followed the Roman calendar and year of incarnation (the latter being another pioneering innovation of Carloman’s council).48 Then the details of Childeric’s regnal year and Pippin’s intitulatio followed: in the second year of Childeric, king of the Franks [rex Francorum], I Pippin dux and princeps of the Franks. As it is not unknown to most people that we have decided in the name of God and at the same time with the consent of the bishops and priests and servants of God and after the counsel and discussion with the counts and the nobles of the Franks [comites et obtimates Francorum] to convene a synod or council in the city of Soissons.49

As Herwig Wolfram has already observed, the unusual over-determination of the name of the Franks in this passage has to be understood in the context of changed political circumstances: Pippin was responding to Carloman’s claims as well as to the (re-)enthronement of a Merovingian king.50 The Franks, or Frankish consent (una cum consensu), became one of the most important sources for Pippin’s legitimation – the dux et princeps Francorum had in fact taken over the function of the rex Francorum, but he did so in collaboration with the high representatives Wolfram, Intitulatio i, pp. 141–7. 48 Anno septingentesimo quadragesimo quarto ab incarnatione Christi sub die VI Nonas Martii et luna XIII. The acts of the two synods are the oldest extant documents counting the years ‘anno domini’; for the further development of this dating practice and its important role in Carolingian strategies of legitimation see below, pp. 346, 349–50. 49 … in anno secundo Childerici regis Francorum ego Pippinus, dux et princeps Francorum. Dum plures non habetur incognitum, qualiter nos in Dei nomine una cum consensu episcoporum sive sacerdotum vel servorum Dei consilio seu comitibus et obtimatibus Francorum conloqui apud Suessionis civitas synodum vel concilio facere decrevimus’ (Concilium Suessionense, p. 33). 50 Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 138. 47


Gens Francorum inclita of the Church and the comites et obtimates Francorum. At the end of the document, this consensus is once again invoked in the shared concern to make sure the provisions were followed. If anyone wants to infringe these decrees which we have constituted together with twenty-three bishops and with the consent of the princeps Pippin and the counsel of the nobles of the Franks [una cum consenso principem Pippino vel obtimatibus Francorum consilio] or everyone who wants to break or disregard the law, shall be judged by the princeps himself or by the bishops or by the counts and everyone will be punished according to what has been written down in the law, each man alone according to his rank.51

After this final penalty, which conjures up consent without any reference to the Merovingian king, Pippin carefully signed the document as vir inluster et maior domus. It was, however, no longer the consent of the Merovingian viri inlustres on which Pippin based his legitimation.52 The old senatorial title referred to a shared experience of the nobility, which now had to be translated into a new consensus, into a new common future of the Carolingians with all Franks. This is also reflected in the somewhat clumsy formulation una cum consilio et consensu, which is used at both the beginning and end of the proceedings. It alludes to a formula that was used frequently in the Merovingian charters. The phrase una cum consilio suprascriptorum pontefecum vel obtimatum nostrorum appears in a document from 690 – so after Pippin II had established his position in the realm – in which members of the families of networks of the former Neustrian mayors of the palace negotiated a compromise with members of the Pippinid network to partition the property attached to the Neustrian mayoralty.53 This also is one of the charters that place particular stress on the solution as being negotiated between different viri inlustres.54 Besides this original one, there are thirteen additional original charters still extant that use phrases such as una cum nostris proceribus, una cum consilio suprascriptorum pontefecum vel procerum nostrorum and una cum nostris fidelibus.55 Besides those, there are three other genuine documents, and the phrase also appears in the Marculf formulary.56 The well-documented use of this Si quis contra hanc decretam, quam XXIII episcopi cum alii sacerdotibus vel servis Dei una cum consenso principem Pippino vel obtimatibus Francorum consilio constituerunt, transgredire vel legem inrumpere voluerint vel dispexerint, iudicatus sit ab ipso principe vel episcopis seu comitibus, conponat secundum quod in lege scriptum est unusquisque iuxta ordine suo (Concilium Suessionense X , p. 36). 52 Cf. above, pp. 300–2. 53 D Merow. 131, p. 333.   54  See above, p. 302 with n. 28. 55 DD Merow. 93, 94, 122, 136,137, 141, 143, 149, 153, 155, 157, 158, 167, pp. 241, 242, 312, 345, 248, 356, 361 and 362, 375, 383, 387, 393, 394, 416. 56 For example, DD Merow. 79, 152, 187, pp.  201, 382, 466–7; Marculf, Formulae I , 5, p.  46; I , 32, pp. 62–3; I , 37, p. 67; I , 40, p. 68. 51


A common future formulation clearly indicates that it was well known among the nobility of the Merovingian kingdom. It could therefore have hardly gone unnoticed that this phrase was now being linked with the name of the Franks at the council of Soissons. The Carolingians did not dare to take over this formulation in their charters, which they frequently issued to confirm the privileges of their Merovingian predecessors. Authors of Carolingian histories, however, seized on it euphorically, not least Childebrand in his account of Pippin’s takeover of the kingdom in the Historia vel gesta Francorum: It now happened that with the consent and advice of all the Franks [una cum consilio et consensu omnium Francorum] the most excellent Pippin [praecelsus Pippinus57] submitted a proposition to the Apostolic see and having first obtained his sanction, was made king and Bertrada queen. In accordance with that order anciently required, he was chosen king by all the Franks [electione totius Francorum] consecrated by the bishops and received deference of all the principes.58

The promise of a new Frankish future, however, was not only directed to the former viri inlustres. Members of regional or local aristocracies, such as the donors in Weissenburg and St Gall, could also understand the Carolingian family’s appropriation of the vir inluster title as the beginning of a new age in which older barriers and distinctions within the nobility were abandoned. As Paul Fouracre has observed, the Carolingians unlike the Merovingians, ‘did not hold the ring between different factions of magnates’.59 Consequently, they did not have to deal with the leading factions through power-broking figures like the mayors of the palace, who increasingly underlined their role in the political balance through their titles, not least the title of vir inluster. At least in political theory, the new Carolingian kings flattened established hierarchies and offered more equal access to their rule. They invited omnes Franci to join a new common future for all who were willing to support them in the centre of this project.

57 The title was used at the same time by the Lombard king Ratchis as part of his royal intitulatio; for the use of elements of the royal title (praecellentissimus, excellentissimus) of the Lombard rulers of Italy in the letters of the popes to the Carolingian mayors, see Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 153; for the Intitulatio of Ratchis (744–9), praecellentissimus rex, pp. 104–7. 58 Continuationes, c. 33, trans. Wallace-Hadrill, p. 102; ed. Krusch, p. 182: Quo tempore una cum consilio et consensu omnium Francorum missa relatione ad sede apostolica, auctoritate praecepta, praecelsus Pippinus electione totius Francorum in sedem regni cum consecratione episcoporum et subiectione principum una cum regina Bertradane ut antiquitus ordo deposcit, sublimatur in regno. 59 Fouracre, Age of Charles Martel, pp. 173–4.


Gens Francorum inclita 10.3  HI STORIA VEL GESTA FRAN CORU M :– a share d Frankish history f or a common   f uture The striking incorporation of the new language of political consensus, as developed in charters and documents, into the chronicle of Childebrand and Nibelung was not a random adoption of some of the catchphrases of Carolingian propaganda. It was part of a carefully constructed historiographical articulation of a new political programme. The integration of all the Franks into a common future needed a shared vision of Frankish history, too. The openness and ambiguity of the name of the Franks offered good conditions for that historical vision. The various options implied in the name had also been used in the centuries before the Carolingian takeover to articulate specific and competing conceptions of Frankish history and identity. The Carolingian authors inherited both the competing efforts to define Frankishness as well as the open ended usage that had allowed for its development. Carolingian historians used this room for manoeuvre from early on. Already under Charles Martel, the relatively narrow concept of Frankish identity in the Liber historiae Francorum was widened in a new version of the text, which its editor, Bruno Krusch, has called the Austrasian version of the Liber. This version does not reduce the part the western Franks play in the text. Instead, through mostly very subtle changes, the history of the Franks and their important role in policymaking was also extended to the Austrasian Franks, to the Austrasii vero Franci superiores.60 It was this version that the Carolingian authors of the Historia vel gesta Francorum used for the continuation of the more obvious choice of the Fredegar Chronicle. As short as the excerpt from the Liber is in the Historia vel gesta Francorum is, we shall see that it nevertheless played a very influential role for the creation of common historical grounds in Carolingian historiography. From early on this version of the Liber presents its history with a much wider geographical horizon of the Franks: before Chlodio’s crossing of the Rhine and his brutal subjugation of the Roman population, the author of the Liber made a brief geographical excursus on the peoples and regions of Gaul, which built on Gregory of Tours’ discussion while also responding to it. As we have seen, the author solved the problem of locating Thuringia east of the Rhine, where Chlodio was said to have resided in Disbargo castello, by stating clearly (in contrast to Gregory) that the Thuringian lands (fines Toringorum) were in the regions of Germania.61 Then he basically followed Gregory in stating that the LHF, c.  27, 36, 41, pp.  285, 304–5, 311; cf. Gerberding, Rise of the Carolingians, pp.  171–2, and above, pp. 248–9. 61 Cf. above, pp. 244–5 60


A common future Romani lived between the Rhine and the Loire, the Goths south of the Loire, and the Arian Burgundians along the river Rhône. The reviser of the Liber historiae Francorum, however, took the opportunity to interpolate a longer excursus on Germania and its inhabitants, partly inspired by Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies: Because of the name of this region, Germania, all of the peoples who live across the river Rhine have been called by that name. The sources tell us that the Germanic peoples are so called because they are nations of immense body, savage, hardened62 … ever indomitable and extremely fierce and that there were a hundred communities living in different villages.63

The revisers clearly wanted to give the regions east of the Rhine a more prominent place in history, and they associated the ferocissimi Germani with the Franks, who – as one also learns from the Liber – had received their name because of their wild nature.64 Krusch reconstructed the older version as ‘A’ and the Austrasian reworking as ‘B’. A closer look at the manuscripts, however, shows that it is more complicated than that. As studies by Richard Gerberding, Martina Hartmann and myself have shown, the manuscript transmission documents a variety of versions that can barely be grouped into only two recensions.65 There are, however, enough clues to suggest that the Liber had already been revised in Charles Martel’s time, and this might well have contributed to the destabilisation of the original, which is so well documented in a substantial number of manuscripts from the late eighth century onwards.66 It seems that the revisers were building on many elements of the vision of the Liber historiae Francorum, and yet at the same time they wanted to enlarge their horizon of integration. As a result, there already appear some parallels in this revision to the strategies of the early Carolingians, which we have observed in our earlier sections. They carefully and cautiously reworked and continued pre-existing historiographical resources. In this respect, they were continuing traditions of rewriting that we have already seen at play in the histories of the Merovingian period. What was new, Cf. Isidore, Etymologiae IX , 2, 97–98. 63 Propeterea Germanie omnes regiones gentium, que ultra Rhenum fluvium sunt, huic nomine noncupantur. Germanias, eo quod inmanea corpora sint inmanisque nationes, sevissimis durate semperque indomiti, ferocissimi; quorum fuisse centum paugus traditur scriptura (LHF, c. 5, p. 245; as is well documented in the Krusch edition, the passage was extensively commented upon by later readers of the texts in many manuscripts). 64 Tunc appellavit eos Valentinianus imperator Francos Attica lingua, hoc est feros, a duritia vel audacia cordis eorum (LHF, c. 3, p. 243). 65 Gerberding, ‘Paris BN 7906’, pp. 381–6; M. Hartmann, ‘Die Darstellung der Frauen’; Reimitz, ‘Der Weg zum Königtum’; pp. 298–305. 66 Cf. Krusch in LHF, pp. 220–34. 62


Gens Francorum inclita however, was that these rewrites were less of a retort than had been the case with the revisions that the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber historiae Francorum made to Gregory’s Histories. The Carolingian historiographers sought much more to link older conceptions of history and identity to a broader vision of a larger Frankish entity, into which different projects were integrated.The reworking of the Liber was definitely an experiment in this direction.That is why it is hardly a coincidence that the relatives of the new Carolingian king Pippin expressed the new political programme in a history that referred to this version of the Liber. However, they integrated this Liber into an ensemble of texts that, already through the act of compilation, was supposed to express the ability of the new Carolingian kings to integrate the different Frankish histories and identities. Although the capability of bringing together different and originally even competing conceptions of Frankish history might well have been one of the most important agendas for the authors of the Historia vel gesta Francorum, these efforts are easy to overlook in its modern editions. Bruno Krusch edited this narrative, which starts with Clovis II, as Continuationes appended to his reconstruction of the oldest extant version of the Fredegarian ‘chain of chronicles’ compiled in the 660s.67 Michael Wallace-Hadrill edited and translated only the so-called independent narrative of the chronicle, Book IV, with its Continuationes.68 Devillers and Meyers have followed this model in their recent French translation.69 These editions and translations give the impression that the Carolingian historiographers merely added a new portion to the Chronicle of Fredegar. In the most recent study of the later chronicle and its transmission, however, Roger Collins has emphasised that this is a serious misrepresentation of the work of the Carolingian compilers, who fundamentally overhauled the Fredegar Chronicle by adding new texts, skipping others and reorganising the chronicle into three books.70 With great success, it seems,  no manuscript actually transmits the Continuationes as a mere continuation of the ‘chain of chronicles’ as it was compiled around 660. Instead they all follow the reorganisation of the chronicle as just described (see Table 2). Now, instead of the unfolding of the historical world in the Liber generationis  – with its assorted lists of gentes, prophets and rulers and the ‘Merovingian’ computation at the end  – the compilers started their chronicle with De cursu temporum of Quintus Julius Hilarianus, a succinct survey of the six ages and a calculation of the year of the world including See above, pp. 174–6.   68 Wallace-Hadrill, The fourth book. 69 Devillers and Meyers, Frédégaire. 70 Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 82–9. 67


A common future Table 2 Comparison of the oldest extant version of the Fredegar Chronicle with its reworking in the Historia vel gesta Francorum Fredegar Chronicle

Historia vel gesta Francorum

(as in Paris, BnF lat. 10910) (I ) Liber generationis

(as in Vatican, BAV, Reg. lat. 213) Quintus Julius Hilarianus, De cursu temporum

(I , 24) Computation to AD 613 (I , 26) De serie annorum sancti Hieronymi vel sancti Eusebii (I , 25) Notitia de episcopis Romanis (II ) Epitome and reworking of Jerome and Hydatius

(III ) Epitome of the Histories of Gregory of Tours (IV ) Book IV

Epitome and reworking of Jerome The history of Dares Phrygius Epitome and reworking of Jerome and Hydatius Epitome of the Histories of Gregory of Tours Book IV + Continuation to 768

(?) Chronicle of Isidore of Seville

the chronological position of Christ’s passion.71 They continued with the Fredegarian epitome of Jerome but even extended the early history of the Franks (which the Fredegar chroniclers had worked into the epitome) by adding a new text: under the title Historia Daretis Frigii de origine Francorum, the compilers added their version of an alleged eyewitness account of the destruction of Troy by Dares Phrygius, whom Isidore of Seville had regarded as the first historian apud gentiles in his widespread and widely read Etymologies.72 After the Fredegarian version of Jerome and Hydatius and the epitome of Gregory of Tours, what had been the narrative of the fourth book becomes the start of liber tertius, the third book, and this book also comprises the continuation of the narrative after the abrupt end of the fourth book of Fredegar, starting with the rule of Clovis II and ending with the death of the first Carolingian king Pippin I in 768. The question of when this version of the chronicle was created has led to debates nearly as fierce as those surrounding the author and date of the 71 See Dailey, The hope, p. 126; Landes, ‘The fear of an apocalyptic year’, pp. 111–14; Gelzer, Sextus Julius Africanus, pp. 121–9. 72 Isidore, Etymologiae I , 42, 1; for the relationship of the version in the chronicle to Dares’ De excidio Troiae, see Faivre d’Arcier, Histoire, pp. 226, 275–6; Coumert, Origines, pp. 343–5; Clark, ‘Reading the “first pagan historiographer” ’; Renna, ‘Dares Phrygius’.


