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Friday, 19 June 2015

Clovis, Towards a New Chronology, Part Four

Chlodoveus Rex Christianus - First Visigothic war and Letter from Remigius. 

By Dane R. Pestano ©2015. Hover cursor over reference numbers for reference text.

493. The start of the first Franco-Visigothic war. 

Traditionally historians have thought that Clovis had turned eastwards at this time to take on the Thuringians and perhaps Alamanni, as indicated by Gregory1.The Alamanni were not to be a problem until 506 when they were probably stirred up by Theoderic, who was trying to prevent Clovis taking on Alaric. In fact the evidence at this time, in 493, points the other way, to Clovis taking back his fathers possessions in the provinces of the Tractus Armoricanus. He turned westwards to the Loire. MacGeorge also pointed out these first and secondary wars of Clovis, first to the Seine, then to the Loire, as they are mentioned in the eighth century Liber Historia Francorum in a way independent from Gregory's testimony. The LHF states that “ Also at that time Clovis enlarged his kingdom, extending it as far as the Seine. At a later time he occupied as far as the river Loire2. This second war, from 493, the first Franco-Visigothic war would drag on for many years. There is also some support from Procopius writing in around 550 for the campaigns of Clovis from 493 onwards, where he states that it was after the death of Odoacer (493) that the Thuringians and Visigoths feared the power of the populous Franks2a. Procopius also tells us that to counter this growing threat both peoples intermarried with the Goths of Theoderic, probably in around 495. Alaric marrying a daughter of Theoderic himself. In this way they hoped to have the powerful Theoderic on their side2b. Clovis, not to be left out of these political shenanigans offered his sister to Theoderic in marriage which was accepted so alleviating immediate concerns of retribution from Theoderic.Theoderic however had only come to power in 493 and had more pressing matters than what was happening in northern Gaul at this time and so by the time he took interest Clovis had already acquired his kingdom and pushed on to the Loire and beyond. Placing Clovis' battle against the Thuringians has proven to be difficult. Gregory suggests ten years after Clovis took power, Procopius suggests after 500, but it would appear shortly before 500 would be the possible place.

Alaric had become king of the Visigoths in around 485 on the death of his father Euric. According to the events related by Gregory, Clovis, after the battle of Soissons, threatened Alaric with war and Alaric then handed over Syagrius to Clovis who then had him executed. Gregory implies that this all occurred in a fairly short period of time but there is no contemporary record that states that Syagrius was handed over immediately, as pointed out by Woolfram, who also makes the point that Clovis' threat of war would have been ineffectual unless the Franks and Goths were actual neighbours3. In fact the Franks started a war in Aquitanian territory soon afterwards implying that Clovis had already secured areas of the Tractus Armoricanus and that Syagrius had not as yet been handed over. Ralph Mathisen's paper on the subject, The First Franco-Visigothic War and the Prelude to the Battle of Vouillé (2012), is a good source for the events of this time. The Franks had taken Saintes in 4944, a port city one hundred miles north of Bordeaux and many Goths had fled to Spain. Some partial evidence for this comes from the Chronicle of Saragossa that notes that in 494 “the Goths entered Spain5. To have taken Saintes by 494 implies that Clovis by this time, since the defeat of Syagrius in 491, had brought some or all of the cities along the Loire back into Frankish hands. Probably those within Lugdunensis IV Senonae at least or perhaps the whole of the Tractus Armoricanus6 (excluding the far west of Lugdunensis III). It appears some cities held out though, Verdun in the east beyond the Seine refused the Franks7, as did the Gallic population of Nantes in the west. Clovis appear to have installed his relatives into positions of power in these cities; Gregory of Tours informing us for instance, that Rignomer was given command of Le Mans (II.42).

Clovis had failed to take Nantes during these campaigns, after a long siege of sixty days where Chilo, one of his generals, when faced with an apparition of St. Similianus, fled with his army. Chilo was described as “not yet reborn by water and the Holy spirit" This last statement, as MacGeorge points out (p.130), strongly suggests the barbarian commander and army was Frankish and therefore dated before 496. With a name like Chilo Mathieson cleverly suggests this could have been Clovis himself 8.

