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Clovis

Clovis

 

ClovisClovis, the first Christian King of the Franks, was an ambitious and powerful monarch. His name was properly written Chlodwig, which was shortened to Ludwig, the German form, and finally softened to Louis, the present French form. He was a son of King Childeric and his queen, Basina, and was born about 466 A. D. The Franks were then pagans, and Clovis was educated as an idolater. In 48r A. D. he succeeded his father, who reigned over the Salian tribe. That kingdom was then limited to the island of the Batavians, or the marshes at the mouth of the Rhine, with the ancient dioceses of Tournay and Arms.

 

When Clovis began his career of conquest, he had neither money in his treasury nor grain and wine in his magazines. In the primitive style described by Homer, fifteen hundred years earlier, after each successful battle or expedition, the spoils were accumulated in a common mass, and every soldier received his proper share. Himself a barbarian, Clovis yet taught his barbarous subjects to acknowledge the advantages of a rude discipline. His justice was inexorable, and careless or disobedient soldiers were punished with instant death. His valor appears to have been directed by prudence. To all his transactions he calculated the weight of passion of interest, and of opinion.

 

His first important exploit was the defeat of Syagrius, who reigned at Soissons. In 486 A.D., Clovis chal1enged Syagrius in the spirit and almost in the language of chivalry to appoint the day and the field of battle. After this victory, Clovis chose Soissons for his capital. "The Belgic cities," says Gibbon, I surrendered to the King of the Franks; and his dominions were enlarged towards the East by the ample diocese of Tongres, which Clovis subdued in the tenth rear of his reign." In 493 he married Clotilda, a Christian princess, a daughter of Chilperic, King of Burgundy. She persuaded him to profess her religion, and he avowed his conversion in 496. His subjects also then changed their religion, and burned the idols which they had formerly adored.

 

But this acceptance of the mild yoke of Christ made little change in their character. "His ambitious reign," says Gibbon, "was a perpetual violation of moral all Christian duties: his hands were stained with blood, in peace as well as in war; and as soon as Clovis had dismissed a Synod of the Gallican Church, he calmly assassinated all the princes of the Merovingian race." He was then the only Catholic or orthodox king in Christendom, the other Christian kings being Acians, and his power was zealously supported by the bishops who reigned in the cities of Gaul. In 497 the cities of Armorica submitted to Clovis, perhaps because he was a Catholic. They accepted without shame the generous capitulation which was proposed by a Catholic hero.

 

About 496 the Alemanni, the great tribe to which Germany owes its modem French name, invaded the dominions of Clovis and his allies. Clovis encountered the invaders in the plain of Tolbiac, about twenty miles from Cologne. The Franks, after an obstinate struggle, gave way i but the battle was restored by the valor and the conduct of Clovis. The King of the Alemanni was slain in the field, and Clovis gained a decisive victory. The Gallic territories which were possessed by the Alemanni became the prize of their conqueror, and the haughty nation, invincible or rebellious to the arms of Rome, acknowledged the sovereignty of the Merovingian kings." Clovis defeated in battle Gunndobald, King of Burgundy, who was all uncle of Clotilda, in 500 A.D., and ~n after that event formed an alliance with him.

 

Paris became the capital of his kingdom about 507. The Goths or Visigoths viewed his rapid progress with jealousy and alarm, and some disputes arose on the edge of their contiguous dominions. At Paris Clovis declared to all assembly the pretense and the motive of a Gothic war. It grieve; me," he said, to see that the Arians still possess the fairest portion of Gaul. Let us march against them with the aid of God, and, having vanquished the heretics, we will possess and divide their fertile provinces." In 507 Clovis attacked the army of Alaric, King of the Visigoths, who reigned over the rCglon between the Loire and the Pyrenees. The two kings encountered each other in single combat, and Alaric was killed near Poi tiers. Clovis gained a decisive victory, which was followed by the conquest of Aquitaine, which was indissolubly united to the kingdom of France.

 

Clovis besieged Arles but the Visigoths, aided by Theodoric, King of Italy, compelled him to raise the siege. In 510 Clovis accepted the honor of the Roman consulship. The Emperor Anastasius bestowed the title and ensigns of that dignity on the most powerful rival of Theodoric. Clovis died in 51I A.D., leaving four sons-Thiem, Clodomir, Childeric, and Clotaire, -among whom France was divided. His descendants are called Merovingiaus, from Merovig or Merovee, the grandfather of Clovis.

 

CLOVIS EMBRACE CHRISTIANITY.