Gens Francorum inclita older chain of chronicles. Bruno Krusch proposed that the continuation of the narrative after the end of the fourth book was subdivided into three sections: one to the year 736 (c. 17), the next up to the entry that names Childebrand and Nibelung as the authors of the chronicle (c. 34)  and finally the third to 768 (c. 54), which Nibelung edited.73 Rosamond McKitterick has argued against overly simplistic interpretations that take these sections as ‘contemporary’ and therefore authentic accounts of their respective periods, and she has emphasised that the Historia vel gesta Francorum must have been given finishing touches after 768 anyway.74 Building on a careful reading of Krusch’s article and on some new observations, Roger Collins has recently argued for two parts: one compiled by Childebrand up to the events of 751 and the colophon in ­chapter 34, and a second one by his son Nibelung until the end of the narrative in 768.75 Krusch had already noted some striking linguistic similarities between the Historia Daretis Frigii de origine Francorum and the part that he believed was written by a second continuator (­chapters 18–33, ending with Pippin’s coronation). Because this text was most likely interpolated in the course of the reorganisation of the whole chronicle, Krusch concluded that it was this second continuator who was responsible for that compilation, and that a third continuator added the final section to the first two, after the Historia vel gesta Francorum had already been revised. Krusch also suggested that the author who wrote the narrative up to the year 736/7 (the original annus praesens of the computation in ­chapter 1676) was not actually continuing an older version of the Fredegar Chronicle but rather the Liber historiae Francorum. The later compiler of the Historia used the section from Clovis II to 736/7 to resume the narrative after the abrupt end of the original chronicle in 642 and continued it until 751.77 Unfortunately there is no extant manuscript evidence for such a version of the Liber historiae Francorum with a continuation to 736/7, but it has been suggested that the compilers of the Chronicon universale (written after 768) worked with just such a combination.78 In any case, both Krusch’s and Collins’ studies underlined how Pippin’s uncle Childebrand, rather than editing only a continuation of an already existing compilation, consciously selected texts from different historiographical traditions to put them together towards a new historical vision, which he did soon after Pippin had become king of the Franks. Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 495–515. 74 McKitterick, ‘Die Anfänge’, pp. 155–6. 75 Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, pp. 89–96. 76 See above, p. 296.   77  Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 514–15. 78 See Wattenbach, Levison and Löwe, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, vol. II , p. 258, with further references; for the Chronicon universale and its sources see the discussion below, pp. 345–51. 73


A common future Krusch’s suggestion that there was a Carolingian version of the Liber historiae Francorum that had been continued up to 736/7, and that Childebrand might have been working with this version, is important not only because of its implications for the compositional date of the extant chronicle, but because it helps us to imagine the vivid and ongoing process of historiographical experimentation. Furthermore, it allows us to recognise the influential role that the Liber still played in complementing the obvious choice of the Fredegar Chronicle and hence create a new composite narrative. The unbroken importance of the Liber in this process is well attested in the high number of extant Carolingian manuscripts that include revised versions of the Liber  – which, as we have seen, tried to widen the original text’s relatively narrow horizons of Frankishness.79 This is, however, also true of the alternative version of Frankish history and identity in the Fredegar Chronicle. As we have already seen, the ensemble of texts seems to have been constantly subject to a process of revision and rethinking,80 and this is particularly true for the earlier parts of the chain of chronicles, the Liber generationis, and the reworkings of the chronicles of Jerome and Hydatius. As we shall see, the inclusion of Hilarian’s De cursu temporum played an important role in the reorganisation of history in the Historia vel gesta Francorum. It was most probably not the compilers of the Carolingian reworking who were the first to include the text. It had already been included in the manuscripts of the Fredegar Chronicle that Krusch had grouped as class 3, the version that was most probably the one used by Carolingian compilers. While this older version put Hilarian’s text between the epitome of Jerome/Hydatius and Gregory, the Carolingian reworking put it much more prominently at the beginning of the ‘chain of chronicles’, thereby replacing the Liber generationis and all the genealogical lists, papal, royal and imperial catalogues, computations and materials that had come to be attached to this text. The reorganisation of the Ordo singularium gentium in the Historia vel gesta Francorum After the chronicle was given a new structure and an extended narrative conclusion through the Continuationes, the work on the text and on its building blocks was continued even further. Like the original Fredegar Chronicle, the manuscripts or witnesses of the chronicle that started with Hilarian’s De cursu temporum transmit quite different textual 79 Cf. the discussions above pp. 277–8.   80  Cf. above, pp. 236–9.


Gens Francorum inclita ensembles.81 Also interesting in this respect are some peculiarities of the most important manuscript of Childebrand’s Historia vel gesta, the codex in the Vatican Library, Reg. lat. 213. The manuscript, which was copied towards the end of the ninth century, follows up the end of the chronicle with yet another annal, this one running to the year 790 (edited as the Annales Laureshamenses), and after that a section of the Annales regni Francorum, ending with the entry for 806.82 Maximilian Diesenberger has convincingly shown that some of the texts of this history book betray traces of their composition and arrangement in the first decades of Charlemagne’s reign.83 This manuscript also has Childebrand’s and Nibelung’s only colophon (see Figure  8). For this manuscript’s copy of the chronicle someone wanted to underscore the authority of the transmitted texts. The manuscript begins with a large heading above Hilarian’s text in a monumental Capitalis:  IN DEI NOMINE INCIPIT LIBELLUS IULII HILARIONIS after which the text starts in a somewhat smaller Capitalis (see Figure 9).84 Later, the beginning and end of the different textual building blocks of the chronicle are clearly marked and organised into three books according to the division that Childebrand had introduced. That this clearly organised codex is missing a series of chapters from the ‘fourth book’, should surely not be blamed on some oversight on the copyist’s part. Chapters 26 to 28 of the ‘fourth book’ are omitted, and the narrative of this book ends prematurely after c­hapter  51, which narrates the heroic and successful initiative of Ansoald, whom Chlothar II had sent to the Lombard kingdom on behalf of the imprisoned Lombard queen and parens Francorum, Gundeperga.85 The omission of the three earlier c­ hapters 26–8 also fits well with this truncated conclusion. Whereas ­chapter 51 deals with the independent negotiations of a Frankish envoy outside Francia acting in the interests of the Frankish family, all the excised chapters deal with difficult and sometimes deadly conflicts within the nobility of Francia.86 With the exception of those three chapters, the manuscript transmits the entire narrative up to and including ­chapter 51: the prelude to the revolt Krusch, ‘Die Chronicae’, pp. 309–20. 82 For the annals, see Collins, ‘Charlemagne’s imperial coronation’, p. 56. 83 Diesenberger, ‘Dissidente Stimmen’. 84 For a short discussion, see Bischoff, Latin palaeography, pp. 206–7 85 Cf. above, pp. CF IV, 51, p.146. 86 Fredegar, Chronicae, cc. 26–8, pp. 131–2. Ch. 26 continues the story of the feud between Bertoald, Theuderic II’s maior domus, and the Neustrian mayor Landeric (see above, p. 249). Ch. 27 narrates the rebellion of Theuderic II’s army against his mayor Protadius led by the dux Alemannorum Uncelenus. Ch. 28 mentions the election of Claudius genere Romanus to the mayoralty and the punishment of Uncelenus. (Brunhilde had his foot cut off.) 81


Figure 8 Vatican, BAV Reg. lat. 213, fol. 139v, Historia vel gesta Francorum, c. 34, colophon of Childebrand and Nibelung

Gens Francorum inclita

Figure 9 Vatican, BAV Reg. lat. 213, fol. 1r, Historia vel gesta Francorum, beginning of the chronicle with Quintus Julius Hilarianus

against Brunhild told from the perspective of the Burgundian-Austrasian opposition, the important role that the Carolingian ancestors Pippin and Arnulf played in it and the establishment of Chlothar’s rule across the whole Merovingian realm. Out of the remaining nine chapters between these events and the end of the fourth book (in this version), five are dedicated to Frankish foreign policy. Only ­chapters 43 and 44 treat the resistance of oppositional groups to Chlothar II in the southeast of the Merovingian kingdom; and c­ hapters 46 and 47 – each only one sentence long, at that – report the death of Chlothar’s wife and the appointment of Dagobert as king in Austrasia. Chapter 45 gives a detailed discussion of the relations with the kingdom of the Lombards and of the tributes that the Lombard kings owed the Franks. Then, after the pair of the two-sentence ­chapters 46 and 47, c­ hapter 48 deals with the Slavs at the eastern frontier during the rule of the Frankish merchant Samo, under whom the Slavs freed themselves from Avar control. Chapters 49–51 turn back to the subject of the Lombard kingdom in Italy, the unfortunate influence of the Byzantine envoy Eusebius upon King Adaloald, Arioald’s 317

A common future seizure of power and finally the captivity of Arioald’s wife Gundeperga, who was freed because she was a parens Francorum, thanks to Ansoald’s enterprise. While the Merovingian kings receive only scant attention in these chapters, the fourth book in this manuscript ends with a Frankish foreign policy success, which was won not at the king’s initiative but through the courageous intervention of his envoy. After that, the continuation of the narrative in this manuscript begins on the same page. It starts with the Historia vel gesta’s rewriting of the last ten chapters of the Liber historiae Francorum beginning with the reign of Clovis II and a remark about his marriage to Balthild, his Anglo-Saxon wife, who is labelled as a women of foreign descent (de genere alienigarum). In doing so the authors of the Historia vel gesta had replaced the Liber’s original formulation de genere Saxonum (of Saxon descent) with the xenophobic description of some of David’s wives as alienigenae uxores.87 This redaction of the ‘fourth book’ of the chronicle matches very well the efforts of Childebrand’s Historia vel gesta to integrate different stories and interpretations of the Frankish past by different elites in the late Merovingian regnum. One of the most important themes of the Carolingian efforts of legitimation could have also been developed out of the shortened text, perhaps even more easily. It omitted the initially positive portrait of Dagobert along with the negative characterization of the western nobility, under whose influence Dagobert fell after his relocation to Paris. It also omitted a part of the Merovingian redaction of the chronicle which dealt extensively with the numerous conflicts among the Frankish eliltes, particularly in the Burgundian and Aquitanian south, and thus focussed on stories, regions, and political players other than those the compilers of the Historia would have found useful. The pre-configurations of Carolingian conflict-resolution in the Merovingian past In any case, Childebrand’s and Nibelung’s new arrangement of the History and Deeds of the Franks built above all upon the consensus of the nobility from all parts of the Merovingian realm, made possible by Brunhild’s deposition, which the Fredegar Chronicle had developed so extensively. With the help of the chronicle’s narrative, the Historia could stress the important role of the Carolingian ancestors and their part in the proceres’ judicious policy of negotiation before Brunhild’s deposition, through which they avoided bloodshed between the Franks in 613. The Liber historiae Francorum did not put particular stress on the role of Pippin 87 Continuationes, c. 1, p. 168; cf. Pohl, ‘Alienigena coniugia’.


Gens Francorum inclita and Arnulf in this regard; rather, the account of Brunhild’s deposition was seen from Chlothar’s perspective. In general, the Liber does not give the Carolingian ancestors a pre-eminent role. Charles Martel is the first to receive a clearly outstanding position, and he has to fight Pippin II’s wife and her supporters in order to get it.88 The Carolingian chroniclers were also unable to find a critical representation of the Merovingian kings and the implicit questioning of their legitimacy in the Liber, in contrast to the Fredegar Chronicle. Just how important the critical portrayal of the Merovingian kings and the emphasis on the Carolingian ancestors were to the editors of the Historia vel gesta is clearly visible in changes that they made to the narrative that picked up where the Fredegar Chronicle left off: the last ten chapters of the Liber historiae Francorum. Already in chapter 2 of Childebrand’s rewriting we hear of Childeric II, a king who is barely able to control himself (levis atque citatus nimis). The whipping of the Frank Bodilo he ordered was not only without any legal foundation (sine lege) as the Liber historiae Francorum described it, but instead in Childebrand’s version it was contra legem, something that fractured the entire gens Francorum.89 The Franci did restrain Childeric in the Liber, but in the reworked version it soon becomes clear that Franci does not refer to the western Franci alone. Already in the following chapter, Pippin’s father, Ansegisel, is called Francus nobilis.90 His successors also acquire a distinctly prominent role in the reworking of the Liber. The chroniclers reinforced what was already a positive description of Pippin’s son Grimoald with some important supplementary phrases.91 They narrated Pippin’s successful campaign against the dux gentilis Radbod with even more detail, and they added that his son Drogo was buried in Metz, in the basilica of the confessor Arnulf. While dissent among the Franks brought about the downfall of the Merovingian kings and the opponents of the Carolingian ancestors, consensus among the Franks was for Pippin and his successors the key to their ascent. A half sentence in the Liber brushes over the prehistory to the Battle of Tertry in 687, a conflict in which Pippin II asserted himself as the most dominant political figure in the entire kingdom. Franci in invicem divisi – the Franks fell out with one another – whereupon Pippin directed a large force from Austrasia against the maior domus in the west, LHF, cc. 51–3, pp. 225–8; see above, pp. 276–7. 89 Cf. Continuationes, c. 2, p. 168, with LHF, c. 46, pp. 319–20. 90 Continuationes, c. 3, p. 170. 91 Cf. Continuationes, c.  6, p.  172:  Grimoaldus iunior cum Childeberto rege maior domus palatii super Francos electus est; fuitque vir mitissimus, omni bonitate et mansuetudine repletus, largus in elemosinis et in orationibus promptus, with LHF, c. 50, p. 324: Eratque ipse Grimoaldus maiorum domus pius, modestus, mansuetus et iustus. 88


A common future Berchar, and King Theuderic (III). Childebrand’s Historia narrates this prehistory to Tertry more extensively. The Franci turned to Pippin for help. They had realised that their mayor (Berchar) was not paying attention to the Franks’ friendship and advice – Francorum amicitia atque consilia contempserat.92 The Franci Audoramnus and Reolus, along with many others, entered into an alliance of friendship (amicitia) against the reliqua pars Francorum. Only then does the Historia pick up the narrative of the Liber again, to follow Pippin as he moves ab Auster to the west. Besides the addition of the names of the Franci who sought out Pippin, the revision lifts the restriction of the name of the Franks to the western elites. The aim here, as in many other inconspicuous transformations and small elaborations, was to blur the differences between different Franks that were so important to the author of the Liber historiae Francorum. When Pippin died, the Liber described his rule as a principatus that ended after twenty-seven and a half years. In the reworking of the text in the Historia vel gesta, the dux Pippin died after he had ruled for twenty-seven years over the populus Francorum.93 In the modern edition, the reworking of these last ten chapters of the Liber historiae Francorum in the Historia vel gesta comprises less than six pages. The inclusion and revision of the text, however, should not be seen as a mere bridge between the end of the Fredegar Chronicle and the Carolingian continuation of the text. Because the Historia incorporated a relatively short section of the Liber and had the bad luck to be packaged as a continuation of the Fredegar Chronicle,94 it is easy to overlook how important the Liber’s conception of history and identity was for integrating a newer vision of community in the Historia vel gesta. As a continuation of the Fredegar Chronicle, the choice of text and the alacrity and skill of Carolingian political manipulation signalled an integration of different versions of Frankish identity and history into a new perspective. Like the experiments with the Carolingian intitulatio in the eighth century, the Historia vel gesta also represents a ‘deliberate innovation on the basis of Merovingian and Carolingian tradition, which served to establish continuity in both senses’.95 Auxiliante domino: the Carolingian appropriation of providence How important the providential mission of the Franks, as it had been developed in the Liber, was for the creation of this new common future Cf. Continuationes, c. 3, p. 171, with LHF, c. 48, p. 322. Cf. Continuationes, c. 8, p. 173, with LHF, c. 51, p. 325. 94   See Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, for a fundamental critique of this decision. 95 Cf. above, p. 303 with n. 31. 92 93


Gens Francorum inclita emerges particularly clearly in the continuation of the narrative after the rewriting of the last ten chapters of the Liber historiae Francorum. As he had already done in the Liber, Charles Martel in the Historia vel gesta Francorum also escapes from Plectrude’s custody auxiliante Domino, and God’s aid stays with him and with the Franks whom he leads until his death.96 This adoption of biblical and liturgical rhetoric from the Liber marks a hitherto seldom noticed break with the narrative of the Fredegar Chronicle, in which such phrases are nearly impossible to find.97 Particularly after the end of the Liber’s narrative in 726/27 – when the new Historia recounts Charles Martel’s rise to the undisputed ruler of the populus Francorum – the authors portray the triumphs of the Franks and their princeps with strong biblical imagery and liturgical associations. After the Aquitanian duke Eudo sends for help from the Saracens against Charles, Charles conquers the enemy army with the marvellous help of Christ: Christo auxiliante tentoria eorum subvertit … sicque victor de hostibus triumphavit.98 After Eudo’s death in 735, Charles marches to Aquitaine to incorporate the land the duke had ruled and returns as victor cum pace, opitulante Christo rege.99 As Eugen Ewig long ago remarked, after this point the triumphs of the Carolingians and the Franks were frequently linked with Gebetsklauseln – small prayer phrases invoking heavenly support.100 At the end of Charles’ many campaigns, and later, the campaigns of his son Pippin against the Saxons, Burgundians, Bavarians, Aquitanians and Saracens, the triumphal returns to Francia are tagged with formulations such as opitulante Domino, Christo duce, Deo adiuvante.101 The phrase was particularly apt for the characterisation of Charles Martel’s second defeat of the Saracens.102 The important victory for Charles needed to be signalled in the narrative of the text. At this point, Charles and the Franks were explicitly identified with Old Testament precursors and with the history of Israel. After the gens Ismahelitarum had advanced up to Avignon and occupied the city, the dux Charles marched together with his kinsman, Childebrand, and the other duces and comites of that region against the enemy-occupied city: Then as once before Jericho, the armies gave a great shout, the trumpets brayed and the men rushed in to the assault with battering rams and rope ladders to get over the walls and buildings; and they took the city and burned it with fire and 96 Cf. LHF, c. 51, p. 325, with Continuationes, c. 8, p. 173. 97 See, however, Ewig, ‘Zum christlichen Königsgedanken’, p. 40; and Buc, ‘ Nach 754’, pp. 33–4. 98 Continuationes, c. 13, p. 175. 99 Continuationes, c. 15, p. 176. 100 Ewig, ‘Zum christlichen Königsgedanken’, p. 40, nn. 173–4. 101 For example, Continuationes, c. 15, p. 176, line 2; c. 19, p. 177, lines 9–10; c. 32, p. 182, line 7; c. 37, p. 184, line 32. 102 Devicto adversariorum agmine, Christo in omnibus praesule et caput salutis victorie, salubriter remeavit in regionem suam, in terra Francorum, solium principatus sui (Continuationes, c. 20, p. 178).


