11. Frankish Society

today is an exciting day, because the papers are due,
because the midterm is soon, but most of all, because we’re
finishing up our talk on the Merovingians. Questions? Comments? Cat names? So the Merovingians. Remember that the reason we’re
studying them is as an example of barbarian kingship, barbarian
states, and the post-Roman world. “Post-Roman” meaning that the
Roman Empire is gone, but the society is not completely
severed. Its connections with the Roman
tradition are not severed. This is most obvious in the
Church and the survival of Latin learning, bishops,
Christianity, literacy. But even though we seem to be
in an environment of rather primitive, and even, we could
use the word loosely, barbarian kings, I hope that
we’ll see that within Gregory’s narrative, there is
evidence of a kind of royal administration and a certain
sense of purpose. We are entering a period in
which we have to start asking, “what held society together?”
This becomes a question when two things start to fail. One is the government. Where it’s really not clear that
there is a government, other than powerful
people plundering less powerful people. And the other factor is when
the people themselves don’t really believe that there is
any force holding their society together, anything that
they unconsciously give deference to. So we’re all familiar with what
are called now “failed states.” That is, polities
that have an official existence, but that cannot seem
to keep the most basic form of order within their
borders, whatever those borders may be. So unfortunate states like
Somalia, or no longer, but ten years ago, Liberia,
Sierra Leone, were examples of failed states. And this is a phenomenon
that has grown in the contemporary world. In the Middle Ages– and here
we’re talking about the period from the collapse of Roman
authority in the West in the fifth century until at least
the twelfth century– there are various kinds
of societies that are held together. They’re not as anarchaic
as Somalia, actually. But they are not held together
by government in the sense that we understand it. They are held together partly
by informal social networks and ties. Things like kinship, family,
private vengeance, religion. But by having to ask the
question “What holds society together?” you are already
making a kind of statement about the sort of society
you’re talking about. I would say that the United
States has, for most of its history, been a polity in which
this kind of question didn’t have to be asked. It’s not that people loved
the government, or even particularly deferred to it. But that in their everyday
life, in their everyday gestures and in their everyday
assumptions, they assumed that were protected. They normally did not have to go
out with a weapon in order to feel that they would
not be robbed. There are exceptional
communities where that’s not been true. But generally speaking, you
could assume that the police or the police forces intimidated
criminals or potential evildoers. You would, you know, send your
bills in by mail, assuming that they would arrive, that a
government agency would take care of the transport of them. You might try not to pay as
much taxes as you perhaps owed, but you wouldn’t really
try to just be under the radar of the government, because
you would assume that you couldn’t do that. You would have to make some
kind of tax payment. And on and on. Educating your children,
signing up for Social Security, being part
of a community. The mark of privilege, then,
historically, is not having to think about the ties that hold
your society together. If you had to come up with a
standard with which to measure human happiness, that might
not be such a bad one. Now, there are other forms
of human happiness. Total independence. The idea of the person who lives
out somewhere on the farm and is completely
self-sufficient, has all of the food that they need, either
that they catch or cultivate, lives in some kind of
wonderful climate in which the food grows on trees. Dreams of authors of the
nineteenth century in Europe and America about the
South Sea Islanders. So we have in our imagination
the idea of living a blissful life without any particular
social ties, or only the most casual ones. But I think we all know that
usually, such an existence, when it, in fact, exists at
all, is an invitation for someone else to plunder
it and to steal it. Part of the reason for social
ties is company. Part of the reason for social
ties is protection. So when asking what held
Barbarian societies together, we’re asking something that’s
more than just a banal question of medieval
sociology. We’re asking a question about
the fundamental nature of a society that is not so
unsuccessful as people think. You know, again, nobody wakes
up in 560 AD saying how unfortunate it is that they’re
alive in the Dark Ages. They didn’t call it
the Dark Ages. They didn’t think it
was the Dark Ages. And it wasn’t the Dark
Ages, I hope to show. Now, Gregory of Tours is a great
source because he gives a lot of very miscellaneous
information. He’s perhaps a source who
likes violence, though. He likes violence for
reasons we were talking about last week. He wants to show that on the
one hand, the life of human beings is terrible and full of
outrage and violence, but that it is redeemed by God’s
solicitude. And that those people who
recognize God’s power, as manifested through bishops,
saints, the rites of the church, will, if not prosper
always in this life, at least receive a reward that is
commensurate with their loyalty to God. Gregory is a pessimist.
One of the reasons– one of the themes that
guides this work– I was going to say one of the
reasons he wrote this work, but I don’t want to kind of
venture that far out. One of the aspects that unites
this work is a sense of the decline of the Franks, from
the model, Clovis, to the fools that he feels he has to
deal with, like Chilperic. Three generations– the generation of Clovis, the
generation of Clovis’s sons, the generation of Clovis’s
grandsons. Each one worse than
the one before it. So if he had grudgingly
acknowledged that the sons of Clovis fulfilled, in some sense,
a mission in accord with God’s plan, he was much
more clearly hostile to this third generation of Merovingian
leaders. He says at one point in a part
that is not in Murray, “To this day, one is still amazed
and astonished at the disasters which befell these
people.” And I think I mentioned this little
passage before. “We can only contrast how their
forefathers used to behave, and how they themselves
are behaving today.” So he is scolding the current
generation and exalting the older ways. He is scolding them for
their violence. But what about the
fact that, as we emphasized, Clovis was violent? What he’s really scolding them
for, then, is not violence as such, but violence channeled
to unproductive ends. Violence is inevitable,
in Gregory’s world. Violence in defense of the
true faith is not only acceptable, but necessary
in order to defend that. And Gregory’s interest, as I
hope I’ll show, in the true faith, is not just a defense of
Christianity as a religion, but Christianity as the thing
that holds society together. If you asked Gregory what holds
society together, he would give some kind of answer
on the order of the bishops, the saints, the supernatural,
the Church. And then if you said, “Well,
what is the role of the king in this?” It’s basically
to terrorize people. To make sure that the mere
threat of divine vengeance is backed up by threats of
a more immediate sort. Throughout the history of the
Franks, although not excerpted so much in the edition we’re
using, there are examples of people who hold God, Saint
Martin, or the bishop, or some other saint in contempt, and
who pay for it, often with their lives. So in Gregory’s official
presentation of events, any defiance of God is met
with a thunderbolt. But he’s not actually a fool. I know in the dark moments of
2 AM, reading Gregory, that thought may have crossed
your mind. And I know that you repressed it
very quickly, and it’s evil of me even to raise it. But lest you think that he’s
just a credulous guy who lived in the sixth century AD and
whatever, he is perceptive, and he understands that most
people, most of the time, thunderbolt of God
notwithstanding, need something a little
more immediate to whip them into shape. That is, to follow a kind
of basic civil order. And that is supposed
to be the ruler. So it’s fine for the ruler
to be violent. And it’s even OK if some people
get caught in the jaws of the state, if we can call
it that, or let’s say, the jaws of the king, who should
not have been punished. But look at the people
he’s dealing with. He’s dealing with people who
were violent, as well as kind of silly and quixotic. He has this little conversation
with Chilperic that reminds one of
pseudo-learned people, bloodthirsty dictators with
pseudo-learning, on the order of Muammar Gaddafi. People who sort of study some
stuff, and decide that they’re experts on it because they’re
able to terrorize their population. “So Chilperic issued
a circular”– this is on page 111– “a circular to the effect that
the Holy Trinity was to refer not to distinct persons,
but only God. That it’s unseemly for God to
be called a person, like a mortal of flesh and blood. He also declared that the Father
is the same as the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the same
as the Father and Son.” Well, you know, people had died,
and they certainly had written huge controversial
works, and had lots of councils over this issue. And this is not right. Nobody actually really believes
this in Christianity. “This is how it appeared the
prophets and patriarchs, he said, and this is how the law
itself proclaimed Him.” Meaning Christ. And he then
tells Gregory, “OK. This is the law I want you and
the other members of the church to believe.” And Gregory
said, “Give up this false belief. You must observe the doctrines
passed onto us by other teachers of the Church, who
followed in the footsteps of the apostles, the teaching
furnished by Hilary and Eusebius, and the confession you
yourself made at baptism.” He’s got to say this. I mean, he is very courageous
to say this to the king. But the king– it is like somebody who is
extremely powerful denying very basic scientific facts. Stalin tried to impose the
biological theories of Lysenko, which basically went
against the consensus of evolutionary biology
at the time. So this kind of pseudo-learning
is a feature of people who, since they’re
being acclaimed as geniuses and as leaders, assume that
their expertise carries over to all sorts of fields. Well, the king grows angry. He says, “It’s quite obvious
that I regard Hilary and Eusebius as my bitterest
opponents on this issue.” Not only have Saints Hilary and
Eusebius been dead for years, but they’re saints, they’re
theologians. You know, it would be like me
saying, “Well, obviously Charlemagne and Clovis are my
enemies.” A statement that is ridiculous. And note Gregory’s response: “It
would suit you better to watch out you do not make God or
his saints angry.” And that could really serve as one of the
themes of the entire work. “For you should know that the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all distinct in person.”
And then he goes on to the theological justification. And then the king’s response
is, “I’m going to find some people smarter than you are.”
And Gregory says, “Such a person will not be smarter,
but an idiot. Anyone who wants to follow what
you propose would be an idiot.” “Grinding his teeth at
this response, he said, no more.” And another bishop
is consulted. So the king gives this up. And then he starts writing a
treatise on the alphabet and wants to add some letters, and
tells the teachers that the educational system needs
to be modified to include these letters. Well, I go into this digression
to show you, first of all, Chilperic actually
is literate. He is actually educated. He’s at least educated enough to
have half-baked ideas, and that’s more than some kings of
this time and later will be. He tried writing poetry,
as well. He also tried to depose Gregory
as bishop, which is in some later books. Who are these people, then? What is the basis
of their power? The kingship is, in large
measure, based on inherited status. The Merovingian family had
an aura of sacredness and prestige that made it impossible
to conceive of anybody not of their
bloodline ruling. This power is partly the
prestige of Clovis, who is seen as really the father of his
people, bringing them into what would become France, or
the Land of the Franks, and converting to Christianity. But a lot of the prestige
is what might be called “pre-Christian.”
The long hair. The riding around in carts,
four-wheeled carts. And we’ve seen that the long
hair is quite crucial. Once it’s cut in a humiliating
manner, the representative of the family loses some crucial
kind of prestige. Remember that choice presented
to Queen Clotilde: the scissors or the sword. You want your grandchildren
scalped, or at least, given a military haircut, or– actually, a monastic haircut,
in this context– or do you want them killed? And she is so angry at this
that she, in fact, says “killed.” That shows you, at
least, the humiliation that is involved in this haircutting. These kings also practice
something on the order of polygamy. They are Christians, but they
are still tribal leaders in a society in which the possession
of the women, in the plural, is a
sign of status. One passage that describes a
number of different things fairly usefully is on page 58. And this is the marriage. And again, it seems random when
you’re reading through it, but then that’s the point
of lecture, is to highlight the seemingly random,
isn’t it. On page 58, Chilperic’s wives. “Chilperic asks for
Brunhilda”– this other, Visigothic queen
of one of his brothers– “asks for the hand of her
sister, Galswinthe, although he already had several
wives.” OK. So he promises the envoy he will
put away the other wives. He will renounce them, and he
will be married only to Galswinthe. And so with these assurances,
her father sent his daughter, as he had send the first,
along with a great deal of wealth. This is what’s called a dowry,
D-O-W-R-Y, a payment made by the bride’s family
to the groom. “When she came to King
Chilperic, she was received with great honor and
made his wife. And, for the time being, his
love for her was considerable, for she had brought great
treasure.” OK. It’s not a, you know, a “we both
like horseback riding” kind of relationship, although
they probably did. “But because of his love
for Fredegunde”– who is another wife, a
low-status wife, a wife who didn’t bring him much money,
but who was mesmerizing, or beautiful, or certainly
had a hold over him. “Because of his love for
Fredegunde, whom he had before, a disgraceful conflict
arose to divide them. Galswinthe had already been
converted to the Catholic creed.” That is, she had been
a Visigothic princess raised as an Arian. She’s now been converted. “She complained to the king of
the wrongs that she constantly had to endure, and said that
he no respect for her. Finally, she asked him to give
her her freedom to return to her native land if she left
the treasures that she had brought him.” Which seems
like a reasonable deal. “But he made up various excuses,
he mollified her with sweet words, and in the end,
he had her strangled by a slave, and he himself found
the corpse on the bed.” Why didn’t he just let her
go, keeping the treasure? Um, humiliating, probably. Better to kill her. Why didn’t he do what
he said he did? You know, he’s a barbarian
ruler. “After her death, God revealed
a great sign of his power. A lamp burned before her tomb,
suspended by a cord. Without anyone touching it, the
cord broke, and the lamp fell to the pavement. The hard pavement gave way
before it, and the lamp, as it had landed on some kind of soft
substance, was buried in the middle and not all broken. To those who saw it, this did
not happen without a great miracle.” Well, as miracles go in Gregory
of Tours, this is pretty pedestrian. A freak accident. The lamp breaks, the exterior
breaks, but the actual lamp part does not. But it is a sign in Gregory, and
these things don’t happen at random in Gregory. “The king wept over the body,
and then after a few days, took Fredegunde back
again as his wife. When he did this, his brothers
attributed Galswinthe’s killing to his orders and
toppled him from power.” The editor points out that probably they didn’t, actually. This is a little bit too pat,
and it may be a case of Gregory arranging the world so
that the evil get punished in ways that they ought to, rather
than in the ways that they do or don’t. But nevertheless, the portrait
is of a polygamous king, a king who accumulates treasure,
a king who is unscrupulous enough to kill his wife, does
not seem to hide it very much. However, vengeance is taken on
him both by supernatural powers and by natural forces. So in talking about the bases of
kinship, we have blood, and then war leadership. I have tried not to
overemphasize the violence of this society, but it is
a society in which war leadership is one of two major
criteria of political leadership, the other being
spiritual leadership, that we’re going to talk
about towards the end of the lecture. The loyalty of the king’s
entourage was based on his ability to reward them
with plunder. Remember that King Chlothar goes
out to fight the Saxons, but the Saxons actually give him
a good deal, and offer to give up a lot of their
territory. And he says to his men,
“I think this is a reasonable thing. The Saxons are pretty
well armed. They’re going to negotiate with
us.” It’s on pages 50-51. But the men won’t accept that. They haven’t come on this
military expedition for political reasons. They want plunder. And so they force him, they
threaten to kill him if he doesn’t lead them into battle. So in certain respects,
we’re back to the situation of Clovis. On the one, hand he seems
very powerful. On the other hand, he seems
intimidated by his followers. And this is an accurate picture
of the position of rulership at this time. The king has to reward
his followers. Because they’re not following
him for reasons of abstract political loyalty. They’re not Merovingian
patriots. They don’t have a
national anthem. They don’t have a flag. They have a pledge of
allegiance, but it’s a private pledge of allegiance, of
warrior to warrior. He has two ways of rewarding
them– plunder or land. He can’t pay them a salary,
because the economy does not produce revenue in
quite this way. It does, but it doesn’t produce
enough to reward soldiers in the way
they want to be. Therefore, a successful leader
is one who leads his troops into victory in battle. If he doesn’t expand his
possessions, if he doesn’t lead them successfully, he’s
going to have to start giving away lands that belong to the
king, or to the state, if we can call it that. And once he starts doing that,
he’s going to start having an erosion of his own revenue to
the weakening of his dynasty and his power. For the time being, in the world
of Gregory of Tours, the kings are wealthy. There is a description of an
extraordinary dowry sent with a princess named Rigunth, beyond
the page assignments that you read. And there was so much stuff that
“it took fifty wagons to carry the gold and silver and
other ornaments.” “The Franks offered many gifts, some giving
gold, some silver, many giving horses, and most
garments.” “The mother of the princess brought so much gold
and silver and garments that when the king saw it, he thought
he was left with nothing.” Ha ha ha. In fact, the quantities of gold,
silver, silks and other fine fabrics are quite
impressive. Kings are very wealthy. And they’re wealthy because
of plunder, but also because of taxes. If you read Gregory carefully,
you will see that the kings are collecting taxes. In order to collect taxes,
you’ve got to have some sort of records. You’ve got to know
where people are. You’ve got to have a kind of
a register of property. I’m distinguishing taxes
from plunder. You can plunder your
own people. That is, you can just ride
around and take cattle that happen to be passing by, or burn
people’s farms, or shake them down, you know, threaten to
cut off their ears if they don’t cough up a certain amount
of money in treasure. The problem with that is, of
course, you start killing your own economy, and even Barbarian kings recognize that. But they do then have a kind
of administration. And here again, we have an
interesting interaction of what might be called the
practical and the superstitious. The death of Chilperic’s
son by dysentery, described on page 105. There’s a serious epidemic. The epidemic is, of course,
announced by portents. Whoever heard of an epidemic
disease that wasn’t preceded by coments, or eclipses, or, you
know, heavenly phenomena? “While the kings were quarreling
again, dysentery affected nearly all of Gaul. High fever with vomiting,
extreme pain in the kidneys, headaches, and neck pain,
saffron-colored or even green vomit. Some people thought
it was a secret poison.” Blah blah blah. It affected children. “We lost children so sweet and
dear to us, whom we sat on our laps, or carried in our arms,
and nursed with such care.” Chilperic’s younger
son became sick. When they saw that the end was
near, they baptized him. He was doing a little better
when his older brother named Clodebert was stricken
by the same disease. Now, these are the children of
Fredegunde, the lower-status but extremely powerful
concubine, wife, whatever you want to call her. “And Fredegunde, seeing that
they were in danger of death, became repentant.” And she says,
“For a long time, the divine goodness has endured
our evildoing. Often it has rebuked us with
fevers and other afflictions, and repentance did not follow. Look, now we are losing
our sons. The tears of the poor, the
laments of widows, and the sighs of orphans are
killing them. We are left without a reason
for gathering up anything. We pile up riches and do not
know for whom we gather it. Our treasury will be left
without an owner, full of plunder and curses. Were our storehouses not already
overflowing with wine, were our barns not already
full of grain, were our treasuries not laden with gold,
silver, precious stones, necklaces, and the rest of the
trappings of emperors? Look, we are losing
what we held to be even more beautiful. Now please, come, let us burn
all the unjust registers.” In other words, let’s burn
the tax registers. Let’s burn the records we
have of who owes what. “And let what was sufficient
for your father, King Chlothar, be sufficient
for us.” “And then she ordered
brought forward the registers that Marcus”– we don’t know who he is– “had delivered from
her cities. She had them thrown in the fire
and then turned to the king,” who’s not eager to have
his registers burned, but finally he does. And they stop future
assessments. And the kids die anyway. “After this, King Chilperic was
generous to cathedrals, basilicas, and the poor.” He’s
sort of learned his lesson. But it’s very interesting, this
idea that what is killing their children is the vengeance
of God, and that the poor, the widows, the orphans,
the people that they have oppressed, have a kind of
power of vengeance by mobilizing this supernatural
force. On the one hand, this is
a regular old story. People, when they are faced
with difficult situations, often pray, often promise,
make some sort of deal. Get me out of this, oh Lord,
and I will A) never do it again, B) do something else,
C) I’ll be really grateful. And sometimes it appears
to work, and sometimes it doesn’t. But it is a perfectly
understandable emotion. But the belief that supernatural
forces affect politics, the belief in the
political leaders themselves, the knowledge that they are
evil, and that God has, at least for a while, committed
this evil is very, very powerful, and very, very
uppermost in the mind of even an uneducated and, as Gregory
himself demonstrates, normally thoroughly unscrupulous
character like Fredegunde. So what makes a good ruler,
according to Gregory? Not peacefulness, since he
believes the job of the ruler is to inflict fear, at
the minimum, and damage, more likely. At one point, he describes
Theudebert, one of the sons of Clovis, one of the members of
the second generation, the closest thing he has
to a good ruler. He says of Theudebert, “He
ruled his kingdom justly, respected his bishops, was
liberal to churches, relieved the wants of the poor, and
distributed many benefits with piety and goodwill.” So he
is a just ruler, and an effective one. But after that, all of his
good qualities amount to treating the Church well and
treating the poor well, and the Church is supposed
to represent. So in the remainder of the time,
we should consider, what is the Church? What do we mean by the Church? Any questions so far? The Church in this society is
represented by bishops and monasteries. We will be talking about
monasteries next week. The difference is that bishops
rule from the cities even if they are just a little shell
remnants of Roman cities. Nevertheless, they rule from
a population center. They are involved with ordinary
people, or at least their administrative apparatus
deals with regular life. Monasteries are more a retreat
from regular life, where monks, as you’ll read in the
Rule of Saint Benedict, live in a kind of isolated
community, renouncing the world. Now, in actual practice, there
would be more similarities than differences, particularly
as these monasteries were involved with the world
quite a lot. But it is the bishops that
represent, to the extent that any aspect of society does, a
continuation of the Roman order, a continuation of the
notion that there is a kind of educated ruler of
local society. So the bishops are members
of prominent families. They’re often members of
Roman prominent family. Remember that Gregory
was Bishop of Tours? The great relic of Tours was
the cape of Saint Martin. His family had been bishops
of Tours because they were locally prominent under the
Roman Empire, and continued this prominence under
the Merovingians. Not necessarily peacefully
or easily. As I said, Chilperic tried to
have him deposed, and you’ve seen the episode in which they
don’t get along very well. But nevertheless, his family,
of what he calls senatorial rank, even though there’s no
Senate anymore, were locally quite prominent. This relic that they guard
is not the only reason for their power. But bishops, as well as monks,
are associated with some kind of saint protector. And the saint protects
churches that have relics of the saint. A relic could be a bone, like
an arm or a jaw, or it could be a piece of clothing
associated with the saint. In the case of Saint Martin– Saint Martin it was a military
figure, whose most famous act of piety was he was stopped by
a beggar while on horseback, and he split his cloak with a
sword, and gave part of it too clothe this beggar. And this relic itself, the
cloak, or a cappa, was held by the church of Saint
Martin of Tours. And indeed, it is thought that
the word “chapel” comes from the word for “cape.” It’s sort
of a sacred space within a church where, in this era,
relics would have been kept. We’ll talk a lot about relics
and why they are powerful, but for now, I do want to talk
about the mobilization of sacred power. Because we don’t have to ask
the question, well, did it really work? Did this really happen? Did Saint Martin really revenge
himself on people who plundered lands belonging
to him? The important thing is to
realize that the conception of the saint is not merely that
of a pious respect, but of fear of a living presence. Somebody who, although dead,
is not dead in the normal understanding of the word
“dead.” The bishops and monks mobilize a kind of locus
of sacred power. Now again, at 2 AM, after you
were done thinking that Gregory was a fool, it may have
occurred to you that this sounds a lot like
polytheism This seems to multiply deities. It seems to multiply the sites,
the places where the sacred has an effect. And shame on you for
such a thought. How can this be polygamous, just
because there seem to be a bunch of different people
wielding sacred power? We don’t have to
deal with this. Certainly, there seem to be a
lot of people, most of them not alive, wielding
sacred power. And it’s a rather threatening
kind of power, at that. The bishop is a religious
leader. Some of them are religious
leaders in the sense of powerfully religious forces,
but most of them are more squires than preachers. That is, they are landowners,
patrons, more or less generous to the poor or to the people
of the area that they rule. It’s not a religion of
deep introspection. We don’t have a lot of
mystical thinkers in the sixth century. We don’t have a whole lot of
ethical concern, except for the notion of the poor as a
collection of people with certain rights to
the ear of God. The poor does not mean exactly
what it means now– the marginal, the people below
some kind of income level. It means basically ordinary
people without any particular unusual power in society. In certain respects, the Church
is an aspect of the power of the king. In certain respects,
it defies the king. Gregory himself, and his work
is full of other examples of bishops who stand up
to the ruler and remonstrate with the ruler. That is, scold the ruler. But they can’t really do
this by themselves. They have to mobilize at least
the potentiality of a kind of power that goes beyond merely
the prestige of their family or the prestige of
their office. So for example– and again, this is something
that’s not in the Murray addition– an example of the power
of Saint Martin. This is at a monastery, the
Monastery of Latte where some other relics of Saint
Martin are kept. “A force of hostile troops
approached and prepared to cross the river which runs by,
so that they might loot the monastery of Latte.” L-A-T-T-E.
Latte, but I think it’s pronounced “lot.” “‘This is the monastery
of Saint Martin,’ cried the monks. ‘You Franks must not cross over
here.’ Most of those who heard this were filled with
the fear of God and so withdrew.” Oh, uh, I
just thought it was a regular old monastery. Sorry. “Twenty of their number,
however, who did not fear God, had no respect for the blessed
saint, and they climbed into the boat and crossed
the river. And driven on by the devil
himself, they slaughtered the monks, damaged the monastery,
and stole its possessions.” They made the, you know, gold
and silver chalices, all of these properties that they had
taken, “into bundles, and piled on their boat. Then they pushed off
into the stream. But the keel began to sway to
and fro, and they were carried round and round. They lost their oars, which
might have saved them. They tried to reach the bank by
pushing the butts of their spears into the bed
of the river, but the boat split apart. They were all pierced through
by the points of their own lances. They were killed by their
own javelins. Only one of them remained
unhurt, a man who had rebuked the others for what
they were doing. If anyone thinks this happened
by chance, let them consider the fact that one innocent man
was saved among so many who were doing evil. After their death, the surviving
monks retrieved the corpses from the bed
of the river. They buried the dead bodies
and replaced their own possessions in their monastery.” OK? So this is what happens
to people who plunder monasteries. On the one hand, the story is
useful for the fact that they plunder monasteries anyway. And without asking the question,
did their boat really sink? We can see a notion of the
violence of society being directed to illegitimate
ends, and then being punished by the Church. In terms of the question that we
have been asking, what held society together, a lot of the
answer has to be the church and its perceived mobilization
of spiritual power. It’s not the only answer, but
it is an important aspect of the cohesiveness of
a violent but not completely unstable society. Let me give you one
more example. “Palladius inherited the office
of count in the region of Javols.” J-A-V-O-L-S. A
quarrel ensued between him and Bishop Parthenius, in which this
count insults the bishop, abuses him, accuses them of
all sorts of crimes, and seized the property of the
Church, which is, of course, what he really wanted to do. They both go to the
King’s court. Palladius accused the bishop of
being weak and effeminate. “‘Where are your darling boys,’
cried he, ‘with whom you live in shame and
debauchery?’ The vengeance of God soon brought an end to these
attacks.” The following year, Palladius lost his
countship and became terrified that King Sigibert wanted him
killed, and eventually he commits suicide. “I find it hard to believe that
this horrible deed could have been achieved without
the help of the devil. For the first would was enough
to kill him, unless the devil came to his assistance to give
him strength to carry out his terrible plan through
to the end. He stabbed himself twice. His mother rushed in, beside
herself with grief, fainted in front of her son. The whole family bewailed
his fate. He was buried at the monastery
of Cournon, but not in Christian ground, and no mass
was sung over him.” Moral of the story? And Gregory is great
at telling you the moral of the story. “It is clear that this fate
befell him only because he had wronged his bishop.” OK? Message of the book– don’t mess around with
these bishops. This is a world in which
spiritual power is effectively mobilized to social cohesion. Gregory dies in 594. I just want cast an eye forward,
because we’re going to pick the story up with the
successors to the Merovingian dynasty, the Carolingians. Carolingians, retrospectively
named for their most famous member, Charlemagne– “Carolus” in Latin. The Merovingian-Carolingian
transition is in the middle of the eighth century. So this dynasty had another 150
years or so after Gregory, and they continued to be
involved in civil war. Eventually there was a terrible
feud between our friend Fredegunde, wife of
Chilperic, and Brunhild, married to Sigibert. Brunhild was sister of the
murdered Galswinthe, whom Fredegunde had basically
gotten murdered. So Brunhild tries to avenge
her murdered sister. Sigebert makes war
on Chilperic. Fredegunde hires assassins
to kill Sigebert. And you’ve seen that Brunhild
married the wayward son of Chilperic named Merovech. Merovech eventually
commits suicide. Brunhild, eventually after
these guys pass from the scene, rules, and so
does Fredegunde. Chilperic is assassinated. Fredegunde rules in the
name of her son. And so, in fact, in the late
sixth century, the rulers are these two powerful and
feuding women. In 613, Chlothar the second,
son of Fredegunde and Chilperic, capture the aged
Queen Brunhild and had her torn apart by wild horses. What is happening here, behind
the unedifying drama of violence and feud within a
dysfunctional family– dysfunctional, a word unknown
in Merovingian Frankish, I’m pretty convinced– is that certain regions of the
Frankish realm are identified. If you look on the last of the
maps in the appendix to the Murray addition, you’ll see
reference made to the two regions that don’t really
correspond to today. One is Austrasia, which is a
kind of land that encompasses the Rhine regions, Belgium, a
bit of Holland, Northeastern France, and Neustria, which is
more the heart of France. Paris, the Seine. These will become sort of two
subrealms of the Merovingian Frankish kingdom. And our people that we’re going
to be following towards the end of the course, the
Carolingians, will be associated with Austrasia. We turn to England
for Wednesday. If you still have your papers
and want to give them to us, please do so. I’ll see you on Wednesday.

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