THE NEW RACES IN EUROPE.
The Graeco-Latins, Celts, Teutons and Slavs all belonged to the great Aryan, or Indo-European branch of the Caucasian race, to which the Hindoos, Medes and Persians also belonged. The home of the prehistoric Aryans—the ancestors of all the Indo-European nations—was in Central Asia, in the region of the ancient Bactria, the modern Balk, in Southern Turkestan. The Aryan migration westward into Europe occurred in prehistoric times, probably as far back as three thousand years before Christ.
The evidence of language shows us that the Celts migrated first and established themselves in Central Europe; but after a time they were pressed into Western Europe by the Teutons, whereupon they settled in Spain, Gaul and the British Isles. The Teutons thus occupied Central and Eastern Europe. The Latin and Hellenic nations occupied respectively the two great peninsulas of Southern Europe —Italy and Greece. The Slavonians— the last of the Aryan nation to enter Europe— overspread the vast steppes of Eastern Europe.
The original civilization of ancient Europe was confined to the two great peninsulas of Southern Europe—Greece and Italy—where a favored portion of the Aryan branch of the Caucasian race attained a social organization and a high state of development in culture; while their kinsmen—the Celts, Teutons and Slavonians—still continued in an undeveloped condition, without written language or literature, or the useful or fine arts, or the different appliances of civilization. All of Europe outside of Greece and Italy was a world of barbarians before the rise of the Roman power.
The Greeks exerted no influence whatever in civilizing the barbarians, that work being wholly performed by the Romans. The Celts were the first of the barbarian nations to come in contact with the Romans. We have observed that the Gauls of Cisalpine Gaul (Northern Italy), who were Celts were reduced under the dominion of the Roman Republic, and that they obtained the Roman franchise at the hands of Julius Caesar. The same great conqueror reduced the vast Celtic population of Transalpine Gaul (now France) under the Roman dominion, and these people were eventually invested with Roman citizenship. The same was the case with the Celtiberians of Spain. The Celts of Britain were likewise clothed with the rights of Roman citizens. The result of the contact of the Celtic populations of Spain, Gaul and Britain with the Romans was that they had become thoroughly Latinized and Christianized before the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire.
The leading Germanic or Teutonic tribes were the Goths, the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Franks, the Lombards, the Saxons, the Angles and the Scandinavians. The last played no part in history until the ninth and tenth centuries, when they appeared as Normans and Danes.
The primitive home of the Goths was in Scandinavia, in that part of modern Sweden still known as Gothland. But the roving spirit so natural to barbarism prompted them to seek homes beyond their native swamps and forests. They began their migrations about AD 200; soon after which they appeared in Central Europe in three great divisions—Visigoths (West Goths), Ostrogoths (East Goths), and Gepidae (Laggards. ) The Goths were the first of the Teutonic nations to embrace Christianity. A considerable time before the fall of the Western Roman Empire they had been converted to Arian Christianity.
We have observed how, in the closing period of ancient history, the Northern barbarians, in their southern and western migrations, overran and overthrew the Western Roman Empire and occupied its various provinces. Glancing at the settlement of the Teutonic tribes at the period when Odoacer subverted the empire of the Caesars, we find the Germanic race already predominant in Europe, and the Germanic tribes beginning to press the Celtic nations within more circumscribed limits.
The Teutons had no influence upon the progress of history until the series of events connected with the overthrow of the Roman dominion in Western Europe. At that period the Germanic or Teutonic race commenced to play its mighty part in the great drama of the world’s history. From its home in Central and Northern Europe the great Teutonic race began immediately, upon the overthrow of the Western Roman Empire, to absorb and shape the destiny and character of nearly the whole European continent; and the development of European civilization during the six centuries of the Dark Ages is mainly connected with the wonderful growth and expansion of the Germanic race.
The amalgamation of the Teutonic or Germanic tribes of the North with the Latin and Celtic races of the South and West of Europe produced modern society; and mediaeval history is the history of the blending of Teutonic or Germanic barbarians with the Latin and Celtic elements. Modern society derives its ingredients from this commingling of these two ancient societies—the love of personal liberty and the feeling of independence from the barbarians, and the forms of an old civilization from the Romans.
We will now proceed to an account of the settlements of the Teutonic or Germanic tribes at the time of the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. The Visigothic kingdom under Euric embraced all of Spain and that part of Gaul south of the Loire and west of the Rhone; and its capital, Arles, was considered the center of Western civilization. The Sueves in North-western Spain were tributary to Euric. The Heruli, the German tribe under Odoacer, who put an end to the Western Empire, held Italy, but were soon conquered by the Ostrogoths who at this time occupied the region between the Danube and the Adriatic. The Gepidae, also a Gothic tribe, as we have seen, possessed the region of the modern Roumania and Eastern Hungary.
The Vandals, besides their original homes south and east of the Baltic, were now masters of Northern Africa, with Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearic Isles. The Burgundians occupied the valley of the Rhone and the country about the Swiss lakes, the region called Burgundy, whose ruler was a powerful rival of the French kings for a thousand years.
The Lombards, or Longobards (men with long beards) originally occupied Jutland, whence they migrated to the banks of the Elbe, and afterwards to the region between the Danube and the Vistula, where they were settled at the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire. A century later they migrated to Northern Italy, where they occupied the region since called Lombardy.
The Alemanni held Southern Germany, with Alsace and Northern Switzerland. The Thuringians were settled between the head-waters of the Danube and those of the Elbe. The Franks or Freemen, who originally occupied Belgium and the region of the Lower Rhine, overran Gaul soon after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, expelling the Visigoths from the South and conquering the Burgundians in the South-east; and the name of France was given to their new country (from Francia, the land of the Franks). The modern French are the descendants of the Latinized Gauls and their Frankish conquerors.
The Saxons (knife-men, from Sachs), originally occupied the region of the modern Holstein; but about the time of the downfall of the Roman dominion in Western Europe they had overspread the whole of Northern Germany from the Rhine to the Baltic. Two of the leading Saxon tribes were the Angles and the Jutes; the first occupying the region of the modern Schleswig, and the latter the peninsula of Jutland. The Saxons had never come in contact with the Romans, and were therefore unaffected by Roman influences. They were still pagans and worshipers of Odin and Thor. Their piratical craft had carried terror along the entire coast of Europe for a century. Many of the Saxons were at this period settled among the wooded inlets in the North of Gaul; while roving bands of Saxons, Angles and Jutes had settled in Britain and thus laid the foundations of England (Angleland ) and the English language. The modern English are the descendants of the savage Angles, Saxons and Jutes, who thus migrated to and conquered Britain in the fifth century of the Christian era.
The Scandinavians, under the name of Northmen or Norsemen, or Normans and Danes, began their piratical voyages in the ninth century, and ravaged and plundered Germany, France, England and Ireland, establishing themselves in Northern Russia late in the ninth century; in that province of North-western France to which they gave the name of Normandy late in the tenth century: and in Southern Italy about the middle of the eleventh century, while bands of Normans even terrorized the Eastern Roman, or Greek Empire, spreading alarm even to the walls of Constantinople. For two centuries the Normans, under the name of Danes, ravaged Anglo-Saxon England, which they finally conquered early in the tenth century; and in the latter half of the same century the Normans of France conquered the same country, thus entirely changing its destiny.
Such were the settlements of the Germanic or Teutonic tribes at the time of the overthrow of the Western Roman Empire. Colonies of Britons, who had been driven from their native island by the conquering and freebooting Angles and Saxons, had crossed the British Channel and were at this time mingled with their Celtic kinsmen in the North-west of Gaul, in that portion of France afterwards known as Brittany, or Bretagne. Hibernia (now Ireland), Caledonia (now Scotland) and Cambria (now Wales) were inhabited by the original unconquered Celtic tribes ancestors of the modern Irish, Highland Scotch and Welsh.
In the vast steppes of Eastern Europe, beyond the Elbe, was the fourth and last division of the Aryan branch of the Caucasian race in Europe—the Slavs or Slavonians —ancestors of the modern Russians, Poles, Bohemians, Servians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Illyrians and Croatians. The Slavonians were a pastoral people, more numerous but less powerful than the Teutons. They did not play any important part in history until near the close of the Dark Ages. The woes to which they were subjected during the long wars of mediaeval times are sadly suggested by the word slave, borrowed from the proper noun Slave, or Slav. Such Slavonic tribes as the Servians, Bosnians and Croatians migrated during the seventh century from their original seats north of the Carpathian mountains into the countries south of the Middle Danube bearing their respective names.
In the South-east of Europe, the Eastern Roman, or Greek Empire embraced nearly the region comprised by the modern Turkish dominion, and was inhabited by the original Greek races and the Macedonians, Thracians and Illyrians.
Thus Europe has in all historical times been almost wholly in possession of four great divisions of the Aryan branch of the Caucasian race—the Graeco-Latins, the Celts, the Teutons and the Slavonians. Still there were some remnants of the primitive or prehistoric inhabitants of primeval Europe; such as the Laps and Fins of the frozen, marshy regions of the extreme North of Europe, and the Basques of Northern Spain— representatives of the Turanian branch of the Mongolian race.
There were some remnants of the fierce Huns—also belonging to the Turanian branch of the Mongolian race—who had overrun and terrorized Europe for almost a century during the period preceding the fall of the Western Roman Empire. These remnants of the Huns, called Avars, finally settled in the hills and vales of what is now Hungary. The Bulgarians, also a Turanian people, migrated in two divisions from their homes near the Caspian Sea—one founding the kingdom of Great or White Bulgaria on the Volga river; and the other passing in the fifth century to the west, where they established the kingdom of Black Bulgaria in the region between the Carpathians and the Balkans. They were driven south of the Danube, into the region of the modern Bulgaria, in the ninth century by the Magyar; and in that country they mingled with the original Slavonian inhabitants, who then took the name of Bulgarians, and from these the modern Bulgarians are descended.
About the middle of the ninth century the wild nomadic Magyars, or Hungarians, also belonging to the Turanian branch of the Mongolian race—migrated from the Ural mountains to the valleys of the Theiss and the Middle Danube, where they laid the foundations of modern Hungary, driving out the Avars and Bulgarians. These were all of the Turanian nations that entered Europe during the Dark Ages. In the thirteenth century the Mongols, or Moguls, conquered Russia, where they remained two and a half centuries. The Ottoman Turks, the last Turanian people who entered Europe, late in the Middle Ages established their dominion 011 the ruins of the Eastern Roman, or Greek Empire.