Only one other general of Clovis is mentioned, in the Liber Francorum, and his name was Aurelianus9, described as a count. He was granted some land south of the Seine by Clovis for his services. It is clear then that Clovis, and his family and generals, with portions of the army, attempted to secure the cities along the Loire.

Frankish expansion under Clovis 491 - 495

This failure to take Nantes in 494/5 and enter western Armorica led to what is assumed to be a treaty and alliance between the two peoples. Procopius, mentions a people living adjacent to the Franks called the Arborychi9a (who must be the Armoricans and Britons of Lugdunensis III) who were Catholic Christian9b and whom Clovis was unable to conquer. Since Clovis was now sympathetic to Catholics, his wife being one, the Franks were preferable to the Arian Visigoths10. Procopius suggests the Franks were also Christian at this time which may be another hint that Clovis was already himself Christian, which will be dealt with below. With the provinces of the Lugdunensii and the Tractus Armoricanus secure he was able to move southwards, probably with help from this alliance. It was on the occasion of this second war securing these territories and crossing the Loire that Remigius then wrote to Clovis. The letter could not have been after the battle for Soissons as Remigius would not then have needed to hear of a 'rumour' of war. That battle was in his own back yard. He would have had first hand experience of it and the Frankish pillaging.

493-494. The letter of Remigius to Clovis on his second military campaign.

This letter has generally been dated to the beginning of the reign of Clovis or after the victory over Syagrius, where Clovis is thought to have obtained command of Belgica II. Many of these assumptions appear to be incorrect11 although it was undoubtedly early in his career as king. Not very early though. MacGeorge points out that Remigius does not offer his condolences on the death of Childeric12 suggesting it was a few years into his reign or as I have suggested, Clovis was still a minor when childeric died. The first line of the letter has caused problems of interpretation due it's slightly corrupt form. Bury describes the problem in one of his lectures on Clovis :
“As they stand in the MSS. they are extremely obscure and indeed obviously corrupt. “Rumor ad nos magnum pervenit administrationem vos secundum bellice suscepisse”. `Rumor magnum'—I am not responsible for the gender, and I suspect neither was Remigius, but what the bishop meant was: "An important piece of tidings has reached us that you have undertaken the administration of"—something. `Secundum bellice' makes nonsense. The usual resort has been to insert rei after bellice, and the meaning is supposed to be "that you have undertaken for the second time the administration of military affairs". Such a statement is unintelligible in reference to Clovis. The words `secundum bellice` have been brilliantly emended by Bethmanns into `Secunde Belgice`, "that you have undertaken the administration of the Second Belgica"12a
The original Latin13 actually reads Rumor ad nos magnos pervenit administrationem vos secundam rei bellicae suscepisse.The first part causes no problems “ important word has come to us..The second part though is where the confusion lies, "that you have undertaken the administration of the Second Belgica"14 As Bury points out, the sentence has been corrupted by the copying during a lengthy period, but no variant manuscript carries the word Belgice or the sense of provincia, so we must reject Bethmanns amendment of Belgice. The Latin rei bellicae is in fact a genitive form of res bellica, a common phrase meaning war/military action. The meaning therefore is as Bury mentioned, but then too quickly dismissed because of the misunderstanding of the context, “that you have undertaken for the second time the administration of military affairs” Here, 'for the second time' would require a small emendation to secundum, rather than secundam, but time is superfluous so can be discarded anyway. Tome Duxieme as long ago as the eighteenth century had translated the same : “A great news came to me; you have undertaken a second military expedition, "or" you have taken up Arms for the second time"15. Therefore the whole first line in fact reads :
Important word has come to us, that you have undertaken a second military campaign.”
This does no harm to the meaning or sense of the words. Clovis fought many wars. This appears to relate to his second campaign, which, as we have seen above, refers to the immediate Visigothic war following the flight of Syagrius. This letter is also indirect evidence of a first war, which must have been the one to take Soissons. As this letter is dated to the beginning of Clovis' reign, and as we now see, on the occasion of his attacks on the Visigoths from 493 onwards, then the beginning of his reign cannot have been twelve years previously in 481/82. The Letter therefore, is also indirect evidence that his reign must have began much closer in time, I suggest 488. Clovis had now gained control of the province of Lugduneis IV or all of the Tractus Armoricanus excluding western Armorica.

