Search This Blog

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Clovis, Towards a New Chonology, Part Six

Chlodoveo Rex Bellorum, The Visigothic, Thuringian and Burgundian wars

 By Dane R. Pestano ©2015.

497 Second Letter of Remigius to Clovis on death of Albofled.

Bishop Remigius wrote to Clovis a second time on learning of the death of Clovis' Sister Albofled. She had been baptised with Clovis in 496 but then subsequently died, according to Gregory, shortly afterwards. Many commentators suggest the letter was written a fair time (as much as 20 years later in some cases based on an early chronology) after the first letter of Remigius, which I have dated to 493. I date it a mere four years after the first. Clovis had fallen into a stupor of sadness and was perhaps neglecting his kingdom allowing the Visigoths to recapture cities on the Loire. Remegius' letter :
I grieve, I grieve very deeply, for the sorrow that afflicts you because your sister of resplendent memory, Albofled, has passed on. But we can be consoled by the fact that a person such as she who has departed from the light of this world merits veneration more than lamentation. Her life was such that it may be believed that, as one of God's elect who has emigrated to heaven, she was taken up to himself by the Lord. She lives, and if you desire to see her again, Christ lives in your faith. She has accomplished the fulfillment that is the blessing of virginity. It is a consecrated state, not to be mourned, glowing in the sight of God as a virginal flower or, if you prefer, her head bears the crown that she received as a reward for her virginity. Let it not happen that the faithful lament her who merited to become the aroma of Christ so that through him, whom she has pleased, she can provide help to those who seek it. My lord, put sadness out of your heart. Once your soul has become reconciled through due religious observance, govern the kingdom with keener wisdom and adopt nobler counsel out of zeal for tranquillity. With joyful heart, strengthen the members.” 1a
Remigius still speaks of Clovis' possession as a kingdom, rather than describing him as a conqueror of nations as he does in a subsequent letter written after Clovis' death that mentions the king. This would suggest the letter was written after 496 but before 507 when Clovis had defeated the Visigoths. I have chosen 497 as this appears to be the time when Clovis let slip his concentration and the Visigoths were able to go on the offensive, giving rise to challenges from the Thuringians soon after. Gregory also places the death of Albofled shortly after her baptism.

498. The first Visigothic war: Part 2.

Now into the sixth installment and we are still not out of the fifth century. Clovis taking the time out to be Baptised and then mourning the death of his sister meant losing focus on Aquitania.The Visigoths were able to regroup and recover possessions lost. In 496, a continuation of the Chronicle of Prosper relates that Alaric retook Saintes1, and then in the following year had ended a rebellion in one of his Spanish cities. Refugees, who had started leaving Aquitania, had by 497 taken settlements there, from the Chronicle of Saragossa: the Goths acquired settlements in Spain2. Tours had also admitted the Franks, as when it fell back into Visigothic hands in 497, their terrified Bishop Volusianus3 was dragged off to Toulouse and then Spain where he died4. This can only mean that Alaric had refused to hand over Syagrius and that Clovis launched campaigns into Aquitania to force his hand. MacGeorge, in Late Roman Warlords (2002) agrees stating, “it is possible that Syagrius was not surrendered by the Goths until some years after his defeat.” Mathisen continues the story of this early Frankish-Visigothic war : 
“The recapture of Saintes by the Visigoths in 496 did not, however, mark the end of Frankish attacks, for the same chronicle notes, under the year 498, “In the fourteenth year of Alaric the Franks captured Bordeaux and transferred it from the authority of the Goths into their own possession, having taken captive the Gothic duke Suatrius.””5
 So Clovis, now a Catholic King, had resumed the war and taken Bordeaux in 498. We must assume that territory north of Saints and Bordeaux and immediately south of the Loire had possibly already been re-taken; places such as Tours, Bourges and Poitiers, but this is not certain..

Mathisen sees these events as a failure by Clovis to defeat the Visigoths at this time, which has some merit, but when the battle of Soissons is placed in the correct time-frame of 491 (rather than 486) we can see that the Visigothic war follows the flight of Syagrius to Alaric. All these events then make perfect sense. Contrary to Gregory's statement that the Goths were accustomed to be terrified, they had in fact recovered well against Clovis but had not yet faced him in open battle.

