Posted by: ken98 | May 18, 2011

A Fistful of Clovis’s or France Becomes French

Day 614 – Ken here (W)(5-18-2011)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.38 pp.460-470)(pages read: 1520)

Introductory Remarks…

 

Pic of entrance to the Mr Toads Wild Ride at Disneyland

Pic of entrance to the Mr Toads Wild Ride at Disneyland - one metaphor for my life this past year


 
Yes, I’m back and yes, this IS day 614, and a little over a year, and one foreclosure, beaucoup de chemotherapy, months of moving, various other miscellaneous significant life changes (duh!) later.

I am back in the saddle riding into the glorious sunset of the 2nd half of Gibbon’s 3 book, 6 volume Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (we are a few pages short of the end of the 3rd volume of 6). Like Cher (or maybe Mr. Toad) I can say “Its been a wild ride.”
 
 
If you remember (a year ago) we were beginning another long digression on the formation of the nation-states of medieval europe. Clovis, and the first French kings (the Merovingians) were our (and Gibbon’s) subjects. Today Gibbon rehearses the gradual expansion of the Catholic Franks (after Clovis’ very convenient conversion in 496) into and throughout former Roman Gaul. The fact that Clovis is now of the imperial religion (Catholic – ie a Nicene Christian and not an Arian Christian) makes him more amenable to the Roman population.

I don’t know why, but Gibbon increasingly has fits of falling all over himself to glorify the Christian church. It’s as if another Gibbon – a more sanctimonious, parochial, Bowdler-like Gibbon – periodically is channeled by our old friend – the rebel, popping-the-balloon, telling-the-truth, Deist and another person entirely begins writing the next 10 pages of his Decline and Fall. A trifle disconcerting at times to say the least. I wonder if his publishers finally GOT TO HIM (“for heaven’s sake Mr. Gibbon, a modicum more of conventionality and restraint in matters spiritual – think of your readership and your revenues”).

The Story
 
The Inexorable Expansion of the Franks throughout Gaul (490s-530s)
 
Clovis takes Armorica (Western France – Brittany) – 497
 
  • Armoricans – Roman West was for a short time a separate Republic, abandoned by the imperial government (like Syagrius in central France, or Britain for that matter) and left to its own defenses
  • Clovis, now an imperial Catholic Christian takes it, with the help of the 70 bishops (who were really holding society together at this point)
  • The late Roman Armorican legions are folded into the Frank’s army, greatly increasing Clovis’s and the Frank’s military effectiveness
  •  

    Clovis gains the submission of the Burgundians (Eastern Central France), conquered by his sons – 532
     
  • Burgundian war 499, Gundobald (an Arian) convenes a council in Lyons to see about deciding on the Catholic three-gods view of Christianity, or the Arian’s one-god view of Christianity. He stays with Arianism. This puts him at some disadvantage with the majority native Roman population the Burgundians rule over who are Catholic and therefore incline now to Clovis the Catholic as their barbarian protector
  • Gundobald is routed, but retreats to other heavily fortified Roman cities (ex. Avignon) and Clovis makes peace
  • Thirty years later, the Franks overwhelm and take the Burgundian kingdom into their own
  •  

    Clovis takes Visigoths above the Pyrenees (South-Western France, Aquitaine) – 507
     
  • The Visigoths held the southern part of France (Med coast andAquitaine), and Spain. Clovis decides to attack and take it with no outward provocation other than the desire for gain
  • Battles Alaric, and wins over the now-unwarlike Visigoths (even though the Visigothes outnumber them). Clovis wins.
  •  

    Clovis Finally checked by Theodoric – Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy
     
  • Theodoric (head of the wealthy, and stable, and premier barbarian kingdom in the West – Italy and Rome) steps in to check the Franks and stops them from taking all of Gaul – the Visigoths are left with Spain and a narrow strip (Septimania) along the Med coast
  •  

    The Story of France
     
  • This is the quasi-mythic story of the foundations of the nation of France. The Franks were only one people of many Germanic barbarian Peoples (and an apparently very minor nation at first) inhabiting the remains of the Roman Empire in the West and the northern regions never conquered by Rome.
  • Much of what we know is through histories of very partisan writers (ex. Agathias in the 500’s – a bishop but a man for Clovis def) AND through collections of manuscripts made by historians of the 1600’s and 1700’s who were French, interested in strengthening the national French monarchy at the expense of the provinces of France, and so VERY INTERESTED in the beginnings of the French monarchy (the Merovingians) and SHOWING the monarchy in the BEST LIGHT POSSIBLE. Such are the consideration you have to keep in mind as you read the “bare facts” presented for these times (480s through the 550s) in Gaul (later France).
  •  

     
     
     
     

    Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix from the Asterix comic.  Asterix lives in Roman Armorica - basically the west coast of France, esp. Brittany - and is the area Clovis conquered in 497, lassoing the Gauls and Romans there both into the fledgling medieval French (Frankish) empire

    Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix from the Asterix comic. Asterix lives in Roman Armorica - basically the west coast of France, esp. Brittany - and is the area Clovis conquered in 497, lassoing the Gauls and Romans there both into the fledgling medieval French (Frankish) empire


     

    Last Word…
    The End of Armorica – and Asterix in Case You Were Wondering…
     

     
    Asterix, the hero of the French comic strip lives in an unnamed village in Armorica in Roman times (probably a few hundred years before Clovis, but who knows?) – and fights continually for the freedom and rights of the native Gauls of France under the thumb of the Italian Romans and the vise-like grip of the Roman empire on ancient Gaul.

    Of course, by our period (approx the year 500) the grip of Rome on Northern Europe resembles more the clutch of a dying man – in fact, the native populations mourn the loss of Roman citizenship as the empire ebbs away like low tide from Gaul and German barbarians are everywhere ruling what was once the fertile and rich provinces of the former empire. Asterix is history now (or must be, since he would now be fighting German Franks, and basically the forerunners of the kings of France).
     

    Armorica - map around the year 500 or so - from Euratlas

    Armorica - map around the year 500 or so - from Euratlas


     
    Map of Burgundy in the year 500 or so - from Euratlas

    Map of Burgundy in the year 500 or so - from Euratlas


     
    Visigoths - Map of Europe about 500 - the big blob in Spain and Southern France are the Visigoths - from Euratlas

    Visigoths - Map of Europe about 500 - the big blob in Spain and Southern France are the Visigoths - from Euratlas


     

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