In fact this all makes perfect sense when we examine the second line which states “ “There is nothing new in that you now begin to be what your parents always were”. It is therefore not just that his parents or ancestors had a kingdom in Belgica II; it was also because Childeric, his father, had defeated the Visigoths at Orleans with Aegideus back in 463 and had had extended his influence to the Seine and Paris. Clovis was now in the same league; he had retaken Soissons and pushed back the Visigoths. We must therefore dispense with the previous assumptions that Clovis acquired the command of Belgica II following his victory over Syagrius, for which there was frankly, no evidence. 

A 'provincia' is mentioned later in the letter but did not always mean 'province', especially by the sixth century. In this context it could mean `charge' or 'office'. With so many other kings in place in what was Belgica II, including Ragnachar, Rignomer and Chararic, it is highly unlikely Clovis commanded that region. We know this is correct as he later had to remove them all. The attendees at the Council of Orleans also show that he did not have overall authority there even in 511. If we were to use 'province' as the meaning it would be the Tractus as discussed above and below. Here then is a corrected translation of the full letter:
Important word has come to us that you have undertaken a second military campaign. There is nothing new in that you now begin to be what your parents always were. First of all, you should act so that God’s Judgement may not abandon you and that your merits should maintain you at the height where you have arrived by your humility. For, as the proverb says, man’s acts are judged. You ought to associate with yourself counsellors who are able to do honour to your reputation. Your deeds should be chaste and honest. You should defer to your bishops and always have recourse to their advice. If you are on good terms with them your charge (provincia) will be better able to stand firm. Encourage your people, relieve the afflicted, protect widows, nourish orphans, so shine forth that all may love and fear you. May justice proceed from your mouth. Ask nothing of the poor or of strangers, do not allow yourself to receive gifts from them. Let your tribunal be open to all men, so that no man may leave it with the sorrow [of not having been heard]. You possess the riches your father left you. Use them to ransom captives and free them from servitude. If someone is admitted to your presence let him not feel he is a stranger. Amuse yourself with young men, deliberate with the old. If you wish to reign, show yourself worthy to do so” (most of translation from Geary, 1998: 129)
This letter raises some other issues. Clovis appears well acculturated to Christianity. The mention of 'your Bishops' and the warning that “God might abandon you” are strange things to say to a heathen King. Daly, seeing these issues comments:
“..but reference to "your bishops" several years before Clovis's baptism can be surprising. If Remigius sees the role of the bishops as consultative, he deems Christian moral values to be normative for the young king. He commends him for humility, a Christian virtue, and assumes that he regards the Lord as a rewarding judge. In the spirit of the pre-Augustinian emphasis of the Gallo-Roman church on meriting God's reward through good works, he is enjoining Clovis to heed the basic message of the Last Judgement parable from Matthew's Gospel. He will be judged by the Lord, who will weigh his deeds, particularly those that show concern for the weak, the unfortunate, and strangers. Only the familiar Christian identification in Matthew 25.31-46 of these least of the Lord's brethren with Jesus is left out. All in all, Remigius seems to take for granted that the youthful king has some comprehension of and respect for, and perhaps even some degree of acceptance of, the beliefs and practices of his Gallo-Roman subjects”16
Wood argues that this shows Clovis may already have been an Arian Christian and James conceded the possibility, but this would be impossible as he would not have been able to be baptised again as a Catholic once an Arian, a procedure that had been banned at the Council of Arles in 314.17 Barlow argued that Arianism was unlikely as the Bishops of Frankia would then have used Clovis as an exemplem in their campaign against Arianism, which they did not17a. However Alaric II has shown us that being an Arian Christian did not exclude good relations with Catholic Bishops. He was actively courting them shortly before his death at the Council of Agde in 506. Bury suggested that Clovis may already have converted to Catholicism by the time of the letter. Wood's other argument that Clovis may have been an Arian Catechumen fails when we consider that Avitus states that Clovis was under no instruction as discussed below.