 499. Defeat of the Thuringians

Gregory states in the Histories, that in around the tenth year of his reign Clovis fought a war against the Thuringians, which in the GC518 scheme would be 498 (but in CC511 490), which along with all his chronological schemes was unlikely as Clovis was tied up in Aquitania taking Bordeaux in 498. It was not in the 505/6 during the campaigns against the Alamanni as Theoderic did not mention the Thuringians when he congratulated Clovis on victory. Also, in 507 Theoderic called on the Thuringians (as well as the Heruli and Warni) to ally against the Franks. It is unlikely he would have called on the Thuringians in such a way if they had recently been defeated by Clovis. In around 499 then Clovis appears to have moved against the Thuringians who were probably encroaching from Germania I or II towards Belgica II. What prompted this Thuringian aggression? Perhaps dynastic pretensions played a part. Clovis was half Thuringian and they may have thought that while he was tied up in the west they could expand their territory towards Belgica II. Some Thuringians had been Christian since the fifth century but most likely Arian. Whether they were or not, Clovis would show his authority by defeating them in battle and sending their remnants back over the Rhine. The defeat of the Thuringians though left a void that was to be filled by the Allemani who expanded their influence and would soon threaten northern Gaul.
Clovis' next move was to intervene in around 500AD in the Burgundian civil wars between Kings Gundobad and Godigisel. Fredegar places Clovis at Troyes near the Burgundian border at this time. It is therefore not surprising that Clovis now joined with Godigisel in trying to defeat Gundobad in the Burgundian civil wars. Clovis was now Catholic, as was Godigisel. Gregory explains it as Godigisel asking for help after hearing of Clovis' recent victories, (presumably over the Visigoths and Thuringians) and if he did, then it was most certainly because he knew that Clotilda would convince Clovis to support such a move. 

Gregory states that the Burgundians had taken Marseilles by this time, although this date in GC518 could be as late as 504. It could be possible that whilst Clovis in the late 490's was taking western Visigothic possessions, the Burgundians may have taken the opportunity to expand into Provence. They appear to have besieged Arles in around 505 and Sigismund is supposed to have visited Provence around the same time6. Perhaps though these events should be dated to the 507 when we know they certainly invaded Provence.

500-501 The Burgundian Civil War

Clovis then, in around 500-501CE took his army forward into Burgundy to support Godigisel in his first Catholic crusade. This would leave his newly won Aquitanian possessions open to Alaric again, so he would have to be quick. Clovis and Godigisel defeated Gundobad, who had known nothing of their alliance, in a battle near Dijon, and Gundobad then fled to Avignon, whilst Godigisel went to Vienne to secure Gundobad's city. Clovis negotiated a yearly tribute with Gundobad after besieging him for a while in Avignon. Gregory's story of revenge for the death of Clotilda's parents making no sense in the light of this outcome. Gregory states that the tribute and submission was brokered by one of Gundobad's counselors, Aridius. It may have suited Clovis though to make this agreement as Alaric by this time in 501/2 may have started retaking his Aquitanian possessions. This forced Clovis to abandon the Burgundian civil war quickly, albeit with a sack full of coin, leaving Godigisel exposed. The unfortunate Godigisel, now considered a traitor by his people, was then soon defeated and killed by Gundobad and a small detachment of Franks protecting him were captured and sent as prisoners to Alaric. Gregory states that the Arian Gundobad converted at this time to Catholicism in secret but this is questionable. We could speculate that if he did, he may have done so under the terms set by Clovis. Having learnt that exacting tribute was a profitable way forward Clovis marched into Aquitania threatening Alaric.

502-503. Meeting with Alaric on Loire.

On learning that Clovis had left Burgundy and was threatening a resumption of the war Alaric now called the meeting on the Loire, near Tours, sometime in 502/3 to negotiate terms of peace before Clovis turned on him again. Mathisen dates this to “just after 500”, Wolfram to 5027; Gregory in a similar vein doesn't give it a precise date8, but Bordeaux had returned to Visigothic possession by 5059. Both parties though got what they wanted; Clovis obtained Syagrius, if he had not been handed over before, tribute and his captured Franks. The Visigoths were probably given back territory taken by the Franks south of the Loire in the Aquitania provinces, such Poitiers, Bourges and Bordeaux. I would expect that Clovis retained the cities on the Loire in the provinces of the Lugdunensii. By 503 Clovis may also have had reports of the troubles brewing in the the Germanic provinces due to incursions of the and Alamanni and thought peace with the Visigoths was a wise move at this point. Next part seven.


1 Mathisen, Ralph., The First Franco-Visigothic War and the Prelude to the Battle of Vouille, p.4

1a Translation by Daly - Clovis: How Barbaric, How Pagan? 1994 p.633

2 Collins, Roger.,Visigothic Spain 409 – 711, Wiley-Blackwell, 2008, p.33

3 See Mathisen, R.Ruricius of Limoges and Friends : A Collection of Letters from Visigothic Aquitania. Liverpool University Press, 1999 P.14, Volusianus wrote to Ruricius saying he was “stupefied with fear of the enemy”.

Gregory, Histories II.26, II.29. His successor Verus was also exiled in the build up to the battle of Vouille.

5 Ibid Mathisen The First Franco-Visigothic War and the Prelude to the Battle of Vouille , p.4

6 Ferreiro, Alberto, Editor. The Visigoths: Studies in Culture and Society, Mathisen, Sivan The kingdom of Toulouse, BRILL 2012, p.57

7 Ibid Mathisen and Shanzer P.6

8 Greg.Histories II.35 
9 Ibid Mathisen, The First Franco-Visigothic War and the Prelude to the Battle of Vouille, P.5