« Cletus or Anacletus, bp. of Rome Clovis, king of the Salian Franks Coelestinus, commonly called Celestine, bp. of Rome »

Clovis, king of the Salian Franks

Clovis (in the chroniclers Chlodovechus, etc., modern German Ludwig, modern French Louis), son of Childeric, one of the kings of the Salian Franks, born a.d. 466, succeeded his father in 481 (Greg. Tur. ii. 43). As soon as he reached manhood (486) he attacked Syagrius, "rex Romanorum" (Greg. ii. 23), son of Aegidius, the isolated and independent representative of the Roman power in Gaul (Junghans, pp. 22, 23). Syagrius was defeated, and Clovis advanced his territory from the Somme to the Seine, and afterwards to the Loire (Gesta Francorum, 14), was recognized as king by the former subjects of Syagrius (Greg. ii. 27), and transferred his capital from Tournai to Soissons (Vita S. Remigii, ap. Bouquet, iii. 377 E). Waitz (ii. 60 n.) doubts this (see Junghans, p. 34, n. 3). Many wars and conquests followed (Greg. ii. 27).

About a.d. 492 Clovis married the Burgundian princess Clotilda, a Christian and a Catholic, and she is said to have made many attempts to convert her husband from idolatry (Greg. ii. 29; Rückert, Culturgeschichte, i. pp. 316, 317; Binding, Das Burgundisch-Romanische Reich, Leipz. 1868, pp. 111–114, doubts the value of Clotilda's work; Bornhak, Geschichte der Franken unter den Merovingern, Greifswald, 1863, pp. 207, 208, magnifies it). What her entreaties could not effect the crisis 194of war brought about. During a battle Against the Alamanni (whether at Tolbiac or elsewhere, see Bornhak, p. 209, note 2; Waitz, ii. 65, note 2) the Franks were hard pressed, and beginning to yield. Clovis raised his eyes to heaven and invoked the aid of Christ. Forthwith the tide of battle turned, and the Alamanni fled. Remigius, at the instance of Clotilda, called on Clovis to fulfil his vow. "Gladly," replied the king, "but I must first obtain the consent of my own people." His warriors signified their assent in the well-known words, "Gods that die we cast away from us, the god that dies not, whom Remigius preaches, we are prepared to follow." On Christmas Day, 496, Clovis, with his sisters Albofleda, a heathen, and Lantechild, an Arian, was baptized by Remigius at Rheims. "Gently, Sicambrian, bow down thy head, worship what thou hast hitherto destroyed, destroy what thou hast hitherto worshipped," were the apt words of Remigius (Greg. ii. 30, 31; Vita Rem. ap. Bouquet). How important this conversion was in the eyes of the Catholic world of the day may be seen from the letters of congratulation addressed to Clovis by Avitus, bp. of Vienne (Bouquet, iv. 49), and by pope Anastasius, who wrote both to the king and to the bishops of Gaul (Thiel, Ep. Rom. Pont. pp. 624 and 634). Theodoric, the Ostrogothic king of Italy, was an Arian, though a tolerant one, but Euric, the Visigoth, had proclaimed himself militant and proselytizing (Fauriel, ii. 28); the Burgundian and Vandal princes were also Arian. The majority of the population of Gaul was Catholic, and Clovis was the only Catholic prince. (On the relation of these Arian princes to their Catholic subjects, see Binding, pp. 125 ff.) Whatever may have been his motives, and every variety has been attributed to him, from direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost (Rettberg, Kirchengeschichte, i. pp. 274, 275) to the coldest political calculation (Binding, pp. 111–114), Clovis must have been aware that by his conversion to the Catholic faith he would make the majority of his own subjects firm in their allegiance, and the Roman subjects of the Arian princes in the south ill-affected towards their rulers. (An instance of such disaffection may be found in Greg. ii. 36.) Nor can he have been ignorant of the political importance of the aid which he would get from the Catholic priesthood throughout Gaul. From this point, therefore, dates an increase of influence among the Roman population, the foundations were laid of a Roman nobility of office and intellect capable of superseding the old Teutonic nobility of race (Bornhak, pp. 219–221). Thus, whilst from one point of view this was the "first step towards the world-historical union of Teutonic civilization with the Roman church" (Richter, p. 36, note 6), on the other hand, a reaction of Roman civilization against its Teutonic conquerors now set in, and modern Latin France became possible. As an immediate consequence of the conversion, a body of Frankish warriors not yet converted joined Rachnachar (Vita Rem. ap. Bouquet, iii. p. 377 C, D). Whether this was also a desertion of Clovis is doubtful (see Junghans, p. 59). The conversion of the nation was not completed till long afterwards (see Waitz, ii. 85, note 1; and Rettberg, pp. 285–287). All questions connected with the conversion of Clovis are fully treated by Rückert, Culturgeschichte des Deutschen Volkes in der Zeit ales Uebergangs aus dem Heidenthum in das Christenthum (Leipz. 1853–1854).