The letter, from a Catholic Bishop to his king, would suggest that in reality Clovis was already Christian. There can be only one explanation for all of this; on marrying Clotilda she had insisted that he become Christian. He would however not commit to baptism as Catholic or Arian until he had considered the matter further; a very diplomatic way to solve the problem of a pagan king marrying a Catholic princess. Clovis would have been well aware of Catholic values having grown up in northern Gaul, under the influence of Genevieve and Remigius so the idea of converting to Christianity to engender the marriage could have been a fairly easy decision. However, most Germanic kings were of the Arian persuasion of Christianity. It would have been a natural choice for a young king to emulate the greatness of his elders, such as Gundobad and especially Theoderic, who had just defeated Odoacer. Avitus hints that Clovis had made the choice himself, i.e. that he was not under any particular instruction as a true catechumen should be18.

It appears unique that Clovis could convert to Christianity but then delay the choice of faith, awaiting perhaps a baptism of blood. Was this slightly heretical? Shanzer hints as much suggesting that Avitus, when writing to Clovis after his baptism, saw Clovis previously as heretical, but at the same time as not pagan, so already Christian, she sums up: 
Avitus would not have spoken of populi paganorum to Clovis, had he thought of Clovis himself as a recent or current member of that group....he has no need to pussy foot around paganism, because he does not think of Clovis as pagan. Instead he expends his linguistic efforts in being politically correct in his terminology related to heresy, for in his eyes, Clovis was an all too recent heretic”19
This process of converting and then baptising later was not without precedent. Constantine the Great had converted to Christianity some twenty years before he was actually baptised, shortly before his death. It seems that Clovis may have been tempted away from his choice over the years, as he approached the time he chose to be baptised, due to the schisms within the Catholic church, which we will discuss later. I can only repeat Daly's summing up " All in all, Remigius seems to take for granted that the youthful king has some comprehension of and respect for, and perhaps even some degree of acceptance of, the beliefs and practices of his Gallo-Roman subjects". Indeed, Clovis was therefore already Christian at the time of this letter. In support of this is the fact that Clovis' sisters may already have been Christian as well. Although at least two had chosen Arianism. Then as Daly points out there are the close associations of Childeric and Clovis with Saint Genevieve, as well as Remigius as shown from this letter. Daly's revisionist portrayal of Clovis as thoroughly Romanised and intimately acquainted with Christianity must therefore be supported in my view.

The mention in this letter of Clovis' fathers riches seems to imply that the letter must have been written within the early years of his reign when he was a young man. He would be around nineteen at this time. Then there is the strange statement, that if he “wishes to reign, he should show himself worthy to do so. Very bold talk from a Bishop to a heathen king, but perhaps not so bold to a young Christian king. 

Clovis had reclaimed his birthright, Soissons, and secondly he had defeated the Visigoths and freed some of their cities from the yolk of Arianism. Soissons may even have been where he was born. Gregory also confirms that Clovis had authority over Soissons when describing the attack on Syagrius, claiming that the region properly belonged to Clovis “And Clovis came against him with Ragnachar, his kinsman, because he used to possess the kingdom”20. The wording though is a little ambiguous and it might even be Ragnachar that may have held Soissons. However Clovis has always been associated with Soissons unlike Ragnachar who in 511 was still placed in Cambrai, so it may be that it was Childeric that held it in the past and so it was rightly Clovis'. Wood suggested that Clovis had lost it at the time Childeric died. This may not be out of the question if Clovis was only eight years old when Childeric died. He would have been in no position to challenge Syagrius. In part three I dated the fall of Soissons to Syagrius to 477-484 which would happily agree with Woods idea of it happening when Childeric died. If Clovis was a minor when Childeric died this may go some way to explain the confusion of his reign length.