Early in the eighth century the Mohammedan Saracens and Moors, mingled Semites and Hamites, overran and conquered Spain, in the southern part of which they remained until the end of the Middle Ages. In the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries they ravaged Sicily and Southern Italy. The enlightened and cultured Saracens of Spain exerted great influence upon Christian Europe during the Dark and Middle Ages.
The establishment of the Teutonic race in the Celtic and Latin countries of Western and Southern Europe gave rise to new languages. At the time when the Northern barbarians established themselves in Italy and the provinces of the Western Roman Empire, Latin had become the common speech of Gaul and Spain, as well as of Italy. The old Celtic language of Gaul and the Celtiberian of Spain only lingered in a few remote places, so that a corrupt Latin was the prevailing speech in those two countries of Western Europe. As the Teutonic settlers were far outnumbered by the native populations, they were obliged to acquire the Latin in order to communicate with the people among whom they had established themselves; but in learning it they still further corrupted it, thus giving rise to corrupt Latin dialects, which by the close of the Dark Ages, had developed into the modern Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
In Britain the Angles, Saxons and Jutes did not mingle with the Celtic Britons; so that the language of Anglo-Saxon England was purely Teutonic or Germanic, and thus remained until England was conquered by the French-speaking Normans near the close of the Dark Ages. From that time the Anglo-Saxon language of England began to be modified; so that toward the close of the Middle Ages the English language took shape, in consequence of the introduction of many Norman-French words, and the mingling together of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman French.
The new nations of purely Teutonic or Germanic origin which arose in Germany and Scandinavia were entirely unaffected in their speech by Latin influences, so that the languages of those countries remained purely Teutonic. Such are the modern German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. The Slavonic languages—chief among which are the modern Russian and Polish—are entirely different from the Germanic and Latin languages.
While the new languages arose among the Germanic and Latin nations, the pure Latin language of ancient Rome continued to be the learned and written language among those nations during the whole of the Dark and Middle Ages; so that scholars and writers throughout the whole of Teutonic and Latin Europe exclusively used that pure ancient classical tongue during the entire mediaeval period. The ancient Latin has remained a learned language to the present time, thoughno longer a spoken tongue, and therefore ever since classed as a dead language.
THE VISIGOTHIC KINGDOM OF SPAIN.
The Visigoths first made their appearance ill Spain in AD 411; that province having been offered to them by the Emperor Honorius, who thus bribed them to retire from Italy. After establishing their dominion in Southern Gaul, they burst through the passes of the Pyrenees, under the leadership of their king, Adolphus, and founded a kingdom in Spain; which for two years had been ravaged with fire and sword by the Sueves under Hermeric, the Alans under Atace, and the Vandals under Gunderic, who had entered the country in AD 409. The Sueves had established themselves in Gallicia, in the North-west of Spain; the Alans in Lusitania, in the West; and the Vandals in Baetica, in the South.
After establishing themselves in the Northeast of Spain, the Visigoths undertook several expeditions against the Vandals. Adolphus, who had married Placidia, the sister of the Emperor Honorius, considered it best to become the ally of the Romans. By this course he incurred the hostility of his chieftains, who despised the Romans; and Adolphus was assassinated within a year after he had entered Spain. His successor, Sigeric, was a brutal ruffian; and was speedily put to death by his subjects, who had become thoroughly disgusted with his cruelty.
The next Visigothic king was Wallia, who proved himself a worthy sovereign. He undertook an expedition against the Roman possessions m Africa, but his fleet was wrecked in a storm. This disaster induced Constantius, the Roman commander in Gaul, to march in the direction of the Pyrenees. Wallia made ready to oppose him; but a conflict was averted by the surrender, by Wallia, of Placidia, the widow of Adolphus, to Constantius, who was deeply enamored of her. When Constantius had married Placidia, Wallia entered into an alliance with the Romans against the Vandals, Alans and Sueves (AD 417).
The Vandals were driven from the territories which they had occupied, and were obliged to seek refuge among the Sueves in Gallicia. The Alans in Lusitania were almost exterminated, and the remnant of that nation was absorbed by the Vandals; so that the Alans then disappeared entirely from the history of Spain. The Sueves averted a similar fate by placing themselves under Roman protection; and Wallia, who was unprepared to engage in war with Rome, permitted them to remain in undisturbed possession of their territories. The Emperor Honorius regarded Wallia as his ally, and rewarded him by bestowing upon him a part of Southern Gaul, from Toulouse to the Mediterranean. Wallia immediately repaired to his new dominions; and thenceforth until the reign of Euric, the Visigothic kings remained in Southern Gaul, while still regarding Spain as a portion of their dominions.
Theodoric I.succeeded Wallia, who died about AD 420. During this reign the Vandals made war upon the Sueves, who had received them with kindness during the reign of Wallia. The Sueves were driven into the mountains of Asturias in the North of the peninsula, and there they successfully defended themselves against the attacks of the Vandals. The Vandals then abandoned Asturias and fought their way southward to their former homes in Baetica, where they maintained themselves against all the efforts of the Roman generals to dislodge them. They gave their territory in Southern Spain the name of Vandalusia, which in the course of time became corrupted into Andalusia.
As the Vandals had command of the sea, their fleets were able to terrorize the coast of Spain and the islands of the Mediterranean. In AD 420 they crossed over into Africa, which they conquered from the Romans in AD 439, after a war of ten years, thus laying the foundations of a kingdom which lasted a century; as already related. The Sueves then issued from their mountain retreats in Asturias and soon recovered Gallicia. They steadily extended their dominions, and in AD 438 they pushed their conquests into the South of Spain, routing the Romans on the banks of the Xenil, and seizing Merida and Seville; and for the next ten years Richilan, the Suevic king, governed this vast realm with a strong hand.
In the meantime Theodoric I, the reigning Visigothic king, had been humbling the Roman power in the South of Gaul. After achieving this result, he was about to take the field against the Sueves in Spain, when he was called to take part in the struggle against the Huns under Attila, and was slain in the great battle of Chalons, as already related.
Theodoric I was succeeded by his son, Thorsimund, who was murdered within a year by his two brothers, the elder of whom became his successor under the name of Theodoric II. This new king subdued the Sueves; but when he was obliged to return to his dominions in Southern Gaul, his army was cut to pieces by the people of Leon, in revenge for the excesses which it had committed. Spain then quickly fell into a condition of anarchy, and the people experienced great sufferings. The condition of affair in Gaul prevented Theodoric’s return to Spain. He had just restored tranquillity to his Gallic dominions, and was about to return to Spain, when he was assassinated by his brother Euric, who then became his successor (AD 466).
Euric was a great monarch. He conquered the Sueves, restored the Visigothic dominion over Andalusia, and reduced all of Central and North-eastern Spain under his dominion. He allowed the Sueves to retain possession of Gallicia, with a part of the territory of modern Leon and Portugal, under their own sovereigns; but made the Suevic monarch his vassal. For the next century the Sueves peacefully submitted to the Visigothic rule.
Euric next drove the Romans from Spain, wresting from them Tarraco (now Tarragona), their last stronghold in the country, and made himself master of the whole Spanish peninsula; after which he enlarged his dominions in the South of Gaul at the expense of the Romans and the Burgundians, and forced Odoacer, the Herulian King of Italy, to relinquish to him all the Roman possessions in Gaul south of the Loire and in the valley of the Rhone.
Thenceforth the Visigoths considered Gaul and Spain as their proper dominion. Euric made Arles his capital; and that city was then regarded as the center of Western civilization, being the chosen seat of learning and refinement in Europe; while the Visigothic monarch was the most powerful and enlightened of European sovereigns, his preeminence being acknowledged even by the Persians through their embassies. Euric is rightly considered the founder of the Visigothic kingdom in Spain. His predecessors had ruled Gaul, but had only a feeble hold on Spain. Euric firmly established his dominion in the peninsula, and gave Spain its first code of laws. He tarnished his memory by his violent persecutions of the orthodox Catholics, to whom he, as an Arian, was bitterly opposed.
Euric died at Arles in AD 483, and was succeeded by his son Alaric II, who was a weak monarch, and reigned twenty-three years. During the latter portion of his reign, Alaric II became involved in a war with Clovis, King of the Franks, who had conquered Northern Gaul, and who now wrested most of Southern Gaul from the Visigothic sovereign. Alaric II died AD 506, leaving a son who was too young to wield the helm of state.
The Visigoths accordingly placed Gensaleic, the brother of Alaric II, upon the throne. The new sovereign was hard pressed by the Franks and the Burgundians, who besieged him in Carcassonne. Theodoric, the powerful King of the Ostrogoths, the father-in-law of Alaric II, now made war on both the Prankish and Visigothic kings, regarding the latter as having unlawfully usurped the throne which rightfully belonged to his nephew, the grand-son of the Ostrogothic monarch. After forcing Clovis, King of the Franks, to make peace, and defeating Gensaleic and putting him to death, Theodoric the Ostrogoth disregarded his grandson’s rights by making himself King of Spain, entrusting the government of that country to Theudis, one of his ablest generals. Theodoric established justice and order in Spain, and protected the orthodox Catholics, though he was himself an Arian.
Four years before his death, Theodoric the Ostrogoth resigned the crown of Spain to his grandson Amalaric, who made Seville his capital, thus becoming the first Gothic King of Spain who established his residence in that country. Amalaric relinquished his Gallic territory between the Rhone and the Alps to Athalaric, the successor of Theodoric as King of the Ostrogoths. He married Clotilda, the daughter of Clovis, King of the Franks; but as this princess was a Catholic, she brought only trouble to her Arian husband. Their quarrels over their religious opinions were so violent that Amalaric treated his wife with such indignity that she appealed for protection to her brother, Childebert I, one of the sons and successors of Clovis. Childebert accordingly invaded Spain, defeated and killed Amalaric in a great battle in Catalonia, and returned to France laden with the plunder of the Arian churches (AD 531).
