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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Clovis, King of the Franks

Clovis I
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Clovis I (variously spelled Chlodowech or Chlodwig, giving modern French Louis and modern German Ludwig) (c.466November 27, 511) was the first king of the Franks to unite that entire barbarian (according to the Romans) nation. He succeeded his father Childeric I in 481 as King of the Salian Franks, one of several Frankish tribes, who were then occupying the area west of the lower Rhine, with their centre around Tournai and Cambrai along the modern frontier between France and Belgium, in an area known as Toxandria. He conquered the neighbouring Frankish tribes and established himself as sole king before his death.

He converted to Christianity as opposed to the Arianism common among Germanic peoples, at the instigation of his wife. He was baptized in the Cathedral of Rheims as most future French kings will do. This act was of immense importance in the subsequent history of France and Western Europe in general for Clovis expanded his dominion over almost all of the old Roman province of Gaul (roughly modern France) which stands at the centre of European affairs. He is considered the founder both of France (which his state closely resembled geographically at his death) and the Merovingian dynasty which ruled the Franks for the next two centuries.
Frankish consolidation

In 486, with the help of Ragnachar, Clovis defeated Syagrius, the last Roman official in northern Gaul, who ruled the area around Soissons in present-day Picardie.[1] This victory extended Frankish rule to most of the area north of the Loire. After this, Clovis secured an alliance with the Ostrogoths, through the marriage of his sister Audofleda to their king, Theodoric the Great. He followed this victory with another in 491 over a small group of Thuringians east of his territories. Later, with the help of the other Frankish sub-kings, he defeated the Alamanni in the Battle of Tolbiac. He had previously married the Burgundian princess Clotilde (493), and, following his victory at Tolbiac, he converted in 496 to her Trinitarian Catholic faith. This was a significant change from the other Germanic kings, like the Visigoths and Vandals, who embraced the rival Arian beliefs.

Christian king
The conversion of Clovis to Roman Catholic Christianity, the religion of the majority of his subjects, strengthened the bonds between his Roman subjects and their Germanic conquerors. However, Bernard Bachrach has argued that this conversion from his Frankish, so-called pagan, beliefs alienated many of the other Frankish sub-kings and weakened his military position over the next few years.

Perhaps surprisingly, the bishop Gregory of Tours wrote that the beliefs that Clovis abandoned were in Roman gods, such as Jupiter and Mercury, rather than their Germanic equivalents. If Gregory's account is accurate it suggests a strong affinity of Frankish rulers for the prestige of Roman culture, which they must have embraced as allies and federates of the Empire during the previous century.

Though he fought a battle in Dijon in the year 500, Clovis did not successfully subdue the Burgundian kingdom. It appears that he somehow gained the support of the Armoricans in the following years, for they assisted him in his defeat of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in the Battle of Vouillé (507) which confined the Visigoths to Spain and added most of Aquitaine to Clovis' kingdom.[1] He then established Paris as his capital,[1] and established an abbey dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul on the south bank of the Seine. All that remains of this great abbey is the Tour Clovis, a Romanesque tower which now lies within the grounds of the prestigious Lycée Henri IV, just east of The Panthéon. (After its founding, the abbey was renamed in honor of Paris' patron saint, Geneviève. It was demolished in 1802.

According to Gregory of Tours, following the Battle of Vouillé, Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I, granted Clovis the title of consul. Since Clovis' name does not appear in the consular lists, it is likely he was granted a suffect consulship. Gregory also records Clovis' systematic campaigns following his victory in Vouillé to eliminate the other Frankish reguli or sub-kings. These included Sigibert of Cologne and his son Clotaire; Chararic, another king of the Salian Franks; Ragnachar of Cambrai, his brother Ricchar, and their

Death and succession
Clovis I died in 511 and is interred in Saint Denis Basilica, Paris, France, whereas his father had been buried with the older Merovingian kings in Tournai. Upon his death, his realm was divided among his four sons, Theuderic, Chlodomer, Childebert, and Clotaire. This created the new political units of the Kingdoms of Rheims, Orléans, Paris and Soissons and inaugurated a period of disunity which was to last, with brief interruptions, until the end (751) of his Merovingian dynasty.

The legacy of Clovis is well-established on three very large acts: his unification of the Frankish nation, his conquest of Gaul, and his conversion to Roman Catholicism. By the first act, he assured the influence of his people in wider affairs, something no petty regional king could accomplish. By the second act, he laid the foundations of a later nation-state: France. Finally, by the third act, he made himself the ally of the papacy and its protector as well as of the people, who were mostly Catholics.

Aside from these acts of more than just national importance, division of the state, not along national or even largely geographical lines, but primarily to assure equal income amongst the brothers, on his death, which may or may not have been his intention, was the cause of much internal discord in Gaul and contributed in the long run to the fall of his dynasty, for it was a pattern constantly repeated.[2] Clovis did bequeath to his heirs the support of both people and church such that, when finally the magnates were ready to do away with the royal house, the sanction of the pope was sought first.