I have dated this letter to 493-494 because Clovis began his first campaign against the Visigoths in 493/4 and this meant he would have to have removed some Visigothic influence along the Loire before heading for Saintes or Bordeaux. There is a suggestion therefore that Orleans may have admitted the Franks as he pushed along the Loire, which again may satisfy the second line of the letter. The territory referred to in the letter therefore was not Belgica II but more likely the Tractus Armoricanus. (probably at least Lugdunensis IV Senona), the very places his father Childeric had operated in. These were all well represented at the Council of Orleans in 511, even far western Armorica following their alliance.

In Gregory's corrupted ordering of events, Clovis would next have fought the Alamanni but we know the Alamannic battle took place only a year or so before Vouillé due to a letter written by Cassiodorus on behalf of Theoderic. Shanzer, Mathisen and Wood still adhering to the thoughts of Gregory21 therefore place the baptism after the Battle of Tolbiac in 506. By removing this errant association of baptism after Tolbiac we can in fact place the baptism in it's correct place. Daly also appears to support removing this association in his brilliant summing up :
But whether he chose to be baptised early or late, his rapport with Catholic orthodoxy as it developed over three decades exhibits striking religious dimensions, both external and internal. Childeric's friendly relations with St. Genevieve and Remigius's advice to the young king imply that he already understood, and possibly half accepted, the simpler elements of the Christian economy of personal salvation. His early diplomacy introduced Arianism directly into his family and likely occasioned his allegedly perceptive investigation of its teachings, but he did not become an Arian. Whatever may have been his reasons for finally preferring Catholicism, they seem far removed from the supercilious lectures attributed to Clotild or from testing her god's power in the midst of battle, though her quiet personal example and influence must have complemented Genevieve's"22
With this association removed we can proceed to Clovis' baptism in part five.


1 Greg Histories II.27

2 Ibid MacGeorge, Late Roman Warlords, 2006, p.129

2a  "But after the fall of Odoacer, the Thuringians and the Visigoths began to fear the power of the Germans, which was now growing greater (for their country had become exceedingly populous and they were forcing into subjection without any concealment those who from time to time came in their way)"

2b Procopius: “And since Theoderic wished to attach these peoples to himself, he did not refuse to intermarry with them. Accordingly he betrothed to Alaric the younger, who was then leader of the Visigoths, his own unmarried daughter Theodichusa, and to Hermenefridus, the ruler of the Thuringians, Amalaberga, the daughter of his sister Amalafrida. As a result of this the Franks refrained from violence against these peoples through fear of Theoderic, but they began a war against the Burgundians”

3 Ibid Woolfram 1992 p.190

4 Saintes was retaken by Alaric in 496 showing it had already been lost. Chronicle of Saragossa.

5 Collins, Roger.,Visigothic Spain 409 – 711, Wiley-Blackwell, 2008, p.35

6 As northern Gaul above the Loire to the Seine was called in the late empire.

7 Ibid MacGeorge 2003, p.129

8 Ibid MacGeorge 2003, p.130 Another natural event probably marks the apparition of St Similianus, perhaps a partial eclipse. There is a suspicion that 'Chilo' may actually have been Clovis himself,  suggesting that this event could have triggered his visit to Tours and subsequent Baptism. You just have to say Chlo out loud to see how easily this could happen. The name was probably shortened from Chloio - Chlodoveo.

9 Some medieval bright spark put two and two together and made Count Aurelianus the Dux Ambrosius Aurelianus of Gildas in the Irish version of Historia Britonum, the Lebhor Bretnach, where Ambrosius is described as a king of the Franks.

9a  Procopius : "But as time went on, the Visigoths forced their way into the Roman empire and seized all Spain and the portion of Gaul lying beyond the Rhone River and made them subject and tributary to themselves. By that time it so happened that the Arborychi had become soldiers of the Romans. And the Germans, wishing to make this people subject to themselves, since their territory adjoined their own and they had changed the government under which they had lived from of old, began to plunder their land and, being eager to make war, marched against them with their whole people. 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"

9b. Procopius tells us that frontier Roman soldiers chose the Germans and Arborychi to join with because they were not Arian. Suggesting the Arborychi were therefore Catholic. Also suggesting Clovis was already Christian.