Theudis, who had governed Spain for Theodoric the Ostrogoth, now received the Visigothic crown. He was obliged to relinquish his possessions in Gaul, but successfully defended Spain against the attacks of the Frankish kings. He was a wise and able sovereign, and his name was long cherished by the Visigothic nation. He was assassinated in AD 548, and was succeeded by Theudisdei, who had been one of his generals; but this monarch so misgoverned his subjects that they murdered him the next year AD 549. The next king, Agilan, had a troubled reign of five years, as the southern portion of Spain refused to recognize him as king; and he was defeated and slain in AD 554.
Athanagild, the rebel leader, then ascended the throne of Spain. He had called in the forces of the Eastern Roman Emperor, Justinian, to aid him in his revolt. He now demanded that they should retire from the country; but they refused to leave, and established themselves in the province of Carthagena, from which they made frequent incursions into the neighboring provinces. Athanagild was unable to expel them, and they retained possession of the places which they had seized until in the progress of time they became absorbed in the Visigothic nation. During this reign the Sueves, who had been converted to Arian Christianity a century before, adopted the orthodox Catholic faith (AD 560). Athanagild died in AD 567, after a peaceful and beneficent reign of fourteen years.
The next king, Liuva I, died after a reign of three years (AD 570), and was succeeded by his brother Leovigild, who was one of the greatest of the Visigothic kings. He drove the troops of the Eastern Roman Umpire out of Granada, and suppressed several revolts against his authority, firmly establishing his power throughout Spain after ten years of constant effort. In AD 582 he associated his oldest son, Ermenigild, with himself in the government, and secured for him as his bride the Frankish princess Ingunda, who was a Catholic and converted her husband to that religious faith. Soon afterward Ermenigild rebelled against his father, but was subdued after a desperate struggle; and was pardoned, but deprived of his royal dignity. He soon revolted a second time, but was again reduced to submission, and was this time put to death at his father’s order. The Catholic Church has always considered him a martyr for his religion, and has canonized him.
Upon the death of Ermenigild, the Frankish monarch, the brother of his widow, took up arms to avenge him; and the Sueves renounced their allegiance and joined the Franks. Aided by his second son, Recared, Leovigild drove back the Franks and reduced the Sueves to submission. He put an end to the Suevic kingdom by annexing the Suevic territories to the possessions of the Visigothic crown. Leovigild violently persecuted his Catholic subjects, and plundered their churches, surrounding himself with a brilliant court by means of the wealth which he thus amassed. He did much for the improvement of his dominions, and is the first Visigothic monarch represented in the ancient coins with the royal crown upon his head.
Leovigild died in AD 587, and his son and successor, Recared I, was promptly acknowledged throughout the entire Spanish peninsula. Recared was converted from Arianism to Catholicism in AD 589, and the whole Visigothic nation followed his example. This result ended the religious dissensions in Spain, and contributed much to the amalgamation of the Visigoths, the Latins and the Celtic Spaniards into one Spanish nationality, with a predominance of the Latin element. Recared I defeated the efforts of the Franks to invade Spain, conquered the Basques, and chastised the Eastern Roman imperialists, whom he confined to their fortresses on the coast. Recared I was a liberal and enlightened monarch, and his reign was highly beneficial to his subjects.
Recared I died in AD 601, and his three immediate successors, whose reigns were uneventful, were Liuva II, from 601 to 603; Witeric, from 603 to 610; and Gundemar, from 610 to 612. Sisebert, who reigned from 612 to 621, achieved signal victories over the Basques, wrested many fortresses from the Eastern Roman imperialists, and persecuted the Jews. The next king, Recared II, reigned only three months during AD 621. Swintila, who reigned from 621 to 631, reduced all the fortresses of the Eastern Roman imperialists, thus putting an end to their influence in Spain.
The next four reigns, which were uneventful, were those of Sisenand, from 631 to 636; Chintila, from 636 to 640; Tulga, from 640 to 642; and Chindaswind, from 642 to 649. Receswind, who reigned from 649 to 672, was a firm and vigorous sovereign, marking his reign by the promptness and energy with which he suppressed all opposition to his government, and by the enactment of a law, requiring future Visigothic monarchs to transmit their wealth to their successors on the throne, and not to their children.
Upon Receswind’s death in 672, the Visigothic electors chose the virtuous Wamba to the throne. His virtues and wisdom were well known to the entire Visigothic nation. For a long time he declined to accept the crown, but was finally forced to yield to the decision of the electors by the threat of being put to death if he persisted in his refusal. Revolts broke out in various parts of Spain soon after Wamba’s accession in 673; but the new sovereign suppressed these outbreaks with promptness and firmness, forcing the rebels to beg for mercy. He banished from his kingdom all the Jews who refused baptism, thus forcing many to be formally baptized in order to escape exile, but left them highly exasperated against him. He defeated the Saracens, who had conquered all Northern Africa, in an attempt to invade Spain.
Wamba was rigidly just and incorruptible in the exercise of his sovereign power, uniting moderation with firmness, and he possessed the devoted affection of his subjects. He was attacked with a sudden illness on the 14th of October, AD 680, and quickly fell into a comatose state. His attendants believed him to be dead, and made preparation for his funeral, according to the custom of the times, by shaving his head and enveloping him in a penitential habit. Being thus transformed from a layman into a member of the monastic order, he was rendered incapable of wearing the crown. Within twenty-four hours he regained consciousness; but as his fate had been irrevocably decided, he was forced to retire into a monastery, where he died some years later.
Wamba’s successor was Ergivious, a nephew of King Chindaswind. After an uneventful reign, he died AD 687 and was succeeded by Egica, Wamba’s brother, whose reign was memorable mainly for the severe laws against the Jews, who were suspected of instigating the Saracens of Northern Africa to invade Spain. Ergica was succeeded by his son, Witiza, in AD 701. The first portion of Witiza’s reign seems to have been just and prosperous, but he ultimately degenerated into a cruel and lustful tyrant. His cruelties finally caused a rebellion against him under the leadership of Roderic, a powerful noble. Witiza’s reign ended in AD 709; and Roderic, who became his successor, was the last Gothic king.
Roderic seems to have been no better than his predecessor. He soon aroused against himself a powerful opposition. Witiza’s relatives, headed by Count Julian, refused to recognize his authority. Some writers tell us that Count Julian was governor of the fortresses of Tangier and Ceuta, on the African coast opposite Gibraltar. King Roderic having dishonored the Lady Florinda, Count Julian’s only daughter, her father determined to revenge himself upon the Visigothic monarch, and accordingly invited the Saracens to invade Spain, at the same time putting them in possession of the African fortresses commanding the entrance to that European peninsula. Other authorities deny the story of Florinda, and assert that Count Julian was solely influenced, in making his offer to the Saracens, by his loyalty to the dynasty of Witiza and his animosity to King Roderic, whom he considered a usurper. At any rate, Count Julian placed the African fortresses in the possession of the Saracen general Muza, evidently not calculating upon the ultimate consequences of his action.
Muza acted very cautiously even after he had obtained possession of the African fortresses. But after becoming fully satisfied that the outward splendor of the Visigothic kingdom merely concealed an internal rottenness, he made preparations for the invasion of Spain. On the 30th of April, 711, a formidable Saracen and Moorish army under Tarik, an able and experienced general, effected a landing at Gibraltar, which received its name from him, Gibraltar meaning Gibal-Tarik, or mountain of Tarik. After overcoming the first resistance of the Visigoths, Tarik advanced northward with great rapidity, and defeated King Roderic in the great battle of Xeres de la Frontera, on the Guadalete not far from Cadiz; Roderic himself being drowned in the Guadalete after the battle (AD 711). This decisive conflict put an end to the Visigothic monarchy in Spain, which had lasted three centuries (411-711). The Saracens gradually conquered the whole of Spain except the mountainous districts of Asturias, Cantabria and Navarre in the North, into which the Christians under King Pelayo retired.
THE OSTROGOTHIC KINGDOM IN ITALY.
UPON the ruins of the Western institutions of the Roman Empire, as already related, the, German tribe of the Heruli under Odoacer erected the Kingdom of Italy in AD 476. Odoacer fixed his capital at Ravenna, and distributed the lands of Italy among his followers, making the peasants who lived upon the lands their slaves. He, moreover, allowed the old Roman laws and institutions to remain, and retained the Roman magistrates in their offices. Odoacer was the first barbarian monarch who reigned over Italy, and was worthy of the high honor to which he had been called. He restored the Consulship of the West within seven years after his accession. He compelled the barbarians of Gaul and Germany to respect the Italian frontiers, and devoted himself to the restoration of tranquility and good government to his subjects. Notwithstanding his exertions, misery and desolation prevailed all over Italy. The population of the country was reduced by famine and pestilence, and the means of subsistence were diminishing in the same proportion. Under the Roman Empire the tributary harvests of Egypt and Africa furnished Italy with an inexhaustible source of food; but these were now withdrawn, and there was no way of supplying the deficiency. After reigning over Italy seventeen years, Odoacer was forced to give way before the superior genius of Theodoric the Ostrogoth; and the Kingdom of the Heruli in Italy ended in AD 493.
Theodoric was born in AD 455, and had been carefully educated in the arts of war at Constantinople, where he had resided as a hostage. He disdained the more peaceful part of the Greek training, and was unacquainted with the art of writing to the very end of his life. Theodoric became King of the Ostrogoths upon the death of his father in AD 476. The Ostrogoths then occupied the region between the Danube and the Adriatic, where they proved themselves dangerous neighbors to the Eastern Roman Emperor, who sought to rid himself of them by agreeing to Theodoric’s proposal to march against Odoacer and to restore Italy to the Roman dominion.
The Emperor with great prudence left it doubtful whether the Ostrogothic conqueror of Italy was to govern that country as his vassal or his ally. Theodoric’s reputation attracted an immense host to his standard, from the neighboring nations no less than from his Ostrogothic countrymen, at whose head he marched for Italy in AD 489. The march occurred in midwinter, and the Ostrogoths took their families and all their movable possessions with them. They endured numerous hardships, but at length the Ostrogothic host poured over the Julian Alps and entered Italy. Odoacer was defeated in three battles and shut up in the impregnable fortress of Ravenna, his capital, where he was besieged for three years, at the end of which time peace was made through the intervention of the Bishop of Ravenna, Odoacer and Theodoric agreeing to divide the dominion of Italy between them (AD 493). Theodoric either murdered his rival soon afterward, or caused his death at a riotous banquet, in total violation of his plighted word.