A common future they took captive their enemies, smiting without mercy and destroying them and they recovered complete mastery of the city.103

The Historia returns to the model of Joshua at other decisive moments, not least at the acknowledgement of Charles Martel’s life work that precedes the report of his death.104 The account of Pippin’s wars before his elevation to the kingship also ends with a quotation from the Book of Joshua, which concludes Joshua’s successful conquest of the Promised Land: et quievit terra a proelis.105 The history of Israel, here as already in the Liber historiae Francorum, explicitly serves as a key for understanding and interpreting Frankish-Carolingian history. The text of the Historia vel gesta reflects, however, not only a dialogue with other works of history, the Liber especially, but as in the Liber, an appropriation of the biblical past which was part of a broader reception of Old Testament history in liturgical and religious practice.106 In this respect a liturgical text written before or around the middle of the eighth century – the missa pro principe – provides us with an interesting source that fits also very well into the context of the Historia vel gesta’s composition.107 The missa explicitly refers to the model of Joshua. After calling to mind how God’s help was summoned for the triumphs of Abraham and Moses, the text prays for the support of the present princeps as well: ‘we ask that in such a way our ruler [princeps] will be continuously supported’.108 It then enters into an extended example of Joshua: And just as formerly Joshua when he had gone with the trumpets seven times around the walls of Jericho, with the walls tumbling down, had the victory over the city, thus omnipotent Lord God, praying we ask that if perchance any [foes] will have tried to go against the dominion of our ruler, they may wither quickly at his feet, laid low, grant omnipotent God.109 103 Continuationes, c. 20, p. 177, trans. Wallace-Hadrill, p. 94, cf. Josua 6:20. 104 Cf. Continuationes, c.  24, p.  179 (Carlus obiit in pace, in gyro regna adquisitus), with Josua 23:1 (postquam pacem dederat dominus Israeli, subiectis in gyro nationibus universis et Josue iam longaevo et persenilis aetatis). The sentence begins the story of the aged Josua gathering all his principes et duces and promising them the continued support of God in conquering the remaining nations and their lands. 105 Cf. Continuationes, c. 32, p. 182, with Samuel 11:23: Cepit ergo Josue omnem terram sicut locutus est Dominus ad Moysen et tradidit eam in possessionem filiis Israel secundum partes et tribus suas; quievit terra a proeliis. 106 Cf. above, pp. 263–4, 278–9. 107 For a recent comprehensive study of the missal, see Hen and Meens, Bobbio missal. 108 Ita principem nostrum semper victorem contra cunctus adversarius vivificit psaluit tueatur conseruit inleso quie melceset hec et abraam veternum tempore feliceter rignare in mundum per dominum (Missa pro principe, p. 151). 109 … sicut olim iusui dum septus cum tubis moeniam circuit hierico ruentib mures illiquo victuriam cepit de urbem Ita domine omnipotens deus orantes deposcimus ut si quis fortassis conati fuerent princepes nostri


Gens Francorum inclita The missa pro principe has come down to us in one of the most interesting liturgical manuscripts of the early Middle Ages: the Bobbio missal, written around the year 700, most probably in Burgundy.110 As recent research has shown, the manuscript is a collection of liturgical and religious texts, which like so many other sources we have discussed, display several older layers going back to late Roman or early post-Roman contexts.111 Its layout and contents indicate that it was compiled around 700 as a vademecum of a cleric or group of clerics, who carefully composed this collection of texts for pastoral purposes.112 In this respect it is interesting that the missa pro principe is actually a later addition from the first half or middle of the eighth century. Rosamond McKitterick suggested that it was not written in Burgundy but rather at one of the political centres in the north or northeast. This would fit well with the title of the mass – pro principe – the same title that was used for Charles Martel at the time. Childebrand’s Historia consistently uses princeps before 737. McKitterick also suggested that the original compendium of texts in the Bobbio missal was compiled in one of the cultural centres of Burgundy, maybe in Vienne or Lyons, a city that Charles entrusted to his fideles the year after his defeat of the Saracens.113 In the Historia vel gesta it is the gens Ismahelitorum who moved against Charles. In truth, however, Charles was actually trying to enforce his control against regional opponents in southern Gaul, including the Aquitanian dux Eudo and the patricius Maurontus.114 It therefore seems entirely possible that soon after Charles’ victory the missa pro principe was added to the missal in one of these cultural and political centres in Burgundy in order to legitimate the position of the new ruler, as well as the position of his officials and allies. Naturally, this remains speculative. The parallels to the representation in the Historia vel gesta Francorum are nevertheless striking. Eugen Ewig and Herwig Wolfram have already suggested that the title missa pro principe reflects the title that was applied to Charles and Pippin as kinglike rulers of the Franks, not least in the Historia vel gesta, which used the title for Carolingian rulers before 751.115 The missa also speaks to the way Childebrand set up the princeps in the Historia vel gesta with the help of Joshua’s history, in his report of the battle that he himself had contra ire imperies sub pedebus illius tabiscant vilociter prostrate presta deus omnipotens (Missa pro principe, p. 152, trans. by Garrison, in Hen and Meens, Bobbio missal, p. 203). 110 See the discussion by McKitterick, ‘The scripts’, pp. 19–52. 111 See Hen and Meens, Bobbio missal. 112 Hen, ‘Conclusion’, p. 221. 113 McKitterick, ‘The scripts’, pp. 45–6; Continuationes, c. 14, p. 175. 114 Continuationes, c. 20, p. 177; Geary, Aristocracy, pp. 123–31, 141–8. 115 Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 151; Ewig, ‘Zum christlichen Königsgedanke’, pp. 44–5.


A common future participated in. What is more, Childebrand exercised his office in exactly the same region in which the missal originated and was later supplemented with the missa pro principe. He also figures prominently in the Historia among the duces et comites illius regionis, after the Saracens allied with Maurontus, they advanced as far as Burgundy and the Rhône, and captured Vienne. Childebrand’s special interest in the southern region of Francia had already appeared in the narrative that precedes these events. In a sequence of three chapters, the Saracens and Eudo are defeated at Tours and Poitiers, Burgundy is then won and handed over to Charles’ fideles, and finally Aquitaine is also brought under Charles’ control after Eudo’s death. The conclusion of this sequence is a sentence styled as a prayer:  Victor cum pace remeavit, opitulante Christo rege regum et domino dominorum. Amen.116 Childebrand’s interest in the establishment of Carolingian rule in the southern provinces fits perfectly with his use of liturgical and biblical vocabulary here. After this sentence starts the computation of the age of the world from Adam to the annus praesens, and the section ends with calculations based on Christ’s passion: [F]‌rom the beginning of the world to our Lord Jesus Christ is 5228 years and from the Lord’s passion to the present year, which is the 177th year in the cycle of Victorius, Sunday, 1 January, it is 735 years. Thus we lack 63 years to complete this millennium.117

The computation in the chronicle marks an important and  – from the post-751 vantage point  – a delicate moment in Carolingian history,  namely, the beginning of Charles’ reign without a Merovingian king after the death of Theuderic IV sometime between 1 January 737 and 15 March 737.118 After making the more conventional calculation of years from the beginning of the world,119 the compilers avoid synchronising that biblical computation with the regnal years of a Merovingian king. Instead, with the help of the Victorian cycle, they come to a date by counting the years since the passion of Christ.120 By omitting all information about Theuderic – his regnal years and particularly his death – the chroniclers could continue the story without a king, simply passing over the fact that Charles decided to rule the regnum as princeps without 116 Continuationes, c. 15, p. 176. 117 Continuationes, c. 16, trans. Wallace-Hadrill, p. 92. 118 Weidemann, ‘Zur Chronologie der Merowinger im 7. und 8. Jahrhundert’, pp. 205–9. 119 For a short but excellent overview, see von den Brincken, Historische Chronologie, pp. 64–7. 120 Krusch calculated as the annus praesens of the computation the year 736 which would still work if beginning of the year was in the spring. Hilarian’s De cursu temporum at the beginning of the Historia vel gesta does indeed calculate the beginning of the world with a spring date (March 25), cf. Hilarian, De cursu temporum, ed. Frick, p. 158.


Gens Francorum inclita elevating a successor to Theuderic. This not only anticipates the usurpation of the royal title under Charles’ son Pippin a few chapters later, the comprehensive calculation also underlined the providential dimension of the Carolingian rise. This becomes more obvious if we look back to the beginning of the chronicle, where the Carolingian compilers had replaced the Liber generationis with Hilarian’s De cursu temporum.121 The resolute millenarianism that is present in this relatively short text very explicitly tied the history of Israel to the present. After pulling together a description and calculation of the six ages of the world, which were almost exclusively orientated to biblical history, Hilarian asserted: Populus enim Judaicus in omnibus figuram nostram portat.122 He anchored this observation above all in his calculation of the age of the world. Carolingian readers after the middle of the eighth century would have been especially appreciative of these similarities and synchronicities, in light of the close attention that Hilarian paid to Saul’s anointing by the prophet Samuel. The prophet is mentioned four times in this short text, three of which specifically explain that it was he who anointed Saul as king.123 This introductory text offers a new perspective to the succeeding historical narrative. It replaces the increasing sprawl and fanning-out of the world in the Liber generationis, with its different genealogies and catalogues at the end – not least, of the Merovingian and Byzantine rulers. Instead of these, in the new Historia vel gesta Francorum one looks from the very start into a Carolingian future which in Childebrand’s version ends with the election and anointing of Pippin to the kingship. It was perhaps even more important that this new introduction also set the narratives of the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber historiae Francorum into a new framework that integrated the different conceptions of Frankish identity and history in biblical terms. The author of the Liber used the theme of providential mission to legitimise the Merovingian kingdom. In the Merovingian version of the Fredegar Chronicle, the Frankish duces, and especially the Carolingian 121 Cf. above, pp. 311–2. 122 Hilarian, De cursu temporum, ed. Frick, p. 171; Krusch did not include the text in his edition, but I have compared the edition with the text in the most important manuscript,Vatican, BAV Reg. lat. 213 (the date for the beginning of the world is on fol. 3r). Frick used one of the manuscripts of Krusch’s class 3 copied around 800 (Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek,Voss. lat. Q. 5;, cf. Collins, Fredegar-Chroniken, p. 68), where the text had been inserted before the beginning of the Gregory epitome. Frick erroneously referred to the manuscript as ‘Leiden Vossianus latinus 4’ (p. ccxvii). 123 Hilarian, De cursu temporum, ed. Frick, p. 162;Vatican, BAV Reg. lat. 213 fol. 6r: A Jesu Nave usque ad Samuelem prophetam, qui unxit Saul, regem, per annos DLXI; p. 164, 10–11,Vatican, BAV Reg. lat. 213 fol. 7v: Huic successit Samuhel etiam ipse Dei sacerdos et iudacvit annis XL usque quo unxit Saul regem; p. 164, 18–19,Vatican, BAV Reg. lat. 213 fol. 7v: Sunt ergo anni omnes a fabrica mundi usque ad Samuhelem quo unxit Saul regem IIIICCC.


A common future duces, are shown preoccupied with the stability and future of the regnum, as leaders of the Franks’ providential mission. True, neither the Liber nor the Chronicle had presented histories of unqualified success here; indeed, both had addressed the unfortunate consequences of political and social dissent  – dissent between kings and directed at kings, but also dissent among the elites of the kingdom. The two texts presented different versions of Frankish identity, each connected with the political claims of competing elites in the Merovingian kingdom. Of those narratives, even after the mid-eighth century, the compilers of the new Historia vel gesta Francorum could assume fairly widespread knowledge. The combining of both these texts, inevitably calling attention to these differences and discrepancies, might well seem a high-risk authorial strategy. My own view is that Childebrand especially, and Nibelung in his wake, took this risk quite deliberately. In a compilation of the past that retained, even highlighted, some of the tensions between different elites and different conceptions of Frankishness, Childebrand aimed to show the capacity of the Carolingian future to integrate these disparate interests into one Frankish perspective. 10.4  IMPETUS FRAN CORUM : the C arol i ng i an ­ pol iticisation of ethni c i de ntity The construction of a Frankish community that absorbed various Frankishnesses into a common future of all of the Franks in the Historia vel gesta Francorum should not only provide an attractive focus of social and political integration for the different groups and elites in the Frankish kingdom. It belonged, just like the Carolingian interpretation and invention of honours and titles such as the vir inluster or dux et princeps Francorum, to the political programme with which the Carolingians legitimated their usurpation of the Frankish throne.The idea of a unified Frankish community played in fact a crucial role for the claims of the new reges Francorum to be entitled to the loyalties that were once owed to the Merovingian kings. What we observe in Childebrand’s Historia vel gesta parallels the innovative combination of the dux title with the name of the Franks discussed above. As we have seen, the invention of a dux and/ or princeps Francorum allowed the Carolingian mayors to integrate their own history as members of the Frankish elites with the claim that they represented the kingdom’s population, just like the reges Francorum did. At the same time, the loyalty that the subjects of the Merovingian kingdoms owed to their Merovingian reges Francorum was increasingly interpreted as a loyalty that was owed to the Franks. The consent of all the Franks provided therefore not only the legitimation for the Carolingians to rule 326

Gens Francorum inclita the Frankish people instead of the Merovingian kings but also – as the new reges Francorum – embodied their interests, rights and responsibilities. Such a redirection or channelling of loyalties through a common Frankish identity of the Carolingians and their elites is carefully described in the narrative of the Historia vel gesta Francorum in its accounts of broken and restored oaths and agreements.124 Before Pippin became king, in 748, he had to raise an army because the Saxons had broken the oath they had sworn to Pippin’s brother Carloman. After their defeat they submitted to Frankish law in the ancient manner (iure Francorum sese ut antiquitus mos fuerat subdiderunt). They also promised henceforth to pay the full tribute that they had once owed to the Merovingian kings.125 This passage refers to an account in the Fredegar Chronicle mentioning a tribute of 500 cows that the Saxons made annually in the time of Chlothar II.126 The conflicts with the Saxons are also taken up later in the narrative after Pippin’s elevation in 751. In 753 the newly elected king marched against the Saxons, who had again broken their loyalty (fides) that they had once promised to the praefatus rex – the above-mentioned king Pippin. The king (Pippinus rex ira commotus) moved against them with the whole army of the Franks – commoto omni exercitu Francorum.127 After their defeat, the Saxons swore oaths to keep the peace and their loyalty and to pay even more tribute as they had once promised.128 The same emphasis on the newly elected king as the representative of the Franks can be found in his campaign against the Lombards in the following year. After the pope had asked the king for support Pippin convened omnes Franci sicut mos Francorum and started the campaign against the Lombards and their king Aistulf.129 After his defeat Aistulf asked through the priests and magnates of the Franks (per sacerdotes et obtimates Francorum) for peace. He swore oaths to preserve the peace and promised to respect from now on the ditiones Francorum.130 After Aistulf had broken his oath and had been defeated again in the subsequent year, he was subjected to a iudicium Francorum and swore that he would never again revolt against Pippin, the king, and the proceres Francorum.131 In the immediately following chapter Pippin summoned an assembly in order to consult about the salus patriae and the utilitas Francorum with all the obtimates Francorum while the Aquitanian dux Waifar broke his oaths and laid waste some regions in the south of the kingdom. Pippin marched against Waifar, besieged Bourges cum universa multitudine gentis Francorum 124 See Esders, ‘Sacramentum fidelitatis’, pp. 293–7; cf. Becher, Eid und Herrschaft, p. 99. 125 Continuationes, c. 31, p. 181.   126  CF IV , 74, p. 158. 127 Continuationes, c. 35, p. 182.   128  Continuationes, c. 35, p. 182. 129 Continuationes, c. 37, pp. 183–4.   130  Continuationes, c. 37, p. 184. 131 For the iudicium Francorum in the older version of the Fredegar Chronicle, see above, pp. 232–5.