 

Clovis was still only chief of the petty tribe of the Franks of Tournai, when numerous bands of Suevi, under the designation of All-men Alemanni, threatened to pass the Rhine. The Franks, as usual, flew to arms, to oppose their passage. In similar emergencies the different tribes were accustomed to unite under the bravest chief, and Clovis reaped the honor or the common victory. This was the occasion of his embracing the worship of Roman Gaul, which was that of his wife Clotilda, niece of the King of the Burgundians. He had vowed, he said, during the battle, to worship the god of Clotilda if he gained the day. Three thousand of his warriors followed his example. There was great joy among the clergy of Gaul, who thenceforward placed their hopes of deliverance in the Franks. St. Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, and a subject of the Arian Burgundians, did not hesitate to write to him when thou fightest, it is to us that the victory is due. These words were the subject of eloquent comment by Sl Remigius, ou the occasion of the baptism of Clovis, Sicamber, bow meekly thy head; adore what thou hast burnt, burn what thou hast adored." In this manner the Church took solemn possession of the barbarians.

 

This union of Clovis with the clergy of Gaul threatened to be fatal to the Burgundians. He had already endeavored to turn to account a war between the Burgundian monarchs Godegisil and Gondebaut, alleging against the latter his Arianism and the murder of Clotilda.'s father; and without doubt he had been called in by the bishops. Gondebaut humbled himself; amused the bishops by promising to turn Catholic; gave thcm his children to educate and granted the Romans a milder law than had been hitherto accorded the conquered by any barbarian people. He would up these concessions by becoming tributary to Clovis.

 

Alaric II., King of the Visigoths, entertaining a similar dread and distrust of Clovis, endeavored to propitiate him, and sought an interview with him in an island of the Loire. Clovis spoke him fairly, but the instant after convened his Gauls. "It offends me," he said, "that these Arians possess the fairest portion of the land. Let us on them, and with Goo to aid, expel them. Let us seize their land. We shall do well, for it is very good." 507 A.D.

 

Far from encountering any obstacle, he seemed to be conducted by a mysterious hand. He was led to a ford in Vienne by a hart. A pillar of fire appeared on the cathedral of Poiters, for bis guidance by night. He sent to St. Martin de Tours to consult the lots; and they were favorable to him, On his side, he did not overlook the quarter whence, this assistance came. He forbade all plundering round Poiters. Near Tours he struck with his sword a soldier who was foraging on the territory of this town, made sacred by the tomb of St. Martin. "How," said he, can we hope for victory, if we offend St. Martin? After his victory over Syagrius one of his warriors refused the king a sacred vase, which he sought to include in his share of the spoil in order to dedicate it to St Remigius. the patron saint of his own church. A short time afterwards, Clovis, seizing the opportunity of a review of his troops, snatches his francisque Frankish battle-axe from the soldier, and as he stoops to pick it up, splits his skull with a stroke of his own axe, exclaiming-" Remember the vase at Soissons." So zealous a defender of the goods of the church could not fail to find her a powerful help towards victory; and, in fact, he overcame Alaric at Vougle, near Poitiers, advanced as far as Languedoc, and would have marched further had not the great Theodoric, King of the Italian Ostrogoths, and father in law of Alaric II., covered Provence and Spain with an army, and saved the remainder of his kingdom for the infant sou of the latter, who, on the mother's side, was his own grandson.

 

The invasion of the Franks, so evidently desired by the heads of the Gallo-Roman population, in other words, by the bishops, added momentarily to this confused state of things. The historic notices which remain to us of the immediate results of so varied and complicated a revolution are scanty; but they have been happily divined and analyzed by Guizot.

 

Invasion, or. more properly speaking, invasions, were essentially partia, local and momentary events. A band arrived, generally small in number-the most powerful, those which founded kingdoms; for instance, that of Clovis did not number more than from five to six thousand men, while the entire Burgundian nation did not exceed sixty thousand-it rapidly traversed a narrow line of ground, ravaged a district, attacked a city, and then either withdrew with its booty, or settled within a limited range so as to avoid too great a dispersion. We know the ease and rapidity with which such events take place and pass away. Houses are burnt, lands laid waste, harvests carried off, men slain or led into captivity, and but a brief time after all this mischief has been done, the waves cease, their furrows are effaced, individual sufferings are forgotten, and society returns, apparently at least, into its ancient channel. Such was the course of affairs in Gaul in the fifth century.