By the murder of Odoacer the Kingdom of the Heruli in Italy came to an end, and Theodoric the Ostrogoth thus became sole King of Italy, establishing his capital at Ravenna. He divided one-third of the lands of Italy among his soldiers. He employed the original inhabitants of Italy in agriculture and commerce, while to his Ostrogothic followers he assigned the duty of defending the state. Like Odoacer, Theodoric allowed the ancient Roman laws and institutions to remain, and encouraged agriculture, manufactures and commerce; and Italy enjoyed great prosperity under his dominion, becoming the most peaceful and flourishing country in the world.
The Ostrogothic kingdom under Theodoric extended far beyond the limits of Italy to the north, east and west. During the minority of his grandson Amalaric, the King of the Visigothic monarchy in Gaul and Spain, Theodoric governed his kingdom wisely and well. As soon as the other barbarians of the West were satisfied that Theodoric did not intend to include them in his conquests, they universally recognized the Ostrogothic monarch as the leading sovereign of the West, and sought his alliance and mediation.
Though Theodoric was himself an Arian, he protected his Catholic subjects, thus tolerating all forms of religious belief in his dominions. The fanatical mob burned the shops and dwellings of the Jews in several cities, but the king compelled them to restore the destroyed buildings. This exact justice brought clown upon Theodoric the wrath of the Catholics, and he became convinced that his efforts in behalf of his subjects had not been sufficient to overcome their prejudice against him as an Arian.
Jealous of so powerful a vassal, the Eastern Roman Emperor, Anastasius, attacked Theodoric’s dominions from the direction of the Danube, but was defeated by the Ostrogothic monarch at the head of an inferior force. In order to atone for this humiliation, the Emperor sent an expedition to plunder the coasts of Apulia and Calabria. The imperial forces won some indecisive successes, but Theodoric’s firmness and energy forced them to retreat, thus in a short time bringing about an honorable peace.
Theodoric’s last years presented a striking contract with the beginning of his reign. The ingratitude of his subjects made him suspicious and cruel. He caused Boethius, the most celebrated and learned Roman of his time, to be put to death on the charge of plotting to restore the Eastern Roman Emperor’s authority; and the execution of Symmachus, his venerable father-in-law, followed soon afterward. The death of Theodoric, which occurred in AD 526, was hastened by remorse for these crimes. Theodoric did not appear to have desired a union of the Ostrogoths and the Romans, and did not even claim the title of King of Italy, but merely called himself King of the Ostrogoths.
Theodoric was succeeded 011 the throne of the Ostrogoths by his grandson Athalaric. As the new sovereign was a boy of ten years, his mother, Amalasuntha, Theodoric’s daughter, was made regent and was aided by the wise counsels of her minister, Cassiodorus. Her son did not profit by her care and instruction, but abandoned himself to riotous living and all kinds of excesses. When his mother punished him he appealed to his countrymen to sustain him, and the queen-regent was forced to relinquish her authority to him; but he died soon afterward, at the age of sixteen years, from the effects of intemperance. In violation of the Gothic law and custom, his mother, Amalasuntha, then sought to recover her power by marrying her cousin Theodatus and making him king; but Theodatus, refusing to be ruled by a woman, caused his wife to be strangled in her bath (AD 535).
Justinian, the illustrious Emperor of the East, had been eagerly watching for a pretext to restore Italy to the Roman dominion, and now undertook to avenge Amalasuntha, preparing to send an army under his illustrious general, Belisarius, into the Italian peninsula. Belisarius conquered Sicily late in AD 535, and in the spring of the following year he passed over into the mainland of Italy. The main strength of the Ostrogoths was in the North of Italy, and the Greek influence was sufficiently strong in the South to make its conquest by the forces of the Eastern Empire a very easy task. Belisarius was hailed as a deliverer by the Southern Italians, but the barbarian garrison in Naples made a stand against him. The city was taken by surprise, and its fall placed Apulia and Calabria under the dominion of the Eastern Empire. Belisarius marched northward and entered Rome, which joyfully opened its gates to him (AD 536).
Vitiges, the Ostrogotliie king who succeeded Theodatus, assembled a powerful Ostrogothic army and besieged Rome, which Belisarius gallantly defended with an inferior force for over a year. During this siege the sepulcher of the Emperor Adrian, now known as the Castle of St. Angelo, was used as a fortress for the first time. The Ostrogoths suffered heavy losses in their assaults upon Rome, thirty thousand having fallen in the main attack; and Vitiges was obliged to retire to Ravenna with his shattered army, thus leaving Belisarius master of Italy. This renowned general might have easily subdued all Italy had he not been frustrated by the dissensions of the Roman leaders. Valuable time was thus lost, and the Ostrogoths were given a breathing spell before the final struggle.
Ten thousand Burgundians, allies of the Ostrogothie king, took and destroyed Milan, which had revolted from Vitiges in AD 538. In the following spring the Frankish king, Theodebert, the grandson of Clovis, crossed the Alps with one hundred thousand Franks, defeated the armies of both the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ostrogoths near Pavia, and ravaged Liguria and Aemilia until he was obliged to return to his own country in consequence of losses from disease and the intemperance of his troops.
Belisarius now devoted himself to the task of completing the conquest of Italy, he besieged Vitiges in Ravenna, and reduced that impregnable stronghold by famine. Weary of their king, the Ostrogoths proposed to surrender the city to the imperial general, if he would make himself king. Belisarius pretended to accept the proposal, but when he obtained possession of Ravenna he threw off the mask, declaring that he held the city only as the servant of the Eastern Emperor.
Only Pavia, which was garrisoned by ten thousand Ostrogoths, made a defense; and these warriors, in accordance with Gothic custom, raised Totila, the nephew of Vitiges, upon a shield, thus hailing him as king. Before Belisarius was able to undertake any movement against this stronghold, he was recalled to Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian, who had grown jealous of the fame of his celebrated general. Totila immediately sought to recover all that Vitiges had lost. Many Italian cities which had welcomed Belisarius as a deliverer had been so sorely oppressed by the officials of the Eastern Emperor that they now gladly opened their gates to Totila. The Ostrogoths took Rome in AD 546 and carried its Senators into captivity, whereupon its population scattered. Totila, by his noble character, gained friends on every side, and it appeared that he was on the point of restoring the Ostrogothic kingdom in all its former strength.
Sueh rapid and marked success forced the Emperor Justinian to restore Belisarius to the imperial command in Italy; but Justinian, unable to overcome his jealousy of his great general, sent him to Italy without troops, and delayed those which were ordered to follow him. Belisarius soon perceived that he must depend largely upon his own resources, without much encouragement or assistance from his imperial master. He accordingly crossed from Italy to the shores of Epirus, where he succeeded by extraordinary exertions in assembling a small army, with which he started for Italy sailing to the mouth of the Tiber.
Belisarius arrived at Rome in time to witness the capture of the city by Totila; and, though he did not have a sufficient force to avert this disaster, he prevented Totila from destroying the city, firmly but temperately remonstrating against so violent a proceeding. When Totila departed for Southern Italy, Belisarius, at the head of a thousand cavalry, seized the deserted city and erected the imperial standard upon the Capitol, thus inducing the scattered inhabitants to return. The fortifications of Rome were repaired, and Totila was repulsed with heavy loss in his efforts to retake the city in AD 547.
Belisarius, still hampered by Justinian’s jealousy, was unable to follow up his success. The disobedience and cowardice of his own officers defeated his movements in Southern Italy. As he found it impossible to effect anything against such odds, he sought and obtained permission to return to Constantinople in AD 548. Totila again took Rome in 549, overran Italy, conquered Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, and invaded Greece. These successes of Totila caused the Pope to head a deputation to the Emperor Justinian, imploring his assistance against the Ostrogothic king. Justinian accordingly sent a large army to Italy under the eunuch Narses, a favorite of the Emperor and a man of great talents. Narses was entrusted with absolute power for the prosecution of the war, and was liberally supported by his imperial master. He soon proved himself a great general like Belisarius, regaining the territory which the imperialists had lost. He defeated and killed Totila in a great battle near Tagina, which gave him possession of Rome (AD 552), that city having changed masters for the fifth time during Justinian’s reign.
Teias, Totila’s successor and the last Ostrogothic King of Italy, sought the assistance of the Franks. Before he could be able to obtain this aid, he was defeated and killed at Cumae in AD 553. In the following autumn an army of seventy-five thousand Germans crossed the Alps and ravaged Italy as far as the extreme southern point of till peninsula, but were defeated with terrible slaughter by Narses at Casilinum, on the Vulturnus.
The defeat and death of Teias put an end to the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy, which had existed sixty years (AD 493-553). Italy then became a province of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Emperor Justinian erecting the conquered country into the Exarchate of Ravenna. The Emperor’s governors, called Exarchs, ruled the whole peninsula from their capital, Ravenna. Narses, the conqueror of the Ostrogoths, was the first and greatest of the Exarchs, and ruled Italy from 554 to 568. The Ostrogoths either migrated from Italy in quest of new homes, or were absorbed into the mass of the Italian nation, and their history ceased thenceforth.
THE LOMBARD KINGDOM IN ITALY.
The overthrow of the Ostrogothic power in Italy produced a result which the Emperor Justinian had not foreseen. During the reign of Theodoric and the regency of his daughter Amalasuntha, the Ostrogoths had effectually guarded the great barrier of the Upper Danube against the Gepidae, who, since the time of Attila, had occupied the country 011 the opposite side of the Danube, the region now embraced by Hungary and Transylvania. The necessities of the Ostrogoths in Italy had forced them to evacuate Pannonia and Noricum to defend their Italian possessions against the arms of the Eastern Roman Empire.