A common future and conquered the city again with clear reminiscences of Joshua’s takeover of Jericho.132 After his victory Pippin returned home as his father Charles had before him, Christo duce ad sedem propriam, but in this case Christ went not only before Pippin but before the whole army of the Franks, too.133 Pippin held on to this community with the Franks until his death, and even then he split the regnum Francorum between his two sons una cum consensu Francorum et procerum suorum seu et episcoporum.134 The politicisation of ethnic identity on a Christian foundation, as the Historia vel gesta developed it, aimed above all to establish a common Frankish vision to legitimate Carolingian rule. The careful continuation of Childebrand’s strategies of legitimation by his son Nibelung after 751 clearly demonstrates that it was an ongoing project to convince the elites and groups of the Frankish kingdom to accept the new political constellation.135 In sounding out the reactions to the fierce embrace of Frankish inclusivity in historiographical texts we mainly depend on Carolingian sources. It seems that the Carolingian family successfully established a historiographical monopoly to promote their version of a common past and future. It might, however, be possible to find some traces of how groups responded to the political theory of Carolingian legitimacy in the compilation of law codes in rights and privileges that were compiled in a time before the establishment of the Carolingian kings. It seems that redactions of law codes in both Alamannia and Bavaria reacted to the ascent of the Carolingians in the centre of the kingdom by putting great stress on the Merovingian kings as the legitimate lawgivers.136 The start of the version of the lex Alamannorum, which was most probably composed between 730 and 740, mentions that it had been updated by the Alaman dux Lantfrid (d. 730);137 a slightly later version even refers to the times of Chlothar II in which this lex gentis Alamannorum had been issued.138 The lex Baiuvariorum, whose extant version originated probably between 737 and 743,139 even starts in most manuscripts with a heading:  ‘This was decreed by the king and his principes and by the 132 Continuationes, c. 42 and 43, pp. 187–8; see Josua 6:1. 133 Pippinus rex Christo duce cum omni exercitu Francorum cum multa praeda et spolia iterum reversus est ad sedem propriam (Continuationes, c. 43, p. 188). 134 Continuationes, c. 53, pp. 192–3. 135 See McKitterick, ‘Anfänge’. 136 For the opposition in Bavaria and Alemannia see Geuenich, ‘… noluerunt obtemperare ducibus Francorum’. 137 See the interesting discussion and convincing argument for the date and for the composition of the text in the monastery of Reichenau in Schott, ‘Lex und Skriptorium’. 138 See Lex Alamannorum I , ed. Lehmann, p. 62; see for the date and context of this version version, now Schott, ‘Lex und Skriptorium’, p. 283. 139 See Landau, Lex Baiuvariorum, pp. 30–4; and for earlier layers Esders, ‘Spätrömisches Militärrecht’.


Gens Francorum inclita whole Christian people that lives in the Merovingian kingdom.’140 The much-discussed prologue of the lex Baiuvariorum actually looks back further into the Merovingian period – back to Clovis’ son Theuderic, the powerful ruler of the eastern kingdom (d. 533). Together with wise men, learned in ancient laws (leges antiquae), Theuderic gave the laws of the Franks, Alamans and Bavarians, according to their own customs, to each of those gentes that were under his rule (quae in eius potestate erat).141 King Childebert (II) and Chlothar (II) were the first to further improve the laws, and then finally the rex gloriosissimus Dagobert revised them with the viri inlustres Claudius, Chadoind, Magnus and Agilulf. The emphasis on the legitimacy of the Merovingian rulers, as well as the nod towards Merovingian magnates and their titles, shows clearly the opposition of those who crafted the lex to the Carolingian reform of Frankish policy, speech and history. At the same time, both texts – the lex Alamannorum and the lex Baiuvariorum – also ethnically legitimise their own constitution, in reaction to the establishment of Frankish identity as an expression of political consensus in a Merovingian kingdom that was increasingly ruled by the Carolingians. As one of the oldest manuscripts of the Alaman lex indicates, the code came about through an assembly of nobles from the Alamannic people, together with their dux Lantfrid and other people(s) allied with them.142 The prologue of the Bavarian lex opens with a lengthy quotation from Isidore, which lists a series of giving of laws to different peoples, beginning with the first lawgiver, Moses. After the Egyptians and Greeks the introduction mentions the oldest Roman legislation under Numa, and then the decemviri of the Twelve Tables and finally the new laws since Constantine’s time, which Theodosius minor (II) compiled in a codex.143 Before another long quotation from Isidore, an interesting sentence is inserted at this point that cannot be found in Isidore: ‘Then each people chose to develop their own laws from their own customs.’144 Following the second quotation from Isidore (V , 3) the prologue then presents the Merovingian legislation  – issued from Theuderic to Dagobert for the Franks, Alamans, and Bavarians  – as a renewal of the archaic laws following the model of the Christian Roman emperors. Dagobert’s reform 140 Hoc decretum est apud regem et principes eius et apud cunctum populum christianum, qui infra regnum Meruwingorum consistunt (Lex Baiuvariorum I , ed. von Schwind, p. 267; for the title as an apocryph Nachspiel of the title of the younger version of the lex Alemannorum, see Schott, ‘Lex und Skriptorium’, p. 283). 141 Lex Baiuvariorum, Prologue, p. 202. 142 Lex Alemannorum, tit. and c. 1, pp. 62–3. 143 Cf. Lex Baiuvariorum, Prologue, pp. 198–200; with Isidore, Etymologiae V , 1. 144 Lex Baiuvariorum, Prologue, p. 200.


A common future receives special emphasis in this regard, as well as the fact that the king was advised in his legal revisions by the four viri illustres. It is the world of the Fredegar Chronicle of the seventh century that the prologue evokes in its history of lawgiving. At the very time in which the authors of the Historia vel gesta were working on the recomposition of Frankish history and the Fredegar Chronicle, one finds in the Bavarian lex, and perhaps less obviously in the Alaman code, all the elements of an order of the world that we have already observed in the Fredegar compilation of the seventh century. It may also be no accident that two of the four viri inlustres who advise Dagobert are also prominently mentioned in the Fredegar Chronicle.145 More important, however, are the parallels between the sense of renewal in the prologue and in the Fredegar Chronicle, both of which are based on a Frankish-Christian reform of Roman structures. In the chronicle and in the prologue, the world is ordered as a world divided among gentes. In the chronicle and in the prologue, political legitimation is developed out of this order. The look back to the world of the Fredegar Chronicle was not merely nostalgia for lost times. It was a look to a system in which the elites of each region in which the laws were redacted were reorganised as new Frankish elites.146 As we have seen, this system allowed for the dux Baiovariorum to be both: a Frankish official and a Bavarian duke.This created Spielräume in which the meaning of dux Baiovariorum was flexible at the Frankish court and in Bavaria. The Carolingian reform of Frankish identity and the ethnic labelling of political opposition narrowed these Spielräume and surely contributed to the increasing rigidity of that interpretation in the course of the eighth century,147 so that the Bavarian dux came to be understood more narrowly as the dux of Bavaria.148 Such development in the old duchies of the Merovingian kingdoms posed a serious challenge to the Carolingian politics of Frankish consensus. This is clear not only in the continuation of the narrative by Childebrand’s nephew Nibelung, but also in the Carolingian reform of the old Frankish legislation. As Karl Ubl has persuasively suggested in his work on the Lex Salica, the revision of the Frankish law under the new Carolingian king Pippin might well be seen as a response to provocations 145 Landau, Lex Baiuvariorum, p.  33; Claudius, genere Romanus and maior domus of Theuderic II (Fredegar, Chronicae IV , 28, p. 132; Liebs, Römische Jurisprudenz, pp. 78–9, identifies him with the Claudius of the code); Chadoind is mentioned as referendarius and a capable military leader of Dagobert (Fredegar, Chronicae IV , 78, pp. 166–7; cf. Liebs, Römische Jurisprudenz, pp. 78–9); there appear several Agilulfs in the Fredegar Chronicle; for the Agilolfing network, or even networks, see Jarnut, Agilolfingerstudien; LeJan, Famille, pp. 388–95. 146 Esders, ‘Spätrömisches Militärrecht’; and Esders, ‘Spätantike und frühmittelalterliche Dukate’. 147 Nelson, Opposition; McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 266–78. 148 Wolfram, Salzburg, pp. 165–9.


Gens Francorum inclita that the prologue and redaction of the Lex Baiuvariorum represented.149 The Carolingian principes had already presented themselves in the role of lawgivers before 751. After Pippin’s elevation, however, the Lex Salica seems to have become increasingly important for this self-presentation. The Carolingian double strategy that I have discussed in this chapter in other respects also played an important role here. One the one hand, the Lex Salica was presented as old Frankish law, which the Carolingians now gave a pan-Frankish meaning that it had never had before.150 Already in 754, Pippin referred in his capitularies to the Lex Salica and ordered that plaintiffs who wrongfully accused judges of false verdicts should be sentenced to a fine secundum legem.151 The publication of the new version of the ‘Frankish’ lex, however, seems to have occurred a decade later. Ubl suggests that this happened at the royal assembly in Worms in 764, which the Bavarian duke Tassilo also attended.152 As the revised version of the royal annals reported, the assembly primarily discussed Tassilo’s unauthorised desertion of the Frankish army, an accusation that would appear when there was a need to justify the duke’s deposition more than two decades later.153 The revision of the Lex Salica that was possibly introduced on the occasion of this assembly included a new prologue, which might well be read as a Carolingian response to the Lex Baiuvariorum’s prologue. Instead of the history and the authority of the Merovingian kings and their viri inlustres it invokes the glory of the illustrious gens of the Franks: The illustrious Frankish people [gens inclita Francorum], established by the power of God, strong in arms, firm in peace, profound in council, of noble body, intact purity, distinguished in form, brave, swift and austere, [recently] converted to the catholic faith, free from heresy, seeking, while still following barbarian cult, through the inspiration of God, the key to wisdom and according to their customs, desiring justice, keeping the faith.154

This was the answer of the Liber historiae Francorum in its Carolingian reinterpretation, and the author of the longer prologue was well aware of the overlaps of historiographical and legal traditions he was building upon. After the eulogy of the Franks the text included the same passage of the older ‘short prologue’ of the Lex Salica that had also been included For this and the following, see Ubl, ‘Die Lex Salica’, pp. ; I am very grateful to him for sharing his unpublished work. 150 See above, pp. 103–8. 151 Capitularia regum Francorum I , no. 13, p. 32; Glatthaar, Bonifatius, pp. 217–39; Ubl, Die Lex Salica. 152 Ubl, ‘Die Lex Salica’. 153 Annales qui dicuntur Einhard a. 764, p. 23, for the conflict see below, pp. 399–42. 154 Lex Salica, Prologue, pp. 2–4. 149


A common future into the origo of the Liber historiae Francorum mentioning the four lawgivers Wisogastis, Bodogastis, Saligastis et Widigastis representing the rectores ipsius gentis.155 Then follows a sentence about the reform of the Christian kings of the Franks, Clovis above all, who improved each law that seemed less than useful. After this one sentence on the legal legacy of the Merovingian kings, the text turns its attention back entirely to the Franks: vivat qui Francus diligit. The appeal to love the Franks is followed by a Gebetsklausel, like the phrases invoking divine support that Childebrand’s Historia vel gesta so often used,156 but it is extended into a longer prayer: Long live he who loves the Franks. May Christ protect their kingdom, may the light of his grace fill their rulers, protect their army and give them the protection of the faith. May Jesus Christ, lord of the lords bestow with his gracious love the joys of peace and times of happiness.157

After the prayer for all who love the Franks the longer prologue continues with verbal and contextual allusions to the origo of the Liber historiae Francorum: Haec est enim gens que fortis dum esset robore valida.158 For this is the people that has been powerful for so long through their mighty force.They fought to shake off the powerful and harsh yoke of the Romans from its neck. And after their acceptance of baptism, the Franks decorated with gold and precious stones the bodies of the blessed martyrs whom the Romans had mutilated with fire or sword or had thrown to the beast to be torn.159

The excessive elevation and expansion of Frankish identity, together with the demarcation of the gens valida Francorum apart from the Romani, should not be seen only as a reaction to the lex Baiuvariorum. As Karl Ubl remarked, the Aquitanian dux Waifar was also present at the royal assembly at Worms where the revised Lex Salica was possibly publicised.160 Much more than the Bavarian lex, which cites the Codex Theodosianus not only in its prologue but also in its provisions,161 Aquitaine and the southern regions of Gaul took Roman legal tradition into consideration. 155 Lex Salica, Prologue, p. 4; for the short prologue, cf. above pp. 103–4. 156 Cf. above, p. 321. 157 Lex Salica, Prologue, p. 6: Vivat qui Francus diligit, Christus eorum regnum costodiat, rectores eorundem lumen suae graciae repleat, exercitum protegat, fidem munimenta tribuat; paces gaudia et felicitatem tempora dominancium dominus Iesus Christus [propiciante] pietatem concedat. 158 See LHF, c. 1, p. 241: gens illa fortis et valida. 159 Lex Salica, Prologue, pp. 6–8; Haec est enim gens, que fortis dum esset robore valida. Romanorum iugum durissimum de suis cervicibus excusserunt pugnando, atque post agnicionem baptismi sanctorum martyrum corpora, quem Romani igne cremaverunt vel ferro truncaverunt vel besteis lacerando proiecerunt, Franci [reperta] super eos aurum et lapides preciosos ornaverunt. 160 Ubl, Die Lex Salica. 161 See Fastrich-Sutty, Die Rezeption; see also Siems, ‘Zum Weiterwirken’.


