The Franks or Frankish people (Latin: Franci or gens Francorum) were a West Germanic tribal confederation first attested in the third century as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a kingdom on Roman-held soil that was acknowledged by the Romans after 357. In the climate of the collapse of imperial authority in the West, the Frankish tribes were united under the Merovingians and conquered all of Gaul in the 6th century. The Salian political elite would be one of the most active forces in spreading Christianity over western Europe. The Merovingian dynasty, descended from the Salians, founded one of the Germanic monarchies which replaced the Western Roman Empire from the fifth century. The Frankish state consolidated its hold over large parts of western Europe by the end of the eighth century, developing into the Carolingian Empire which dominated most of Western Europe. This empire would gradually evolve into France and the Holy Roman Empire. (Wikipedia)
The story of this new dynasty and its evolution is told by an eyewitness: Gregory of Tours. Tours remained one of the most important centers of French culture in the fifth and sixth centuries and Gregory continued the work of his famous predecessor Saint Martin. Gregory was Bishop of Tours from 573 until his death in 594. His book History of the Franks is our most important document for the story of the Franks.
Gregory of Tours (born Georgius Florentius; (538 – 1594 AD) was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours during the Merovingian period and is known as the "father of French history." He was a prelate in the Merovingian kingdom, encompassing Gaul's historic region. Gregory's most notable work is the Decem Libri Historiarum (Ten Books of Histories), also known as the Historia Francorum (History of the Franks). Decem Libri Historiarum is considered a primary source for the study of Merovingian history and chronicles the accounts of the Franks during the period. Gregory is also known for documenting accounts of religious figures, notably that of Martin of Tours. It is believed that the Tomb of St. Martin became a Christian pilgrimage site in the 6th century due in part to Gregory's writings.
Gregory of Tours,
A History of the Franks,
Lewis Thorpe (translator),
(History of the Franks summary from Wikipedia)
Gregory of Tours' history is a dense work, full of numerous narratives and characters. Gregory's history contains Christian tales of miracles, descriptions of omens and natural events, stories of Christian martyrs, dialogues of church debates, lives of holy men, lives of the nobility, lives of eccentric peasants, frequent Bible verses and references, and complex international relations between numerous tribes and nations including the Lombards, Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Huns, not to mention Gregory's personal biography and interpretation of events. It begins with a pronouncement by the author, the Bishop of Tours, of Gregory's faith. That he is a Frankish Catholic clergyman who follows the Nicene Creed, and abhors heresy like those of the “wicked” Arian sect among other heresies. The Narrative history begins with a brief epitome of the Biblical Old Testament and New Testament, and the subsequent spread of the Christian Religion into Gaul. Next Gregory covers the history of Christianity in Gaul and some of the major events in Roman-Gallo relations. Book One ends with the death of Saint Martin of Tours in AD 397. It covers the beginnings of the Merovingian dynasty. Book Two ends with the death of King Clovis I in 511, after his conquest of large tracts of land in modern-day France. Also narrated is Clovis's conversion to Christianity by his wife Clotilde. The follows the four male inheritors of King Clovis who equally divide his realms at his death in AD 511. These four kings, Theodoric I, Lothar I, Childebert I, and Chlodomer, quarrel and fight for supremacy of the Frankish realm. Despite their disputes, the four brothers can occasionally work together against an outside threat, such as successful cooperation against the Burgundians in 523. Eventually Clothar becomes the most powerful King in the Frankish realm. Book Three ends with the death of king Theudebert I in 548. He is a grandson of Clovis and son to king Theodoric I, who died in 534 bequesting his kingdom to Theudebert. The kingdom after 548 falls to Theudebald until 555. The two remaining sons of Clovis die; King Childebert in 558 and King Clothar in 561. The last years of his life see the entire realm of the Franks ruled by Clothar. At the time of his demise in AD 561 (like Clovis before him), the Kingdom is divided equally between four sons of Clothar and again the kingly sons quarrel for control of the entire Kingdom. A truce between the brothers is maintained until after the death of King Charibert I (son of Clothar) in 567. Clothar's remaining sons, Kings Sigibert, Guntram, and Chilperic, fight for the supremacy of the kingdom, with King Sigibert showing the strongest military force. Book Four ends with the killing of King Sigbert in AD 575. Gregory of Tours blames Fredegund, the wife of King Chilperic, for this assassination. The death leaves King Chilperic as the dominant king. Fredegund has long held a grudge against King Sigibert and his wife Brunhilda. This book begins the part of the narrative where the author (Bishop Gregory of Tours) has much personal knowledge about the events in the Frankish Kingdom. This book and the ones hereafter, are considerably longer and more detailed than previous, whilst covering a smaller amount of time. This book also contains Gregory's impressions of ecclesiastical issues he saw in person and had some bearing on. This book describes a possible debate that Gregory had with a rival Arian church leader. Moreover, book 5 also introduces Childebert II, the son of recently slain King Sigibert, and of the still living Brunhilda. Childebert is taken along with Brunhilda under the protection of King Gunthram, brother and sometime rival of King Chilperic.
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