« Gregorius I. (The Great), bp. of Rome Gundobald, king of the Burgundians Guntramnus, king of Burgundy »

Gundobald, king of the Burgundians

Gundobald, 4th king of the Burgundians (Greg. Tur. Hist. Franc. ii. 28). The kingdom of the Burgundians, which extended from the Vosges to the Durance and from the Alps to the Loire, was divided between Gundobald and his surviving brother Godegiselus, the former having Lyons for his capital, the latter Geneva (Greg. Tur. Hist. Franc. ii. 32; Ennodius, Vita S. Epiphanii, 50–54; Boll. Jan. ii. 374–375; cf. Mascou, Hist. of the Ancient Germans, xi. 10, 31, and Annotation iv.). In 500 Clovis, who had married Gundobald's niece, defeated Gundobald at Dijon, with the aid of Godegiselus who fought against his brother, and imposed a tribute. But on Clovis's departure he renounced his allegiance, and besieged and killed his brother, who had triumphantly entered Vienne. Henceforth till his death he ruled the whole Burgundian territory (Marius Avent. Chron., Migne, Patr. Lat. lxxii. 795, 796; Greg. Tur. ii. 32, 33; Epitomata, xxii.-xxiv.; Richter, Annalen, 37, 38). About this time was held under his presidency at Lyons a conference between the Catholics, led by Avitus, and the Arians, led by Boniface. According to the Catholic account of it which survives, the heretics were utterly confounded. The narrative is in the Spicilegium, iii. 304 (Paris, 1723), Mansi, viii. 242, and excerpta from it in Patr. Lat. lxxi. 1154. Gundobald died in 516, leaving his son, the Catholic Sigismund, as his successor.

In spite of the unfavourable testimony of Catholic writers, there are many indications that Gundobald was for his time an enlightened and humane king. The wisdom and equity of his government are evidenced by the Loi Gombette, the Burgundian code, called after him, which, though probably not taking its present shape entirely till his son's reign, was enacted by him. Its provisions in favour of the Roman, or old Gallic inhabitants, whom in most respects it put on an equality with the conquerors, entitles it to be called the best barbarian code which had yet appeared (Greg. Tur. ii. 33; Hist. lit. de la France, iii. 83 sqq.; L᾿Art de vérifier les dates, x. 365, Paris, 1818). For the code see Bouquet, iv. 257 seq., and Pertz, Leges, iii. 497 seq.

Though he professed Arianism, Gundobald did not persecute, but secured the Catholics in the possession of their endowments, as Avitus testifies (Ep. xxxix. Patr. Lat. lix. 256). The circumstances relied on by Revillout (De l᾿Arianisme des peoples germaniques, 180, 181), who takes the opposite view, are trivial, compared with the testimony of Avitus and the silence of Gregory. Gundobald's whole correspondence with Avitus and the conference of Lyons demonstrate the interest he took in religious subjects and his tolerance of orthodoxy. Several of the bishop's letters survive, answering inquiries on various points of doctrine, e.g. the Eutychian heresy (Epp. 3 and 4), repentance in articulo mortis, and justification by faith or works (Ep. 5). One only of Gundobald's remains (Ep. 19), asking an explanation of Is. ii. 3–5, and Mic. iv. 4. These letters are in Migne, Patr. Lat. lix. 199, 202, 210, 219, 223, 236, 244, 255, and commented on in Ceillier's Hist. générale des auteurs sacrés, x. 554 sqq. He probably died an Arian. According to Gregory, he was convinced and begged Avitus to baptize him in secret, fearing his subjects; but Avitus refused, and he perished in his heresy (Hist. Franc. ii. 34, cf. iii. prologue). But there are two passages in Avitus's letters (Ep. v. sub fin. Patr. Lat. lix. 224, "Unde cum laetitiam—orbitatem" and Ep. ii. sub init. Patr. Lat. lix. 202, "Unicum simul—principaliter de tuenda catholicae partis veritate curetis") which seem almost to imply that he was then a Catholic. See too Gregory's story of the piety of his queen (de Mirac. S. Juliani ii. 8).


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