 

But we also know that human society-that form of it which deserves the name of a people does not consist of a number of isolated and passing existence thrown into simple juxtaposition. Were it nothing more, the invasions of the barbarians would not have produced the impression traced on the records of the time. For a considerable period, the number both of places and of individuals who suffered from them, was far inferior to that of those untouched by their ravages. But man's social life is not confined to the material space or to the mere moment of time in which it passes. It ramifies into the many relations it has contracted in many localities, and not only into them, but into those which it may contract, or may form an idea of. It embraces not alone the present, but the future. Man lives on a thousand points which he does not inhabit, and in a thousand moments yet in the womb of time and if this expansion of his existence suffer compression, if he is compelled to contract himself within the narrow limits of his material and actual existence, and isolate himself both as regards space and time, social life is a tuncated and lifeless corpse.

 

This was the result of the invasions--of those apparitions of barbarous bands, brief, it is true, and limited, but ever renewed, everywhere possible, and always threatening. They destroyed, first, all regular, customary, easy correspondence between different parts of a territory secondly, all security and prospect for the future. They broke the bonds which unite the inhabitants of the same country, interrupted the regular pulsations of a whole social existence. They isolated men, and the days of each man. In many places and for many years, the aspect of the country might remain the same but the organization of society felt the blow, its limbs fell from each other, its muscles were nerveless, the blood no longer circulated freely or surely in its veins, the evil burst out sometimes in one point, sometimes in another-a town was plundered, a road rendered impracticable, a bridge broken down, this or that communication ceased, cultivation was put a stop to in this or that district-in a word, the organic harmony and general activity of the social body were daily interfered with and disturbed, and every day impelled the general paralysis and dissolution.

 

The termination had come of all those ties by which Rome, after unnumbered efforts, had accomplished the union of the different parts of the globe-of that great system of administration, taxes, recruitment, public works and roads. Of all these, there only remained those portions which could subsist isolated and locally that is to say, the ruins of municipal government. The people betook themselves to the towns, in which they continued to govern themselves nearly on the same system as before, with the same privileges, and through the medium of the same institutions. A thousand circumstances prove this concentration of society in the towns. One, which has been but little noticed during the Roman government is the constant recurrence, both in the laws enacted and in history, of 'governments of provinces, officers with consular power, correctores, presidents,' who are ever on the scene. In the sixth century their name occurs less frequently; but we still find dukes and counts named as governing provinces. The barbarian kings strove to succeed to the Roman form of government, to keep up the same officers, and direct power into the same channel; but their success is incomplete and disorderly. Their dukes are rather military than political chiefs; the governors of provinces are evidently no longer of the same importance, and play a different part. It is the governors of the towns who figure in history. Most of those counts, whose exactions under Chilperic, Contrail, and Theodebert, are related by Gregory of Tours, are counts of towns, established, side by side with their bishop, within the precinct of their walls. It would be too much to say that the province has disappeared; hut it is disorganized, unsubstantial, and all but a phantom. The city, the primitive element of the Roman world, is almost the sole survivor of its ruin."

 

The fact is, a new organization is on the eve of gradual formation, of which the city will not be the sole element, and in which the country, which went for nothing in ancient times, will, in its tum, take a place. Centuries will be required to establish this new order of things. Still, from the time of Clovis, it was prepared from afar by the consummation of two important events. On one hand the unity of the barbarian army was secured.

 

By a series of treacheries, Clovis effected the death of all the petty kings of the Franks. The Church, pre-occupied by the idea of unity, applauded their death. He succeeded in everything," said Gregory of Tours,because he walked with his heart upright before God." St. Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, had in like manner congratulated Gondebaut on the death of his brother-which put an end to the civil war in Burgundy. The deaths of the Frankish, Visigoth, and Roman chiefs, united under one and the same head the whole of western Gaul from Batavia to the Narbonnese.

 

On the other hand, Clovis allowed the Church the most unbounded right of asylum and protection. At a period that the law had ceased to protect, this recognition of the power of an order which took upon itself the guardianship and security of the conquered, was a great step. Slaves them· selves could not be forced from the churches where they had taken refuge. The very houses of the priests were accounted asylums, like the temples, to those who should appear to live with them. A bishop had only to make oath that a prisoner was his, to have him immediately given up.

 

The immense property secured by Clovis to the churches, particularly to that of Reims, whose bishop is said to have been his principal counselor, must nave given vast extension to this salutary influence of the Church. To place property in ecclesiastical keeping was to withdraw it from violence, brutality and barbarism.-J. MICHELET.

 

Clovis

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