The evacuated territories were immediately occupied by the Gepidae, who, unsatisfied with these acquisitions, threatened to burst into Italy. To frustrate this design the Emperor Justinian called in the Lombards, or Longobards (Long Beards), who had migrated from the eastern banks of the Elbe southward to the Upper Danube. The Lombard king, Audoin, accepting the Emperor’s invitation, accordingly moved into Pannonia with his troops, and commenced a war of thirty years with the Gepidae. Upon Audoin’s death, his son, Alboin, became King of the Lombards. Alboin was distinguished for his savage bravery. Finding the Gepidae too powerful to be conquered by his own nation, he entered into an alliance with the Avars, or Huns, and thus brought about the extermination of the Gepidae. Alboin killed Cunimund, the King of the Gepidae, and married his daughter, the beautiful Rosamond (AD 566). The Avars obtained the lands of the Gepidae as a reward for their assistance to the Lombards, and the latter were obliged to seek new homes. As the way to Italy stood open to them they determined to migrate into that country. Narses having been degraded and removed from the Exarchate of Ravenna, the Emperor Justinian had no general capable of staying the progress of these fierce warriors from the north.
Alboin crossed the Julian Alps in AD 568, and soon came into possession of Italy as far south as Ravenna and Rome. Only Pavia made any resistance, and withstood a three years’ siege, but was taken by Alboin in 571, and became the capital of the Lombard kingdom in Italy, which was divided into thirty duchies. The region in Northern Italy still called Lombardy received its name from this rude and fierce German tribe. The Lombards treated the conquered people with harshness, and deprived them of their possessions; but they also commenced to devote themselves to the cultivation of their newly-acquired lands, and began to make some progress in civilization.
Alboin lived to enjoy his triumph but two years. He was assassinated by a band of conspirators in AD 573, at the instigation of his wife, the beautiful Rosamond, in revenge for compelling her, during a festival, to drink from the goblet which had been fashioned from the skull of her father, Cunimund, the King of the Gepidae, whom Alboin had killed in battle seven years before, as already related. Rosamond and her lover, the latter of whom was the leading assassin, fled to the court of the Exarch of Ravenna. Longinus, the Exarch, became enamored of the beautiful queen, and offered to marry her. For the purpose of accepting the Exarch’s offer, Rosamond endeavored to poison her lover, Helmichis. Discovering her treachery, Helmichis compelled her to drink also of the fatal cup; and she expired a few moments after her lover.
Upon the assassination of Alboin, the Lombard chiefs chose Cleph, or Clepho, the one of their number who was the most distinguished for his bravery, for their sovereign. He was assassinated in AD 574, and the Lombard kingdom had no regular government for the next ten years. Each Lombard chieftain seized a city for himself, and some of them endeavored to invade the territories of the German tribes north of the Alps. The people of Rome solicited aid of the Emperor Tiberius, who, unable to assist them, bribed Chilperic, the Frankish monarch, to invade Italy and drive out the Lombards. Thereupon the Lombards bestowed their crown upon Autharis, the son of Cleph, who defeated the Franks and forced them to return to their own country. Autharis also withstood two other Frankish invasions. The last of these invasions was led by Childebert, whom the Eastern Emperor Maurice had encouraged to it. Autharis thoroughly baffled the Frankish sovereign by his prudence and superior generalship, avoiding a conflict and allowing the summer heat to frustrate his adversary. The triumphant Lombard monarch extended his dominion to the southern extremity of Italy, where he founded the great duchy of Benevento.
Autharis established a perfectly feudal monarchy among the Lombards, assigning to the dukes their duchies in perpetuity, on condition of their giving one moiety of their revenue to support the royal dignity. The dukes could not be deprived of their possessions except for high-treason, but held power only at the sovereign’s will. Although a similar system appears to have been in force among the Franks almost from the very origin of their monarchy, feudal law first received a complete form among the Lombards; and the rules concerning the succession, acquisition and investiture of fiefs among other nations were mostly derived from the Lombard code.
Upon the death of Autharis, in AD.590, his widow, Theodolinda, was entrusted by the Lombard nation with the choice of his successor. She bestowed the crown on Agilulf, Duke of Turin, whom she married, and who reigned until AD 615. She converted her husband and many of his subjects from the Arian to the Catholic faith, and was rewarded by Pope Gregory the Great with the famous Iron Crown of Lombards, which was said to have been forged from one of the nails of the True Cross, and which is still preserved in the cathedral of Milan.
Italy was now divided between the Exarch of Ravenna and the Lombard king. The Exarch ruled over all the country east of the Apennines from the Po to Ancona, along with Rome and the country between Terracina and Civita Vecchia, the duchy of Naples, the islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, and the territories of the young republic of Venice. The duchy of Naples soon became virtually independent, though it still acknowledged a nominal allegiance to the Eastern Emperor. The Lombard kingdom embraced Northern Italy and the two great duchies of Spoletum and Beneventum.
The Lombards held themselves aloof from the Italians, whose weakness they despised, though they treated them with justice. Nevertheless the long-bearded barbarians from the north had already made some progress in civilization. The Lombard kingdom in Italy was more peaceful and prosperous than any other which had been formed from the fragments of the Western Roman Empire. The code of laws framed by the Lombard king Rotharis, who reigned from 636 to 652, is considered the best of the barbarian codes.
Under Adaluald, Agilulf’s son and successor, who ascended the Lombard throne in AD 615, the triumph of the orthodox Catholic faith was completed, and this circumstance greatly tended to reconcile the Italians to the Lombard supremacy. Nevertheless, the Arian party was sufficiently powerful to elevate Ariuald to the throne, but both rivals died without issue, and the general assembly of the Lombards chose Rotharis for their sovereign (AD 636). Rotharis was an Arian, but won the affections of all his subjects by the wise code of laws which he framed, as stated. Rotharis also wrested some important places from the Exarch of Ravenna and reduced the dominion of the Eastern Empire in Italy to so low a condition that it simply existed upon the sufferance of the Lombards.
On the death of Rotharis in AD 652, a scene of weakness and confusion followed, which lasted ten years; Roduald being raised to the Lombard throne in 652, Aribert I in 653, and both Bertharit and Godebert in 661. This period of dissension and weakness ended with the accession of Grimvaild, Duke of Benevento, in AD 662. Grimvald was soon involved in a war with the Franks, who invaded Italy, but were totally defeated. No sooner had the Lombard sovereign repelled this Frankish invasion than the Eastern Emperor Constans made his appearance in Italy at the head of a formidable army and besieged Benevento; but the imperialists encountered so fierce a resistance from the garrison that they were soon obliged to retreat, and, being overtaken on their march, were routed with terrific slaughter. The Emperor Constans fled to Sicily with the shattered remnant of his forces, and was murdered in a bath by some of his own servants. Grimvald died shortly after his triumph, in AD 672, universally lamented by his subjects.
Grimvald’s death was followed by a series of obscure and uninteresting revolutions which deluged Italy with blood, and during which six sovereigns were successively elevated to the throne—Bertharit in 671, Cunibert in 686, Luitbert in A700, Ragimbert in 701, Aribert II in 701, and Ansprand in 711.
The prosperity of the Lombards was once more restored upon the accession of Luid- prand to the throne in AD 711- Luidprand framed several wise laws, rectified the evils which had crept into the administration of justice during the recent disturbances, and won the favor of the nobles who had opposed his elevation to the throne by his judicious display of courage and prudence. Nevertheless he was actuated by his ambition to undertake the thorough conquest of all Italy, taking advantage of the troubles caused by the edicts of the Eastern Emperor Leo III for the destruction of images. Luidprand invaded the territories of the Exarchate and took Ravenna itself; but his success aroused the jealousy of Pope Gregory II, who, though delighted with the chastisement of the Iconoclasts, or image-breakers, was not pleased with the growth of the Lombard power. The Lombards began to invade the Roman territory, whereupon the Pope entered into an alliance with the Venetians, whom he instigated to aid the Exarch in recovering Ravenna.
The Italians everywhere supported the Pope against the Emperor, who had aroused the most determined hostility of the Italians by his championship of Iconoclasm. Still the Pope hesitated to renounce his allegiance to the Emperor, as he needed an ally against the Lombards, who were pressing him very hard. Instead of manifesting any gratitude to Pope Gregory II for his intervention in the Emperor’s favor in the war with the Lombards, Leo III sent emissaries to arrest the Pope, who was only saved from imprisonment by the prompt interference of the Lombard king.
Incensed at the Emperor’s violent zeal against images, the Italians broke out into open revolt against Leo III, and several cities voluntarily submitted to the Lombard monarch, who pretended an extravagant zeal for the orthodox Catholic faith. But the Pope dreaded Luidprand and sought the protection of Charles Martel, the Duke of the Franks, against the Eastern Emperor, who displayed an equal hostility to the Lombards and the Pope. Italy was thus distracted with religious and political dissensions.
Pope Gregory II died in the midst of his negotiations with the Frankish ruler; but his successor, Gregory III, continued the struggle with unabated vigor. Ravenna was then taken from the Exarch, who afterwards fled; and Italy was forever lost to the Eastern Roman Empire, only the Pope and the Lombard king remaining to dispute its sovereignty. As Luidprand was seeking to force Pope Gregory III to submission, the Pope was under the necessity of appealing to Charles Martel, the leader of the Franks, for aid, as his predecessor had done. The Pope offered the Frankish chieftain the sovereignty of the Roman people as a reward for his intervention. Charles Martel prepared to accept the Pope’s offer, but died before he was able to do so (AD 741 ).
Upon the death of Luidprand, in 743, the Lombards chose Hildebrand for then king. Rachis was chosen as Hildebrand’s successor in 744, and was succeeded by Astolph in 749. During Astolph’s reign the Lombard kingdom reached the zenith of its greatness. Astolph conquered the Exarchate of Ravenna and changed it into a new dukedom; after which he led his forces against Rome, which was practically ruled by the Pope, though nominally subject to the Eastern Emperor. Alarmed at the danger which menaced him, Pope Stephen II applied first to the Eastern Emperor Constantine V for aid; but finding that the Emperor manifested little concern for Italy, the Pope appealed to Pepin the Little, the son of Charles Martel and the first Carolingian King of the Franks, whom Pope Zachary had declared king.
Pope Stephen II crossed the Alps to solicit the Frankish monarch’s protection, and was received by Pepin with the highest reverence. In the autumn of 754 Pepin led a formidable army into Italy and besieged Astolph, the Lombard king, in Pavia, his capital, and compelled him to purchase peace by ceding to the Pope the places which he had seized in the Roman dukedom, along with the Exarchate of Ravenna and the marches of Ancona. As soon as Pepin retired from Italy the Lombard king renewed the war, encamped before Rome, and demanded the Pope’s surrender as the condition of sparing the city. In response to the Pope’s appeal, Pepin again crossed the Alps into Italy and reduced the Lombards to such desperate extremities that Astolph was obliged to purchase peace by relinquishing all his conquests, including the Exarchate of Ravenna and the Pentapolis.