  • At 7:20 PM, Anonymous kisstheconcrete said…

    When you are in a position of power people are going to naturally question everything that you do. I really have a high regard for Clovis I because he took chances and didn't follow along with the crowd to achieve his success. In almost everything we've read up to this point, when people gain the belief that God is with them good things begin to stem from that person. Both advantages and disadvantages came along with his conversion, however the advantages definitely seem to outweigh the disadvantages. After his conversion he went on to win many battles, which expanded his empire greatly. Clovis became the founder of Paris and the powerful Merovingian dynasty. Doesn't this scream success?

    With his conversion King Clovis gained the support of the Church and through this he was able to bring his people together and create a sense of oneness along his empire. This in turn strengthened the power of his kingdom because he gained Christian allies, but also strengthened his force as a ruler.

    Throughout history we seem to always remember the people who take chances and do things differently. With King Clovis he created fame for himself which has been everlasting since his death.

  • At 11:39 PM, Anonymous lovelikewinter said…

    I think it definitely speaks volumes about Clovis, being able to unite an entire kingdom. A kingdom of barbarians, none the less. There has to be some kind of special quality to a man in order for him to do something of that nature. Well, the Franks were barbarians according to the Romans. From other readings, the Romans seem like egotistical, "If you are not Roman you suck," type of people. I would probably consider the Franks a tad on the barbaric side, they were a Germanic tribe.

    If Clovis was a Frank why did he worship Roman gods like Jupiter and Mercury? I found it a little bit odd. Most people would worship their regional/local gods, why weren't the gods Clovis worshipped Germanic or Frankish? It just does not add up.

    I believe Clovis' conversion was vital in order for him to be an effective leader. Most of the people he had conquered were Roman Catholics so it helped him a lot. As a Roman Catholic, it brought him closer to his people. Catholicism also gave Clovis a structuralized relgion. Catholicism was actually more pratical for Clovis' group of people. A lot of conquering groups of this era practiced ancestor worship and it was not always easy to carry along "the ancestors." Clovis' new religion allowed him to practice nearly anywhere without having to take anything along with him.

  • At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Clovis' conversion in battle is significant especially because of the situation he was in when he did it. He was in a losing situation and used a prayer to the heavens which he saw was his only way out. I think he added a lot to the growth of Catholocism because he made sure that all under his reign were the same. His wife had a huge impact on his conversion because she was who took the priest to him for the baptism.
    It is really surprising that his original worship consists of Roman Gods especially because of his past as a Frank. I am not questioning Gregory of Tours, just rather surprised. Although it is not surprising in that the there may have been some Roman influence due to the relative location. in the world.
    Even today, we see the impact that Clovis had on the world due to his conversion and takeover. He was able to keep the Visigoths from expanding beyond Spain and he is responsible for the founding of France and Paris. He is also responsible for the vast expansion of Catholicism in the west, which we all see in today's world. I think that the world would not be what it is without him.

  • At 9:35 PM, Blogger bcpcguy said…

    This was a very eye-opening and interesting read…

    Clovis was a pretty awesome guy in my opinion. He clearly had some skills and qualities that enabled him to be successful in his endeavors. The sheer fact that he was able to unite a predominately Barbaric region throughout his reign shows that he was not an ordinary person. It also shows that he was not afraid to go against the flow and take some unusual and risky chances in order to have success in his pursuits.

    I also believe that Clovis’ conversion played a significant role in his successes throughout the years. As demonstrated through classroom discussions and readings, good things tend to happen when people feel a close connection with God, be it solely through their faith or though the aid of some ancient relics. Clovis’ conversion also aided him through his newly developed connections with the papacy and increased ties with other Christian allies that valued his ability to create a sense of unity throughout his entire kingdom.

    Overall, it is my opinion that Clovis really had his act together and I whole-heartedly believe that his close connection with God assisted him throughout all of his victories and defeats.

  • At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Clovis's conversion was an act that united him with his people because they were mostly catholic so I would have to say that at the time it was probably a good thing. However as we move later into the middle ages we see feudalism come into play even more so, with the thought that the king was chosen by God. In Shakespeare's Richard III we read of a horrible man who happens to become king and is not questioned because questioning his royalty would be like questioning God. In my opinion feudal society was not a good idea. It put too much power in the hands of the king and the church, especially the pope. Seperation of church and state is essential to the society we now live in. However I think it is taken to the extreme here in the US with all the many fights to take out the name of God everywhere. Our country was established on Christian ideals by Christian men. It is dishonoring to our forefathers to change the outlook of our nation from one of spirituality, to one that provides the minority (in this case athesists) with whatever they want. no offense.


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