Gens Francorum inclita As Stefan Esders has shown, the legitimacy of Merovingian kingship was based in no small part on the continuity and reinterpretation of this legal tradition.162 The Carolingian propaganda, by contrast, was based above all on distancing itself from this tradition, with the help of the providential mission and biblical legitimation of the Liber historiae Francorum. In the Liber, however, these strategies of distinction were developed for asserting the role of the western elites within the Merovingian kingdom. The reform of Frankish identity, as an expression of the approval and consensus of all Franks around their Carolingian rulers, detached these strategies of distinction from their regional associations and connected them to a much wider imagination and definition of the Franks than that which the Liber historiae Francorum had outlined. And the Carolingians really seem to have achieved success. One must acknowledge that this successful history has been transmitted almost entirely in sources that speak from a Carolingian perspective. This too is definitely an indication of the success of Carolingian policy. The motivational potential of a providential vision of community that included anyone who made the political decision to support Carolingian rule actually seems to have been an attractive foundation for many people to join in building a new political consensus. This success, however, was not without its problems. With the increasing success of Carolingian politics and the ongoing expansion of Carolingian-Frankish territorial control, a new problem of integration arose. This was not least because Carolingian success went hand in hand with the politicisation of Frankish identity, in a manner that transformed the significance that ethnic identity had had in Merovingian times. Frankish identity, recast, clearly offered less Spielraum for the coexistence of other ethnic identities. At the same time, as the prologues of the lex Alamannorum and lex Baiuvariorum show, this process and its significance for strategies of identification intensified in regions where the Carolingians were increasingly extending their control. With the expansion of Carolingian rule, the distinctiveness of the Frankish world, which was so important for mediating political and social consensus, had to be constructed with ever broader horizons. The simultaneous moves of creating wider historical horizons combined with sharp differences that marked out the Franks from the Romani, and Frankish history from Roman history in the long prologue to the Lex Salica can also be understood in this way. In the Historia vel gesta, too, at the start of the joint rule of Pippin and Carloman, the two brothers principes germani fight against 162 See Esders, Römische Rechtstradition.


A common future the Romani (Aquitanians).163 This explains the dynamic of Carolingian politics, whose protagonists kept driving the extension of the political horizons towards ever new horizons of military expansion and Christian mission, and which eventually led to the establishment of a Carolingian imperium.   Continuationes, c. 25, p. 180.



Chapter 11


The redefinition of central Frankishness

The narrative of the Historia vel gesta ends in 768 with the division of the kingdom between Pippin’s sons, Carloman and Charles, and with the death and burial of the new king Pippin in the old Merovingian burial grounds of Saint-Denis. The final sentence of the Continuations to the Fredegar Chronicle that reports the accession to power of both brothers in their propriae sedes – Charles in Noyon and Carloman in Soissons – could easily have served as the start of another continuation.1 Unlike so many earlier versions of the Fredegar Chronicle, however, this came to be the end of this narrative. The continuation of the providential past of the Carolingians and their Franks would be promoted in a new text that is built in many respects upon the Historia vel gesta, but which developed its account of the rise of the Carolingians in a new narrative structure: the Annales regni Francorum – the Royal Frankish Annals. The annals first got their name in the nineteenth century, from Leopold von Ranke. In medieval library catalogues the text is usually listed as gesta Francorum, and modern editions first called it Annales Laurissenses maiores, the Greater Lorsch Annals, because its oldest extant redaction was drawn up in the Carolingian monastery of Lorsch.2 Ranke, however, suggested that the text was a product of the Carolingian court itself.3 The blatant promotion of the Carolingian kings in the text, which describes the triumphal success of Pippin and his successors from 741 to 829, actually provides a good case for treating the text as an attempt to develop an official view of history from the perspective of the political centres of the Carolingian rulers.4 Continuationes, cc. 53–4, p. 193.   2  Kurze, ‘Praefatio, ARF, p. v. 3 Von Ranke, ‘Zur Kritik’, p. 115. 4 McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp.  31–3, describes the ARF as ‘the closest thing to ‘offical history’ we have from the early Carolingian period’ (p. 31), but see her discussion about a multi-central court system under Charlemagne at pp.  157–213 and 171–8; and in McKitterick, ‘Court and communication’. 1


A common future The perceptual grid used for this endeavour, however, was not genealogy, but the annalistic structure.5 The ordering of the past in an annalistic structure was no Carolingian invention. Its model was most likely annalistic accounts written in the Roman Empire.6 In the Carolingian renovatio of the historiographical tradition, however, the years were not counted ab urbe condita, from the foundation of Rome. The years were counted from the beginning of the new Christian era with the birth of Christ. The urbs was now the city of God in the Carolingian kingdom. The historical narrative became integrated into a Calendar of Triumph, in which the triumph of Christianity is directly linked to the triumph of the Carolingian family and the Frankish people.7 The common history of the Franks and their Carolingian rulers was not so much defined through their past, or through the integration of different conceptions of Frankish identity and history; instead it was projected into an annalistic vision that was knitted into the seams of an endlessly expandable story. Thus it was no coincidence that the extant narrative starts only in 741, with the takeover of the regnum Francorum by the future king Pippin, leaving the Carolingian future open to connection with multiple visions of the Frankish past. The vision of community for the Carolingian rulers and their Franks should have the potential to offer a common future for all their histories, not least to offer Christian visions like the one developed by Gregory of Tours. The appeal of such a dynamic and future-orientated formation of a Carolingian-Frankish success story is already well documented for the Carolingian period. The Annales came to be ‘the most influential of the contemporary narratives for the history of the Frankish kingdoms under the early Carolingian rulers’.8 The annals are extant in a variety of versions and manuscripts, and in the course of the ninth century became a central building block of ‘history books’ that compiled additional texts into a more extensive representation of history.9 In the process, the annals were often combined with various works on early Frankish history that we have discussed to this point: Gregory of Tours, the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber historiae Francorum.10 The great impact of the narrative is also well documented in other historical For perceptual grids in historiographical writing see Spiegel, The past as text, pp. 99–110. Foot, ‘Annals’. 7 McKitterick, History and memory, pp. 97–100, 113–19. 8 McKitterick, Charlemagne, p. 31. 9 On Carolingian history books see McKitterick, History and memory, pp. 120–32, 28–59 (pp. 50–1 on the ARF). 10 See my discussion of the manifold codicological contexts of the Royal Frankish Annals in my ‘Weg zum Königtum’, pp. 280–8, with nn. 14–43, including manuscripts not listed and discussed by the text’s editor, Friedrich Kurze. 5 6


Correctio writings of the Carolingian period. Authors of comprehensive historical works such as the Astronomer in his Life of Louis the Pious, Regino of Prüm’s Carolingian World Chronicle, the Poeta Saxo, the authors of the Annals of Fulda, the Annals of Saint-Bertin or the Annals of Xanten; all of these worked with the text, either by continuing it or excerpting and revising it in their accounts.11 In this process the Royal Frankish Annals became an important component of a grand narrative in which the Carolingian success story stood at the start of a new age. Already early on, this new age was associated with the definitive political and social reorganisation of the post-Roman west, in the renovatio imperii of the Carolingian Empire. North of the Alps the Carolingian epoch became more and more important for constructing new origins for late Carolingian and post-Carolingian societies, communities and institutions. The role of the Royal Frankish Annals, however, only emerged as the start of a new ‘European’ grand narrative over a longer period of time – in particular, only after the text reached its conclusion in 829. It therefore seems important to differentiate this consensus about the text, which emerged after 829, from the efforts to promote and legitimate Carolingian rule before 829. It might perhaps be easier to discern these two different phases in the writing and rewriting of the annals, if we distinguish between two closely related but nevertheless distinct histories of the text – two histories we might tentatively call the short and the long history of the Royal Frankish Annals. For the long history of the Royal Frankish Annals I  should like to address the long-term success of the narrative; later historians saw and used it as the established main narrative of the Carolingian rise to power and the extension of Frankish supremacy over half of Europe – a successful, collective undertaking of the Franks and their Carolingian rulers. But it is precisely the long history of the text – its prevalence as the central narrative of the Carolingian rise to power – that has tended to hide the break between this long history and a shorter history that ended in 829. Whereas in the long history of the text, compilers built on the consensus that had been established in and through the narrative, the authors and compilers in its short history (up to 829) were primarily concerned with establishing consent about the text as the valid narrative of the Carolingian rise to power. Although the success of this project to compose a common vision of the early Carolingian past doubtless contributed to its later popularity, no continual historiographical tradition leads

McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp.  24–7, 35–7; Wattenbach , Levison and Löwe, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen vol. III , pp. 337–8, 348–9; VI , pp. 677–8, 863–4, 882–3, 902. 11


A common future from the annals’ short history to its long one. As we shall see this break also marks a crucial turning point in the history of Frankish identity. The long history of the annals leads far past the chronological limits of this study. In this book, we shall look at this history only briefly in the last chapter, to offer a brief prospect of the varied future of Frankish identity from the middle of the ninth century. In this and the next chapter we shall deal above all with the short history of the Royal Frankish Annals, up to their abrupt end in the year 829. Until this abrupt ending, however, the short history of the annals was also a successful historiographical project, as the many manuscript witnesses and the reception of the text in other historiographical texts – not least the various Carolingian annals – impressively attest.12 The success of the annals was also linked to an ongoing work, to successive rewriting and extensions of the text and to the social and political consensus it had to arrange. Even today a number of breaks are detectable in the extant versions of the annals, which show that the text was redacted in multiple stages.13 The most obvious of these is a break in the entry for 788/9, and a later one appearing in the account of 801. In addition, there exists an entirely new reworking of the text for the period between 741 and 801, which its editor Friedrich Kurze named Annales qui dicuntur Einhardi, more commonly known today as the ‘revised version’ of the Royal Frankish Annals. The many fractures and modifications in the text have been discussed in detail in historical scholarship for a long time. As with the Fredegar Chronicle and its ‘continuations’, the question that has stood out most prominently was the identity of the authors, with the goal of determining the text’s Sitz im Leben. The work of Rosamond McKitterick on Carolingian annals, however, has given a new direction to research on the Royal Frankish Annals. She proposed that the annals were ‘a successful, collaborative project of image-making undertaken by many Frankish authors and scribes over a number of decades’. This observation guided attention away from 12 For example, Annales Mettenses Priores, Annales Laurissenses minores, Chronicon Laurissense breve, see below, and Kaschke, Die karolingischen Reichsteilungen, pp. 131–72; McKitterick, History and memory, pp. 111–13 (dissemination), 128–30 (reception); McKitterick, Perceptions, pp. 63–89. The conventional view was to see the Royal Frankish Annals as the endproduct of many minor annalistic projects, which were eventually absorbed by the larger annalistic narrative (for the historiography, see my ‘Weg zum Königtum’, pp. 277–80). But as McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 36–7, and Perceptions, pp. 65–89, suggested and demonstrated with some examples, one could also see it the other way round and understand the success of the Royal Frankish Annals as impulse for annalistic writings from a more local or regional perspective. In this case we would have even more witnesses for the wide distribution of the Royal Frankish Annals during its short history. 13 See the detailed discussion of these breaks in McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 31–56, with further references to the vast literature on the subject.


Correctio the individual formation of the text and more firmly towards the function of the text.14 From this perspective the breaks and changes to the text were not only traces of some author’s changes to what others had done, they could also be examined as traces of different redactors’ efforts to adapt the historiographical formulation of a social consensus to constantly changing political conditions and possibilities in the Carolingian Empire.The surviving text can thus be regarded as a product of continual reworking, whose various redactions allow for an investigation into how the social and political experiments described therein were continually re-negotiated in the writing and rewriting of the text. 11.1 … U T IN OMN IBUS OBOEDIEN S ET FIDELIS DOMNO REGI CARO LO AC GEN TI FRAN CORUM : th e con j urati on of a Frankish community in the R oyal F rank i sh Annal s  c. 79 0

Matthias Becher’s study of the context of the oldest extant redaction of the Royal Frankish Annals (which ends in the year 788) also provided considerable momentum for interpreting the extant annals as the results of different stages of an ongoing historiographical project. Becher was able to demonstrate convincingly that this redaction originated around 790 and that current political questions greatly determined the shape of the text.15 He showed this especially on the basis of how the deposition of the Bavarian duke Tassilo was represented. Tassilo had been accused of having broken the oath he swore to the Carolingian rulers and to the Franks. He was brought to trial in 788, and the oldest extant redaction of the Annales regni Francorum closes with a report of this trial and of the pacification of Bavaria in the same year.16 The Royal Frankish Annals were not the only text to relate how Tassilo’s fall caused a stir. Many other contemporary sources mention the deposition of the Bavarian duke.17 This was due to the duke’s prominent position.Tassilo came from the old Bavarian-Frankish ducal family of the Agilolfings, whose power in Bavaria had been explicitly secured in the lex Baiuvariorum.18 As Bavarian duke, he had also successfully plugged into the traditionally strong relationship that Bavaria had with the Lombard McKitterick, ‘Political ideology’, p. 171. 15 Becher, Eid und Herrschaft, pp. 74–7. 16 Kurze, ‘Praefatio’, ARF, p. vi; on the context see also Wolfram, Salzburg, pp. 338–45; Diesenberger, ‘Dissidente Stimmen’; Airlie, ‘Narratives’; McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 118–26. 17 Wolfram, Salzburg, pp. 338–45; Diesenberger, ‘Dissidente Stimmen’; Airlie, ‘Narratives’. 18 Lex Baiuvariorum, tit. II , 1, p. 313; see Esders, ‘Spätantike und frühmittelalterliche Dukate’. 14


A common future kingdom, by marrying the daughter of the Lombard king Desiderius. Tassilo also descended from the Carolingian family: his mother Chiltrude was a daughter of Charles Martel. Already Childebrand’s and Nibelung’s Historia vel gesta Francorum had uneasily taken note of this connection and remarked that Chiltrude had married Odilo against her brothers’ will. But with his uncle’s approval or without it, Tassilo was Charlemagne’s cousin. With his victories in both domestic and foreign policy, not least the successful subjugation and mission to the Slavic Carantanians, the Bavarian duke  – from the perspective of the Carolingian ruler  – had emerged an increasingly unwelcome competitor. The duke confidently issued his charters as vir inluster Tassilo dux Baiuvariorum and in doing so presented himself in a double continuity with both Merovingian and Carolingian tradition.19 This could be an alternative to the strategies of legitimation of Pippin and his successors. In his study Matthias Becher was able to show that the Royal Annals’ detailed presentation of Tassilo’s fall should be seen in a context that extended much further than Charlemagne’s disputes with his Bavarian cousin.20 A few years before Tassilo’s deposition, in 785/6, several magnates in the east of the Carolingian kingdom had started a rebellion that some annals registered as the ‘Hardrad revolt’.21 Three years later, an ordinance from 789 apparently addressed this rebellion. It decreed a general oath-taking for the population and justified this action on the grounds that some of the conspirators had defended themselves by saying that they had never sworn an oath to the king.22 It is striking that in the year after this rebellion, Charles committed himself to military action against Tassilo. Herwig Wolfram has already suggested that Charlemagne’s uncompromising line of action was triggered by Tassilo’s refusal to administer the oath of loyalty on behalf of the Carolingian king in Bavaria.23 In the year after Tassilo’s deposition, a substantial package of reforms was drawn up, which included some central provisions of the Carolingian reform, not least the Admonitio generalis.24 As Karl Ubl has convincingly argued, reworking of Lex Salica under Charlemange took place in this context too.25 Wolfram, Intitulatio I, pp. 145–50. 20 Becher, Eid und Herrschaft, but see also the comprehensive discussion of Esders, ‘Sacramentum fidelitatis’, pp. 297–330. 21 McKitterick, Perceptions, pp. 68–71, 74–6; Nelson, Opposition, pp. 13–26; see also below, pp. 390–4. 22 MGH I, no. 25, pp. 66–7; Becher, Eid und Herrschaft, pp. 79–85; see also Esders, ‘Sacramentum fidelitatis’, pp. 311–95. 23 Wolfram, Salzburg, p. 165. 24 See now, Die Admonitio generalis, pp. 13–17. 25 This is the E version of the text, which its editor, Eckhardt, dated to the last years of the eighth century; but see now Ubl, ‘Die erste Leges-Reform’ and his forthcoming study on the Lex Salica, Patzold, ‘Die Veränderung’. 19


Correctio Part of this reform package was also the orders to let the entire population swear the oath of loyalty. This was promulgated by royal missi, who also had to make sure that the commands were enacted. The missi were also often asked to report the success of their assignment to the headquarters. In the Capitulare missorum of 789, the king’s missi were even given precise briefings about who had to swear the oath and in what way. They were also instructed to explain everything in detail. They had to explain point for point why these oaths were necessary after ancient practice, all the more so because these unfaithful men had recently wanted to bring great unrest to the kingdom for our lord Charles and to make an attempt on his life and as an investigation was carried out against them they said that they had not sworn any loyalty to him.26

Becher saw the general oath-taking of the population above all as a reaction to the Hardrad revolt and to the difficulties with the Bavarian duke Tassilo.27 Yet Stefan Esders has also drawn attention to the fact that the phrasing of the introductory explanation, specifying that the oath was to be clarified point for point according to ancient practice, referred to an older tradition. In his comprehensive examination of the provisions he was also able to show that they presupposed an administrative tradition and infrastructure that did not originate in reaction to the rebellions but stretched back far in the history of the Frankish kingdoms.28 Esders’ observations also have important implications for interpreting the Royal Frankish Annals.They show that the annals’ preoccupation with the oath was not simply developed from the construction and reprojections of its meaning around 790. Like the appropriation and redefinition of the title that we discussed in the previous chapter, the oath was related to efforts to develop continuity in a double sense, continuities with Merovingian and with Carolingian traditions. As was the case in the Historia vel gesta Francorum, the name of the Franks played an important part for this in the Royal Frankish Annals. As Becher demonstrated in detail, it was important to the author of the Royal Annals to convey the concern that Tassilo had sworn the oath of loyalty to the Carolingian rulers long before he ‘renewed’ the oath in 787. The text’s distinctive presentation of Tassilo’s oath-swearing in 757 and then thirty years later in 787 stands in strange tension with the occurrence of other sacramenta – for example the oath of the Lombard 26 Quam ob rem istam sacramenta sunt necessaria, per ordine ex antiqua consuetudine explicare faciant, et quia modo isti infideles homines magnum conturbium in regnum domni Karoli regi voluerint terminare et in eius vita consiliati sunt et inquisiti dixerunt, quod fidelitatem ei non iurasset (MGH Capit. 1, no. 25, p. 66). 27 Becher, Eid und Herrschaft, p. 212. 28 Esders, ‘Sacramentum fidelitatis’, p. 476.