10 Ibid Mathisen 1999 p.14. Bishops from Vannes and Nantes attended the Council of Orleans in 511. Some have suggested that the Arborychi were the Auvernians but this is unlikely as they were to fight against Clovis at Vouille. They were not undefeated either. Clermont was taken in 507 by Theuderic, Clovis' son. Procopius is clearly talking about nations with these words, not a minor civitatis like the Auvergne.

11 MacGeorge 2003, p.128, suggests the evidence is against Clovis obtaining all of Belgica II as James proposes.

12 See MacGeorge 2003 p.127

12a Bury, John Bagnell. The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians Lecture 13 - The Reign of Clovis 1923

13 Domino insigni et meritis magnifico Clodoveo regi, Remigius episcopus. Rumor ad nos magnus pervenit administrationem vos secundam rei bellicae suscepisse. Non est novum ut coeperis esse sicut parentes tui semper fuerunt. Hoc in primis agendum, ut Domini iudicium a te non vacillet, ubi tui meriti, qui per industriam humilitatis tuae ad summum culminis pervenit: quia, quod vulgus dicitur, ex fine (1157D) actus hominis probatur. Consiliarios tibi adhibere debes, qui famam tuam possint ornare; et beneficium tuum castum et honestum esse debet, et sacerdotibus tuis honorem debebis deferre, et ad eorum consilia semper recurrere. Quod si tibi bene cum illis convenerit, provincia tua melius potest constare. Cives tuos erige, afflictos releva, viduas fove, orphanos nutri, si potius est quam erudies, ut omnes te ament et timeant. Iustitia ex ore vestro procedat, nihil sit sperandum de pauperibus vel peregrinis, ne magis dona, aut aliquid accipere velis. Praetorium tuum omnibus pateat, ut nullus exinde tristis abscedat. Paternas quascunque opes possides, captivos exinde liberabis, et a iugo servitutis absolves. Si quis in conspectu vestro venerit, peregrinum se esse (1158A) non sentiat. Cum iuvenibus ioca, cum senibus tracta, si vis regnare, nobilis iudicari.

14 'administrationem' – noun, sg fem acc – Fig. 'direction, management, or administration of a thing.' 'vos' - pron, pl fem acc indeclform – 'you'. Plural, so the following secundam must be numerical. 'secundam' - adj, sg fem acc – 'second.' 'rei bellicae' -adj, sg fem gen – genitive of 'res bellica' meaning 'war / military action.' 'suscipisse' - verb, perf inf act – 'to take, take up, receive'.

15 Deuxieme, Tome. Bibliothèque de l'École des chartes, University of Chicago Library.1716,Une grande nouvelle est parvenue jusqu'à moi; vous avez entrepris une seconde  expédition militaire, ou bien vous avez pris les armes pour la seconde fois.

16 Ibid Daley, Clovis: How Barbaric, How Pagan?, Speculum, Vol. 69.3 1994, pp 619-664, pg.633

17 Klingshirn, W.E., Caesarius of Arles: The Making of a Christian Community in Late Antique Gaul, Cambridge University Press 2004, p.117, fn.30

17b  Cusak, Carole M. The Rise of Christianity in Northern Europe, 300-1000, Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.; 1999, p.73

18 Avitus states : “ Certainly I am not going to preach the faith that you saw without a preacher before your baptism”. Ibid Shanzer 1998 p.42

19 Ibid Shanzer, Dating the Baptism of Clovis, 1998, pgs.35-37.

20 Greg. Histories .II.27 

21 Gregory placed the baptism after the Battle of Tolbiac in around the fifteenth year of Clovis' reign.

22.  Ibid Daley, Clovis: How Barbaric, How Pagan?, Speculum, Vol. 69.3 1994, pp 619-664, pg.663

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