Pepin declared that he undertook the war for the glory of St. Peter, and bestowed the whole of the restored territory upon the Pope, thus laying the foundations of the Pope’s temporal power, which continued until 1871. The district thus conferred upon the Pope included Ravenna, Rimini and twenty-three other cities, and comprised the Exarchate and the Pentapolis, which were subsequently known as the States of the Church, or the Papal States; but the Pope was not yet an independent sovereign, as money was still coined and justice administered in the name of the Frankish king, and even the election of the Pope was subject to his revision.
The Lombard king Astolph secretly resolved to renew the war with the Pope at the first favorable opportunity; but before his preparations were completed he was killed by a fall from his horse, and the Lombard kingdom was distracted by a disputed succession. By the Pope’s assistance, Desiderius succeeded in establishing himself upon the Lombard throne; but as he was afterwards exposed to the Pope’s jealousy he endeavored to secure himself by giving his daughters in marriage to Pepin’s sons and successors, Charles and Carloman.
The alliance between the Lombard monarch and the Frankish sovereigns did not last very long. Charles divorced his wife; whereupon Desiderius sought revenge by endeavoring to induce the Pope to anoint Carloman’s children Kings of the Franks. Pope Adrian I steadily refused the Lombard king’s request; whereupon Desiderius invaded the Papal territories, laid waste the country and menaced Rome. The Pope, being unable to make any effective resistance, placed himself under the protection of Charles, or Charlemagne (Charles the Great). This great Frankish king accordingly crossed the Alps into Italy at the head of a powerful army in AD 774; took Pavia, the Lombard capital, after a siege of two months; made Desiderius a prisoner; and thus put an end to the Lombard kingdom, which had been the great power in Italy for two centuries (AD 571-774). Desiderius and his family were sent to France, where they died in obscurity, Desiderius himself ending his days in a cloister. Charlemagne, as conqueror, received the Iron Crown of Lombardy.
A few years later Arigiso, the Lombard Duke of Benevento, who had married the daughter of Desiderius, headed a league of the enemies of the Pope and the Frankish king. Charlemagne entered Italy in 781 to protect the Pope, and promptly reduced the members of the hostile league to submission.
THE FRANKS IN GAUL.
THE of the most important of the Germanic tribes were the Franks, or Freemen, so called because of their determination to be free. The history of these people for several centuries is the history of France and Germany. They subdued Gaul and their own kinsmen, and laid the foundations of the kingdoms of Germany and France. They commenced their attacks upon the Roman dominions on the west bank of the Rhine in the third century of the Christian era; and notwithstanding their frequent repulses, their persistent efforts were eventually rewarded with perfect success. By the latter portion of the fifth century they had subjugated the entire region between the Middle Rhine and the Meuse, and had established their capital at Cologne. These were the Ripuarian Franks.
The Lower Rhine was held by the Salian Franks, who were mainly descended from the Sicambri, whom the Emperor Tiberius had settled there. These people only submitted to the Roman dominion with great reluctance, and were ever on the eager watch for an opportunity to recover their independence. They were severely chastised by the Emperor Julian the Apostate, but he permitted them to retain the lands which they had seized west of the Rhine, and which extended west of the Meuse. By the beginning of the fifth century they had become so formidable that they refused any longer to recognize the supremacy of Rome, though they still furnished mercenary soldiers to the Roman army
At this time the Salian Franks were governed by their own kings. Among their legendary monarchs at this period was Pharamond, who is said to have died in 428. His reputed successor was Clodion, celebrated for the beauty of his hair. He extended the limits of his kingdom westward to the Somme. He entered into an alliance with the Romans, and gave them important assistance in their efforts against Attila, King of the Huns, in 451. The institutions of this Frankish kingdom were similar to those of the other German tribes. Clodion’s successor was Merowig, as he is called in German (meaning eminent warrior), and whose name has been Latinized as Meroveus. He is regarded as the founder of the famous Merovingian dynasty.
Merowig, or Meroveus, was succeeded by his son, Childeric (meaning bold in combat), who reigned during the latter half of the fifth century of the Christian era, and had his capital at Tournay. Childeric was a great king and a brave warrior, and assisted the Romans against the Visigoths. This connection with Rome prepared the way for the events which soon followed. Childeric was a slave to his passions. An insult which he offered to the wife of one of his officers caused a revolt, which led to the dethronement of Childeric. Count Egidius, or Giles, was then proclaimed king. After an exile of eight years, Childeric was restored; and the remainder of his reign seems to have been tranquil.
Upon Childeric’s death, in 481, his son Chlodwig (meaning famous warrior), who is better known by his Latin name, Clovis, or Ludovicus, which is equivalent to the modern German Ludwig, the modern Italian Ludovico and the English Lewis. Clovis was but fifteen years of age when he became King of the Salian Franks. His kingdom at the time of his accession embraced only the island of the Batavians and the ancient dioceses of Tournay and Arras, and he had no more than five thousand warriors. His wonderful talents soon extended his influence over the kindred Frankish tribes, which were settled along the Scheldt, the Meuse, the Moselle and the Lower Rhine, and which were ruled by independent kings and attracted many warriors to his standard.
The ardor of his youth, along with the circumstances of his position, urged him on to a career of conquest; as the fertility of the Belgic soil, the purity of its waters and its atmosphere, constantly attracted fresh hordes to the Lower Rhine, who endeavored to cast their lot with the subjects of Clovis. Finding it thus necessary to enlarge his dominions, Clovis invaded the Roman province in Belgic Gaul. He defeated Syagrius, the son of his father’s rival, Agidius, in a decisive battle near Soissons, in 486. The vanquished Syagrius fled to the Visigoths in the South of Gaul, to seek an asylum among that people; but the Visigothic nation had lost much of its martial spirit, and King Alaric II sent the fugitive general bound to Clovis, who beheaded him.
Clovis had now become the most powerful monarch of his time, and the neighboring princes eagerly sought his alliance. In AD 493 he married Chlodohilde, (meaning brilliant and noble), who is better known as Clotilda, and who was the niece of the King of the Burgundians. Clotilda was a Christian, who had been educated in the orthodox Catholic faith, though reared in an Arian court. She labored earnestly and diligently to convert her husband to Christianity, and particularly urged him when his crown and his life were jeopardized by an invasion of the Alemanni.
Clovis for a time refused to embrace his wife’s religion, but allowed their eldest child to be baptized. The great decisive battle in the war against the Alemanni was fought at Tolbiac, or Zulpich, near Cologne, in AD 496. It was a stubbornly contested struggle, and for some time the result of the conflict was doubtful. In this crisis Clovis raised his hands toward heaven, invoking “the God of Clotilda”, and vowing that if that God would give him the victory he would embrace the Christian faith and receive Christian baptism. He triumphed in the battle, and when it ended he accepted Christianity; and on Christmas day (AD 496) he was baptized with great pomp and splendor, along with three thousand of his subjects, by St. Remi, Bishop of Rheims, in the great cathedral in that historic city. Clovis gave the bishop, as a fee, all the land he could ride around while the king slept after dinner—a gift exceedingly characteristic of a conqueror who felt that he could acquire new dominions whenever he awoke. The sacred phial filled with oil for the consecration of the king has been preserved to the present day, and the superstitious people of the time of Clovis believed that the phial and sacred oil were brought from heaven by a dove. The Kings of France have ever since been called “Most Christian King”, and have been solemnly crowned in the great cathedral of Rheims.
By embracing Christianity of the orthodox Catholic faith, Clovis obtained the firm support of that Church; and the alliance was of great service to the interests of both parties. In the advancing power of Clovis, the Church found an instrument which might humble the power of the Arian Visigoths and Burgundians for persecution, and unite the whole country in dutiful submission to the Bishop of Rome; while Clovis gained in the Church an ally having the complete confidence of the people whose land he designed to conquer, and ready to proclaim him as the chosen of Heaven, whose scepter would be the surest guaranty of a nation’s prosperity and greatness. Neither the Frankish monarch nor the Church could have succeeded without the support of the other, but both together were irresistible.
The results of the alliance between Clovis and the Church were soon manifest. In AD 497 the Bretons of Armorica (afterward called Brittany or Bretagne) entered into a treaty with Clovis by which they acknowledged themselves his tributaries. This treaty extended the frontiers of the Frankish dominions southward to the Loire. In AD 500 Clovis won a decisive victory over the Burgundians, and forced their king, Gondobald, to acknowledge himself a tributary of the Frankish monarch. This triumph of Clovis put an end to the glory and greatness of the Burgundian kingdom, which was not, however, definitely annexed to the Frankish dominion until the succeeding generation.
Encouraged by the conquest of the Burgundians, Clovis undertook the reduction of the Visigothic kingdom south of the Loire. The civil government of this portion of ancient Gaul was mainly exercised by the clergy, who now rallied to the support of the Frankish king as the champion of the orthodox Catholic faith. The Romanized Gallic subjects of Alaric II, the Visigothic monarch, longed for the victory of the Franks, and made very little resistance to them. Clovis advanced in the direction of the ancient Genabum, the modern Orleans, and crossed the Loire, everywhere spreading the terror of his name. After entering Aquitania, he pillaged the houses, laid waste the fields and plundered the temples; in the language of a contemporary historian, “leaving nothing to the wretched inhabitants but the soil which the Franks could not take away”.
Clovis defeated the Visigoths in the decisive battle of Voillé, near Poitiers, in AD 507, himself killing the Visigothic king, Alaric II; after which the victorious Frankish monarch overran the country between the Loire and the Garonne, passing the winter at Bordeaux. The next spring Clovis endeavored to drive the Visigoths beyond the Pyrenees; but Theodoric, the great Ostrogothic King of Italy, sent an army to the aid of his Visigothic kinsman, thus compelling the Frankish king to pause. Clovis met with a decisive repulse before Arles, the Visigothic capital, and left the Visigoths in possession of a small part of their territory known as the province of Septimania, of which the capital was Narbo, or Narbonne. The remainder of the Visigothic territory in Gaul was permanently annexed to the Frankish dominion.
Upon returning to Tours, Clovis received an embassy from the Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius, who congratulated him and invested him with the titles and insignia of Consul and Patrician. This was practically very little gain to the Frankish sovereign, who was absolute master of most of Gaul; but its moral influence was considerable, as this action of the Eastern Emperor caused the Romanized Gallic subjects of Clovis to regard the Frankish monarch as the legitimate successor to all the rights and privileges of the Roman Caesars.
Thus the kingdom which Clovis established extended from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, and from the Alps to the Atlantic; comprising the whole of ancient Gaul and Roman Germany, or modern France and Belgium with the neighboring Dutch and German territory west of the Rhine. Although the conquering king had everywhere met with submission from the various Romanized Celts of Gaul, his nominal subjects closed upon his rear. Neither was Clovis absolute over his own Frankish soldiers, his army being composed of freemen, who disdained to submit to despotic power. They gave their sovereign no more than his share of the booty; as is shown by a curious anecdote related by Gregory of Tours, an eminent French historian of the sixth century, in his History of the Franks, in the following words:
“About this time the army of Clovis pillaged a great number of churches and houses. His soldiers had taken away, from one of the cathedrals, a vase of surprising size and beauty. The bishop of the diocese sent a messenger to reclaim it. To this man, the king said: ‘Follow me to Soissons, where the plunder will be shared, and should chance give me the vase, I will do what your prelate requires’. When they reached Soissons they went to the place where the plunder was piled, and the king said: ‘I entreat you, my brave warriors, to give me this vase in addition to my share’. Upon this, a presumptuous soldier exclaimed: ‘You shall have nothing but the portion assigned you by lot’. “
Gregory of Tours also says: “After this, Clotaire and Childebert, sons of Clovis, formed the design of marching against the Burgundians. Their brother, Theodoric, was unwilling to engage in the expedition, but the Franks who followed him said unanimously: ‘If you will not join your brothers, we will quit you, and choose another leader’. “
The religion of Clovis never restrained him in the course of ambition, as he seized every opportunity for the extension of his dominions either by fraud or violence. During the Dark Ages it was believed that all crimes might be atoned for by the erection of churches and the support of monasteries. The priests, blinded by this liberality to themselves, ignored many of these acts of cruelty and treachery in their histories. In order to secure his own authority, Clovis caused the heads of many of his relatives to be shaved, and afterwards he put them to death, lest time should renew their long hair, the emblem of royalty. Clovis may be regarded as the original founder of the French monarchy, as he reunited the Frankish and Romanized Gallic elements into one nation.
Though Clovis was so cruel, he was a wise monarch, and established several just and humane codes. One of these codes was the Ripuarian, derived from the Ripuarian Franks. Another Code was the Salic Law, derived from the Salian Franks. One of the provisions of the Salic Law has ever since remained in force—that which excludes females from the throne of France. The wives of the Kings of France have always been called queens; but, from the time of Clovis to the very last French monarchy, there has never been a sole reigning Queen of France.
During his last years Clovis rid himself of rivals by deliberately murdering the other Frankish chiefs, some of whom were his Merovingian kinsmen; thus showing that the religion of Christ had no influence in restraining his savage disposition. Clovis finally made Paris the capital of his kingdom, and died in that city in AD 511, leaving his dominions to his four sons— Theodoric (meaning brave among the people), Childebert (meaning brilliant warrior), Clodomir (meaning celebrated chief), and Clotaire (meaning celebrated and excellent).
All the sons of Clovis established their capitals north of the Loire, which is conclusive evidence of the insecurity of the tenure by which the conquests made by Clovis south of that great river were thus far held. Theodoric, the eldest son, took for his share the eastern provinces between the Meuse and the Rhine, along with the districts of Auvergne, Limousin and Quercy; and his capital was Metz. Clodomir held sway over the Orleannais, Anjou, Maine and Touraine; with his capital at Orleans. Childebert reigned over the Isle de France and Armorica, his kingdom thus extending from Paris and Rouen on the east to Rennes, Vanlies and Nantes on the west; and had Paris for his capital. Clotaire, the youngest son, held dominion over the ancient country of the Salian Franks, along with the maritime district extending from the Somme to the mouth of the Meuse, together with some territory in the Cevennes and on the Upper Garonne; and had Soissons for his capital.
The dominions of the four brothers thus intersected each other in the most confusing manner; and it was frequently necessary for one sovereign to cross another’s dominions in order to reach the remote portions of his territories, thus giving rise to many disputes, and none of the brothers was disposed to lived peaceably with the others. Theodoric, though a fierce and violent sovereign, gave his subjects a wise and excellent code of laws, and strenuously endeavored to establish Christianity wherever paganism had previously existed.
Theodoric and Clodomir engaged in a war with Gundumir, King of the Burgundians; and Clodomir was killed in a great battle near Vienne in AD 522, but Theodoric won a decisive victory and annexed the Burgundian kingdom to his own dominions. Gundumir means pacific and great. Gregory of Tours gives the following account of this war: “The brothers joined their forces at Veserancia, a place situated in the territory of the city of Vienne, and gave battle to Gundumir. The Burgundian having taken to flight with his army, Clodomir pursued him, and when he was at a distance from his friends, the Burgundians, imitating the signals of the Franks, exclaimed : ‘Come this way, we are thine’. He believed them, and spurred his horse into the midst of the enemy. They surrounded him, cut off his head, and fixing it on a pike, displayed it to their pursuers”.
Clotilda took the guardianship of her infant grandchildren, but the decided preference which she exhibited for Clodomir’s three sons aroused the resentment of Childebert, King of Paris, who secretly proposed to his youngest brother, Clotaire, King of Soissons, that they should obtain possession of the persons of the young princes, shave their heads, and divide their possessions. Clotaire eagerly united in the scheme, and put the two eldest of his nephews to death. The third was saved by faithful servants, and cut off his own hair and thereafter lived a life of celibacy in a monastery. Shaving the head was the form of dethroning a monarch at this period; and among the early Franks the crown of hair was as much an emblem of royalty as a crown of gold.
Gregory of Tours gives the following interesting account of this transaction : “Clotaire readily adopted his brother’s project and came to Paris. Childebert had already spread a report that he and his brother had agreed to invest their nephews with royalty, and they sent a messenger to Clotilda, then residing in the same city, who said : ‘Send your grandchildren, that they may be raised to the throne’. She, joyous, and knowing nothing of the plot, after having made the children eat and drink, sent them to their uncles, saying: ‘Go, children, I will believe that my son is not lost, when I see you on the throne’. When the children came to their uncles, they were taken and separated from their servants and governors. Then they shut them up apart, the children in one place, and the attendants in another. When this was done, Childebert and Clotaire sent Arcadius, one of their officers, to the queen, with a scissors and a drawn sword. When he came into her presence, showing her these, he said : ‘Thy sons, our lords, desire to know thy pleasure, gracious queen, respecting the manner in which they should treat the children. Order either their hair or their throats to be cut’. Astounded by these words, and enraged at beholding the scissors and the naked sword, the queen gave vent to her wrath, and, scarcely knowing what she said, so troubled was her mind, imprudently replied: ‘If they are not to reign like their father, I would rather see them dead than shaven’. Then Arcadius returned promptly to those who sent him, and said : ‘You may persevere; the queen approves what you have begun, and her will is, that you complete your project’. Immediately Clotaire, taking the eldest of the children by the arm, threw him on the ground, and stabbing him under the shoulder, put him cruelly to death. His brother, terrified at the scene, threw himself at the feet of Childebert, and kissing his knees, exclaimed : ‘Help me, my good father, let me not be murdered like my poor brother’. Then Childebert, melting into tears, said to Clotaire: ‘Oh! I entreat you, my very dear brother, have the kindness to spare this child’s life; if you consent to spare him, I'’ll give you whatever you may demand’. But Clotaire, overwhelming him with reproaches, said: ‘Thrust the child away, or you shall die in his stead, for you were the first to urge me to this deed, though you now shrink from its completion’. Then Childebert, alarmed, pushed the child over to Clotaire, who struck his dagger into the boy’s side, and slew him on the body of his brother. Afterward they murdered the servants and tutors. When they were dead, Clotaire mounted his horse, without showing any compulsion for the murder of his nephews, and retired with Childebert to the suburbs. The queen, Clotilda, having placed the bodies on a bier, conducted them, with litanies, sacred songs and profound grief, to the church of St. Peter’s, where they were buried together. One was ten years old, and the other six. The third son, named Clodoald, was saved by the interference of some brave men, called barons. Renouncing his earthly kingdom, he became a clerk, and, persisting in good works, finally received priest’s orders. The two kings shared among them the inheritance of Clodomir”.
Ten years after the murder of Clodomir’s sons, Theodoric died, and was succeeded by his son Theodebert (meaning very brilliant among the people), who called himself King of Austrasia (Eastern kingdom”. His uncles, Childebert and Clotaire, endeavored to deprive him of his dominions; but, as they were daunted by the display of his power, they turned their arms against Spain, laid waste Aragon, Biscay and Catalonia, stormed Pampeluna, besieged Saragossa, and were only induced to withdraw from the country by a present of the tunic of St. Vincent, a relic which was highly prized in that superstitions age.
Theodebert’s fame extended to Constantinople. The Emperor Justinian sought to gain his friendship by ceding to him the nominal claims of the Eastern Empire over Provence; but Theodebert formed an alliance with Totila, the reigning king of the Ostrogoths in Italy, the Emperor’s enemy. The Austrasian king crossed the Alps into Italy at the head of a formidable army and speedily conquered the greater portion of Northern Italy. After Theodebert’s return to his dominions, the army which he left behind him in Italy suffered some reverses; and Justinian’s exorbitant vanity induced him to issue a medal on which he styled himself “Conqueror of the Franks”. This arrogance so enraged Theodebert that he made preparations to lead an army through Hungary into Thrace and attack Justinian in his capital; but this bold design was thwarted by Theodebert’s sudden death in AD 548, he being killed by the fall of a tree while hunting the wild buffalo—a dangerous sport to which he was most passionately addicted.
Theodebert was succeeded as King of Austrasia by Theodebald (meaning vigorous above all), who died after a glorious reign of seven years (AD 555). Childebert soon followed him to the grave, so that Clotaire obtained sole but not quiet possession of Austrasia and Neustria—the former being the country between the Rhine, the Meuse and the Moselle; and the latter the region between the Meuse, the Loire and the ocean. Aquitaine, or the country south of the Loire, was at this time independent of Frankish sway. Clotaire’s own son, Chramne (meaning warlike), headed a revolt of the turbulent Bretons, but he was defeated, and suffered a cruel death with his whole family by order of his father. The old chroniclers tell us that Clotaire died the next year AD 561 at Compeigne, on the anniversary of his son’s death, and at the exact hour one year after the shocking tragedy.
Gregory of Tours gives the following account of this defeat of the Bretons: “The two armies having come to an engagement, the Count of the Bretons ran away, and was slain in flight; after which Hram (Chramne) began to fly toward the ships he had prepared on the sea; but, while he was endeavoring to save his wife and children, he was overtaken by his father’s army, made prisoner and bound. When the news was brought to Clotaire, he ordered that the prince, together with his wife and daughters, should be burned. They shut them up in a poor hut, where Hram, extended on a bench, was strangled. They then set fire to the house, and it was consumed with all its inmates”.
Clotaire’s four sons—Charibert (meaning glorious in the army'. Gontram (meaning generous man), Chilperic (meaning brave in combat), and Sigebert (meaning glorious conqueror)—divided his dominions among them. Sigebert, King of Austrasia, married Brunilda, or Brunehaut; and Chilperic, King of Neustria, married Galeswintha—both women being sisters, the daughters of Athanagild, the reigning Visigothic King of Spain. Brunehaut was a woman of great beauty and accomplishments, but of violent passions. Galeswintha was the younger sister, and was murdered by Chilperic soon after their marriage, at the instigation of his low-born mistress, Fredegonda, whom he then married. Brunehaut became the bitter enemy of Fredegonda; and, though she accepted the settlement of the quarrel, she was thenceforth determined upon revenge on her sister’s murderers.
The turbulent period which followed was chiefly remarkable for the crimes of Brunehaut and Fredegonda. The mutual jealousy between these two ambitious and unprincipled women was aggravated by Brunehaut’s desire for revenge and by Frede- gonda’s difficulty of maintaining her dignity when she was changed from the mistress to the wife of Chilperic. During the period over which their mutual resentments spread, it is difficult to distinguish anything but murders and assassinations.
The personal quarrels between these two infamous women was further aggravated by the rivalry between the Kingdoms of Austrasia and Neustria; the Frankish or German population almost entirely prevailing in Austrasia, and the Romanized Gallic population being very largely predominant in Neustria. Fredegonda, who abandoned herself to a life of crime, caused the assassination of Sigebert, and to escape punishment she also procured the murder of her husband, Chilperic. She also caused Chilperic’s two sons to be murdered, being enraged at Merovée (meaning emiment warrior), who had married Brunehaut.
Sigebert was succeeded as King of Austrasia by Childebert II, who also inherited the kingdom of his uncle Gontram, who died AD 593. The widowed Brunehaut continued to rule in Austrasia as the guardian of her son. She was almost as wicked as Fredegonda. She enjoyed the friendship of Pope Gregory the Great and other good and learned men, and was the patroness and protector of Christianity and learning, notwithstanding her infamous crimes.
Brunehaut and her son, Childebert II, maintained a long and sanguinary war with Fredegonda and her young son, Clotaire II, King of Neustria. Childebert II died young, leaving two children to divide his distracted dominions; both of whom were murdered by Brunehaut, whose animosity they had aroused by remonstrating against her crimes. Brunehaut endeavored to crush the power of the Austrasian nobles; but they proved too powerful for her, and, with the aid of the forces of Neustria and Burgundy, they finally defeated her, took her prisoner and delivered her to Clotaire II. who, in revenge and punishment for her enmity to his mother and himself, exhibited her for three days, mounted ona camel, to the derision of his army, subjected her to the most cruel tortures, and finally fastened her to the tail of a wild horse, which tore the wretched queen to pieces before the eyes of the soldiers.
All the Frankish dominions were now united under Clotaire II, who reigned as sole king from 613 to 628. Clotaire II published a code of laws, which enjoys some reputation; but his administration lacked vigor, and the ambitious nobles made encroachments on the royal power. On the death of Clotaire II, in 628, his son Dagobert I (meaning brilliant as the day) became King of the Franks. Dagobert I made Paris the capital of his dominions, which extended from the Weser to the Pyrenees, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the frontiers of Bohemia, thus embracing all of France and most of Germany. Although the Merovingian dynasty reached its greatest extent of dominion under Dagobert I, that king had the mortification to see the royal authority enfeebled by the increasing power of the Mayors of the Palace. He died AD 638, after a weak and dissolute reign; but, singularly enough, he was canonized as a saint.
The cause of the canonization of Dagobert siningularly illustrates the superstitions of the age. Audoald, Bishop of Poitiers, while on an embassy to Sicily, according to his own statement, was miraculously informed of the king’s death by a holy hermit named John, who said: “While I was asleep last night, an old man with a long beard bade me get up and pray for the soul of King Dagobert, who was on the point of death. I arose, and looking through the window of my hermitage, I saw, in the middle of the sea, a host of devils carrying the king’s soul to hell. The unfortunate soul, grievously tormented, invoked the aid of St Martin, St. Maurice and St. Denis. At his cries, the spirits of these holy martyrs descended from heaven, in the midst of thunders and lightnings, delivered the king’s soul and bore it up with them through the air, singing the canticle of David, ‘O Lord, how happy is the man that thou hast chosen’.” Audoald related this to the king’s chancellor on his return to France; and the chancellor entered the relation of the affair in the archives of the kingdom, and enrolled Dagobert I among the saints.
The Merovingian successors of Dagobert I were weak and insignificant, being mere phantoms of royalty. They were called “Rois-fainéants” (Do-nothing kings)—a designation fully expressing their character for the next century. The real power in the kingdom was exercised by the bishops and nobles, and particularly by the king’s minister, the Mayor of the Palace. The Mayor of the Palace was a noble chosen by his order to be the king's adviser in peace and the commander of the royal army ill war, for the purpose of aiding the nobles in their efforts for the restriction of the royal power.
Under the feeble Merovingian kings who succeeded Dagobert I, the Mayors of the Palace were the real sovereigns of France. One of the greatest of these rulers was the famous Pepin d'Heristal, grandson of Pepin of Landen. After becoming the real ruler of half the kingdom as Duke of Austrasia, and suffering some reverses, Pepin d'Heristal vanquished the Neustrian nobility in the decisive battle of Testry in AD 687; and thus having inflicted the death-blow upon Merovingian royalty, he made the office of Mayor of the Palace hereditary in his family, and made himself master of France, which he governed for twenty-seven years with great vigor, prudence and success.
The victory of Pepin d'Heristal was also important in another sense, as it established the supremacy of the Teutonic or Germanic element over the Latin-Celtic element in Gaul. Pepin assumed the title of Duke of the Franks. The Merovingian king, “the long-haired shadow of royalty”, was shown to the people once a year at the Champ de Mars (Field of March); but was kept in a kind of mild captivity at other times.
Pepin d' Heristal passed the remaining portion of the seventh century and the first years of the eighth in reestablishing the old Frankish supremacy in Germany; forcing the Frisians, the Saxons, the Alemanni, the Swabians, the Thuringians and the Bavarians to acknowledge the Frankish dominion. These successes led to the introduction of Christianity among the German tribes; as bands of monks, mostly Anglo-Saxon from Britain, followed in the rear of the Frankish armies, and converted multitudes of the pagan Germans to Christianity. One of these Anglo-Saxon monks, St. Willibrord, was consecrated Archbishop of the Frisians by Pope Sergius I in AD 696.
Pepin d'Heristal died in December, AD 714. After his death his widow, Pledtrude, endeavored to govern the Drankish kingdom as regent for her infant grandson, Dagobert III; but was opposed by the Austrasian nobles led by Charles Martel, an illegitimate son of Pepin, and was finally forced to yield. Charles Martel, as Mayor of the Palace, then came into undisputed possession of his father’s authority and dominions (AD 719), and ruled with wisdom and vigor for twenty-three years.
Charles Martel’s many victories over the Saxons, the Frisians and the Burgundians rendered his name illustrious, but the greatest of all his exploits was his brilliant triumph over the Saracen invaders of France. In accordance with a deliberate plan of conquest, the Saracens of Spain crossed the Pyrenees and overran the Frankish dominions as far north as the Loire. Charles Martel led his Christian Franks against them and inflicted upon them so overwhelming a defeat near Tours in AD 732 that the remnants of their immense host fled southward, thus freeing Christian Europe from the danger of Mohammedan conquest. Charles Martel followed up his victory; but was unable to drive the Saracens entirely from France, as they lingered in Septimania, in the extreme South of France, until AD 759, when they were driven back into Spain by Pepin the Little, the son and successor of Charles Martel.
By his great victory over the Saracens, Charles Martel acquired the extensive district of Aquitaine, south of the Loire, under its own rulers. Like his father, Charles Martel did not assume the royal title, but ruled as Duke of the Franks. Upon the death of King Thierry IV, in AD 737, Charles Martel felt his power so firmly established that he neglected appointing a successor to the deceased monarch, and the Merovingian throne remained without even a figure-head.
The valiant Charles Martel died in AD 741, leaving the Frankish dominions to his two sons, Carloman and Pepin the Little: Carloman receiving Austrasia and the Frankish territories in Germany, and Pepin obtaining Neustria, Burgundy and Provence. Carloman and Pepin sought out the last of the Merovingian dynasty and proclaimed him King of the Franks under the name of Chilperic III. With the assistance of St. Boniface, or Winfried, the Anglo-Saxon missionary, who was about this time consecrated Archbishop of Mayence, Carloman and Pepin effected many reforms in the Church and won the hearty support of the priesthood by their liberal concessions. In AD 747 Carloman relinquished his share in the government to his brother and became a Benedictine monk. Finally, in AD 752, Pepin, with the sanction of the Pope and the support of the nobles, dethroned the feeble Chilperic III, the last Merovingian king, condemned him to the seclusion of a cloister, and made himself King of the Franks; thus founding the famous Carolingian dynasty, which governed France and Germany for several centuries.