A common future king Aistulf or of the Aquitanian dux Waifar.29 In the spare representation of Pippin’s reign in the Royal Frankish Annals, more oaths are broken than made. They convey the impression that the oaths of loyalty that were once sworn to the Merovingian kings were then preserved and renewed by the Carolingian rulers. The Royal Frankish Annals clearly build on the emphasis of the continuation of old and established oaths and agreements that we have observed in Childebrand’s and Nibelung’s Historia vel gesta Francorum. These episodes played a crucial role in the historical articulation of the political theory with which the Carolingians presented themselves as legitimate successors to the Merovingian kings in their role as representatives of the Franks.30 The Royal Frankish Annals continue this strategy of legitimation with particular sharpness for the first decades of Charlemagne’s rule. When in the entry for 776 Charles took the Saxons by surprise in a blitzkrieg, they came together from all sides and swore to submit to the rule of the king and of the Franks.31 Two years earlier, Charles had already conquered the kingdom of the Lombards, and here too all the Lombards – omnes Langobardi de cunctis civitatibus Italiae – submitted to the rule of domnus gloriosus Carolus and to the Franks.32 Charles repeatedly gathered omnes Franci, went forth with them en masse, triumphed una cum Francis and returned home with them to Francia again. This phrase clearly picks up on formulations used by Childebrand and Nibelung, who in turn seemed to have been inspired by the formulas of consensus in Merovingian and Carolingian charters such as una cum nostris proceribus or una cum nostris fidelibus.33 In Childebrand’s and Nibelung’s Historia, however, they had appeared in combination with the name of the Franks only twice: on the occasion of Pippin’s coronation and the division of his kingdom between Charles and Carloman una cum consensu Francorum et procerum suorum seu et episcoporum.34 The Annales repeatedly invoke the community and unity of the Franks and the Carolingian kings. An especially dense example is the Italian campaign in 773/4 against the Lombards, where almost every sentence not only celebrates the glorious king but also his joint activity, with the consensus of the Frankish community. Already the pope’s invitation to invade Italy is addressed to the gloriosus rex una cum Francis, whereupon Carolus una cum Francis deliberates upon the proposition. After this 29 ARF, a. 756, p. 14 (Aistulf); aa. 760 and 761, p. 18 (Waifar). 30 Cf. above, pp. 327–8.   31  ARF, a. 776, pp. 44–9. 32 ARF, a. 774, p. 38.   33  Cf. above, pp. 307–8. 34 Continuationes, c. 53, pp. 192–3; Pippin’s coronation: una cum consilio et consensu omnium Francorum (c. 33, p. 182.), see above pp. 308 and 328.


Correctio Charlemagne calls together an assembly of his kingdom, where una cum Francis he decides on and organises the campaign into Italy. He builds his camp at the clusae on the Italian slopes una cum Francis, and after the Lombard king Desiderius flees, Carolus rex una cum Francis march into Italy without losses. After the conquest and organisation of Italy (as is recorded in the following year), he returns back to Francia with God’s help – a great triumph, and, of course, cum Francis.35 With this dramatic establishment of a Frankish-Carolingian consensus, the narrative of the Annales soon confronts Charlemagne’s cousin Tassilo. Already in 781 Charles sent a delegation to Tassilo to admonish and remind him to be mindful of the ancient oaths that he had sworn to the magnus rex Charles and to the Franks.36 Actually, Tassilo renewed the sacramenta that he had allegedly already sworn to Pippin. After further conflicts, even the pope got involved: he threatened to excommunicate Tassilo if the duke did not submit to the lord king Charles, his sons and the people of the Franks (domno regi Carolo, filiis eius ac genti Francorum). Charles reiterated the pope’s message in a missive of his own and asked Tassilo ut in omnibus oboediens et fidelis fuisset domno rege Carolo et filiis eius vel Francis. Because Tassilo was not willing to do this, the domnus rex Carolus una cum Francis went to Bavaria, whereupon the duke declared that he was prepared to renew the oath. According to the annals’ account, however, Tassilo had never planned on keeping it. And as a result of several broken oaths and other offences, the duke was brought to trial the next year and deposed.37 As Becher has shown, the oath that Tassilo had to swear in the annals bears conspicuous terminological parallels with the oath that the entire population of the Carolingian kingdom was supposed to perform, starting in 789.38 Hence it is very probable that the oldest extant redaction was composed after the formulaic development of the oath. It seems all the more surprising, then, that the text already ends in 788 and makes no references to the oath-swearing of the entire population. Later continuations of the texts do not mention that oath, either. It seems that what was most important to the annalists was representing a process of renewing the regnum Francorum as well as the political consensus that held it together. In the process, the new community and the concord of all Franks superseded the politics of consensus between different Frankish groups under the Merovingian kings – the Neustrians, Austrasians, Ripuarians and also the Alamans and Bavarians. ARF, aa. 773–4, pp. 34–40. 36 ARF, a. 781, p. 58.   37  ARF, a. 787, pp. 76–8. 38 Becher, Eid und Herrschaft, passim, esp. pp. 160–2. 35


A common future In their narrative until 788, the Annales thereby continued the projects for the political integration of all Franks that Childebrand’s and Nibelung’s Historia had designed. At the same time the Annales broadened the horizons of the Historia vel gesta Francorum. By beginning in the year 741, they avoided defining the social and geographical boundaries of the new Frankish community and their Carolingian kings too precisely in a historical sense. The future-orientated annalistic structure and the stories’ affirmative rhetoric describe a community that is continuously expanding. The name of the Franks fostered the development of a legitimate leading role for this community, as well as for their new leaders. In this interpretation, the name was increasingly set loose from the specific regions and groups that could be connected to it. Instead it came to be defined as a mode and model of political integration organised around consent to Carolingian rule. In the long history of the Annales regni Francorum the openness of this conception was surely a critical factor in the enduring success of the text. In its short history, though, given the rapid diffusion of Carolingian-Frankish rule, this concept also reached its limits. In the annals, Charles had already crossed the fines Francorum in his conquest of Italy in 773/4.39 North of the Alps, too, the elasticity of the name of the Franks seems not to have been capable of unlimited expansion. Paradoxically, the Carolingian promotion of Frankish identity as a mode of political integration was itself one of the most important factors here. Its expansion implied limits up to which and beyond which the new consensus did not reach. As we saw in the last chapter, the Carolingian politics of identity also unleashed new strategies of ethnic identification among the gentes, not least among Bavarians and Alamans. The position of the Bavarian duke Tassilo was legitimated not least through the lex Baiuvariorum, which decreed that only a member of the Agilolfing family could be duke.40 It was not only that peoples identified as other gentes in the annals, or the Historia vel gesta seem to have felt more and more uncomfortable in the fierce embrace of Carolingian Frankishness. As we shall see, different people and groups in different regions of the old heartlands of the Frankish kingdoms also found Carolingian arms to be too wide open.41 Establishing the name of the Franks as a key term for political integration, together with the enormous political success of the Carolingians, even intensified conflicts over the meaning of the Frankish name in the Carolingian kingdoms. Carolingian politics reacted to these increasing ARF, a. 773, p. 36. 40 Lex Baiuvariorum, tit. III , 1, p. 313.   41  See below, ch. 12. 39


Correctio tensions precisely in the years when the first redaction of the Royal Frankish Annals was compiled. Among all the similarities between the oath formula of 789 and the formulations of the oath that Tassilo kept swearing and then broke in the Royal Annals, there is also a striking difference. The name of the Franks is absent from the oath’s phrasing in the Capitulare missorum. There we read only that the people who were supposed to swear the oath of loyalty ought to say the following words: I … promise my lord king Charles and his sons that I am faithful and shall be so all the days of my life without fraud and evil intent.42

Some traces of the efforts of the Carolingian rulers and their advisers to broaden the Spielraum of their politics of integration in abandoning the affirmative rhetoric of Frankishness even appear at the end of the Royal Annals’ narrative in the entries on the trial of Tassilo.While Charles went from Worms to Bavaria in 787 una cum Francis, he had a second army consisting of Franci Austrasiorum, Toringi and Saxones march from the north to the Danube. A third army came from the south from the partes Italiae, led by his son Pippin.43 At the trial at Ingelheim the following year, Tassilo was convicted of having broken the oath that he had sworn to Pippin, Charles and the Franks.The judgment was issued by the Franci et Baioarii, Langobardi et Saxones and everyone else from the provinces of the kingdom who was present at the assembly.44 After Tassilo’s deposition the annals reported a campaign against the Avars, who were said to have allied with the Bavarian duke, and another against Grimoald, the Lombard duke of Benevento. While an alliance of Franks and Lombards suppressed the Beneventan revolt in southern Italy, another alliance of Franks and Bavarians defeated the Avars in the eastern part of the kingdom. Domino auxiliante victoria fuit Francorum seu Baioariorum.45 11.2  Th e revision of ce nt ral F rank i sh ne s s i n th e CHRON ICON UN IVERS ALE

The tension of such reports about the successful alliances of the Franks with other gentes of the kingdom with the affirmative use of the name of the Franks that emerges in these stories leads one to suppose that in connection with Tassilo’s fall at the Carolingian court, some had begun to rethink the politics of identity that had been established during the rise of the Carolingians in the eighth century. An interesting example of Sic promitto ego ille partibus domini mei Caroli regis et filiorum eius quia fidelis sum et ero diebus vitae meae sine fraude et malo ingenio (MGH Capit. 1, no. 23, p. 63.) 43 ARF, a. 787, p. 78.   44  ARF, a. 788, p. 80.   45  ARF, a. 788, p. 82. 42


A common future this is a chronicle edited as the Chronicon universale, which was probably written soon after the conquest of Italy in 774.46 This text is a reworking of the world chronicle that the Anglo-Saxon scholar Beda venerabilis, the Venerable Bede, had completed in 725. Bede, however, had published this chronicle as the sixty-sixth chapter of an expansive guide to chronology  – or more precisely, to the Christian reckoning of the time. In this Liber de ratione temporum Bede calculated anew the age of the world based on Christ’s birth year, integrated different possibilities for calculating Easter and gave precise instructions for calculating the years since the birth of Christ.47 Influential efforts to establish a dating system based on the incarnation emanated from Bede’s Liber. As we have seen, the Carolingian rulers and their advisers were early adopters of the new calendar.48 Along with the Liber, Bede’s chronicle was also very popular, and it was also transmitted on its own in some Carolingian manuscripts.49 In order to treat the history of the world from Adam to the year 725, Bede built on a series of older historical works, such as those of Jerome, Prosper, Orosius and Isidore, and he enlarged these accounts with his own stories or contemporary sources, as for example the Liber pontificalis, the collection of papal biographies.50 Analogous to his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, in which he describes the rise of an English Christendom, in the chronicle he developed the historical contours of Christianity that this English Christendom was supposed to represent. It was above all a Latin Western Christendom that Bede developed here, whose pre-eminent symbolic centre was Rome. He treated the history of the other Rome, of the Byzantine Empire, as more of a parallel history. In order to demarcate the two, Bede repeatedly fell back on Isidore’s Chronicle, which as Jamie Wood has shown painted a significantly negative picture of the Byzantine Empire as an empire that was prone to heretical tendencies.51 Carolingian compilers developed this concept further after 774. The manuscript transmission of this text which was partly edited as Chronicon universale shows that the historiographical work on Bede’s chronicle led not only to a new version but was also part of ongoing experiments with its fundamental premises. The ninth-century manuscripts transmit 46 Wattenbach , Levison and Löwe, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, vol. II , pp. 258–9; McKitterick, Perceptions, pp. 23–8; I should also like to thank E. Kirkegaard, who allowed me to read her excellent discussion of the Chronicon in her senior thesis ‘Byzantium’, pp. 38–49. 47 See Wallis, Bede, pp. lxiii–lxxi; Wallis, ‘Bede’s science’. 48 Cf. above, p. 306. 49 Beda Venerabilis, Chronica maiora ad a. 725, pp. 224, 231–40; McKitterick, Perceptions, p. 22; Beda Venerabilis, De temporum ratione, ‘Introduction’; Wallis, Bede, pp. lxxxv–lxxxvi. 50 Wallis, Bede, pp. lxxii-lxxxv; McKitterick, Perceptions, pp. 19–21. 51 J. Wood, ‘Religiones and gentes’.


Correctio quite different compilations.52 Despite these differences between the Carolingian compilations, there are a series of similarities that point to a first version of this reworking of Bede’s chronicle soon after 774. First, all the versions build on the scaffolding of the Bede chronicle; second, all of them interpolate extensive narratives about Frankish history into Bede’s text; and third, they do so by building by and large on the same ensemble of texts. Besides using Bede and supplementing it with additional passages from the chronicles of Isidore and Orosius or the Liber pontificalis, the compilers also interpolated extensive excerpts from the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber historiae Francorum. In the process they carefully and sensitively rearranged and combined what were quite different representations of Frankish origins. They wove them into the compiled chronicle as if they were part of an account written by the author of the original chronicle himself. The combination of both competing representations is striking. Despite Childebrand’s and Nibelung’s efforts to integrate the two narratives of the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber historiae Francorum, no single text from the period has been preserved for us that combines both origin myths. Even out of the varied and copious production of historiographical compendia that occurred in the course of the ninth century, in which different texts on Frankish history were brought together into even larger historical accounts, no exemplar has been handed down to us that combines the Fredegar Chronicle and the Liber historiae Francorum in a single book of history.53 Apparently the rearrangement of a world-historical horizon opened larger Spielräume for integrating the two Frankish origin myths, which had usually been seen as incompatible, into one history. The compilers also managed to make room to include other origin myths that were obviously important to them.After the chronicle recounts (via the Fredegar Chronicle’s epitome of Jerome) the shared origin of the Franks, Romans and Macedonians, it also mentions the Burgundians, who, as the compilers knew, had originally emigrated from Scandinavia. In a patchwork from Orosius, Isidore and the Fredegar Chronicle, the text derives their name from the burgi in which they lived when settling in the regions along the Rhine.54 As in the Fredegar Chronicle, their migration to the region along the Rhône in southern Gaul is traced back to an invitation from the population which was already living there, See Waitz, ‘Zur Geschichtsschreibung’; Mommsen, ‘Zur Weltchronik’; see D. Claszen’s unfortunately still unpublished MA thesis, ‘The Chronicon Moissacense maius’, which builds on the studies of the late J. M. J. G. Katz. I am very grateful to Mr Claszen for sharing the manuscript with me. 53 Vatican, BAV Reg. lat. 713 is an exception, but as the codicological autopsy shows it was only assembled later. 54 See Isidore, Etymologiae IX , 2, 99, ed. Lindsay. 52