The next war of Clovis was with Burgundy, a.d. 500. Gundobald, the uncle of Clotilda and murderer of her parents, was defeated at Dijon. Clovis annexed part of the Burgundian dominion, and gave the rest to Godegisel, another brother. Shortly afterwards Gundobald returned, expelled Godegisel, and apparently became reconciled to Clovis, for in 507 the Burgundians helped Clovis in his expedition against the Visigoths. (This alliance is not mentioned by Gregory, but see Binding, p. 194, note 659; and Richter, p. 41, note e.) Between 505 and 507 Clovis is said to have been inflicted with tedious illness (Vita Severini, Bouquet, iii. 392 B); on his recovery he immediately issued his famous declaration of war against the Visigoths: "Verily it grieves my soul that these Arians should hold a part of Gaul; with God's help let us go and conquer them, and reduce their territory into our hands" (Greg. ii. 37). From Paris Clovis marched through Orleans to Tours, gave strict orders for the protection of the Catholic church and its property (Ep. ap. Bouquet, iv. 54), met and defeated the Visigoths at Voullon or Vouglé near Poictiers, and slew king Alaric with his own hand (Richter, p. 40 notes and reff.). The winter of 507–508 Clovis spent at Bordeaux, carried off the Visigothic treasure from Toulouse, and reduced Angoulême and the surrounding territory before his return to Paris, which city henceforward he made his capital (Greg. ii. 38). That the religious element was very powerful in this war (Rückert, i. 324) is evident from the letter of Clovis to the bishops (Bouquet, l.c.), from the vain attempts which Alaric had made to confirm the allegiance of his Catholic and Roman subjects (Richter, p. 39, note 2), and from what Cassiodorus (Var. iii. Ep. 1–4) tells us of the negotiations before the war. Theodoric the Ostrogoth had proposed an alliance of the Arian German kings for the maintenance of peace; and when the Franks began to pursue their victories in a fresh campaign and laid siege to Arles, Theodoric interfered, sent an army under Ibbas, which defeated the Franks and relieved Arles, and eventually agreed to a peace, by which Provence was annexed by the Ostrogothic power, Septimania adhered to the Visigothic kingdom of Spain, and Clovis's conquest of Aquitaine was acknowledged (Binding, p. 212 and note 731). We do not know whether Clovis joined personally in this Rhone campaign. No mention of it is made by Gregory. It was at Tours, on his return from Bordeaux in 508, that Clovis received a letter from the emperor Anastasius, "conferring upon him the consular dignity, from which time he was habitually called consul and Augustus" ("ab Anastatio Imperatore codicillos de consulatu accepit, et in basilicâ beati Martini tunicâ blateâ indutus est et chlamyde, imponens vertice diadema, . . . et ab eâ die tanquam consul et (al. 'aut') Augustus est vocitatus," Greg. ii. 38). Much discussion has taken place as to the exact meaning of 195this passage. The name of Clovis does not appear in the consular Fasti, but in the prologue to the Lex Salia he is entitled "proconsul" (Sybel, Jahrb. d. Alt. in Rheinl. iv. p. 86). Again, the chlamys and the diadem are the insignia of the patriciate. Hence it has been assumed by many that what was conferred on Clovis was the proconsulate and the patriciate (Valesius, i. 299; Richter, pp. 40, 41; Junghans, pp. 126–128). On the contrary, Waitz (ii. 59–61) and others (e.g. Pétigny, ii. 533; and Bornhak, pp. 234, 235), adhering to the exact words of Gregory, maintain that it was the title of consul that was conferred on Clovis. The significance of the event itself is plain. Anastasius saw the value to the empire of the Frankish power as a counterpoise to the Ostrogothic. Clovis willingly accepted any title of honour by which he obtained a quasi-legal title in the eyes of his Roman subjects (cf. Hallam, Middle Ages, vol. i. note 3 on c. i.).

The well-known story of the vase of Soissons (Greg. ii. 27) not only shews how ill Clovis brooked the liberty and equality of the other Frankish chiefs, but reveals the most unfavourable side of his character—his deceitfulness. "Dolus," however, if on the right side, is seldom an attribute of blame with the mediaeval chroniclers. The most discreditable deeds of this character attributed to Clovis are the machinations by which he subjected the other Frankish chiefs originally his equals, and brought about the unification of the Frankish empire. Thus he suggested the murder of his father to Sigebert, king of the Ripuarian Franks, and when the deed was done, himself took possession of the kingdom (Greg. ii. 40). King Chararich was first imprisoned, and then put to death (ib. 41; cf. c. 27 clam feriri, of Syagrius), and likewise king Rachnachar of Cambrai and his two brothers (ib. 42).

Early in 511 Clovis summoned a council of 32 bishops to Orleans (see Decrees ap. Sirmondi, Conc. Gall. i. 177). Before the close of the year he died at the age of 45, and was buried at Paris in the church of the Apostles (afterwards St. Geneviève's) which he and Clotilda had built. He left four sons, Theodoric the eldest (illegitimate); Clodomir, Childebert, and Lothar, by Clotilda.

The only first-class original authority for the reign of Clovis is Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, ii. 27–43, contained in the collections of Duchesne, vol. i.; and Bouquet, Recueil des Historiens, etc., vol. ii. (in the 3rd vol. of Bouquet are extracts from the lives of the saints relating to this reign. On the authority of Gregory see Löbell, Gregor von Tours and seine Zeit, pp. 320 ff.; Monod, in the Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des hautes Etudes, part viii. (1872); and Wattenbach, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen im Mittelalter (3rd ed. 1873), vol. i. pp. 76–83. The best monograph on the subject of Clovis is Junghans, Geschichte der Frankischen Könige Childerich and Chlodovech (Göttingen, 1857). Cf. also G. Kurth, Hist. Poét. des Méroving. (Paris 1893); Prou, La Gaule Méroving. On the constitution of the kingdom of Clovis and its constitutional history, see Waitz, Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte, ii. pp. 51–71; and G. Richter, Annalen d. Deutschen Geschichte im Mittelalter, i. pp. 27–32 (1873).


« Cletus or Anacletus, bp. of Rome Clovis, king of the Salian Franks Coelestinus, commonly called Celestine, bp. of Rome »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |