2011/11/04

The Decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Franks and the State of France

The early relationship between the rulers of the Roman empire and the 'Franks' was not positive- many of their leaders were given to the 'beasts' by the Roman emperors as a lesson and a warning to other Franks who might wish to raid Roman lands. In some of the lands that are now known as the Netherlands and Belgium, the Romans 'gave' the Franks this land to help the Romans protect their borders. For a thousand years there was peace between the Romans and the Franks, but difficulties arose over religion and neither side was willing to compromise. The Franks were pagan and happily so... and as the Roman empire started to collapse, the Franks began to move south in groups to live. When the Roman's needed to find armies to fight Attila the Hun and his armies, Roman leaders happily accepts the Franks and uses their armies to push the Huns back. The Franks help the Roman armies win the war and expect deference and appreciation from the Roman government. Unfortunately, the government seems to have taken the service of the Franks as their entitlement as governmental rulers. Later the Franks and their leaders will simply slowly conquer the Romans as the western empire collapses and take over their lands.

Merovich was a Frank leader (one of many leaders) who led his army of Franks against the Roman's military. He is said to have been descended from a sea god per legend to help give him a more noble and substantial genealogy. He became the first ruler of what would later become known as the Merovingian Dynasty. Merovich was the first leader to help pull several diverse groups of Franks together; to work together, fight together and to ally themselves with each other against other groups such as the Roman empire. Merovich led his army against the Romans at a battle in Tournai and he negotiated a treaty that allows his people to settle into new areas – new to them, the areas had belonged to the western part of the empire. Merovich is able to win more land and more power over time with his armies and, in agreeing to fight Attila the Hun alongside of Rome, King Merovich gives himself and his men an inside view of the Roman armies, better training and equipment and the knowledge and confidence needed to fight the Romans themselves in the future.

The relationship between the Franks and the Roman Empire under Childeric was a little cimplicated? Childeric, also said to have been descended from a sea god, became a king of the Franks and was able to unite a few of different groups of Franks.... despite himself and his poor behavior (he was banished for a short time due to poor behavior with young, beautiful women.) It is not known whether Childeric I was a son or a relative of King Merovich (although the documentary states that Clovis is a grandson of Merovich which would make King Childeric the son of Merovich.) Childeric I becomes a great chieftain and he is seen by Rome as a great ally. The Franks would take over certain areas that were good for growing food and producing stock/animal husbandry. He would fight as an ally with Rome in their continued battles and even though there are a few rulers of the 'Franks', Childeric will stand out from the others by courting Roman favor. He would help Rome fight other barbarian groups to keep the land of Gaul under Roman control and it was Childrec's armies that made it possible for the Rome to beat the Visigoths and keep most of Gaul... just as his father Merovich gave Rome the ability to beat Attila the Hun. Childeric died in 481 after a rule of 24 years. His burial place was discovered in the seventeenth century with lots of objects, jewelry etc... unfortunately, most of the items were stolen and later melted down.

Clovis is the son of King Childeric and he becomes the king upon the death of his father. It must be stressed that even though he received the royal title, there were many groups of Franks and Clovis was only one of many rulers. Clovis was full of ambition and he was truly a traditional Germanic warrior king- his goals were to get treasure and land, gain honor, and subdue people to his will. At the beginning of his rule, Clovis would get along with the Roman government and would curry favor. However, after gathering military and diplomatic ties with other groups of Franks, he would attack and takes over parts of the crumbling Roman empire. Clovis was willing to deal with Roman and Catholic bishops with diplomacy... sometimes using Catholic bishops against Rome itself. Later, he would attack other Frank groups and assimilate them as well as other Roman groups into his control. Clovis gains his eventual one man rule position by carefully eliminating his enemies, using his bravery in battle, and using deceit and treachery to trick others into removing his competitors... he was able to keep his hands clean of those murders and take over leadership of those groups. At one point near the end of his life, Clovis gave a speech lamenting his lack of close loyal kin... he seemed to forget that he had killed or had murdered as many of them as possible to control things himself and to name his own heirs unconstrained. Clovis also recognized that he must build unity in the diversity of the Franks and he was successful in that. Clovis gave those he conquered equal status with the franks giving the 'conquered' good reasons to like him, to fight in his armies, etc... In a sense, he helped to blend the cultures of the Romans and the Franks. He became a Christian and converted the Franks from paganism (there is some debate about this and some historians believe that he originally converted to Arianism from paganism... and then to Catholicism later in life and maybe only three years before his death.). By converting, he brought his new Roman subjects into his rule more cleanly and gained their loyalty faster and he continued to expand his kingdom until his death in 511 CE. His one major mistake is that he didn't spend enough time working on his succession. He ordered his kingdom that he took so many years to gather and unite, divided into four pieces and given to each of his sons in his will.... where the separated pieces fell into civil war, fratricide and bloodshed. His name becomes the early derivative to the name 'Louis' which became the principle name of most of the kings and rulers of France since his time.

There is a saying about this time : “The Franks took a rib out of the old Roman corpse and gave Western Europe its backbone.” This statement describes the consequences of the rule of Clovis and his ambition and success of his legacy. He becomes the founder of the modern French state and his capital is Paris- when he dies, he is buried in Paris at the Church of the Holy Apostles that he had built (an ironic end-note: his sarcophagus was left alone until the time of the French revolution in which it was opened and his ashes scattered to the winds... I find this ironic due to my current studies of the French Revolution. It is like a common 'loop'. :). King Clovis was in many ways a pioneer- he built up the area of Gaul in Europe that(an area that encompasses was is now France as well as parts of modern day Belgium, Italy and Germany) was once one of the most prosperous areas of the Roman empire. By gathering and conquering large areas and claiming it into one single 'state', Clovis and the other early members of the Merovingian dynasty may have been quite violent and in so many ways, terrorists in their time, they were able to gather many people together in a solid group. These people were held together by their leader and by Christianity. This group gave the land a solid and secure status- as much as could be had at that time- giving the people common goals, common religion, and common needs. This solid kingdom would be held together for the most part over the next several decades and centuries.

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