A common future although in the Chronicon universale they are not called senatores but rather Romani vel Galli. In a quotation from Orosius (VII ,32) the Chronicon concludes by mentioning that after the Burgundians became Christians, they lived with ‘our people’ like brothers – ut fratres cum nostris vivunt.55 The Burgundians made their settlement in the time of Emperor Valentinian, the same emperor who according to the origo of the Liber historiae Francorum had given the Franks their name. The compilers first chose in favour of Fredegar’s explanation that the name was derived from the dux Francio. Then after a lengthy piece from Bede, they used his mention of Jerome’s death as a prompt to return to the Fredegar Chronicle’s account of the Frankish origo. With Franci vero quorum originem beatus Hieronimus meminit they introduce their short summary of the migration of the Franks from Troy to the Rhine. They then switch to the account of the Liber historiae Francorum for its short episode about the Franks’ cooperation with the Romans under Valentinian; the compilers skipped the part where the Franks receive their name from the Roman emperor, and yet they extensively narrated the confrontation with the emperor that soon followed, along with the defeat and flight of the Franks in extremis partibus Rheni fluminis in Germaniarum opidis.56 With help from a sizeable quotation from Orosius and the end of the Jerome/Hydatius epitome, the chronicle describes the process by which the Western Roman state was dissolved and the gradual establishment of the post-Roman kingdoms of the Goths in Gaul, the Vandals in Africa and the Ostrogoths in Italy.With Bede’s chronicle the compilers also kept Britain in sight, and the history of Rome and the Roman papacy, too. The Chronicon also built on the Fredegar Chronicle’s reports in detail of the deeds of Aëtius, the last hope of the West.57 In Italy both the Romani and the Goths recognised the dux utriusque militiae as their patricius, and in Gaul the Franks assisted in his military and political victories.58 That the hope the West had placed in Aëtius was futile was not their fault but rather Valentinian III’s, who, as one could infer from Bede, had singlehandedly killed his dux et patricius Aëtius. In the process, the Chronicon concludes in its history of the patricius, the Western Empire ended: cum quo Hesperium cecidit regnum.59 Not long after that, new hope arose. Already in the account on the time of Anthemius (467–72), the Fredegar chroniclers reinterpreted Cf. Chronicon universale, p. 4, lines 30–5, with CF II , 46, p. 68. 56 Cf. Chronicon universale, p. 6, line 9, with LFH, c. 5, p. 245. 57 See above, pp. 200–3. 58 Chronicon universale, p.  7: Anno 7 Theodosii Agecius dux utriusque militia, id est tam Romanorum et Gotorum qui in Italia errant, patricius appellatur … Agecius vero cum suis etiam Francos secum abens. 59 Chronicon universale, p. 9. 55


Correctio signs that Hydatius had seen as signs of destruction indicating the end of Gothic rule and the start of Frankish rule.60 Hardly surprisingly, the compilers of the Chronicon followed the Fredegar Chronicler’s interpretation of the signs. For most of the earlier history of the Franks, however, they chose the Liber historiae Francorum, with its heavy imprint of biblical phrases and motifs, in narrating the conquest of the ‘Roman’ cities and areas in northern Gaul up to the initial climax in Clovis’ history.61 Parallel to the establishment of Frankish power in the West since Clovis, the broader history of the Roman Empire in Constantinople was now described as a history of continual decline. The compilers already had Bede’s perspective to build on here, but they intensified it more noticeably with additional material from Isidore and the Fredegar Chronicle. For example, the chroniclers combined Bede’s and Fredegar’s negative representations of the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602–10), whose stupidity (stultitia) brought the empire up to the edge of disaster.62 Following the Fredegar Chronicle they also reported the disastrous mistake of Phocas’ successor Heraclius (610–41), who received a prophecy in a dream that a circumcised people would annihilate his empire.63 After Heraclius launched a comprehensive initiative to force the Jews in the Christian world to convert, he realised that the prophecy referred not to the Jews but to the Arabs. After the empire’s catastrophic losses against them, Heraclius ended his life as a heretic who had abandoned the cultus Christi. The Chronicon pursued this angle further with Bede’s accounts. The successor and son of Heraclius, Constans II (641–68), was even portrayed as a persecutor of Catholic belief.64 The religious errors and moral lapses of the Byzantine emperor not only affected his own empire. As the Chronicon characterised it, it was also an extremely tense situation for all of Christendom, one of civil wars and conflicts between different political and religious views, not least in Francia. A new age dawns at last with the appearance of the Carolingians, who in contrast to the Byzantine rulers gradually emerge as the true political leaders of Christianity. With their prominent appearance, the Chronicon also increasingly uses the new Christian reckoning of time that Bede broadcasts so prominently. Up to Pippin’s appearance, the dating occurs in the chronicle only three times: in 532, the start of the Easter cycle of Victor of Aquitaine; in 641, the death of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius; See above, p. 230.   61  See above, pp. 247–8 and 260–1. 62 Chronicon universale, p. 11. 63 Esders, ‘Herakleios’, pp. 253–68. 64 Chronicon universale, p. 14; on Constans, see Haldon, Byzantium, pp. 53–63; on his image in the West, Pohl, ‘Creating cultural resources’; for Heraclius and the Latin West see Esders, ‘Herakleios’; and Borgehammer, ‘Heraclius’. 60


A common future and interestingly, the death of Clovis II in 659, following a short account of Grimoald’s coup and the arrest and death of the Pippinid mayor of the palace.65 Already in Pippin’s last years, the compilers increasingly ordered the gesta of the Carolingian predecessors according to Bede’s reckoning of the age of the world, counting the years ab incarnatione Domini. As a result, the contrast between the Carolingians, situated in the new Christian time, and the older dating systems, based on the regnal years of the Byzantine rulers, grows increasingly stronger.66 After Bede’s account of the ninth year of Emperor Leo, the Saracens’ siege of Constantinople and the intensifying Saracen expansion westward, the chroniclers continued their account with short annalistic entries up to the death of Charles Martel. As part of his great victory against the Saracens, the chronicle also inserted a passage from the Historia vel gesta, which reports that Pope Gregory III sent an embassy to Charles Martel to give him the keys of St Peter’s tomb and a link from his chains. With these and many other gifts, the pope also made Charles an offer.67 That Gregory had repeatedly turned to Charles in these years to ask for his support against the Lombards is well attested in the pope’s extant letters. His correspondence also mentions his sending of the keys of the Apostle Peter’s tomb.68 In the Historia vel gesta this connection to Charles’ legitimation was readily incorporated into stories of an age in which Charles ruled without a Merovingian king. Childebrand and Nibelung report, however, that Charles did not enter into the pactus.69 The offer acquired new significance following the conquest of Italy by Charles Martel’s grandson Charlemagne; it became the basis of legitimation for Charles’ rule in Italy.70 It was surely understood in this sense in the versions of the Chronicon universale written after the conquest of Italy, which transmits all this material from the Historia vel gesta. In this year (774) Charles changed his intitulatio to Carolus gratia Dei rex Francorum et Langobardorum ac patricius Romanorum (vir inluster).71 As Herwig Wolfram showed, Charles and his chancery considerably enlarged the grounds for legitimating his rule with this title. The reinterpretation of the title of patricius was built not only on the history of W   estern patricii such as Aëtius but also on the interpretation of the title that the patricius Theoderic the Chronicon universale, pp. 11, 15. 66 See McKitterick, History and memory, pp. 92–5, who draws attention to the fact that this trend did not only depend on Bede’s work. 67 Continuationes, c. 22, p. 179. 68 Codex Carolinus, nos. 1 and 2, pp. 476–9; Fischer, Karl Martell, pp. 163–5. 69 Continuationes, c. 22, p. 179. 70 Becher, ‘Die Reise’.   71 Wolfram, Intitulatio i, pp. 213–17. 65


Correctio Great had formulated.72 The title could therefore support Charles’ claim to be the ruler of Italy and successor of the Lombard kings at the same time. In the cooperation with the Roman popes that had been developed since Pippin, he also advanced the claim to the Roman territories of the pope, which theoretically belonged to the Roman Empire. But as patron of the Roman pontiff and of Roman Christianity, Charles also became the successor to the (Byzantine) emperor, who no longer followed the admonitions of the papacy and who no longer controlled and protected omnis Hesperia occiduaque pars.73 The parallels to the Chronicon universale’s historiographical legitimation of Frankish-Carolingian rule are obvious. As in the Chronicon universale, the reformulation of Charlemagne’s title opened up new possibilities for integrating different social groupings under the rule of the Carolingians. At the same time, it could also be perfectly connected to the providential vision of the Franks, as it is developed in the Historia vel gesta and the Annales regni Francorum. As the Roman popes wrote to the Carolingian rulers, the Western Romani ultimately placed their total trust in the kings, kingdom and people of the Franks.74 Even if there is not some single master plan for the renovation of the Roman-Christian Empire to be gathered from these texts, a dynamic does emerge in them that eventually led to Charles’ coronation as emperor on Christmas Day in 800.75 11.3  Towards the year of the e le phant :  th e L or sch Annal s The Annals of Lorsch can also show just how much a Christian imperial perspective was able to help develop new ways of approaching the political and social integration of the Carolingian kingdom.76 As certain entries about the foundation and subsequent history of the monastery of Lorsch indicate, the extant annals were either written at Lorsch or Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 225; see alsoTischler, ‘The Carolingian Theoderic’. 73 Codex Carolinus, no. 60, pp. 586–7; from a letter sent by Pope Hadrian I (d. 795) to the council of Nicaea in 787, see Zweites Konzil von Nicäa, pp. 169–71; Lamberz, ‘Falsata Graecorum more’; for Roman-Byzantine relations see Gantner, ‘The label “Greek” ’; and Gantner, ‘Wahrnehmung’; for the passage see Wolfram, Intitulatio i, p. 233; for Hadrian, see also F. Hartmann, Hadrian I. I am very grateful to Clemens Gantner (Vienna) for his help on the letter and its context. 74 See Hadrian I to Charlemagne in 775: Codex Carolinus, no. 57, p. 582: Ubi est fiducia Romanorum quam post Deum in regem et regnum Francorum habebant; and already Stephen II to Pippin (9, no. 496, p. 499): Ubi est fidutia Romanorum quam post Deum in regibus et gente Francorum habebant; cf.Wolfram, Intitulatio i, pp. 227, with n. 19, and 229; Hack, Codex Carolinus. 75 McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp.  114–18; Nelson, ‘Why are there so many different accounts’; Godman, Jarnut and Johanek (eds.), Am Vorabend; Stiegemann and Wemhoff (eds.), 799 – Kunst und Kultur. 76 Collins, ‘Charlemagne’s imperial coronation’. 72


A common future its compilers had close connections with the monastery.77 The monastery was founded in the early 760s by members of a noble family of the Rhineland, Willeswind and Cancor.78 Soon after its foundation the monastery was placed under the jurisdiction of a relative of the founders, Chrodegang, bishop of Metz, one of the guiding forces behind the Carolingian reforms under Pippin.79 The close connections that Lorsch had with the Carolingian court were not only mediated through the bishops of Metz. The Carolingian rulers themselves had taken the monastery under their protection. The entire Carolingian family was present at the consecration of the church in 774.80 After the conquest of Italy, Charles travelled straight to Lorsch for the opening of the new monastic church. Through these close connections to Metz and the Carolingian court, Lorsch developed as one of the most important cultural centres of the Carolingian reform. The reform connection between the monastery, the bishopric of Metz and the Carolingian courts is also impressively documented in the manuscript tradition. As Bernhard Bischoff has already remarked, a series of extant manuscripts from the scriptoria of Lorsch and Metz in the decades before and after 800 were written in a very similar script. This script, in turn, was so similar to the version of a miniscule that was produced at the Carolingian court – such as the miniscule that the scribe Godescalc developed – that Bischoff considered the script to be a product of the interaction and exchange of scribes between the scriptoria of Lorsch, Metz and the court.81 In 784 Ricbod became abbot of Lorsch: Ricbod had been a monk there but had made his career at the court of Charlemagne and was taught by none other than Alcuin, the Anglo-Saxon scholar and adviser to Charlemagne. Already some time ago Heinrich Fichtenau suggested that Ricbod was the author of the Annals of Lorsch.82 Rosamond McKitterick and Roger Collins and most recently Rudolf Pokorny showed that the genesis of the annals was probably a more complex process, and as with other annals, not least the Royal Frankish Annals, it was probably produced in stages.83 And yet it is very likely that the abbot – who was almost too preoccupied with Annales Laureshamenses, a. 765, 794, ed. Pertz, pp. 28, 35–6; Annalium Laureshamensium XXV, c. 32, ed. Katz, see now Pokorny, ‘Annales Laureshamenses’, with further references. 78 Corradini, ‘Lorsch’; Innes, State and society, pp. 18–21; Knöpp, Die Reichsabtei; S. Wood, Proprietary church, pp. 226–7, 339–40; see also now, Becker, ‘Präsenz’. 79 Claussen, The reform, pp. 19–57. 80 Rosenwein, Negotiating space, p. 124. 81 See Bischoff, Die Abtei Lorsch, p. 36. 82 Fichtenau, ‘Abt Richbod’. 83 Collins, ‘Charlemagne’s imperial coronation’; McKitterick, ‘Entstehung’; Pokorny, ‘Annales Laureshamenses’. 77


Correctio history, in his teacher’s opinion – was responsible for the final redaction of the Annals of Lorsch, which end in 803, one year before Ricbod’s death.84 Against this background the much-discussed imperial perspective of the Annals of Lorsch becomes understandable. It was a proposal for linking the imperial framework to Frankish-Carolingian history, which visibly arose from one of the most important centres of religious, cultural and political reform. At the same time, the semiotic experiment in name theory that had already been started when the kingship was usurped was developed further for what was now an imperial adventure.The nomen of the ruler had to be brought into agreement with actual relations between rulers and powers.85 And since the name of emperor [nomen imperatoris] was at this time lacking among the Greeks as they had a female rule [femineum imperium], it then seemed to the pope Leo and to all the holy fathers present at that councils as well as to the rest of the Christian people that they ought to bestow the name of the emperor upon Charles, king of the Franks, himself.86

This could be seen from the fact, so the Annals of Lorsch continue, that Charles now also ruled the lands of the former Western Empire per Italiam seu Galliam nec non et Germaniam. And that is why the entire Christian people (universus Christianus populus) prayed for him to adopt the name of the emperor, too. Charlemagne accepted the offer and gladly fulfilled the plea of the populus. Just how glad he was to do this is clear from the new title he displayed on his charters after his imperial coronation: Karolus serenissimus Augustus a deo coronatus magnus pacificus imperator Romanorum gubernans imperium, qui et per misericordiam Dei rex Francorum et Langobardorum.87

As a complement to the new title, the Annals of Lorsch also developed a new political geography in their history of the establishment of Carolingian rule over the Christian West. After some short entries on the history of the Carolingian precursors, Pippin II and Charles Martel, the Cf. Alcuin, Epistolae, 13, p. 39; and Reimitz, ‘Transformations’, p. 262. 85 For a brief and good discussion of the nomen theory see Becher, Karl der Große, pp. 33–4; see also Ertl, ‘Byzantinischer Bilderstreit’, with further references. 86 Annales Laureshamenses, a. 801, ed. Pertz, p. 38: Et quia iam tunc cessabat a parte Graecorum nomen imperatoris, et femineum imperium apud se abebant, tunc visum est et ipso apostolico Leoni et universis sanctis patribus qui in ipso concilio aderant, seu reliquo christiano populo, ut ipsum Carolum regem Franchorum imperatorem nominare debuissent; trans. King, Charlemagne, p. 144. 87 Wolfram, ‘Lateinische Herrschertitel’, pp.  19–53; McKitterick, Charlemagne, p.  116; Garipzanov, Symbolic language, pp. 136–40, 276–81 with a comprehensive overview over the vast literature and debate on Charlemagne’s imperial title. 84


A common future text becomes more detailed, the more that Carolingian-Frankish rule expands. But this expansion of rule is no longer described through the submission of gentes but rather through the incorporation of provinces, which derived their names from the gentes.88 Thus Pippin immediately marched into Saxonia after his royal election, and in the following years he undertook his campaigns into Italy in Langobardia and clashed with the Aquitanian dukes in Wasconia.The new provincial organization of the kingdom was affirmed and further developed in Charles’ time. Charles went to the Italia provincia to conquer the kingdom of the Lombards; in the next year he repeatedly went to Saxonia. In 781 his son Pippin was installed as king in Italia and his son Louis in Aquitania. Opposition to the Franks and to Carolingian rule was not ethnicised but rather localised in these provinces. The ‘revolt of the Thuringians’ in 786, which became one of the catalysts for the sweeping oath-swearing of the population, was triggered, according to the Annals of Lorsch, by comites and some nobiles in partibus Austriae.89 In his confrontations with the Bavarian duke Tassilo, Charles marched into Allemannia and Paioaria in 787.90 The Franci remained faithful followers of the Carolingians. Already in 781 there were negotiations in Francia with and about Tassilo at a conventus magnus Francorum. Neither here nor elsewhere in the annals, however, is the Carolingian-Frankish community invoked with the phrase una cum Francis. The Franci are the leading group in a greater community, a populus Christianus who in biblical stylisation are counterpoised to pagan peoples – in clear dependence on Old Testament formulations, gentes pagane qui in circuitu.91 Tassilo was also accused of allying himself with these gentes paganae, and he was condemned at a conventus Francorum ceterarumque gentium – an assembly of the Franks and the other peoples.92 In 791 Charles also moved with his army against the suberbissima gens, the Avars and an enumerated list of gentes fideles also followed suit; while Charles and his army pressed south of the Danube to the territory of the Avars, another army came from the north, an exercitus Ribuariorum, et Fresionum et Saxonorum cum Toringos.93 After Charles adopted the nomen imperatoris, the name of the emperor, at the behest of the universus christianus populus, a truly imperial gift was made to the emperor the following year. With the lapidary remark that in this year the elephant came to Francia, the annalists refer to the See esp. Annales Laureshamenses, aa. 745–69, ed. Katz, pp. 29–30. 89 Annales Laureshamenses, ed. Katz, a. 786, p. 34. 90 Annales Laureshamenses, aa. 773, 774, 775, 781, 787, ed. Katz, pp. 31, 33, 35. 91 Annales Laureshamenses, a. 792, ed. Katz, p. 37. 92 Annales Laureshamenses, a. 788, ed. Katz, p. 35. 93 Annales Laureshamenses, a. 781, ed. Katz, p. 36. 88


Correctio gift that the caliph Harun al-Rashid sent to Francia after hearing of Charlemagne’s imperial coronation.94 The elephant’s arrival took place in a year in which the annals give a detailed report about the measures the new emperor took to reorganise the relationship of the Christian peoples in his empire to each other. In the annals’ depiction, this reorganisation took place through an extensive initiative of reforms, at a gathering of the kingdom’s archbishops, bishops, abbots, dukes and counts in Aachen. The bishops, priests, deacons, abbots and monks worked to determine and draw up the valid ecclesiastical laws – universi canones. Likewise the emperor assembled the dukes, counts and the rest of the Christian people (duces, comites, et reliquus populus Christianus) with the legal scholars (legislatores); he had all the laws (leges) that existed in his kingdom read out; he handed down his law to every free man eligible for military service; and where it was necessary, he had the law improved and had this improved law written down. The Annals of Lorsch, with this new strategy of ordering the world in a Christian-Frankish Empire, also reflect a process of imperialisation of the regnum Francorum that Janet Nelson has seen as a learning process.95 It was indeed a process of constant learning and in many respects an experimental process.96 It built not only on the new opportunities offered by the imperial past such as the appropriation of imperial titles and rituals, political roles and forms of representation, but also on the experiences of Carolingian politics before 800. One particularly important background must have been the experiences made in the context of the efforts to have the entire population swear the general oath of loyalty after 789. As Janet Nelson observed, the regulations to explain the background and the reasons for the swearing of the oaths ‘scripted a dialogue’ between the local ‘plaintiffs and the missi, the representatives of the king, with the local count present as the regular officer responsible’.97 As the repeated admonitions in the capitularies examining whether everyone had sworn the oath show, this must have still been an ongoing conversation when the authors of the Lorsch Annals compiled their text. The ‘new kinds of ethics and public spiritedness’ (J. Nelson), as documented in the entry in the annals for 802, can be seen as a result of this conversation. After all, the missi did not only have to reassure the people that their rights and laws would be kept, they were also ordered to take 94 Annales Laureshamenses, a. 802, ed. Katz, p. 46: Et eo anno pervenit elefans in Francia. Hack, Abul Abaz; Nees, ‘Charlemagne’s elephant’. 95 Nelson, Opposition, p. 25; see also Nelson, ‘The voice of Charlemagne’. 96 Pohl, ‘Creating cultural resources’. 97 Nelson, Opposition, p. 24.






Dorestadt Nijm

Episcopal see Archiepiscopal see Monastery Palace



Other places Battle



(St. Bavo)


St-Bertin St-Amand

Almost battle St-Riquier


























(St. Philibert)



Fontenoy (841)







Le Mans


















Vienne Clermont Valence



GASCONY Toulouse








Orange Avignon Arles





Map 5  Charlemagne’s empire, c. 800 (from De Jong, The penitential state, p. xvi)

SAXONY megen



Paderborn Corvey Hersfeld


Cologne n



Fulda Salz





ternach Trier





Seligenstadt Michelstadt





Regensburg (St-Emmeram)

Gondreville oul


BAVARIA Augsburg



Colmar Murbach

Bodman Reichenau

Rothfeld (833)









St-Maurice d’Agaune














Bobbio Ravenna


Design: Erik Goosmann

A common future complaints on to the king. The people who were supposed to swear the oath of loyalty, the fideles, were thus not only supposed to ‘help the lord king’ (in solatio domni regis) in his campaigns against internal and external opponents and enemies, they were also supposed to help and assist Charlemagne in ‘limiting the excesses of a secular regime’. Charlemagne in turn ‘undertakes to be a listening king: a hearer of grievances, a corrector of injustice’.98 The increasing weight of Christian moral attitudes and identity which can be observed in this learning process not only played an important role in establishing an ideological consensus.99 It also related to very specific questions about the conditions under which the oath of loyalty applied. After all, it was not only the symbolic legitimation of the Carolingians that clung to the oath but also the obligations of military service, the payment of taxes and submission to judgments and to the representatives who laid them down.100 A common Christian belief was an important foundation for the establishment of such a relationship. As Stefan Esders has recently shown, it had already been decreed at the Gallic councils of the sixth century that an oath was valid only if it had been sworn by an orthodox Christian: the bishops’ reasoning was certainly clear to Carolingian contemporaries a few centuries later: ‘Only those capable of respecting what is sacred will fear ecclesiastical sanction in the event of an infraction.’101 The report of the Lorsch Annals of the ‘year of the elephant’ fits this perfectly. First, a consensus about true Christian teaching had to be established. Only then were the conditions set for creating stable relations of loyalty on the foundation of the collective Christian confession, in which Carolingian subjects could become true fideles. The question of how to develop these conditions was fiercely discussed in the 790s in particular, after the conquest of territories with substantial populations of non-Christians.102 The question of adopting the imperial title also had to be intensively debated. In 802/3 it was decreed that the entire population had to swear to their ruler’s new nomen imperatoris.103 After the Nelson, Opposition, p. 25. 99 Patzold, Episcopus, pp. 135–84; P. Brown, The rise of Western Christendom, pp. 434–53; McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 378–9; De Jong, ‘Charlemagne’s church’. 100 See Esders, ‘Sacramentum fidelitatis’, pp. 311–95. 101 Concilium Aurlelianense, a.  549, c.  22, p.  108. I  thank Stefan Esders, who generously shared his insights with me although he might not agree with my conclusions. 102 De Jong, ‘Religion’; Reimitz, ‘Conversion’; Reimitz, ‘Grenzen’; Diesenberger, Sermones; Phelan, ‘The nature of the soul’; Phelan, ‘Christian formation’. Close, Uniformiser; McKitterick, Charlemagne, p. 136. 103 Esders, ‘Sacramentum fidelitatis’, p.  603; Becher, Eid und Herrschaft, pp.  201–12; Ubl, Die Lex Salica. 98


Correctio experiences of the previous decades, the new Christian-imperial framework was used to give the different gentes in this kingdom a new future. In fact in these years there was also an extensive reform of different leges.104 However, the transmission of these leges does not indicate a comprehensive reworking of the laws, of the Alamans, Bavarians or Ripuarian law. The reform did not so much consist of a thorough revision of these laws. Much more important was that it gave them a place alongside the Lex Salica in the Carolingian-Christian Empire – analogous to the picture of the provinces in the Annals of Lorsch, where they are placed next to Francia and united as part of the Carolingian Empire. This made possible the further integration of other provinces whose populations now received their own laws, the Thuringians, the Saxons and the Frisians.105 The only law that we know to have been revised was the Lex Salica. Its editor Karl August Eckhardt edited this as version K, which he also called Lex Salica Karolina. Whereas the reworking of the Lex Salica under Charlemagne in 789 (Eckhardt’s version E) revised and smoothed out the language of the longer prologue from Pippin’s time, the version that was drawn up after 800 left out the prologue and its apotheosis of the gens Francorum inclita entirely. The relatively neutral juxtaposition of the Lex Salica with the laws of other Carolingian gentes reflects the gradual withdrawal of the affirmative use of Frankish identity that we observed in historiographical texts. The fast expansion of Carolingian rule had created the need for new, more inclusive visions of communities. Indeed the experimentation with Christian and imperial models offered such wider horizons for political and social integration. It also triggered intensified reflections on the role and place of Frankish communities in the new Carolingian empire as different Frankish histories, social and regional backgrounds of old and new Frankish groups came to overlap less and less in a centralised vision of a Frankish community as it was promoted by the Carolingian court. In this chapter we have observed the reform of Frankish identity from the perspective of the centre. In the next chapter we shall observe the process from a more regional or local point of view. 104 See now Ubl, Die Lex Salica, Hoppenbrowers, ‘Leges nationum’. 105 Ubl, Die Lex Salica, Patzold, ‘Veränderung’; W. Hartmann, ‘Karl der Große’.


Chapter 12


Central and local Frankishness in the Carolingian world

The emphasis on the reforms of 802/3 in the Lorsch Annals demonstrates that the new imperial framework was not only used by rulers and their legal advisers but also by Carolingian historians to create new Spielräume for the compatibility of identities, laws and histories. A closer look at the circumstances of the production and transmission of the annals might also help to understand the text as just one intervention among many in an ongoing debate, which may well have been intensified by Charlemagne’s new posture as a ‘listening king’ and emperor in the decades around 800. As briefly mentioned, the author of the annals was mostly likely Ricbod, a pupil of Alcuin at the court of Charlemagne and abbot of Lorsch from 784 onwards.1 As a member of the inner circle of intellectuals at the court of the king, he became bishop of Trier in 791 but kept close ties to his monastery in Lorsch, where he was an engaged and active abbot. He reorganised the building of the monastery, built a three-nave basilica and decorated the tomb of Nazarius. After his death in 804 he too was buried in the monastery.2 The end of the Lorsch Annals in 803 was one of the reasons that Heinrich Fichtenau saw Ricbod as the author of the text. Fichtenau even argued that the oldest extant manuscript of the annals,Vienna, ÖNB lat. 515, was Ricbod’s own autograph. Although newer research has shown that this cannot be the case, there are enough traces in the extant text to indicate that the text was originally written at Lorsch, redacted by Ricbod and later preserved in his monastery.3 The most obvious traces are entries on the history of the monastery from the time of its foundation in 764, which were inserted into the Fichtenau, ‘Karl’; Fichtenau, ‘Abt Richbod’; but see the discussion in McKitterick, ‘Entstehung’; and Pokorny, ‘Annales Laureshamenses’, pp. 7–10. 2 Knöpp, ‘Richbod’. 3 Kaschke, Die karolingischen Reichsteilungen, pp. 134–6; Collins, ‘Charlemagne’s imperial coronation’, pp.  57 and 60–4; McKitterick, ‘Entstehung’, pp.  109–13; and McKitterick, History and memory, pp. 104–7; on the manuscript, see Innes, ‘Kings’, pp. 315–16. 1


Before and after 800 relatively short annalistic account (which begins with the year 703).4 Much of the narrative shows striking similarities with a group of shorter annals that circulated in Alemannia and the Rhineland, such as the Annales Alamannici, Guelferbytani, Nazariani and the Annales Mosellani.5 For a long time scholars mostly used the similarities between these different annals to reconstruct the original texts and intermediary witnesses from which they derived.6 The differences between them are so great, however, that they should be treated instead as distinctive annalistic accounts that were written as part of a lively exchange between different political and cultural centres. Above all, the extant annals document intents to participate in and shape this discourse. It also seems to have been important to the authors of the Lorsch Annals and of the other annalistic texts to identify their locations as places that were participating in this collective composition of history, and in doing so link up with a wider world. The perspectives that each developed were closely followed and registered at the other locations, as one can determine in the often complex reception of these texts.7 We even have evidence that Lorsch kept alternative annalistic accounts:  a manuscript of the aforementioned Rhineland annals, written towards the end of the eighth century in the monastery of Murbach on the Upper Rhine, was stored soon afterwards in the library of Lorsch, along with other annals and chronicles.8 In these annals, as in the Annals of Lorsch, there is a discernible break in the narrative after 785.9 In the extant manuscript of the Annals of Murbach this break is also documented in the layout of the text. At the end of the entry for the year 785, a half-page is left empty, and the narrative continues with the year 786 on the next page.10 From this point forward, both texts also develop their own notably distinct perspectives of the history of the larger social whole of the Carolingian Empire. Whereas the annals written at Murbach concentrate more and more on the relationships and conflicts between the Carolingian rulers and the regional elites See Chronicon Laurissense breve III , 26, pp. 23–9, where the text reports that the relics of St Nazarius came to Lorsch (in monasterio nostro Lauresham). Innes, State and society, pp. 18f.; Semmler, ‘Die Geschichte’; Corradini, ‘Lorsch’, pp. 608–11, with a rich bibliography. 5 The Annales Alamannici, Guelferbytani and Nazariani are edited in Lendi, Untersuchungen, pp. 146–82; Annales Mosellani, ed. Lappenberg, pp. 491–9; for the Annales Mosellani, see Wattenbach, Levison and Löwe, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, vol. II , pp.  185–8, cf. now Pokorny, ‘Annales Laureshamenses’. 6 Lendi, Untersuchungen, pp. 1–81; with a critical discussion of the older literature. 7 Hoffmann, Untersuchungen. 8 As the medieval provenance of the annals was Lorsch, they received the misleading title Annales Nazariani, after the Lorsch monastery of St Nazarius. For an edition see Lendi, Untersuchungen, pp. 146–82. 9 Lendi, Untersuchungen, pp. 113–14. 10 Vatican, BAV Pal. lat. 966, fol. 57r; McKitterick, Perceptions, pp. 84–8. 4


A common future along and east of the Rhine, the Lorsch Annals develop the far-reaching perspectives on the integration of different populations and regions in a Carolingian Empire. Roger Collins concluded on the basis of this far-reaching perspective, which the Lorsch Annals developed after 784, that this earlier section was not written in Lorsch at all.11 That is entirely possible. It could well be explained by the fact that at this point the redaction was taken up by Ricbod. As a member of the Carolingian court his political and social position led him not only to the see of Trier but also, repeatedly, to the centres of Carolingian power and politics. As Rosamond McKitterick remarked, the parallels between the important account for the year 802 and the extant official documents of the assemblies point to someone who had very good connections to the Carolingian headquarters.12 In that case it is highly unlikely that someone who developed such a well-informed and carefully crafted imperial perspective chose to continue, by sheer coincidence, a text that ostentatiously featured the history of Lorsch. Many things actually point to Ricbod. The broad political horizon of the annals corresponds to his influential position and his extensive political and social networks. It also seems to have been important to him to link the text of the annals to Lorsch’s position, and to build upon the cultural and spiritual prestige of the monastery and not least its close connections to Carolingian families. It is true that there is no exemplar of the Annals of Lorsch from the monastery itself.13 It is very likely that the monastery, which after Ricbod’s death in 804 had been entrusted with the care of the abbot’s body and soul, had also received a copy of his annals.This is even more likely because Ricbod himself had also been engaged in the continuous expansion of the monastic library’s already impressive holdings. Thanks to the transmission of several Carolingian library catalogues and many manuscripts of the time (and thanks too to the work of modern scholars, Bernhard Bischoff in particular), we have extraordinary evidence for reconstructing this library.14 This provides us with a unique opportunity with historical texts such as the Lorsch Annals to explore 11 Collins, ‘Charlemagne